Don’t worry about getting in touch with your feelings; they’ll get in touch with you.
This is maybe pretty close to verbatim what we hear during one AA scene (much) earlier in Infinite Jest and it seems that, as Gately recovers from a gunshot wound, he’s visited by more than candid AA-ers and wraiths.
Gately’s being contacted by (I’m [understandably] not quite comfortable with “being got in touch with by”) plenty of feelings, which he has to find a way to deal with. It makes an interesting contrast to Hal who, as he encounters Kenkle and Brandt (perhaps the book’s most Pynchonesque hat-tip, after the explosive and parabolic trajectory of Orin’s incredible punt [which, if you haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow, you probably won’t quite get what I’m getting at – though it has something to do with long, encyclopedic novels with annular structures in which something taking a parabolic trajectory has some structural importance. Ahem, sorry.]), is experiencing either some disconnect with either his face or the actual feelings that are determining his face’s output.
What makes this interesting, in a more parallelish-rather-than-contrasty way (cf. Jenni’s awesome post yesterday) is that Gately is able to “abide” his most severe (albeit physical) feelings by essentially erecting internal walls around their (the feelings’) moments.
But where they do actually contrast in quite a significant way is around one of the book’s key – yet very under-explored – themes: memory.
From the discomfort of his hospital bed Gately gets to relive the memory (among others) of his bottom, as it’s known in Boston AA. Reading the story of Kite and Fackelmann and 60s Bob and the bet and match-rigging that went so horribly wrong and then so right and even more horribly wrong again and the Dilaudid in mountain form, the skittles and the Linda McCartney and the eyelid thing – well, it seems like there’s just so many opportunities for Gately not to take responsibility for it all. For his bottom.
But he does. He owns up to every choice that leads him to that situation and every opportunity to get out that he never took.
Circling forward to the book’s first scene (have you reread it yet?), let’s compare it to the way Hal “gets in touch with” the memory of one of his formative episodes:
It’s funny what you don’t recall. Our first home, in the suburb of Weston, which I barely remember – my eldest brother Orin says he can remember…
And if the point about Hal’s own distance from this memory hasn’t yet been brought home hard enough, there’s this:
O. says he can only remember (sic) saying something caustic as he limboed out a crick in his back. He says he must have felt a terrible impending anxiety.
So if you’re wondering whether Hal’s on an upward or downward trajectory I will leave you with this quote, from the end of the aforementioned Pynchon and, in honour of coming “full circle” (as Nick M. points out), a new version of the circle watercolour I closed my post #1 with.
And it is just here, just at this dark and silent frame, that the pointed tip of the Rocket, falling nearly a mile per second, absolutely and forever without sound, reaches its last unmeasurable gap above the roof of this old theatre, the last delta-t.