At first I thought confetti was dropping from the envelope,

all those little bits of white paper, all those rectangular and semirectangular fragments suspended, hesitant, floating in the steam for a moment, before raining over me, before falling onto my neck, and onto my breasts, and into the water. What the message lacked in content, lacked in other words, in other words, it made up for with fanfare, and as I sat there I thought about the peculiar beauty of that descent. What had just fallen over me was part spell and part abstract expression, as though someone, from somewhere, had done something, made art, made magic, and what’s more made me, in my bathtub, a part of this process, an element in the arrangement. I’d been had: used, manipulated, invaded, taken for a ride, set up like a bowling pin, shot down like a clay pigeon, played like a Stradivarius, coin-operated like a jukebox, turned into a source of amusement, however removed the source, however remote the amusement, however foreign, anonymous and unknowable, my correspondent.

But to cast a brighter light and a less jaundiced eye on the event, I changed my role in this scenario from victim to muse, however inadvertent, then recast the shredder from a mad letter-bomber to a more benign form of terrorist, a secret admirer, an uncertain someone. Somewhere in this city, perhaps in this vicinity, was a loner, a lover, a devotee holding scissors, drinking malt liquor, drinking scotch and soda, drinking fortified wine, whistling “My Favorite Things,” humming “My Funny Valentine,” and watching television, watching a videotaped version of me, in black and white, from way back when, a rerun.

I’m on again. I’m filling up the screen, wearing sequins, wearing satin, wearing an evening dress, wearing a nightgown, wearing next to nothing, an inexpression, a less-than-candid grin. I’m the Show Business Kid, inserting a microphone between my lips, calling for the head of John the Baptist, and jumping up and down on one (unseen) foot. No, I’m not. What am I doing? I’m singing my one big single, my Top Ten hit from 1962, “I Get Your Message,” which might have been the tune, I could have been wrong, mistaken, at first, as I shook out the remaining pieces, that someone was making his own, lip-synching along with mine, in his kitchen, in his playroom, in the home-entertainment section of his one room.

Roaches and rodents scurried across his linoleum as he pressed play and set me, set that stylized, idealized, perfectly preserved image of me, in motion, in motion all over, in motion all over again. In that world without end, on that screen out of time, in that world, without end, on that screen, out of time, I am as, I am what, I always am. I mean, becoming nothing, I do my thing, I sing my song, I grin my grin. On cue the studio audience applauds at the end, which is never, however, truly the end, only one, a provisional end, which sounds like and is, in a way, a joke: When is the end not the end? When he stops the tape and hits rewind. Picture him, when he stops the tape and hits rewind, as I pictured him then, in black and white, or in several shades of gray, gray areas, gradations, as a disembodied finger and a pair of fiery eyes, Svengali’s eyes, for instance, or Bela Lugosi’s. Either one of those guys, or someone, something, in between, staring, starring, making a special guest appearance as my most devoted fan, most excellent in the steadfastness of his gaze.

Picture him as king of one, sitting at a round table, ruling the room, running the game, sovereign of all he surveys. Picture him hunched over, squinting in the light from a bare bulb that dangles overhead. Picture him gripping the tip of a pencil stub and writing on a sheet of white paper. He writes: I see you in a golden glow. Then he pauses for thought. He writes: Enfold me in that nebulous halo. Then he frowns and straightens up. He drops the pencil and picks up scissors, and with scissors our suspect takes on the function of a paper-cutter, transforming the 8 ½- X 11-inch sheet into, say, 3/8 X 11-inch strips, which he then sweeps, using one arm in an imperious, tennis-racquet-swinging gesture, onto the floor. He writes: I see you in a golden glow. Then he grows disgruntled and cuts that piece of paper into ribbons.

Moments pass. This process, this writing and cutting, occurs in the same way several times before he hits on the idea of not writing at all, simply cutting. He cuts one pristine sheet into ribbons, sweeps these ribbons away, then cuts another sheet into ribbons, and these he continues to cut, subdividing. He becomes a cutting machine. No two fragments appear to be the exact same shape or size, and these he sweeps, using one hand in a protective, poker-chip-collecting gesture, not onto the floor or into the air or off their feet or out of sight, out of mind, or somewhere over the rainbow or nowhere in particular but between the open lips of a plain white envelope, the flap of which he then licks and seals, smoothing out the pockets of air with his fingertips.

Picture this happening, and then picture him frozen in the midst of this, captured in motion, caught in the action, held in place by a freeze-frame, as he uses his free hand to press, depress, the “pause” button, as though he’s been used, manipulated, taken prisoner, by his own tape machine, as though he’s become a zombie, a cipher, a pawn, a plotted point in his own grand design, awaiting the release, the relief, that only death might bring, were it to come, were it to come creeping or sweeping in for him, were it suddenly to factor, like a bad-blood transfusion, into this closed system, this too too solid form of self-entrapment: this so-called isolated so-called incident. I was alone in one as well, or so I thought, as I tried to make sense of, make something substantial from, what little I knew. But what, speculation apart, did I know? I’d been targeted and hit, and that was all. For a long time that was the only sure thing I had to go on.