I do remember the scene, not the other attendees at the party, but the beautiful, rich, gay boy hosting, who had attempted for a while to mentor me when we first met—when I seemed less hopeless under his definitions, presumably. Besides him, just the dull beige of his walls.
He’s the center of attention. He’s about to exit my life now. He’s off to New York where his life will be much more (explicitly) charmed. I still have a year before the college thing, and won’t read his writing for maybe five, but still, at the time I was intimidated (and maybe disavowedly bitter) that he could go off to study that and still play the piano like this. The performance must have been for me the clear highlight of the graduation party if it’s all that’s still caught in some corner of my mind. It maybe was for some-ones-else but surely not for all, and not for any in this same, seething way.
The playback sounds and feels like this: the cinematic turn to Glass’s later minimalism, the same chords twisting on top of each other ad infinitum, their turnings cutting a space and its opening betraying the suburban home, the upper class niceties, even the afternoon sun. I wallowed in the slit and I fantasized recklessly. It was the last time I’d dream so precisely of lighting myself on fire, but far from the first, and the only time I saw it as rebirth instead of death. I imagined my bed going in flames with me, peculiar to this instance – this must have been for added show, since as I pictured my body as from outside I knew, desperately, that it was all I needed to destroy. The wish came down to rash belief that I could stage a coup with the part of my brain enjoying the sounds. It hated the body for both its instinct to smile so defensively around the people at the party and for its inability to do so more convincingly. I’d learn to despise it more specifically later, for the cost of years. I’d learn that the mind was in complicity and wasn’t necessarily much safer.
But back in my naiveté, the chords refrain for maybe twenty minutes or so, and freed from that smile, I cast nervous glances around the room, wondering how I’m getting away with this, still perfecting the inferno in my mental eye. I know that I won’t hold it, and I don’t, applause immediate reminder that this was all just a performance—that private minds are private minds.
I go back to the party and then home. In the years that follow I find subtle ways to bring on new collapses and they’ve brought me to be here. In fact, they’re running through me still, but they will never lead me to rebirth.
Rebirth wouldn’t allow me these insipid thoughts of origin,
Fire won’t be on my side as long as I cast smiles
(with a body whose destruction I’ve been fetishizing in the other room).
I do remember the scene, but only a snippet of the conversation, just that Damien Hirst came up. I think our consensus was that his shtick was dumb but that he pissed off people who cared about a certain kind of “authenticity”. That that was enough to mildly endear him to us. I’d really only just discovered him. I enjoyed the intimacy of finishing my half-formed impression by grafting it onto another’s. I’ll stick that intimacy under the microscope soon, but just as an aside, I’ve come to like him more by now – his wealth is still a travesty but I’ve started to find something particularly gestural in his bombast that inspires me, that’s released some of my thoughts—particularly with regards to fashion.
This coming blunt flippancy hadn’t entered my outfits quite yet, so I cut myself out of the scene when it loads. Next to that blank stands a girl dressed cliché enough to lend me, her absent partner, some valor—olive shorts and red suspenders, denim shirt and bangs copped off of Karina means that she must be an artist. (She’s smiling, so I might be one, too).
The whole thing was striving too desperately to approximate a movie scene, not without my intervention but not entirely dependent on it either. The bottom line was still that I shouldn’t have expected anything but did. I’d gathered shoddy evidence. I’d brushed her face in a bed the night before while we were there with several mutual friends. We’d shared smiles behind their backs. We barely knew each other. I thought this walk might lead to some next step, and it did, but only an affirmation of a casual friendship that turned out to be our limit. (Oh well)
-~ 2y2 -~ *
I don’t remember the walk, just reaching the bridge that I used to look off of in high school while thinking of jumping. There was no bleakness now, just mild disappointment. Once we’d finished talking the non-nuance of sharks caught in formaldehyde, we turned around and stumbled past the point where there would have been hope of launching romance.
The sun was setting behind trees, and the water held the darkness of pollution, but in later days I’d come back to the bridge closer to noon and find the sun reflecting so fiercely in it that I was scared of blinding. For some reason no other water’s ever captured light exactly in that way, for me. I don’t know what made this river particularly sublime, and I haven’t sought to repeat it with other bodies. Maybe I’m aware that I’d quickly learn how reproducible it all was. I just knew that the light registered as a vast blank that I wanted to access totally, and that to physically descend into the water (the way I’d dreamed of on cloudier days) would never take me there. Slicing the poorly dressed kid that I used to inhabit out of my memories hasn’t gotten me there either, but obliquely makes me certain some component has been shifting in that puzzle. I know to be inside that blank or not is highly binary. I know I think I won’t know if or when I’m on the path.
I will remember the scene, but only slightly, details mostly blurred, the depth wrung out of every object. What I’ll forget is too massive to be mentioned until it’s actually been purged: it will be legible where it edges against remembered things, will be digestible once the contours of its insides have been lost to me.
Various parasites already chew into my day – the wasted time on different feeds, the real shed mind of drunkenness, banalities imposed on me by anyone but most of all myself. They carve out enough hollow space for my thoughts to start hijacking metaphors from architecture. I come to view my avolition as a balcony, exclusive and relaxing, even a luxurious obligation. On other days I visualize the spidery girders that must have been put up with calculated balance, the way they support my loftiest thoughts. I’ve come to love how cheeky that technique is. I’m distracted from the truth of [isolating in four walls].
The truth is: walls have never been supportive. It’s when I enter private rage too strong to simply override that I crash against walls that I have no intent or hope to pass. This image gives me pause, because I might have actually slammed into those walls. It’s disturbing to remember only I can ever know how much of this is actually literal, not just literary. Despite that, I keep trudging through the imagery.
There were different roofs I’d climb on in the past to suck up cigarettes, but now I never climb and never smoke and live beneath the ground – yet staircases have always filled my dreams. I know for certain one day I’ll ascend again, repulsive now.
I’ve dwelled on whether gargoyles are just defined by posture or by bodies made of stone. I know they vary in genus, species, and kingdom. I suspect the way I slouch towards blue-lit screens makes me a probable candidate. I wonder what I’ll hurl off of the roofs while retching with a snarl.
Practice for imagining looks like posing as a gambler. Practice for the retching looks like hangovers extreme enough to not let me keep water down. They aren’t quite unfamiliar but they’re much more common on the new plan with my therapist, where drinking is less constant night to night but ends up concentrated when I do. I can’t tell if that’s progress or if I’m just shuffling my cards around, but I keep fidgeting in hopes of seeing some forgotten angle. Unnervingly, instead I find the stakes. I hadn’t even realized I’d lost track of them. I’ve just entered this game. I’m pretentious enough that I’ll hold this posture for a while, my eyes scattering their glances now to seek out my opponents.
I will remember the imagery I aspired towards, but none of the details. I don’t know what counts as scene anymore. When this metallic music cuts short from whatever device it’s playing on, I’ll think I’m castrated because of [not feeling like an insect], than I’ll realize that I wasn’t even trying to. I’ll start to cringe at myself. I’ll clutch for my maxillae and ocelli and confirm that I never even knew what these were. I won’t be able to retreat to being a gambler or an abstract building. I’ll watch that ground collapse so easily. The people I’d thought I was playing against will turn out to have been too polite or too condescending to point out to me that they had no reason to be holding hands of cards.
*n *n *n
I will remember the scene. I’ll know that the music falling silent was only the start of a process catching up with me. The speculative bubble eats its gains. I’ll wonder what the next phase is. Within two hours, my eyes will be slipping off the letters I’ve compiled in books. I’ll go to my computer, and test if I can still manage to write. I’ll etch this poem out quickly:
I’ve never really been taught etiquette
I’d like to whisper into the deep of an ear
But my voice is damned to render in translucent blue
Right now a vehicle is hurtling towards you that no one present has been authorized to steer
You know, cinema, I’ll exit you
Then I’ll save it as a file called ‘vvv.doc’, then I’ll try to delete it but my fingers will refuse to comply with computer keys.
… t .. . … ‘
Right now, a man in San Fransisco is programming an opponent in the game to have behavior he’ll call “fairly randomized”.
This will end up looking like it firing eighty-seven pink projectiles that trigger animation of my body splayed across the screen
in vivid, bloody red.
When I wake, everything will have settled back to normal. I’ll vomit. I’ll wash my hands, and I’ll wonder just how long they’ll let the water in my pipe-head gush forth this freely.
(The calculation leaves in stone)
Jane Judith lives on twitter @UdasNej and in the midwestern United States. Other work can be found at Neutral Spaces.
*Image credit: Hollis Frampton, ‘A Visitation of Insomnia’, 1970-73.