The Fluke

A Novel

by Jacques Stern

Being only human, the fluke could not record facts. Some concerned thought he was insane. I do not know.

To the Din

Time’s lapse is still a measured thing.. In finite spaces of eternity.. To define would thus be a lie.. Some god (T’insist on the ‘g’) must oversee the webs between the mass and our communication of what we think matter be.

This note may be a P.S…

Jacques Stern, The Fluke, title page of the privately printed edition

There; Crack! Sahk! Swick!! Swath! Alright? Hey? Hu.. Humm.. Now! Floce! Paaft! Skk!! O.K.?.. Don’t hurt none can’t hurt you.. Un why numb like cause you’re scared that’s why hey bud hurt real bad where numb, where whatsit maybe so thatsit well man goes like that awhile she does man nothing good, nuff man no none good cause thatso forget alright forget it see turn on man see knock it thatsit here man snort..

Impossible!

Incredible.

But nonetheless.. None the less.. Back to her splitting… before she cut.. That is, when I couldn’t imagine it.

They weren’t two. Why? They weren’t either.. They were.. together.. Like wrinkles.. No one spoke to him or to her. It wasn’t done.. No one saw one.. It wasn’t.. When searching for an example — who else? I ask you? For all that, and nevertheless, and it still remained, and all.. They had even liked the pointing fingers, friendly fingers, proud. That’s them there! There they are, just in time. They weren’t by themselves. It seemed.. So.. They were always alone, together.. So.

Hold it!

Gone! Gone.. Gone! Why? Gone..

Yet it was so.

They’ll never bring me out, never.. Sham.. Filth.. All sham! The whole bloody lot! Blind! Oh God, blind! Ataraxia!! Coax you bitch coax you till you drop.. Tickle tickle here.. And there.. No.. Now I The millrun.. Nothing ever static the in this abomination but the man he stays trusting full wide-eyed clear-skulled the pig as a child would but she oh not she no she knows for sure alltime always waiting for the next with her paint thatsit the whole lot made up muck with no-faces hang truly down cretin fashion.. Would you believe it? Bad dream? Like hell! Thatsit! Eat it! Chew gouge the sweet and bitter lime and occupy your time so the head won’t reel as it often does afterwards, when the belly’s full of what of shit of course from whence from her a parting gift your acrid taste to come and go and masticate till the innards sense the shape before the mouth like blockhead man thatsit. It will pass. Don’t make me laugh! I’ll split!! Then quiet so oft nothing stirs, nothing moves or breathes even cept a wiff or so not more to catch the nose motion draws the eye nuff to tranquilise no not that quite for the silence is noisy… disturbed again, some blob some inconsequence that smelled or looked or moved or tasted or sounded like her yes, like and only like her though she was never seen never never in all that time; what’s there tasting such rotten stink thatsit jump jerk that there please stop! I beg..

To start again.. When? Once more.. I shall have to figure it out again just once for the missing thing, the one that caused it first God knows alright alright calm now easy calm when then? Yesterday a year ago in between or before look for tiny facts indications signs when then no couldn’t be then cause she kissed me then, I think I know methinks so but why.. But dunno dunno nothing at all since real it was and real it wasn’t, and if thatsit real me dunno her no c’mon calm calm slow real slow but no! No! She wasn’t then then dunno dunno nothing at all; there I go again narrowly very steeply and I go dunno so long for now that’s it, now shunt.. That’s it: shut tight! No more!

O.K.? Hu? Yes.

So there you are, driving the monolith through the cumbersome maze; the pain is, is such that you can hardly see; or smell; or feel; but there you are; starting, stopping, skidding, moving.. From the right, they seem bent upon collision.. Every second.. On your left, you only hope for the best.. There’s not much you can do except grind it out.. It’s the rush hour, you guess.. So many.. It must be.. On and on.. You dare not count, and yet it has to stop.. Sometime.. You could get out: Shout! Look, look, can’t you see? I’m a broken man. I can’t! Not for a short while, at least.. Some one must do it for me.. It’s dangerous.. I’ll kill them! If someone doesn’t intervene! For their sake! Mine too!

You’ve thought it out.. It would not work.. You can’t communicate.. They don’t seem to respond.. You’ve tried.. Once.. A hundred times.. No good.. Something is missing.. With you? Them? Whatever.. It’s no good; useless; utterly.. Thus, you brake, stop, start, blink, and spurt, you guess.. It would be better if you could follow them.. A particular one, at least.. Less decisions as you know.. But no.. You’re someplace. That’s what has been planned; arranged.. That’s why you’re there! On top of it all, you must be careful. Pay attention.. The signs.. Out of focus signs.. Hard to distinguish signs.. In time.

Here! You turn.. No, there? Skid! Stop.. Reverse.. Clang!.. Sorry. You turn again. And so on.. Straight.. Two lefts.. One right, but not complete — around an island.. That’s right.. Then through.. Ah! Must be somewhere along here.. But where? All the houses look alike, have similar plots of shrub.. Brown ones or green ones.. All dirty.. Smog.. Numbers.. That’s it! 61.. 97.. The wrong way.. Stop.. Look.. Start around.. More.. Dammit! Better.. Now.. O.K… that was lucky.. Now.. 88.. 64.. Right! Around here.. 36? 34? Which one? Where’s that paper?.. O.K.! O.K.! Wait a second! I’ll park. Jesus! There.. A little more.. Whew! That paper? Where the hell? Oh no! Left it behind… Leth’s see.. Came here once.. Sometime ago.. At night.. Went up a step and rang a bell.. He answered.. It was his house, in this street, in the thirties. 36? 34? 32? One of these.. All have steps, bells, doors, and it’s not night! Not that it would be easier.. If it were.. Nor more difficult.. But it would be similar.. Well, what now? Try ’em all. First that one.. O.K.! So.. So.. Try again.. It rings alright.. Here it? So.. No luck.. Next door.. bit.. Oh, is the…? Nope.. Must be 36 then.. Would be the last.. step… bell…

What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Look at me! Everything.. I could not find the house. I’m losing time. Pains? Yes, of course.. Here.. There too. But, worse than that, I was driving since… oh, I don’t know.. Pills? I’m filled with pills, injections, tablets, uto-to this, apothat, and nothing.. Nothing at all.. I’m taking them all the time! I do little else.. But it’s no use, I tell you. No good! No, not new pills.. or surgery! or shock! Some change.. I need a change.. Definite.. Complete.. So that I can make sense.. Again.. The disorder gets you down…. But there must be something? Something different?! You can’t? Well then.. I guess I must die.. But you must kill me! Yes, you must! I can’t do it! I’ve tried.. I failed.. But you must! Who will? Am I excited? of course I am. What? Really!

Too much.. Man.. too much.

Wet..

Cold.. Numb..

Too much too long…

Here where I am, it is far away.. What I mean, of course, is that the distance is great, very great, between you and me. I can see you.. Very well at that.. It’s no problem. I can also hear your voice, although it seems a bit feint, just a little.. Yet, you are very far.. From me.. Here I am busy with reality, while you talk.. You do speak.. While I play.. The first day was curious, in a manner of speaking.. I suppose you would have regarded it as unnatural; but it might have been wrong to do so. It is all quite natural; simple and oblique. It passes quickly, and, where I am, the end is also near.. In point of fact, it, can even be foretold.. This might seem negligible as far as advantages go, but it must do; and it helps the adjustment, which is the core of the matter.. Certain states or things tend to make it easier: no time — literally; it seems to have spent itself.. One need not be patient, since there is no time.. In turn; there can be no waiting.. And, believe it or not, anxiety with waiting.. Both seem essential to each other.. And in another sense, no time also creates empty space.. Yet distance remains.. Which is puzzling, to say the most.. Measuring it? The distance I mean.. ‘Tis a different matter altogether.. One doesn’t try. It’s wasted or so it seems.. But one accepts it.. The unmeasurable distance.. Which by its myriad complexity appears to be tied to other matters in my province.. Or in my particular space.. Such as anxiety.. And waiting.. Conceptualised or imagined in a fresh crystal sense, these lose their hold.. Exist? They do.. More so.. But no hold.. For they are waiting.. All of it: Microscopic dots and dashes and long-stretching bands, always inordinately long, unoccupied, uninformed, impotent.. One sees them; but as if they could be inspected… like your toe… openly, without obvious or complex secrets.. Some form of basic recognition? Did you hear about Frey? gored by a young bull, too young.. They said it was robbery sending such a young bull, and what was the sport coming to? Frey had a neat limb.. Then Zipp! Take Frey away! Anxiety? Waiting? Are you kidding? Inspected from point me it was; and there? Anxiety? Waiting? Ridiculous! It’s the with distance when you don’t measure it.. Nearly.. It’s objective to one who is not there.. Where the Zipp occurred.

Some enjoy a puzzle. As a rule, I do not. I prefer action without result.. But now the choice has gone, for my voice deserted me.. So did my true sight.. Only the mirage keeps me alive. I have not yet begun to stink, but my possessions, my sums, are lost.. So many tears without sorrow; enough to vilify the soul.. My friends agree.. My forest of friends.. They became tired, and can’t be blamed; for the end seems long, life flowing like yoke; glob by glob.. It doesn’t stop. It was always strange, but not like now.. Stars collect upon my closed eyelids, and in silence I condemn the multitude.. Not for their number, but for their love.. I wrote love on the empty noisy shelves.. Chipped it in chalk on my demented carcass.. Whispered it with the wet in the insipid fog.. My malevolence was considerable and I was rightly punished. Their chalice of pain dulled my shredded senses with the vapours of the underground — mist time.. I stay a limpid child, a very young immature child, but through no wish of mine; for the infant lives terrible confusions of truth and lie, magnified many times — a pack of goliaths.. When he finally sinks from long abuse, the faded life has been a nightmare, and the pallid child, a whimpering weakling, howls for protection without noise: through pain.. The lessons only make him cruel.. More cruel.

We the children must prepare our defense.. At first we shall remove the ties that force us to hypocrisy, comradeship, sociability, kindness. When they come to shake your hand, greeting you with their open palms, spit on them if you cannot puke for lack of opportunity.. When they turn their backs, shove them down.. Kick them hard, for you might not have another chance. In other words, take advantage of every move, every gesture, every attitude of inattention and strike! It may be the last possible break.. When they are friendly, social, hospitable: hold your temper.. You will see.. They are bound to trip up.. It only takes detachment.. But whatever happens distrust them.. They are vacant and callous. They are destructive. With every form and shape, they try to fool the children, but, underneath it all, they are the .. Beware!! Caution.. And careful we must be, in the shadows, for that is our land.. Blotted out in the indistinct we are safer, more at ease.. It’s relative I know, but then… in the shadow the formless rests, the vague disappears, the faded grows dim.. There.. We are in parentheses.. And some respite is necessary, even for the doomed.. In the shade, our voices come back slowly, hesitantly, but definitely…

The unbelievable chill.. Insidiously destructive.. Clear.. I shall have to take stock, so to speak.. Of what? There is usually little left.. Very little.. A few barrel scrapings at the most.. A trunkload of faded grey memories.. Sour ones.. The pang? That’s for the novelist.. But the squeeze — yes, the tightening of the chest — the squeeze? In times past I used to count.. Things.. Noises.. Lines.. Dots.. For no reason at all.. For their own sake.. Or for the sake of counting. It calmed and soothed the wear and tear. It passed the no-time.. It sped the days and nights: but, at present, I don’t count.. I can’t! At least not passed sixty.. And with great difficulty up to sixty.. Which I sometimes fail to reach.. So that is out, as far as an escape.. I miss it.. The counting.. The dividing as well.. The neat rows.. The tilted figures, signs.. Most of all, I miss the roots.

The levers are remarkably surprising. Body and mind eventually relax.. Sleep.. Slumber.. Recognition of facts and events become realistically distorted once more.. Normal intelligence, some degree of instinct, plus intuitive impulses are partly rejected.. Or they sometimes wiggle so as to fit within an idyllic setting.. A scope we wish for, desire.. Time; within the scope of this distortion; looms once again most important: its continual effect.. For one who is desperate, who wants (maybe needs) to believe.. Everything that besmirches the utopia, the connection, is categorised or discarded as pure coincidence.. Misjudgment.. Temporary, if anything at all.. The record speaks in countless moments, enumerating a totality of confidence.. One felt them. Or imagined them.. Each one of relative love and honesty is magnified. One lives it out: the life of the confident fool.. But the disillusionment! God if it isn’t dismal! Grim! The small ice pack, next to one’s neck.

The sum of recollection.. That ‘remembered happy places of one’s experience.. In comparison; the present degree is relative. In nothingness, I am as one. In that state, the stir of existence is beyond my reach.. My willed orts.. My conditioned limitations.. In nothingness, I am not as well as whole; as if I were a ball.. Though the sphere vibrates in my unknowing mass, in my unmoving mass, and I am whole; even in nothingness.. Not because of me but through nothingness.. If there be some universal tendon to my ethereal substance, it subsides in the whole.. Right in the middle of it!! And not by pre-determined action or re-action.. Certainly not!! But by position! If I am barren… in a sense, I am free — I cast a spell and die.. Killing my multiplicity.. to be whole is surely enough! One is never sure.. Perhaps, the Whole knows.

Are you a coward? Strange.. I am.. Easily frightened.. For, in a certain light, many things are frightening.. All manner of things, regardless of their properties.. They seem innocuous, at first. Then they act.. Some furtively.. Some hardly at all.. Others with a slap! That woke you up! But even the others… The very innocuous ones.. They squeeze in, sometimes gently.. Soon, everything is polluted! In no time at all.. It seems.. Although one can be wrong.. They’re insidiously making up time, for lack of attention.. There! While your deaf eye and blind ear smug about the world noticing nothing.. And nothing IS real! So much so! Only afterwards does one realise it.. When it’s no use; or impractical.. Is the whole an art; noticing — the things — the innocuous ones — the nothingness — the whole of it? There’s an art.. Quite so.. And it can be learned by living, or at least studied by which it is a help, I’m told.. And I believe somewhat.. Now, that I am perhaps not noticing.. By chance chemistry! Pure chance! When it’s all so dismally late.. We are getting on.. Not you.. Not I.. But both; relatively.. And utility is difficult.. One has to be serene.. Which is also a cowardly attitude, but much simpler to play according to the rules.. Being, as it is, a relative coma for the living.. Which may be my lot, and again might not.. I’ll remain afraid of innocuous things.. I’ll be on my guard. No living coma for me! No time, I guess.. I must make better speed.. Although I’ll miss much, being so afraid.. But I’ll hasten, immensely occupied with eating and defecating.. Sleeping too a bit.. For that is most important! Nothing approaches these basic aspects.. Nothing! In repetition.. Pure time spent.. My God! Very little else! I’ll dispose of these with minute attention.. All the rooms shall have special equipment.. Even the lavatory.. There will be ceremonials.. Perfunctory, but necessary once.. Routine requires ceremony.. Think back.. Every time you start a day; what complex series of gestures you go through? You know them by heart.. Naturally; the million devout movements that put your trews on or your corset, that polish your skin, that clean your enamel… your black ceramics.. Ver religious you are.. You sit and lie and kneel quite beautifully, gracefully; every time you can.. You must.. Because of your faith! In getting out there.. In the space beyond.. Where, as a whole, you move among other wholes.. You think.. Who, likewise, have faith in their mouth and their rectum.. As you do.. Makes one belong, somehow.. Through it all.. Very unsubstantially.

Now I must exaggerate: it’s impossible to do otherwise. One really never judges accurately. One’s senses are too limited.. Our eyesight.. Our register as well.. A dog can do better! By far! So all seems too this, rather that, a bit tall, a mite small, faintly black, just slightly brown, etc.. And we exaggerate or minimize; which is a projection of the other.. (In another direction.) So must I.. Fit to plan.. Exaggerate.. But the least possible.. Which in itself is quite distinctive, and perhaps impossible for me. Yet, knowing my past exaggerations, I must proceed with as few distortions as I can manage.. Many, possibly.

Through it all, I must continue my search for heat, a few calories.. Of food also.. And rest.. A bed.. A large one preferably.. For I am inordinately uncomfortable in a small bed.. And I spend a great deal of time lying in them.. It being the closest thing I can find, in many ways, to a coffin. Thus a large divan bed! Littered with many objects and various papers.. Some with long notes.. Some with notes concerning the bed.. For it is a great subject! I have known many beds, fortunately.. I really have a passion for them; and attach much importance to their vastness, as well as to their comfort.. For I like to stretch.. Luxuriously.. Many times a day.. And I dislike certain disorder.. A special type.. For I cohabit with a huge pile of things; illogical, and useless.. The pile is usually in the middle of the bed, which is yet another reason I prefer large ones.. But I like it in the middle of the bed, exactly so.. Not just anywhere.. When it gets out of hand, stretching at the top, vacillating precariously; I usually leave. It is quite useless putting it in order by that time.. Quite impossible for me.. So I leave.. Often.. Leaving large empty beds.. Empty of me that is, but filled with junk; in a tangled hopeless pile.

I usually find another large bed.. And quite alone, the process starts again, lasting a few weeks, a few months at the most.. Nine if I’m lucky and careful.. The bed is not enough! Not by a long shot Such matters are complex.. There is privacy.. No; more than just privacy.. Hermitage.. Practically; it is essential to serious play.. One collects evidence in a very short amount of time.. Playing, deciphering takes much longer.. It is a state of endlessness.. So much time must be devoted to restrict the whole! Inaccuracies must be done away with, as much as possible.. And these are many.. Loads! Patience.. And it will come.. Perhaps.. Surmounting incredible odds.. Although people have a way of interrupting.. They must be coaxed into disappearing. They must not feel cast out! Trampled! For then, they pay even greater attention; preoccupied with your silence; your lack of sociability. They must be eased from the door, their attention drawn elsewhere.. Leaving you to your bed and your silence.. Go now.. Thank you.

The privacy is never complete, however.. Besides, it would then be too special.. Some contact is removed.. Some remains. One hears noise, sometimes a wireless.. One sees objects, sometimes a newspaper.. Although the presentation might be false, or inconsequential and inaccurate; it is nevertheless recorded by the mind. It never fails to make an impression — however small.. Thus invasions persist.. Some are even welcome.. Fleetingly.. For they point out another scratch, or dot, or line, and fill the bed with more play, more notes.. Without these shreds there wouldn’t be a pile, would there? Most interruptions are not welcome (nevertheless) for they are made to disrupt one’s attempts at play.. One has to pick up a phone, or write a letter, or sign a cheque; to name a few interferences.. These things I manage very badly, although I have often been compelled to do them. I do them less now.. But still.. They hold little interest and cause much waste: they render hermitage quite unlikely.. A forlorn hope.. As with everything else.

One peculiar type of interruption was especially annoying. She did not mean to be, for sure. She meant quite the opposite. Unfortunately her friendly attention was misdirected.. Badly.. One could see she wouldn’t be easy to persuade or coax.. She continually popped in, popped out, and back, like a jack.. Always at the most inappropriate times: when washing (rarely), eating (more often), shitting (copiously).. Embarrassing as these intrusions were, she never took a hint.. Never.. She would smile, and bring some soup; or perhaps a letter; or just come by and ask questions: obvious nonsensical ones about your health or about the weather.. Or comment on the duration of your sleep.. Quite unnecessary.. But if you didn’t appease her curiosity right away, she would whine and grunt, which was really exasperating.. So you answered in a rush.. Anything.. Since it made no difference.. The quicker the better.. But she had her tricks.. And out would spill her ills, and pains; her loneliness.. With metaphors — popular metaphors.. She felt the rain in her legs, the humidity in her arches, the heat in her chest, the cold in her nose, and sometimes around her finger tips.. She was a living barometer; a walking meteorological map.. At least, she thought so.. After pulling back the curtains, the comments would follow one after another.. The placement of the itch or ill dependent on the general state of the climate on that day.. And woe! God knows why? But it seemed insufferable for her to bear this bodily evidence.. And she complained of the responsibility as well.. Without doing a thing about it; she couldn’t really.. She was unbearable.. I left that room and bed; although it suited my ideas of size; out of sheer panic.. I ran away from her enquiries, scared to death she might follow.. She didn’t.. Neither did my wives.. Which is a good thing.. They might have, you know? One did.. I had forgotten! The past.. It was damn embarrassing.. She meant only the best, you see.. Talk about prying! Ferreting you out! Pushing you here and there! You tried to use her a little.. as a shield.. Miserable idiot that you were and are! Shield indeed! Quite the contrary! More worries than ever before! Take me: my bed, my pile, my whole, etc.. quite enough one would say; but, with my ‘shield’, the involvements became ridiculously complicated.. One had to be on guard every single instant.. Doubly so! Impossibly so! The minute one thing was taken resolved, there was something else to watch out for.. Banal? Yes, but time-consuming … nonetheless.

Marriage is a bloody din; I’d say.. What a racket! Christ! Noise! All the time.. Never ceases.. Doesn’t seem to.. And it’s most uncomfortable, after a while.. For both concerned! It becomes too shared; if you know what I mean.. too impersonal.. poke! Feel.. Shut.. Open.. too? It’s too mechanical.. Don’t tell me it wasn’t! Well, that’s over now.. About time.. It put me in a terrible state once.. I was in a car, not knowing where the hell I was going, barging into a doctor’s office, screaming at motorists on the way… and at pedestrians! What a din! What a jumble!

I do not intend to suggest that my unfortunate marital episodes were the fault of anyone; especially not due to my wives; for I am of the opinion that they had little or nothing to do with this annoying state of affairs.. They contributed to it indirectly, obviously enough, but as characters would, in a plot.. The situation, or the plot, was unsatisfactory in itself. Their action was dependent upon it… They themselves were involved, but without control of the situation.. Nor am I suggesting that the marital state is in essence calamitous.. For others might find it rewarding.. Enjoyable. Who knows? A gas! This being dependent on their particular situation and the way it affects them.. I would not know for whom it would be rewarding.. My experience in marital bliss is somewhat limited — for that matter, all my experiences are extremely limited.. Thus, I would not venture a guess.. Not even a guess.. But I do know that in my case and in my wives’ cases the situation (and the relationship) was dismally wrong.. From the first.. to the last, it seems.. Why so?? I probably cannot tell you, but I have ideas, for what they are worth.. Very little, I suppose.. Consider me.. I know it is not worth troubling about, but I cannot make any point or try to do so otherwise.. Now there I am.. Sitting.. Confused as I usually seem to be.. Just sitting.. It also seems that I am married.. For the first time.. This is plain to see.. For there is a parson, as well as flower girls, and maids of honour, and a best man.. I know him.. He lives down the hall and to the left, with another chap.. Who is also there (with him) in striped pants and ascot.. The whole shebang! There are also many people.. Guests, I presume.. Or the curious type who like this sort of affair.. I know very few of them.. Some seem to recognise me, for they come and congratulate me, shaking my hand.. Congratulations are in order.. A matter of form. While the majority are drinking and eating further away, under a tent.. Kiss the bride! Kiss the bride! O.K.! I’m amenable.. Where is she? There.. That is not the bride! O.K.! O.K.! A slight error.. Anyone can make a mistake.. Especially me.. So I kiss the bride.. No, that’s the bride’s mother! I thought she looked a bit old.. Not decrepit, but old.. That passes, however, for it’s perfectly in form to kiss the mother-in-law.. In any case, I still have to kiss the bride.. So I whisper to my neighbour; “Who’s the bride?” and she starts crying.. Wailing! My neighbour.. Don’t feel badly, I say to her. And I kiss her too.. Then everybody applauds, oohs, aahs, and titters.. For she is the bride — my neighbour.. Well, that was a wrong start.. For sure.. I’ll skip the rest and go on to the next marriage.

This time I’m in a taxi.. I know perfectly well who the bride is.. it couldn’t be the driver.. So.. This time no mistake.. Very good.. She seems very nice.. A little weary, but very nice.. I guess I’m pretty lucky. I remember I have to buy a suit — I need one badly, since mine; the one I’m wearing; has a hole in both of its pockets.. In those days, I used to consider such things important.. Thus, I have to see my tailor.. This does not please the second bride, it seems.. We’ve only been married minutes, she says.. I agree.. Eight minutes.. But what that has to do with the holes in my pocket and my needing a suit is quite beyond me? She hasn’t got a ring yet, she says.. That is true.. I had forgotten! A beastly thing to do… forgetting the ring.. So I give her some money, and tell her to buy herseIf a ring, the prettiest one she can find, while I go to my tailor’s for a new suit.. After that, it’s really beyond me.. Completely.. But intuitively I feel things are wrong once more.. So it was…

The absurdity is present. The evidence conflicting, confusing, as it usually is.. One fact eliminates another.. They each annihilate the all.. So that they are no more in touch, or touching.. In any sense.. So that their end, their beginning, their quality is never more than anything, anymore.. Except one more pile.

Pascal wants me to sit quietly in my chambers; otherwise there will be trouble, he warns.. I nod.. The reason I am anxious is because everything seems difficult.. Including sitting in my chambers.. Quietly.. I try to wriggle out, he maintains.. I sometimes squirm past the door; and the Lord help me when I do sneak out! I sacrifice a lot of basic things — drives.. Eating, procreating, excreting, for instance.. I survive with these, actually; but they serve a deeper purpose.. They get it out of me; that which is into me.. They relieve.. When I squirm, I neglect this.. Peril to life, Freud would say.. Sit quietly, and behave quiet1y.. Yet I wriggle.. And brood.

I’ve tried ways of replacing these drives… Varied ways: living fever pitch (up and down; up and down; always on the move).. Grabbing, tackling, raping.. Only makes it less palatable.. I’ve tried communion, consternation, constipation.. All foolish.. I even tried moderation for some time — It nearly killed me! I’ve tried malady.. Paralysis, coma, catatonia.. These were more rewarding, but dangerously so.. Sick, I could cease to struggle for a while.. But when it came back, it was ten times worse.. And less controllable than before.. So that seemed no use.. And here I must digress.. For I also tried, like many others, drugs.. Repeatedly.. Over a period of four to five years.. A great variety and quantity of drugs.. And although each one; the amphetamines, the hallucinogens, the hypnotics, and the opiates has something to add to the picture… none can replace sitting quietly in one’s chambers.

Some have had contradictory attractiveness.. The hallucinogens especially.. Peyotl or Mescaline.. Even LSD.. Of all forms of mind-affecting potions, these are the closest to Virus identification.. The shape of the wriggle.. I won’t go through a bit here; Michaux’s done it quite adequately.. In other ways, Huxley, Brill and old Havelock have indicated their varied action.. There’s no need to augment the public sphere of hallucination-producing chemistry. The strange brews I once tried (such as Bannesteria Coopi, Kola, Yage) should stay with their own kind, in the underworld. I shouldn’t divulge their horror.. Nor their beauty.. For it is part of my sickness.. Not part of the drug.. A conflicting aspect seems to be that their intoxication sometimes resembles madness, yet, at other moments, reach a supra-normalcy all their own.. There I was and am: a chamber effect.. (but you weren’t exactly sitting..) And quiet — it was not! Definitely not! The shape took delusion by the hand.. The rasp brought on persecution.. In the space within.. There you are, imagined whole and stretched; or else on a cross in onyx, slabs of teak, with many inhuman forms to choose from. The deliberate way of the action makes inevitable fear quite remote.. One can feel fear without being afraid.. Yet one is fully conscious of it — of its great sprawling shadow.. Its incessant scurrying underfoot.. Indefatigable.

There occurred a particular snake ride (on some Lysergic) that seemed to seek the quality of my inner identity; one completely foreign to my conscience. The vision of dragging especially, appeared to underline its significance.. Very reluctantly; paradoxically. Through all the the dizzy patterns and the nervous colours that exhausted the being with a measure of relief.. Oh yes, some relief.. Precious little.. The puzzle snaps forward; each little figure a perfect clay smile, or ceramic wink, or wool jump, crazily clearly seen, perhaps for the first time.. All the way to the brink.. The narrow one with slight edges of germ spreading out, as it were.. There were the snakes! One was quite long.. And kept on getting longer.. Even now.. Another had a fusion of colours in its eye.. That one I saw double.. I jumped into its eye.. And became the eye! A mite jerkily, with some muscle strain.. Nevertheless, I saw (from where the snake’s eye was) me, jumping down into my eye; and that was fear! Out there!

Arrested and desperate.. But the eye was not afraid.. Then I felt the longer snake, the one which kept on growing all the time, bite my tail, and I turned around.. I inspected my tail being swallowed by that longer snake … And I knew that, at that moment; as I know now; I was a woman! Which I’d never been.. Some discovery! Back there on the edge of the pool, watching the moray eels play in the heated pool.. The soft haze of green cliffs.

I am sitting quietly in a chamber repeating my lessons; at play.. ‘Myself’ is, looking frightfully unnatural, addressing me over the edge of a loose-leaf notebook.. He is saying: love.. Which emotion I feel.. Quivering… Then shame; and I tremble.. Fall sobbing.. Followed by tears, which starts me crying violently.. My throat is parched.. Thus repeating my lesson, quite wisely, quite efficaciously for myself, who looks pleased.. I must say.. Someone is enjoying it.. So it seems.. For the whole afternoon, until the street slicks with lights, he keeps me at my lessons.. It is exhausting feeling these emotions, free of distortion.. They hit clean and hard! They spend you! Like wet linen.

But out there, with hallucinogens, it is comparatively straight.. There are no spikes, no habits, no illness.. With the poppy? Pentapon Rose? Horse? Ibsen’s great white horses? That’s sheer masochism!

Brutal! Man, Brutal! The routine is enough to paralyse your mind.. Slave? Much more than that.. You live IT! The junk lives you! Every little cell of your body burns heroin and is content only in doing that; forcing the whole of you to do likewise.. You eat it; sleep it; live for, or because, of it.. In fact, you are no more! It’s pure undiluted Virus! Without compromise.

When you betray opiates, through mischance or penury, it pays you back.. In full! The yen.. The cold.. The twitching and kicking.. The cold.. The colic. Faces like logs.. The hot steam pouring from the nostrils and eye ducts, turning to cold spit.. The endless freeze that throws up a fluid a frothy black.. It’s been described a million times.. Befouled humanity; uninteresting humanity.. As I have been kicking, I have often wondered at the stupid insipid boredom of my predicament. It wasn’t dramatic.. Not in the least! Just senseless… the tabloid mystery of junk is so much rot! As true virus, the whole act can only be an obsessed nil. Then why, God why, are there addicts?

Opiates seem to affect only the sick; the psychopaths.. Others feel nothing.. Besides painkilling, of course. Pleasure is confined to a mental type.. With the intellectual psycho, it is said to create a certain buoyancy as well as a temporary enlargement of scope.. Only at first.. If at all.. With the more common neurotic, it takes the forms of physical pleasure.. Abdominal warmth and pseudo-ejaculation, quite similar to, and yet unlike, sex.. This orgiastic form of thrill I have never experienced.. But I have known many who frequently seek it, pressing the plungers like hungry vampires, hitting the mainline with rocket accuracy.. Slip slop.. Up and down, with a dropper. The “poppers”! They actually make me sick.. I make them equally sick.. ‘On est quitte.’

But here let me point out one little piece of info that nearly never sinks in.. It is abject slavery! Agreed! But is is not a shortcut to the family tabernacle.. Definitely not! It drags on and on.. Some cats make it for twenty, thirty years, dying every day and always getting up the next.. In a way, in a final sense, the addict is dead.. But actually the stuff acts as a preservative.. It seems.. The addict is continually junk sick, more or less.. But he doesn’t drop for the count.. It’s degrading for him: Death seems the only answer to his plight.

What can be learned from these shackles? As far as Virus goes? It amputates. Contact with it is similar to surgical removal.. What is lost? It’s not definite; as a duodenal ulcer or a burst appendix would be.. It’s framed in a long weaning sense.. Its chief work is on the soul.. It amputates a chunk.. Sometimes.. often; a vital one.. One habit is enough.. Definitely enough.. The job is done.. Can’t be undone.. And cures? It won’t bring back the loss; sprout the cleaved portion.. Science is out of touch with the poppy.. It cannot handle it. The best advised medical establishments can never proffer a cure.. Apomorphine treatment is the best.. But even that doesn’t handle the final craving.. Therapies and specialists fall in too.. Helpless.. What’s gone is gone! The mark is indelible. The clinics take on an unearthly aspect.. The cure is partly magical, for it cannot be appropriately scientific.. One might as well consult tea leaves! And it looks like a gipsy hoe-down when it happens.. It might as well… at that.

The whole picture isn’t bleak.. Look out! Here comes the sanitation department.. The fuzz! The discs! They’ll call me a liar.. But I’m not.. The controversy — pot.. Marijuana if you prefer. And concerning hemp, I draw the line. For, categorically, it is not habit forming.. It makes one hungry.. Very hungry. It makes one laugh, goof off, and think. It is not violent! Nor does it produce violence as alcohol does in certain cases.. The naturally aggressive man will be just as hostile with tea or charge, but not more so.. For the average smoker it is actually soothing.. Defined as a vicious and dangerous thing it makes good copy.. But that is all.. For it certainly is not either of these.. HaIf the world smokes it.. With much the regularity as Occidentals smoke tobacco.. Haschich and the Moslems.. Bang or Gangha and the Indians.. Marijuana and the Central and South American natives.. It has never subtracted a single minute of their potential life span.. And it never will. The injurious effects of alcohol are much more obvious.. Any comparison would be foolish.. The only thing that can be said against cannabis indicae sums up to this: it does influence the natural laziness of man.. It is a plant of idleness.. But then, I’m no hustler.. Efficiency, machine ages, and pot down exactly go hand in hand.. I’m not a precise man either, as far as schedules are concerned.. As far as anything is concerned.. The problem personally cancels out.. The stimulating drugs (amphetamines and such) are somewhat related to the cocaine family.. Benzedrine, dexedrine, and components, are less injurious than the produce of the Erythroxyloncoca.. For long centuries, the latter was worshiped by the Incas.. Nearly every intoxicant was at one time or another.. Dionysus, Bacchus, and the grape.. Peyotl and the Seminole God.. Coca legend states that it satisfies the hungry and invigorates the weary. A word of warning: there is no violent let down or depression comparable to the after-effects of a coke jag.. Once the stimulant is gone, there ensues rock-bottom depressive states.. This poison is doubly injurious: It can cause permanent injury, loss of nerve tissue; even madness.. Not a pleasant form of lunacy.. Sheer hades! The coke D.T’s are much more powerful than those common to inveterate alcoholics.. When the army crawls; it crawls! Insects, rats, anything you may abhor, latch on to your epidermis until the shell blows up! I have had occasional bouts with migraine.. These amplified ten times over, centered around the sinus and mucous membranes, cause the cocainist to lose all practical and psychological control.. The delusions that follow are a paroxysm of paranoia.. The legendary “dope fiend”, reported as capable of homicide, is really the C head.. A snow-sniffer coming down can be a very dangerous animal.. The man suffering from junk sickness (opiates) is usually too weak to cause anyone harm.. But that is not the case with a possessed coca eater who has failed to cop his crystals.. Or took too many of them! The pleasure derived from C is quite relative.. In small controlled doses, Freud states that he found it an aid to his work (and nasal condition).. There is very little doubt that it does charge one’s battery.. But it is nearly impossible to control.. When it’s there, it goes.. And quick! Within the narrow of its physical and mental stimulation can also be enumerated the deficiencies of its optic: The abominable snowman is superior.. He thinks.. Actually, if one comes upon a group of agitated users, talking incessantly, making little or no sense, casting judgment with a priori sufficiency, the picture becomes clear.. It is neither a creative drug nor a constructive one.. The delusion is such that the user hardly ever realizes the level of his intellectual contribution.. I myself believe it lessens one’s capabilities.. If anything at all.. It kills appetite, taste, and smell.. It is really a very low grade kick.. For much the reasons Kat is an inferior stimulant.. And I’ve been told it is even more toxic! So much for so called “pitch hung-ups”.. They might possibly be enjoyed by sea slugs and turtles.. As radical changes.. Those with obvious chips on their frame might delight in their newly found, and quite illusory power.. But they must be of a rather low calibre.. These chippies.. For it is quite the opposite to subtle.. Call it God-damn crude, if you like.

That covers briefly one general type of wriggle.. Very unsatisfactory.. Only certain energizers offer new perceptive data.. Pot seems mostly harmless.. The rest range from dull, routine, dangerous, inadequate, demoralizing to crippling.. On the whole, the laboratory has to delve into this field more assiduously in order to arrive at some helpful chemical psychic-energisers.. Until this has been accomplished, the whole field is best left alone.. Pot calling kettle black? No, only admitting strict failure, and, in most cases, irreparable loss.. By this time you must realize that my attitude is not concerned with morals.. Only results.. And feelings.. If any of these specifically mentioned wriggles proved satisfactory, I’d be the first to admit it; and adopt their strictures.. Long wasted experience has taught me that squirming is only prolonged in junk spheres.. That’s all.. If the positive were fatal, I’d manage it even then.. It just isn’t positive, brother! (or sister.)

I have time, lots of it, by normal standards.. A week would do — a month amply — a year might be too much; and yet I force it.. Lots of time to look for the shape, the contour.. More than enough to sit quietly, if I could.. The way I punish the frame, it seems unfair that any time is left.. And, as I have mentioned before, it can be downright embarrassing.. For when they see me, green, rachitic, a little mouldy, they are relieved. It can’t be long now, they say. I would agree, if I didn’t know how long it’s been. Green I’ve always been.. Rachitic more or less..

Not mouldy, no.. That’s recent.. It might be inconsequential, however, as far as my general condition goes. The other limitations are even less serious.. So I can only barely move? So what? Life drips on in bed, just as well as on a mile run.. Perhaps even better.. The vital parts; heart, lungs and stomach? They could be worse.. Far worse.. It’s really degrading for me.. As far as they’re concerned. Of course, they don’t wish me ill.. Not really.. But the burden! The responsibility! It’s not that they take care of me.. God no! I wouldn’t want that — no privacy.. They wouldn’t either — no freedom.. But they worry… I wish they would not.. But they do.. Every so often, they call and say so.. I try to reassure them.. They worry, nonetheless.. Of course, sometimes they call when I’m playing.. I get fierce then! On such occasions they really worry.. Come and look.. Wish me dead.

I’d help, if it mattered.. Strictly speaking, it’s impossible for me to help. One moment they wish me dead.. Another they worry.. The next they come and look.. If they only took a definite stand, a concerted view, I might manage something.. They have no belief, properly so.. And their conversation? it’s hopeless.. They start on some old worn out theme, like my room for instance.. Then they go through a ritual: she says it’s small.. He says it’s dirty. They say it’s not fit for a dog.. And it drags on, until they leave the small dirty room unfit for a dog, where I live.. Quite content.. Relatively.. The prospects are dim.. For they will come back.

Very seldom, for it’s no use, I hint that matter as such does not interest me. It hurts their pride, and I drop it. Other occasions bring about a change.. They think.. I’m older, they say. I thank them.. Things will be better.. I don’t understand, but I thank them.. They bring me books.. I don’t read anymore but I thank them. Such instance take the weight off their minds.. For a while.. One must admit they hardly help my quietude, or my sitting. In fact, the wriggling always starts anew more markedly following their visits. This they do not realise.. Nor is it good policy to tell them so.. When their feelings are hurt, they demand amends.. Which means, in the end, that they come more often.. And look.

Try to influence events! just try! They’ll go along your way for a bit.. Sometimes long enough to make you believe you’ve done it: control.. Or — in full control! That’s a dangerous point.. You feel superior.. You look at the measly minims with assurance, pomp and, sometimes (foolishly enough) circumstance.. Illusions of puppeteering stream by.. Snip there! Hold down! String up! The dolls obey your every wish.. As they are about to take their bow; directly before the curtain falls, exactly as you had planned it — you feel suspended! You try to move this way and that, but chains hold you back! You turn to the left, the very far left, facing a place you never wanted to see, much less face.. And you bow! Oh, yes you do! Struggling against it! Cursing maybe! Bowing, nonetheless.. And again.. Your nose touching the dirt.

Remain suspended as I do for a long period, and it will become one of your major preoccupations.. I can’t help trying to solve the problem.. My instincts tell me this is hopeless.. So does my intelligence.. My what? You see, there I go again.. Presuming.. (Whatever it is) tells me it can’t be.. Stops me? Not for an instant.. The battle goes on inside: Don’t bother.. React! Let it go.. Fight it! Fate.. Cunning! And so forth.. I envisage new methods… New ways of controlling… (or rather, of not being suspended..) For (with the former)… really… if I’ve learned one thing.. It all comes back to my sums.. And my privacy.. They come and look.. They should grow weary.. Nope.. The human animal digs routine, worry, responsibility. He claims hatred for such pettiness.. He sings the praises of full freedom.. So I read.. But he comes back.. And looks.. Like a worker ant.

I have tried accepting their routine behavior..

Tuesdays they come, I say. The rest of the week they stay away.. Wednesdays they phone, I say… For the remainder of the week my phone stays silent.. It’s part of the pattern.. Routine they are.. But improperly so! If they were more like machines their schedules could be set.. Once and for all! But man is inadequate even in his fervent desire for monotonous repetition. In January they came on Sundays.. once on a Tuesday.. In February he, not she, came for three days in a row.. Imagine! I became frantic.. He had rheumatism.. You’d think that would have kept him away, wouldn’t you? Just the contrary.. For these rheumatic days were lonely ones, it seemed.. So he pained and puffed, strained and heaved, three solid days in a row, to come to my room.. And tell me about his rheumatism.. Did he want sympathy? I don’t know.. But I can tell you he didn’t get any! Which didn’t stop him from coming.. I cautioned him.. Rupture, I said. Hernia, I said. Because of the stairs and his difficulty.. Since it didn’t work, I mentioned the landlady’s boy.. The real kind — influenza.. It wasn’t true, of course.. The landlady was a dike.. Had no children.. He believed me, but it did not keep him away.. It only made him stay longer, because he’d start worrying about crossing the landing on his way out of the building.. What’s the difference? He crossed it coming in, for sure.. One can stretch one’s luck, he would say. Twice on the day.. For a while I thought he was going to spend the night.. In my bed! He didn’t, but it was close.

Then I mentioned my plan.. Gently.. So as to arouse no suspicion.. I had a great deal to do.. What? A lot, a lot! I needed the weekdays to finish.. Perhaps they would come on weekends? Saturday? Or Sunday maybe? They were going to their cousins on Saturday. And Sunday was a day of rest. How could I expect them to visit sick friends on the Sabbath? I was very presumptive, to say the least.. No, they would be by during the week.. It wasn’t good for me to be alone.. They thought.. So they would go to all the bother of visiting me after work.. Although it was the rush hour at that particular time. And very difficult.. And tiring. Well, at least, my weekends would be free.. Like hell! They both showed up on the spot in their holiday best the next Sunday.. At noon!…

***

They seemed to cope with the outside willy nilly, albeit they managed. How else would the prescriptions be obeyed, delivered, propagated? Uncanny how they managed.. Survival’s difficulties seemed insurmountable to me.. Add to these the laws, by laws, decrees and regulations.. On every level.. And I was choking, my throat stuffed with carbon paper.. Yet they managed, or at least, put up a remarkable act. Ever since my infancy I have been awed by files.. The very first ones to which I paid any attention were in my father’s study. They were hidden behind a folding bookcase bound in morocco; quite elegant.. I suppose this was meant as an object lesson.. Most things dealing with my father seemed to tum out to be object lessons.. I had come in with a youngish tutor (I can’t remember ‘its’ sex) and after the usual rigmarole about being good, being obedient, being serious, being conscientious; all qualities quite beyond my scope; he (my father), crossed over to a corner of the library and, with what appeared to be unusual dexterity, folded a set of books one upon another, as with a fan.. They really weren’t books.. Trompe l’oeil.. Old bindings. In any case behind Homer and Parmenides, there loomed a set of cubicles, metallic grey with bright knobs and numbered locks.. And these were files.. He opened one; then two; then three.. Each time slamming the previously inspected drawer along its notched railings.. He was looking for something.. My date of birth.. And he didn’t remember if it was kept under N for ‘naissance’, or F for ‘fils’ or C for ‘calamité” or E for ‘enmerdement’… as it turned out, the certificate was lodged in the L cabinet, between Lotterie Nationale and Lombago.. It was fitting.. For more than one reason.. And he brandished the certificate put on his reading spectacles; consequently perusing the information on the frayed slip with apparent interest.. I was five it seemed.. And some odd months plus a few days.. Now this seemed to cheer him up, as the tutor.. And imagine; how time flies; and a big boy now.. All these dropped here and there.. First from my father with a swelled chest.. Then repeatedly from the tutor with undue emphasis.

This was all bunk of course.. For in the mirror behind the desk, I could see myself very plainly and, although many true things might have been said by them about time’s qualities, as well as about my relative height (or length, as I preferred to consider it at the time) they certainly were not as utterly myopic or careless as all that.. For I was tiny.. Miniscular, barely able to look over the desk.. And as far as time was concerned, it had not flown.. Not at all.. Rather, it had been tedious, very tedious.. Of course, I realised that grown-ups usually say such things from day to day.. Especially when children are around.. Notwithstanding this, the humour and usefulness of such information seemed remote.. And so did the utility of my father’s files.. Not that the files contained remarks about flying time nor about my relative size, for I intuitively knew they did not.. But what did they contain? Among other things, my date of birth.. Well, that was utterly useless, as far as I could make out.. And lumbago? Irrelevant.. The lottery also.. Not that lumbagoes or national sweepstakes have no importance in themselves! Certainly they did have importance.. But summarized as these were under the letter L seemed arbitrary.. Why not have lumbago under ills, or pains, or medicine? And lottery under chance, gambling, and National revenue? Or countless others.. Later, much later, I found out that some men, so called specialists, did nothing but figure out appropriate categories for everything, and subdivisions of . One must conform to their judgment if one uses a library, for instance.. Or a catalogue.. Now if they were specialists in lumbago; had discovered its basic properties, its communicable essence; they might conceivably know in what niche it should be stored.. In each differing circumstance.. For the most part, they were simply specialists in filing, or semantics, or philology, and such.. Thus their knowledge concerning lumbago was very nearly as restricted as mine seemed to be.

The files were only a very minor aspect.. True.. Memos, cards, injunctions, writs, prescriptions, reminders, codes, directions, rules, regulations, forms.. Stop! Forms.. Yes, that’s a good one.. They prop up the whole system.. Imagine bureaucrats in the process of reading all the forms; filled out, correcting their inaccuracies; signing these, sending each one to other prescribed departments, checking their individual number, their basic content, their formal demands, their unfortunate refusals, and, yes, filling out answers as well.. Automation takes over a great number of these activities and is rapidly assuming part of the job of checking, filing, etc.. But you! Me! I don’t have the space necessary for an IBM calculator.. Not even in my large bed.. So..

You want to go someplace? Apply.. Fill out form 796,482.. Then list part of your sums.. Reply to their enquiries.. Reapply.. At last, with your visa, or passport, or both, plus your other essential papers (at least six), you may start.. That is, if you are walking.. Any other method of travel, and you’ll need another little stack.. So, you decide to stay at home; the pace being too difficult.. Wait.. Just wait.. Questionnaires start coming in.. And another little stack.. You want to fill out the essential ones and mail them back? Impossible! A good percentage of these must be presented in person, with x glossy prints of your useless face on top of it all.

I personally hate to be photographed; a damn good thing most people dislike photographing me.. Still, I’m a number.. Thus, 9 times per annum, I get out of bed, put on clothes, find an automatic booth usually half-splitting with bolty sounds, and receive from the moist hands of a frayed attendant a half-dozen facsimiles of me.. Not really me, but close enough to fool the bureaucrats.. Why don’t I have six dozen taken once and for all? (a) I lose them; (b) I can’t stay in the booth longer than is required for a few snapshots.. If I did, my face would change, remarkably so, and the authorities would accuse me of impersonation.. And once they accuse you of anything at all, you’re done for.. But definitely.

Since the system is so complicated, I’m nearly always on the brink of disaster. I have mislaid form 6, slipped up on application ZXF, been tardy with memoranda IPX.. The worry! The nerve-wracking.. I hate the morning mail.. Not because of bills.. I tear those up with a vengeance! It’s enquiries that matter. They nearly always come in the morning post. The landlady slips them under the door, coughing as she does, making sure that I know they have arrived.. The bitch! She doesn’t come in anymore.. Although it took a long time to bring this about.. I literally had to defecate in front of the door.. She stepped in the mess all the way to her stockings, being nearly blind.. Her olfactory senses were in perfect working order however.. And that did it! Now she stays outside, coughing each time; once for the mail, twice for my spam, thrice for a telegram.. She’s tempted by cables I know.. For they excite her to a remarkable extent.. She used to comment every time I received one.. That is before I managed to keep her out.. I hope it is not bad news? From your family? I got a cable once, when Izzy was busted for poaching.. Izzy was her seventy years old paramour.. Now she only coughs three times.. With much irritation.. Thus she slides the morning mail under the door.. It’s one time of the day I dread.. I pick up the official envelopes gingerly.. If I open them, I do so with much nausea.. At times, when I’m particularly tired, I just tear them up.. But with a pang! For those officious little missives can lead to great disturbance, if one doesn’t take care of them in time.

I once believed they would forget me. It would have saved their time, their money, and my peace of mind.. But the files are in the way.. They regurgitate my number periodically, starting the complex machinery in motion.. Pernicious cubicles! My nightmares always include a few fastidious cabinets; vomiting, chattering, sorting, invading. There’s no wish fulfillment in that case. There could not be — although happier more exhilarating sequences have files too.. Burning ones! Creaking ones, bulging, overloaded ones, spewing their contents into some gutter.. Irretrievably lost, flowing out to a great common cistern filled with diagrams and forms!

This is only a particle of a particle.. Of the outside.. Tedium.. Only one of the varied specie.. I am not the only one bugged by it either.. Many complain in their own fashion.. Most of them the way way they complain about routine.. It’s cumbersome.. Eats taxes.. What doesn’t? No that’s false.. Look at the Soviets.. Pravda complains about the waste of M, the criminal laziness of R. agency.. Perhaps, rightly.. I don’t know.. That’s subject outside my space.. Nevertheless, in India too! In Benares, we watched for days, and I mean days, one side of the River Ganges.. Although I watched the other side too.. I must admit the other side held very little interest.. Yet I watched.. Paradoxical, one might say.. Here were a couple thousand pilgrims between the boat and shore, doing publicly what I do privately: washing, brushing their teeth, scratching their loins, piddling away.. And a couple thousand more doing what I do in bed: kneeling, throwing flowers up, touching their lips with their fingers, making love.. All mixed.. On one shore.. So that no one watched the other side.. It was explained in terms of Hinduism, Brahma Samaj, Yoga, Buddhism, even Jain; although God knows (and he does) why they were in Benares — them.. Consequently, no one had a reason to look at the other side, which was to the left when we went downstream, and to to the right when we went upstream.. I even did some explaining myself; to a guy who had never heard of Benares, and who wouldn’t know if I was telling the truth or not.. But I did not describe the side I had equally watched, it being devoid of interest.. So everybody agreed.. Oh, perhaps more interesting to tourists than the left bank of the Eure-et-Loir — that is, if they were French.. But not much more.. Thus, there was hardly any reason for me to describe and explain why only one bank was interesting; with the sleeping and the praying and love-making and swimming and piddling and washing.. oh! And burning! Yes, I forgot.. The cremations.. Of course! We spent the whole morning anxiously waiting for the cremations. The guide, for the boat came with a guide (would you believe it?) was sure everyone would be more specifically interested in cremations.. And he was right.. Most people were.. I must admit one stove was nice.. I don’t know the name they used.. Though he repeated it jubilantly over and over again in Hindi.. It was really quite modern.. Not in years, no.. In aspect.. all wood-burning, the stoves, but this one took in logs.. Regular trees.. Such large trees must have come from far away, for the trees around Benares (in this arid dump) are sort of shrubby.. This I noticed on the other shore, devoid of people, but dotted with rather sick bunioned trees.. Distant trees were used.. I do not know if this was a group cremation.. It necessitated such a large fire.. Perhaps it was a ‘family’ arrangement: mother, children, nephews, and nieces.. With the head of the family, supervising. I could not tell you, because we moved on, and we looked, or rather the guide looked, for an intimate cremation.. Something more personal.. His clients would feel.. Sort of.. And he found one, not very far away.. It was haIf over; but that didn’t matter.. What the guide thought we would enjoy, and which we did enjoy, was the actual throwing.. The throwing of the body on the pyre, or (cheating a little) haIf on the pyre and haIf in the stove, or (since it might be a suspected outcaste’s remains) directly into the stove.. the last was inelegant.. One couldn’t see much inside the stove.. But the guide knew his job, and his cremations.. This was a de luxe one! The whole body was carefully thrown on the pyre, so as to burn long and bright.. A good omen.

You might say the people out there didn’t really care too much about the cremations. That is partly true.. They were damn lucky to croak by the Ganges.. And even a select minority if their ashes were brought there by some kind-hearted kin.. The ashes were the important thing… It’s like a hit on the roulette.. A straight pass to metempsychosis.. Or, at least, a priority for first class fare.. The ones that died here made out well.. As well as they could.. One didn’t trust too much to the tryad’s will.. Not that It made mistakes, mind you.. But It was choosy.. So even privileged enough to expire in the hallowed ground; one did one’s best about cremation.. Only it wasn’t with the anxiety as far away.. From Benares.. Besides, these things are different in each individual case.. There was one thing in common though: the bank used.. Another.. The guides.. All of them had an appetite for a nice personal cremation. And hardly took any notice of the ashes.. Visually; a very poor show.. The ashes.

But behind all this, if you can see a connection; which I felt more than saw (illogically speaking); there were a new set of forms.. Of regulations.. Of laws.. The system of control I leave to your imagination, reminding you however that it hasn’t failed for two thousand years. The routine invasion? Try picking up a phone.. Having an automaton take haIf a dozen prints of your kisser.. Or write a letter.. to whom? Vishnu? Siva? Yet the invasion is total.. You get up.. touch the earth.. Now I admit I like to feel the ground under my feet.. But every day? Making sure? Then, you bathe with certain motions.. Here again the motions might be the best possible.. However, I don’t bathe.. Or rarely. You know the rituals better than I do probably, for I have a very poor memory.. You know.. A quadrillion actions a year.. Carefully plotted out.. Which means a calendar.. Unless you’re lucky enough to know the date.. By this time, you must admit that mankind loves authority, prescriptions, routine.. Which puts me at a loss.. Which makes me fall behind, leagues behind.

When I was still an infant, early in my teens, amongst the many subjects I was forced to absorb were the ones dealing with social relations. I am not about to bring these back to light. I have mostly forgotten their content.. And, in my particular case, they have proved of little value.. Being a simple man.. And somewhat practical.. But one phrase always surges to the fore.. I think Aristotle, whose other comments were a mystery to me, was responsible for it. At least, it is attributed to him, I believe.. Man is a social being.. It goes.. Followed by many reasons.. Or perhaps, ‘being’ in the text reads; ‘animal’ (in fact).. I am not too sure.. Whether one or the other; it is the social context which I think mostly about.. For social context necessitates systems.. Or organization of society, to say much the thing.. And this society must operate along prescribed ways.. Or codes and laws.. But, for it to be social, it clearly needs more than that.. Organization is only one essential part.. Of the social context.. Social contact leads also to groups, gangs.. Circles.. Communities.. People joining a unit to be social.. It seems to me.. Any type of unit.. Or belonging to a unit or level.. Some level.. Belonging in many different manners.. And ways.. Levels are sometimes.. Sometimes they are natural.. That is to say human categories are.. Some beings are gregarious, some are retiring.. Each attitude is a natural distinction of his personality (or of theirs).. Some are born deaf; others blind.. This causes the handicapped to join together of course.. For only deaf people know the problems of personal soundlessness, for instance.. Others are born in large private estates, while some see the light of day in slum tenements.. The latter type of distinction seems somehow artificially created.. Difference in habitat being humanly controlled.. This artificiality is most natural to the majority nevertheless.. I don’t feel it to be, however.

When in the United States, before she split, I caught a fever. It’s not particular to the States.. Not by a home run.. But is more in evidence there.. Out in the open.. It takes a while to get sick. The disease has a protracted incubation period. Sometimes it’s too slow to be readily noticeable by the patient… Until he’s in the critical stage.. And then he’s so far he gone he seldom comes out of it. Unaware as he is of being sick. Yes, it’s hysterical in parts.. But it gets you! The first signs come with a certain loss.. One has a rough time realising one’s place.. One doesn’t seem to know it.. They’re partial to differences and quick to notice eccentricity out there.. Of course, sometimes it isn’t eccentricity.. But it looks like it to them.. Because it’s unlike what they’re used to.. And they’re very partial.

At first one ridicules such conformity. Many jokes are made about people named Jones and others named Babbitt.. Even the partial ones laugh at them.. Lap them up.. The cosmopolite; he laughs the hardest in some Madison Avenue bar, with his striped tie and charcoal grey flannel. He thinks people in the sticks, or out west, are just rustic sheep.. And he gulps another martini.. Very dry.. They have no originality, he claims. None.. And he quotes Winchell.. If he’s a partial egghead, he might quote Schlesinger or Kline.. Anyway, he quotes.. Which I find informative.. For I never read up on those people, and about their prophets.. And they all laugh.. His friends.. With their Bermuda shorts.. Or, if they’re beat, their blue jeans.. The town, the country trembles with their guffaws about conformity.. But not when you’re around.. Not freely that is.. Firstly, because your suit is green or yellow.. That would be just right with the beat.. But the day you go to meet the beat, you’ve forgotten.. And you’re wearing a bowler.. So they don’t try to joke either then.. Until you’ve left.

It’s a very complicated disease. It changes from place to place, from circle to circle. At one party it would be simpler if you were Catholic — especially if there are cops about.. At another you have to be a cow, or nearly a brahman.. And you better be good at it because they toss impostors out, and sometimes lynch them.. In the South, watch out! Don’t go near the coal pits! Next thing you know you can’t sit in a bus.. Pretty much everywhere you’d better be Christian.. It helps.. Though not in filmland… in Hollywood you’d be an oddity.. So you see, it is difficult.. Very much so for a Frenchman like me.

Lack of mobility displeased me intensely.. So I picked up on the lingo, the mannerisms, and being part parrot, tried out the different conformities.. All different.. And that is the fever! Pretty soon you’re wearing a dark grey vest and blue jeans and a pewee hat.. You’re mentioning ‘Lil Abner’ and the ‘New Yorker’.. You dig this.. You drawl that.. You’re watching baseball and polo.. You’re drinking rye and bad French wine.. You’re buying a new car each year you can’t drive.. You openly criticize T.V…. And watch the late late every night.

One’s life becomes extremely confusing. I suppose the natives, brought up specially in this epidemic, catch on instinctively.. They place themselves, so to speak.. A little fever.. A high fever.. An Arkansas woodman po’ white trashfever, or an advert special promotional at the club-fever.. They learn to live with their particular temperature and are quick to accept similarly suffering creatures.. But a foreigner? You say; he might take on a recently arrived in the dump’s immigrant fever.. But if he’s not an immigrant or recently arrived? Or in the dumps? And if then, like myself then, he wants to meet the different fevers; pardon — groups or circles? He must become a little confused chameleon, that’s all.

No, that’s not all.. Because one day he meets one cosmopolite, one brahman, one southerner, and one beat, at the time.. By pure chance.. It happens, it happens.. What then? Retreat? It’s too late.. Silence? Impractical.. I know what happened to me: First I whispered and hid my body all the way up to the neck behind a screen.. It didn’t work.. The cosmopolite was deaf and urged me to loudness. The brahman was part-blind and asked me to approach.. And the barman knocked over the screen.. Plunk! I had prepared for the latter.. I was.. naked.. All my clothes; jodhpurs, dhottee and turban; were already hidden.. And I stuttered.. But it still didn’t work.. The egghead exclaimed, he’s not circumcised! And they all gaped and nodded.. It’s well known that all good decent Americans are.. So there I was, shamed, humiliated, discovered.. But rid of my fever.

It’s profoundly unfair to single out Uncle Sam for said symptoms.. Any place I have lived in, not just visited, seems to fit the bill.. I would venture to say that the case everywhere, although I cannot vouch for it.. Take my country now; or before, or after, probably.. (Now;) the fever is political conformity. In the land of proverbial anarchy, everybody, or nearly, votes the . I know nothing of politics.. Thus I can hardly tell you why they do or did.. People who know proportional calculation machines that tabulate such figures have it.. And it’s true.. There’s a general fever.. But more humanly speaking, there’s also a class fever.. There aren’t the many subdivisions of one large comfortable class, like over the Atlantic, but there are sharply defined classes. I think they go like this, though I’m not sure.. Rich.. Oh no! First, very rich.. That’s better.. Then rich.. And comfortable.. Followed by poor, and poorer, and much poorer, and very very poor, and miserable, and those we forget.. There! Time has something vague to do with it.. Not like before in the old days.. But still.. So if you’re rich because your great grandfather was a shyster and tied it up so ingeniously that part of it got to you, with your arms crossed, well, then, you’re quite superior to the modern shyster, who’s making piles you’ll never have.. You think.. He thinks differently.. Since he worked.. Still he does not want to take what you have by force of law, because he plans a legacy for his cretin son. You might not respect each other, but you do support each other.. You must.. Mobility is easy.. Just make money.. The more you make, the more you are mobile.. Not that it’s a sure advantage to be mobile.. Though it’s part of the fever.

Now all the systems obviously have a point.. Quite beyond me I trust.. But I personally find them limiting.. In my freedom.. to be alone.. Yet systems exist.. And mores.. And habits.. They change from place to place I have already said, but what seems disastrous is that no place can do without them.. Everyone seems conditioned.

It is so easy to accept or to refuse.. Easier still not to participate.. Or still to mock and lie fallow without hindrance or pressure, in any vivid fashion.. But those who refuse to accept or participate remain among the few, I guess.. They do.. They must.. For the change will come, though easier to disclaim it and cover one’s eyes.. As the sun unseen.. Or wind unheard.. Which verily exist if we look for the rays’ refractions or the waves’ echoes.. Only to doubt.. For, after all, our senses, those near the cutting edge, registering the differences of media in which we grope (as lost as the motherless children fed by by effective cows) haven’t they only perpetuated the distortion we demanded to discard? The unbelieving, once they have rejected; what is it they reject if it is not part of what they once believed or thought? And, in a sense, isn’t their rejection a denial of the very existence of that cutting edge? When we are sure that all else must fail us.. Existence becomes denial. It tends to make us characters of “no” plays.

The voice below still sounds. We wish to recognise… But what? Us! Of course.. Me.. You.. It throws us back, facing all we appreciated.. All we counted on as part of the whole.. Back! to the edge of the intuitive.. For although our intellect might direct us to our non-substance, our intuition, our hidden energy, leads us right to the very substance we were finally ready to deny. The average social being, and by God most of us are, demands some form of identity for sure. If he is not identified, properly speaking, he becomes psychologically unsuitable.. So they say.. Pathologically perhaps.. They add.. Since the group exists, the fevers, he demands a place in them — outside? Thrust outside, discarded, he can only consider the group, the fever, the system, as particularly designed to exclude his kind.. An order neither natural nor justifiable!

Whether it’s necessary or not, he must communicate.. In a way that fits his need for identity.. to be certain of his humanity he demands the acceptance of passers-by he recognizes as human.. For the most part, he exaggerates his limitations when he is alone, and doesn’t accept the results of his introspection; which must point to his general identity at some time during his growth.. Insecure, he demands further corroboration from his fellow man. Their acceptance is enough.. But to be accepted, what’s asked of him? A lot! By God! A helluva lot!…

***

All the time, I repeat, I feel more than I see.. Though I feel little. Comparatively more than I see.. But that is not much.. There is a distinction.. For when I see, I occasionally interpret.. Which is my downfall.. When I feel, it is another matter. Interpretation counts for nought or nearly so.. Since the changes are rapid.. Swinging as they do from one extreme to another.. And both extremes being, as they are, very similar in the way I feel.. The interpretations don’t interfere with the feeling.. Or perhaps there are none.. Interpretations, I mean.. When I feel.. Yet there must be, although I miss them, being neither quick to react nor possessed by logic: I feel that is an absurdity.. I do not see it as such.. But I feel it to be.. Whether logic would have served any purpose for me or not.. I do not know..I feel it would not.. For I am not concerned with such situations: those involving logic.. Rather I am as one with my needs.. You know them, limited as they are. They must also be your needs.. Some of them.. Only partly your needs perhaps.. But they are contained within the scope of your needs.. If not, you must be an extraordinary being.. Which you might well be.. Then my needs would be secondary to your nature, or at least, seem so. In fact, they might not exist for you.. Or if they did, only remotely.. Hardly worth a second thought.. Or a first thought.. Or none.. I would like to ask you what your needs are if they don’t coincide with any of mine. Perhaps, you would tell me that yours are more complex, involving a variety of variables, to arrange in the order necessary for your needs to exist.. If you did, I should not understand you.. I’m slow.. Or perhaps you would state your needs by degrees of importance, mine being the last on your list.. The least significant.. That would not surprise me.. On the contrary.. For, being ordinary, and very simple, which I feel, not knowing why I do, you are not, I would expect a difference both qualitative and quantitative between your needs and mine.. I should be interested, as unbelievable as it may seem, in your less important needs.. They being somewhat similar to mine.. In a way.. And I should want to know how you disposed of them, or organized your life around them, if you did.. For they perplex me.. Even if they are of small significance to you.. And since I am at a loss finding some method or attitude to cope with them, I must admit I would like to be instructed, by someone like you, in the ways and by-ways you have devised to deal with them efficaciously.

Certain obstacles are in my way.. As far as being schooled by you or the likes of you.. Pertaining to these needs.. Firstly, when I have come across the likes of you, or what I feel extraordinary people to be like, I have had great difficulty in contacting them.. In communicating, in other words.. There are many obvious reasons for this, but some impressed me more than others.. The likes of me don’t seem to arouse any interest with the likes of you.. As is only natural.. But if by good fortune on my part, and mischance on yours or theirs, they are temporarily faced by my queries, pertaining to these needs.. They have a reaction bordering on the insulting.. Not that I mind insults, I assure you.. I am quite used to them by now, and even enjoy an occasional dig or two.. But the irritation which they seem to feel prevents them from dispensing with the information I value.. They leave in a huff.. Or interject.. Or fart.. Or look at me slightly sarcastically and shake their heads, from side to side, as if I were a hopeless case.. Which I might very well be.. Nonetheless, the information I seek is not forthcoming.. Nor do they even consider it or suggest possible solutions.. They drop the issue.. For the most part.. Just drop it!

Being shy, it takes me some time before I have the gumption to address their likes, or your likes if you prefer, again.. Especially, after the manner they choose to have with me.. A timid person needs time between rebuffs.. But, after a while, I manage to bluff my way into their company once more: I do not bring the subject up at once.. After having toasted their health, enquired about their love life, admired their many talents, their versatility, their worldliness; only then; I surreptitiously channel the conversation back to the area of their lesser needs.. Even then, off-handedly, seemingly unpreoccupied, as casually as I can.. The excitement sometimes leads me to slight excesses of language, but only slight ones mind.. The whole maneuver, planned with the greatest care, does not incite any positive reaction.. Not the remotest! It is the last I see of them, no wiser than before.. Me, that is.. Exceptionally, they stick around after I have breached the subject.. On these occasions I fare no better.. For if they stay, they do not answer me.. At least, they do not respond in the manner I hoped they would.. It usually turns out that I have toasted their health immoderately in the preceding stage.. And they are drunk.. Scarlet in the face.. Or tottering.. Proffering eternal friendship, which disgusts me.. But my needs? Their way of handling these? Never on your life! They won’t assist me in any way.

I realise that it is not their function to assist me… not any casual acquaintance for that matter.. They have their own needs, worries, problems.. They also have the needs, worries, and problems of those they cherish.. Of those they love.. Although these latter considerations must take up less of their time.. Unless I am very much mistaken. Taking into account the short duration of their lives, subtracting from it the parts devoted to eating, excreting, sleeping, and relaxing.. If they do.. Further considering the periods devoted to incidental conditioning and routine necessity, it seems only natural that in such a limited lapse, as it were, they would concentrate their attention on their important personal needs and so forth, and afterwards, if any time is left, turn their ingenuous minds to those problems affecting the few people, or things, or pets that deeply stir them.. Or at least stir them somewhat.. A little.. I readily see how this leaves me out.. How it is natural that they have no time to waste on the inconsequential points which affect me.. All this I am prepared to accept.. As quite normal.. But the thing or situation, that bothers me in my case, is that they do in fact trouble their over-burdened existence with my condition, quite paradoxically at that.. For I have already mentioned those that incontinently worry about me, and visit my chamber, and come and look, and call to inquire about my health.. Not that they answer my queries.. Oh, no.. I don’t even ask them to consider my needs; the real ones.. I know they find the subject inadequate.. Unworthy of their attention.. Or time.. Although they spend much time enquiring about subjects that hardly concern me.. And all this for no apparent reason.. At least none perceptible to me. Since I am not their kin, or if I am, since I am not liked by them, nor cherished.. God forbid! In fact, I am quite certain they find me ambiguous at best.. An unsavory character perhaps.. A dolt.. One not to be trusted very possibly.. Emotions and feelings quite comprehensible to me.. As far as I go.. As far as they go too.. Very naturally so.. Thus I cannot possibly be an aid to them, while they remain a nuisance for me.

I’ve had hopes though.. Of instructing myself about such things.. I decided extraordinary people were above my considerations.. They had no time for me as I have pointed out. This left the mass of humanity whose needs were all consuming. This left the majority.. Who had to eat.. Anything.. today.. For if they didn’t; they would starve.. The ones who looked for shelter.. Desperately.. For if they remained unprotected in the blizzard, in the torrential rains, in the tempest; they would surely perish.. as they were.. Bare as they were. Bereft.. Quite unextraordinary.. To some.. Thus, I set out to question them; not that our needs, theirs and mine, were the .. For strictly they were not.. But their needs were basic.. And, much to my sorrow, so were mine.. Some might think I complicated my task by travelling a great distance in search of such people. They suggest I would have been satisfied in my own town; most probably.. If I went to the river, for instance.. Underneath the bridges; not all of them, but some.. Others being deserted.. Being damper and nearer the water’s flow.. I knew that whole communities, small integrated units, used my city’s bridges for lack of means.. Yet I did not go.. The fact is that these people were suspicious of me, or more precisely, of my type.. The person who did not live under bridges.. More so because I was a countryman of theirs.. I knew this.. Furthermore, some lived under bridges because they liked it, as well as the company they found there.. Not all of them, for sure.. I’m positive a few or more detested their habitat, uncomfortable as it was.. The latter ones were bitter. Mostly.. And justifiably, it seemed.. It was a case of relativity.. Vaguely.. The overwhelming majority in the city had sufficient means. They never had to live under bridges. Not that they were opulent.. Though some were. No; most of them had just enough to live indoors and eat a bit every day, if they worked very hard of course.. And a little extra for drink, maybe.. One night a week, for instance.. If they stuck to cheap Beaujolais or vin ordinaire or home brewed calva, they might even get roaring drunk.. Which a lot of them did.. So there was no necessity for them to choose a compossible bridge.. None.. And since the bridge-dwellers, the bitter ones, knew that their destiny was exceptional in their known part of the world; they possibly felt that their fate was unnaturally severe.. That their luck was dismal.. But more significantly, the ones who were most bitter, thought that it was their fault.. They did not attribute it to chance, as others did.. They felt guilty.. Why? Realistically speaking, there were no reasons for them to suffer such remorse, and consequently to become so bitter towards others… and themselves.. For, in most cases, it was a question of circumstance and luck.. Perhaps.. The feeling came from the society around them.. Very probably. Since it was considered a sin to be poor.. In a way.. And one’s damn fault to be derelict.. In the way.. It gave the nonderelicts a slight feeling of superiority, I suppose.. A mild euphoria.. And it made some, perhaps most, derelicts feel guilty, bitter; thus, hardly congenial… Or confiding, for that matter. If I had shown up for instruction, their suspicion would have been great.. And maybe their hate as well.. For I did not look a derelict.. Quite.. Although in a sense I was and still am.

The people, the unextraordinary people, I seeked for instruction, must live in an environment suitable to their condition.. Not only must they have pressing basic needs, but most everyone around them must also.. Then, their condition seems natural to them.. It is in the order of things, they believe: hunger, death, disease; all these take on a normal routine aspect.. Of course, hunger, disease, and death are routine and natural.. But in the west their characteristics are somewhat veiled.. Hidden.. Subdued.. Generally hypocritically.. A great to do is made on such occasions.. Magnifying them out of proportions.. Where I seeked instruction, this was not the case. People died.. Blouaaa! Snap! Right on the sidewalk.. All the time.. People starved in unison.. Whouap! A whole mob.. Their empty stomachs rumbling, as if they were one unified single shrunken organ.. And that was that.

They struggled.. Agreed everyone does.. But they rally did.. Savagely at times! In the jungle — survival of the fittest.. And all that trash.. It happened that this land was also famous for its mysticism.. Whatever that is? Many foreigners came to dig this side of it, however.. They looked for Gurus or Saints.. Under bushes.. In caves.. Around open-air barber shops.. Some travelogue had mentioned barber shops as excellent places to find esoteric cats.. Maybe they were.. I must say I didn’t see one Guru.. Or Saint.. Perhaps one has to look for them.. Like the tourists did.. Nevertheless, I never saw one.. to my knowledge.. I spotted a lot of con-men posing as Gurus.. Some of these were acquaintances of mine.. They told me of their work.. On the whole, they were pleased.. More trade.. More suckers.. They made out all right.. The better ones.. Some were too obvious, of course: they sat on blunted nails.. Anyone could see the nails were blunted.. But others! Refined artists.. Or artisans.. As you wish.. It was hard work.. I knew an ambitious one who sat on one leg, like a flamingo.. That’s nothing, you say.. Try it for eight hours, not counting mealtime! It’s a damn sight more than the guards.. At Buckingham Palace.. Pass on.. I didn’t trek eight thousand miles for Gurus, or con-men. I sought instruction. I thought.. I had come a long way.. For a man to come.. Seeking.. Among the basic people.. What!? Seeking the basic needs.. What!? Seeking information.. That might be forthcoming from ordinary persons like myself who lived on the edge and thus very much so.. Who lived very much so.. They would tell me what I wanted to know about their needs, and the resulting preoccupations which they underwent and tried to resolve every day, like clockwork. I would use this knowledge.. Apply it.. In my context.. to my needs.. My sums.. And be richer for that.. Or poorer.. Anyway, informed.. So I set about, whatever that means.. And looked around me.. I even climbed a few steps up to the Temple, for I had been in front of one, and, from there, looked in all directions.. Taking in the sight of many many people.. Many.. More than I had even seen before from any single vantage point.. At any one time.. There seemed to be… a multitude, I guess one would call it.. A veritable one.. The normal abnormalcy one with ordinary eyesight would see from such a height.. And I tried to count.. For then I could.. But there were so many.. too many.. That I could not.. Not possibly.. Nor choose.. One.. That might instruct me.. As I wished to be.. For selection seemed arbitrary, purposeless, in such a mass; a seething, sweating, panting, and needy mass such as this one.. Quite extraordinary! Which I thought rather funny at the rime.. Quite extraordinary! Though incapacitating.. At least for that day. Thus, I decided in my quandary, to try again.. Perhaps the next day.. In some other place.. By all means! A more tranquil place, where selection would be made easier by the limitations of the choice; such as fewer numbers… much fewer.. Very much so.

The next day I did not set out for the purpose I have mentioned.. Nor did I set out for any purpose.. Although I left my quarters and went to the bazaar and there fell asleep.. But on the following day, being well rested after a twenty hour snooze, I did set out with my original scheme in mind.. Remembering the type of locale I was looking for.. As well as why I did search for it.. I did not find the place I had envisaged and imagined.. For I had dreamt of an ‘ideal spot’.. With palms and marble minarets.. Nor was I likely to find such a spot, being in the Hindu section, and not the Moslem one.. Hindu minarets are scarce, if not altogether inexistent. Instead I stopped by a road, sparsely frequented.. A lucky find! For any place sparsely frequented in that country was rare, I thought.. Not without reason.. Where I had stopped, I sat.. On a log.. Not made for sitting.. Exceedingly uncomfortable.. But the ground was dusty, I judged.. And an uncomfortable fairly clean sitting place was better than none.. Or better than the road at least.. So there I sat.. Ready to call out at all times.. If need be.. If a suitable traveller came by, that is.. Or if I needed help I suppose.. Although it didn’t cross my mind that I might need help.. Nor does it seem now that there were any reasons why I should have required assistance.. I waited some hours.. Few people passed.. But all of them were obviously busy with some chore, such as riding a donkey, or fleeing from customs guards who chased them, or whipping water buffaloes.. I could hardly gather any information from them. That is to say, information of the kind I looked for.. Vainly, it seemed by that time.. For it was dusk.. I returned to my mosquito net and bed.. And somewhat discouraged, set out the next dawn.. By noon I had sunstroke.. The odds weren’t with me.

When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on a mat, a rather dirty one, in one corner of a hut.. Or what seemed a clay square boxoid room with dung patches in place of a roof.. On further inspection, these details being clearer, less distorted by the buzz confined to my skull, I tried to confirm my first impressions.. As much as anyone can.. It seemed a native hut.. And it was.. I began to ascertain how I had arrived there.. Through no wish of mine.. Nor the opposite.. I probably fainted, I surmised.. Or passed out, which is exceedingly similar.. Therefore, I didn’t come here consciously, as it were.. Asking for shelter, due to my fatigue.. That seemed most unlikely.. I was perhaps taken there by someone who knew this mat to be unoccupied at that time, or who had something to do with this mat and hut.. Such as living here.. And usually sleeping here; one of them, on this mat.. Though not when they brought me, nor then, while I lay in it.. Why it mattered, struck me.. Why I was brought here? When and in what way? to what hut or place? Whose? What manner of place? Upon awaking, I often conjecture about such things. It seems part of the process of regaining consciousness. Where am I, I think? What am I doing here? Now, that seemed more important.. Relatively so.. But I need not have attempted to figure it out.. For an old bithy came in, dressed in rags, and told me.. A very unusual coincidence.. For I spoke no Hindi, nor Urdu, nor Bengali.. Nor did I readily understand any of these.. Nor the many native dialects which are akin to them.. But she told me in slow, tilted English: miraculous coincidence, it seemed.

Taking her word for granted, being tired, I was in a hut.. I had been carried there with much strain and swearing by her sons.. Two in number.. She had been a midwife.. And then a village practitioner.. Now retired, she only worked on exceptional cases… Which she thought mine to be. There was no need to worry, she added.. That last remark always scares me.. Nevertheless, there was no need for anxiety, she assured me.. For my case was a simple one: I had been cursed by Kali, she explained.. Why? Because I was sitting on a sacred tree.. Not one belonging to Kali, no.. It was meant to serve the needs of the monkeys.. Rather.. But Kali watched over it.. It had been that way for a long time.. How much time? She could not say with any precision.. Past her grandmother’s time.. And beyond.. I had disturbed the monkeys, the tree; in turn intervened, so that Kali was disturbed as well.. Being ignorant, had not been killed.. As her sons would have been, for instance.. I had only been struck.. Cursed.. And that was all.. A very minor ill.

I was thankful and started to arise.. But swak!! No good. I couldn’t. She giggled. It was minor, yes.. But precautions were in order.. So was an exorcisation.. Now look! I’ll just sleep it off. No, no! That would not be enough.. She had to treat me.. In a minor way.. For only a short time.. It was essential, however.. For Kali’s sake.. O.K.! Swing, I said. And she did.

First, a little infusion of Scorpion’s blood.. There! Afterwards, poultices dipped in a babe’s urine.. For Christ’s sakes!! Nevertheless.. A little bit of Erythea.. By this time I had given up… Finally an ointment.. All over me.. They did not tell me of what stuff it was composed.. It looked a little blueish, a mite mouldy.. The skin itched where it had been applied.. For a little while.. Now what? Nothing she replied. I can get up? For sure, she said. Sure? Positive, she exclaimed. So I did.. And walked out, neither thanking her, nor her sons, not carrying with me any medication I might have needed in the future.. Not even looking back!! Certainly not!

Time was running out.. So was money.. I had not accomplished anything.. At least anything in the sense I cared about things.. My reasons for trekking, for instance.. I had not come here for large masses.. Nor for poultices.. Nor for con men.. And time was running out rapidly.. Once more I set out, a nervous man, bent upon one goal, at all costs.. No time for palaver! In the street I ran.. And stopped.. And turned.. And ran again.. Each time I bumped into people, I harangued them.. Or very nearby: Right! Now let’s proceed without wasting time. For it’s running out. Hey! Stop! Hey! Maybe the next one: Look here, you seem a very unextraordinary type, and you can do me a great service. Wait a second. Wait! Now just a minute! One lousy minutel Just answer me, that’s all. When your basic…. Well, he’s gone.. What’s the matter?

Nothing! I’m just asking simple questions. Perfectly simple ones! You! Or anybody basic! Can’t you tell me? Stop shoving! I’m not doing anything! Nothing at all! Creating a disturbance? I’m only questioning them about.. home?? What home? I don’t have a home. Stop shoving! Shit, man, can’t I talk? to them? That’s why I came.. Not to talk, really, but for instruction…. Sunstroke? Aw, that was a long time past.. Besides, before the sunstroke, I always knew that, if I came here, and talked with them, I might…

***

I know better than to ask questions now.. From people.. Extraordinary or not.. Anybody, for that matter.. I’ve learned my lesson. A personal problem is a personal problem.. I felt it all along, when I think back.. I was foolish.. As I can be.. Often.. But, from now on, no one would find me asking questions from anyone.. No sir! Never again.. It gets you nowhere.. At least, it gets me nowhere at all.. So that’s ruled out! Out? And, in my room, my bed; I will try to work it out.. But I’ll ask questions.. More questions.. Recorded automatic enquiries.. As they do.

I need peace.. Call it quiet.. And time.. How much? I do not know.. But I need some time.. Obviously.. Perhaps much time.. Perhaps, more than their is.. For me.. In that case, it won’t matter a squit! Anyway, I will try.. Useless as it may be, for a simple soul like myself.. I will try.. In my room.. In the solitude of my large bed.. And its concurrent tranquility.. Attempting the impossible: recording, without exaggeration, or bias, or the form of deceit which involves both; including minimization (the projection); when it’s necessary as a third component.. I will try what I cannot try: the extraordinary; the ‘seeing’, in an ideal way; the length, the depth, the width, the other dimensions which I cannot conceptualize; limited as I am.. And the remembering of .. As they really were.. Which I cannot do.. So as to communicate it to my present stream.. Which is utterly fantastic! Or, if not to my stream and to a state of myself; to a state without, I guess.. Without myself, that is.. Like you.. Sorry to involve you.. But of course you aren’t.. So I will do it.. Without doing it.. Happy in both.. Sad in either.. Variations of .. Alone.. together.

Ness, she said! Ness! I never use it, I replied. Of course you do, she pointed out.. Of course I did.. It’s the all embracing, she remarked. It gathers the whole. Women have a way of being vague when they’re abstract.. Such a way one is forced to conclude that maybe they’re partly right or partly wrong, but never one or the other.. Who am I to judge!? That’s true enough.. Nevertheless, I said. No, she replied. Ness, not ess! As the ending of adverb, she continued. You’ve missed the whole point, she pointed. I had.. Silly boy. That was going bit far.. But it was true.. Silly boy, she repeated. I know, I said. Forgiveness, togetherness; she raptured. Oh, I said ! Separateness, I queried? Now, if there was anything which made her angry it was my suggestions.. She would stamp.. Or, if she wasn’t in a truly dramatic mood, she would sigh.. Obviously.. Repeatedly looking at me with reproachful eyes.. Also with a glimmer of hopelessness.. For I could not be handled.. Such a poor subject was I.. Whoever heard of separate-ness, she implored? I couldn’t think who had.. I racked my brain moderately, but I couldn’t for the life of me think who had, although obviously somebody or many bodies had, some of whom were bound to be of my cognizance. But there you are.. I had a hole.. In my memory.. The French creeps in — ‘trou de mémoire.. Must watch that! Nevertheless (did not mean to mention it now) there you are.. It was on the tip of my tongue.. Who had.. Ever heard of it.. Separateness.. Or maybe; it was in my subconscious… Wherever it was and whoever had heard of it; I fell silent. When you come right down to it, she said; it’s very similar to Christian fellowship and charity… she continued… Wow! That kind of statement is best left alone! Altogether! I’m a lazy man.. Cooperative, but lazy.. And if she thought I was going to work that out.. Outside of the connections, I mean.. She was dead wrong! Lady, you lost me then.. Not that it matters.. But you did.. Christianity? Charity? Down where? That I go to? No! Def.! No, you’ve cut it.. She went on though.. What’s more natural? She wasn’t aware she had cut it.. Or, that the turn of the conversation had cut it.. Or both.. So she went on.. On.

She did go on.. For a time I sat up in bed; my jaw hanging slightly, my eyes fixed on her moving lower lip, with a feigned attitude of comprehension, I thought, sometimes clenching my teeth, which brought my jaw up, and might possibly have been mistaken for agreement or interest.. I could not keep my eyelashes motionless. I never can.. But I did my best.. Until my pupils and eye-ducts became so watery, gummy, and sticky; it really wasn’t bearable any longer, and I faced the prospects of shutting them.. My eyes.. One long hard time.. I had to, and did.. Only to open them again, somewhat cleared, seeking her lower lip which had now moved across my room; all the way across my room, all the way across, transversally, by the window; and (to make things worse) hidden to my view either direct or askance, or perspectively enlarged by the reflection of the mirror on my closet door; which itself offered several different distributions of observation patterns, to someone sitting slightly uncomfortably as well as looking about me, as I did, from my bed.. I could not look at her lower lip; the mouth being placed on the front of her head. Since her back was turned.. To me.. It might not be there — her lower lip; on the hidden side of her face, or that one facing the window.. I did not see it.. Could not, it seemed.. But I felt it was there.. I had always known it to be on the front; on the side of her face as her upper lip and moustache.. For she had one.. Both a moustache and an upper lip.. Furthermore, I knew from experience (five years) that she moved her lower lip; as well as many other things; when she talked.. And she was talking.. I thought; I heard.. I could hear her voice.. Not what she said, since she had cut me off.. Long ago.. But her voice, yes.. Distinctly..

For one thing, it was a very familiar voice.. Both as a sound, a droning, and also as what is referred to as a voice.. Since she had used it in front of me so often, or perhaps due to its very nature, and then again for reasons I cannot now presently recall; I espied a certain distinction in her voice.. I could recognise it in a crowd, for instance.. Or in a public place, where the noise was sometimes great.. And if I instinctively spotted it, in such unlikely places, it seemed to me quite distinctive, or at least easy to spot.. Different from the sounds I did not instinctively recognise.. Many were these.. But her voice; the way she used it; was very familiar and distinctive to me.. And quite recogniseable..

Some voices twang.. By that, I mean there is a nasal effect to them.. Some more than others, it seems.. Hers twanged not much more than some, but rather differently than most.. When cutting plywood… not the whinee! No; not that sound.. But the twang! As it has run through the block of wood, and is free once more; churning noisily the open air.. That twang! I know it is not a precise description.. One that can give you an exact idea.. Of her voice and its peculiarity.. But it often comes to my mind while she is speaking, as it did just then, assuring me in a way that her lower lip had not vanished.. Unless the voice changes.. At which time I shall not be instinctively certain.

Then, although cut off, as I was or felt to be, regardless of the great distance, and voice, something came through from the face: from the the window…. from the twanging tones as well: to me; in the bed, my jaw hanging.. What!? I cried?! A son, she replied. My son!? Who else, she answered. Procreated by me!? Of course, she puffed. How can that be!? Quite normally, she assured me. You’re sure it’s mine!? Quite sure, she affirmed. A boy? She laughed.. Human? She laughed harder, but sarcastically.. Incredible.. That makes me a father! You’re slow to catch on, she hissed.. And me a mother, she added before I had time. The mother of my son.. With the twang.. And the upper lip; or lower one.. And the moustache.. Has he got a moustache? Of course not, she chided. You’re sure? She was.. Come and look at it, she invited. Why it? Oh, him if you wish, she exasperated. I will not!! I needed time.. I could hardly barge in, just like that, out of nowhere, to see my son.. I had to find out a few things first.. About him.. Second hand, from her; his mother.. How old is he? Nearly three, she told me.. Now, that was too much!.. Really.. Three years old, or nearly, and I had not even a clue. Until now, that is.. What’s his name? Gig, she ascertained. Gig?? Yes, Gig. Why Gig? She had picked it out.. From the complete list of names: a list many parents scan at leisure before choosing their prospective children’s names.. Where has he… been all this time? Here, she quipped.. Now, that was not true .. He could not have been here, in my room, all that time.. Nor could he have been there in my chamber part of these three years.. Nor any part of ; while I had been here, either awake or asleep, for I am a light sleeper.. Nor would he have survived hidden someplace in my room, without arousing my suspicion.. How would he have eaten? Or defecated? And if somehow he had managed to feed himself clandestinely and shit without noise or odour; where and how would he have disposed of the remains?? I refused to believe he ate his shit! Not my son! Where exactly? Here. In the house, she added.. Oh.. Oh! Oh.. That was possible, and, if she said so, probable.. For she seldom lied about such matters.. I did not know my house well.. Very little, in fact.. Outside of my own room.. And the front door, main staircase, plus the landing outside my room, on my floor.. Thus he might very well have been, for the majority of the past three years, in this house. Unbeknown to me.. Him — not the house; which I partly knew.. That was solved!.. What a relief! But still.. Why do you tell me about my son now? Today? And why not other days? Days gone by? Anytime in the past? Since he was born for instance? Or the precise day he was born? It is the decent thing to do. I mean, after all, I am his father. At least, you said so. It would not have been much trouble to tell me, or at least to hint to me of the fact. Sometime! Not today ! Why today?

That angered her.. Firstly; she was not used to so many questions at once.. From me.. Secondly, I suspect she felt a little guilty about not telling me.. About keeping me in the dark about my son.. It puzzled me as well.. Why had I not been informed? It was not a disgrace — to bear a son.. At least, not in her case. For she was married.. to me. Not that I thought it made any difference; married or not.. But she might have thought so.. In any case, we were married.. So.. Why? To spare the child? Perhaps.. That might be the crux.. But in that instance; why tell me now? There was a chance I might find out, I suppose.. Not that I am curious.. Nor do much gossipping.. Nevertheless, one never knows. Little signs might give it away.. A toy.. A nipple mislaid: not at three! A nipple! But other signs.. Forgotten details.. What if I had seen her out of my window with a child trailing on her hand? I would have asked her for sure whose child it was; she could have lied.. Many times.. But one day? He would have been found out.. No doubt.. Thus she preferred telling me now; before it was too late; realizing; as she did; that she became a failure in the cherished role of child protector.. For I knew, now.. Nevertheless, if the purpose had been to spare my son, and circumstances beyond her control occasioned that this honourable intention be set aside; I wanted no part of it. Certainly not! I am not a cruel father! Thus I said; never mind. I will instantly set about forgetting my son, his name, and his age. This cheered her up.. And I must admit she never mentioned him again in any way.. Nor did I…

Gig would have gone to his father’s grave before had he known where it was located.. A great many different suspicions had bothered him during his otherwise banal childhood, but none perhaps as consistently as those dealing with his father’s identity and character. He knew his mother slightly, but, even in the interval of ten years during his teens and early twenties, when she had been away, he had not been greatly concerned with any aspects relating to her. The mental picture of his dad had regularly creeped up however, taking on menacing guises; ranging from that of a moron to that of a sexual pervert. These violently pessimistic, not to say wildly ‘pejorative’, suspicions might have been somewhat linked to the apparent mystery concerning details of his father’s past life, elusive and indistinct as the whole business seemed to the son. Why had Gig’s instincts and opinions concerning his father been so one-sided? Always cast in a dim light; the imagined head of the family possessed either destructive or negative drives; in fact, pseudo-father only assumed the roles of the despised and callous.. He wondered at the prejudicial content of these past projections on this particular subject, as he gazed upon the badly destroyed tablet; presumably the one which adorned the typical grave of the deceased.. It was not due to any feelings of parental rejection, to which Gig might have adversely reacted, for he harboured only kind or indifferent emotions as far as his mother was concerned; although she had left him quite suddenly only to return a decade later.. Why, indeed, was the father so badly regarded? It is correct to assume that few people knew anything at all of a strictly definite nature about this much suspected ancestor. The facts were evidently clear, however, that nothing disparaging had ever been hinted at or suggested to the lad. There was no natural reason for Gig to conclude arbitrarily in this matter; that is, none from phenomena perceptible to the boy in any factual sense, nor had Gig ever encountered any of his old man’s enemies and cronies. At no time during Gig’s experience were there apparent circumstances pointing to the downfall or misbehaviour of the departed one. Mother had never uttered her former husband’s name in her son’s presence, much less suggested some failing he might have had. She had forgotten all about her former spouse, outside of a faded photograph; oval in shape, suggestively representing a young paramour named Koopy, who seemed somehow connected with him in the past.

She did not know the why or wherefore of this relationship. At times, she even doubted Koopy’s connection with her husband. She also questioned his relationship with herself; marriage included.. Had she actually been married to this man, and, subsequently, what did Koopy have to do with him, if anything? Who was Koopy? Who was he? She could not recall, with any clarity.. It had been so long ago: when? She was not ready to ascertain that either.. She had truly forgotten the whole business, down to his very name. The only reason she knew Koopy’s nickname (for it somehow seemed unlikely ‘Koopy’ had been a proper one) stemmed from its faded lettering on the reverse side of the aforementioned snapshot. The photo had managed to focus her attention on this whole business. She had discovered the distorted and used portrait among some of her ancient mislaid sanitary napkins.. The negative had (in any case) slipped between these, at some remote instant, and she had recovered it from its unfamiliar surroundings the day before Gig visited his father’s grave, or, at least, the day he went to see the tablet which should have adorned as is usual even in non-parochial state-controlled cemeteries. When mother actually read the signature ‘spelled’ Koopy, she had some instinctive mental flashback to Gig’s father.. She had not known why.. She also wondered at the basis for such a recall, as well as the connection itself.. She did not know.. She still does not know.. In all probability, she will never know.

Not that she cares… Gig does, but she doesn’t. Gig would no doubt spend endless time trying to find Koopy; a heartless and somewhat hopeless task.. Let us assume he did eventually find Koopy, what then? It’s highly unlikely Koopy would have any information about the father to share with the boy, or any such information whatsoever.. It seemed dubious that Koopy would be of use in any search, as far as Gig and his father were concerned.. The father might have been forgotten by everyone, perhaps; except Gig, who had never known him.

Gig strolled down the path bordered on each side by erect little tablets; not all similar in the way they were implanted into the soil, so that some were not quite as erect as others, but tilted in fact, arid, in extreme cases, positively supine or vowing; and ultimately reached a public exit of the town’s municipal graveyard, which was temporarily facing a moustached old gatekeeper. Were you here in service when my father was buried, Gig asked? Which grave is your father’s, the guide gatekeeper queried? The twenty-eighth on the wall-side of this row, the youth pointed out. The elderly Civil servant turned in the direction of that particular file of tablets; perused the latter, his eyes rapidly oscillating as he counted the graves. After some time, he informed Gig that he had probably been in attendance at the moment mentioned; for that row was only barely occupied when he had first assumed his post, some six years hence. Were there any persons present at this function, Gig continued? There usually are, the old man explained. Yes, Gig acknowledged, but what about that burial in particular? The gate keeper thought the young man a very big clot, for how did this boy expect him to remember a particular incident of that nature, especially since there were at least a dozen similar burials everyday,.. At least all the days he, the gate-keeper or guard, had been working in this place.. Not willing to argue, he simply said no. The remark had some unnerving effect upon Gig, unwillingly of course.. Nevertheless, the boy did not express dissatisfaction or emotional temper, and, without further ado, walked past through the gates, onto the highway bordering the City’s burial grounds.

He had to admit that this discovery; the one which had led him to his father’s remains; did not finally result in greater knowledge about his father’s past, outside of the chap’s death and rather ordinary last sacrement. He had entered the public precincts cheerily, but departed from them a mite disappointed. His perseverance had not been fruitful. There were few hopes to be had about his finding out anything more substantial about his father. The half-destroyed paper he had discovered, as he was securing his own birth at the local mairie, was only informative about the whereabouts of Gig’s father’s remains. You see, the envelope presumably containing only his birth certificate in fact enclosed evidence of father’s existence as well: a torn piece of printed matter certifying the name of the document’s addressee’s son as Gig, born some twenty-five years previous to the instant that Gig recovered it.. The torn part of the document was not the portion of an official form originally filled out as the legal heraldry of birth; proclaiming it, as it were, to all the many bureaus and offices specially fitted out for the purpose of registration and certification of all kinds: births, deaths, tons, Jeroboams, bushels, sentences, murders, hangings, and such; for the said scrap; document; was green, among other things, and, as Gig had ultimately found out, birth certificates in his part of the world were light blue or grey or (in exceptional cases such as friends of the mayor, etc.) white, but never; no, never; never, green.. He believed that this fact was true, for he had harassed and exasperated eighteen members of the municipal staff, repeatedly questioning them about all the colours of forms pertaining to personal registration and certification in his district; and the compiled evidence had one thing or one disclosure in common — no document of that kind, remote or specific, had ever been printed on green paper, or any shade that could be mistaken for green.. None! I So that this green scrap of paper mentioning the fact that the registrant’s son was named Gig and that the deceased lay in such and such a municipal cemetery (both entries preceded by the date of each event in arabic numerals), was neither going to enlarge Gig’s scope on the identity of his father (in the fashion as the eroded tablet had failed to do), nor was it ever to be identified by Gig as some particular scrap or portion of any official form, known to have existed in that part of the world. Gig might have been better off if he had never discovered it, with his useless birth certificate’s envelope, for it had only served to add to his long record of dark and dismal suspicions about his nameless father. It had been a rotten day, Gig thought… at least, that is how I talked to myself (and managed to forget his existence).. His name, etc. My son’s.. Yes.. I imagined how he tried to find out about me.. The probable frustrations.. Great as they might well turn out to be, if only simply forces and conditions applied to his situation.. As they do in mine, for instance.. Although I imagined a new force, as far as he was concerned.. My son: a will to survive: to operate.. The assurance to dominate and fight circumstantial conditions.. He was not prepared to be confused! God, no.. He had it all over me, for sure.. He had drive, by Zeus! Pestering so many public officials.. Repeatedly.. There was a son to forget!! I wouldn’t just forget any weak, hampered, failing infant; such as myself! He had ambition.. I’d forget a go-getter! I did too.

***

In the process of forgetting about… ‘s existence, I forgot a host of other things, presumably of a varied nature.. Although I am at a loss at telling you what they were.. Since my forgetfulness concerning them is absolute.. How do I know I forget them? Mostly from the source: My wife.. She tells me so and so. Or such and such.. And I draw a blank.. Then, she stipulates my memory is awful.. I don’t deny it.. But she insists. Don’t you remember trala trala she queries? Or something of that sort.. When we were doing this and that, she specifies.. But I do not.. That is when she chooses to point out that I have a dreadful memory.. Which I probably have.. Not that I am entirely convinced.. I rarely am.. For trala trala and this-that, which I do not recall, need not necessarily have occurred.. Oh, they no doubt did at some time to someone! But not incontrovertibly to me.. Though they might have.. Happened to me.. But it is not a sure thing.. Outside of her statements and descriptions, there is precious little evidence.. Sometimes there is.. For example, when she told me of Koopy.. I did not remember it. It is a she! This she yelled.. I did not recall her either.. So my wife went out of my room slamming the door.. In a flash she was back, and thrust out an oval negative.. There is Koopy! I looked and saw a rather obese naked girl in her twenties, who, for some strange reason, was wearing long black gloves.. I looked carefully at the photo of Koopy, so identified by my spouse, and shook my head ignorantly.. I don’t know her, I stated…. Like hell you don’t! Why should I recognise Koopy, I queried? Or even know her by sight? Or in any other sense? You know Koopy in every sense one can know Koopy, my wife mysteriously interjected.. It was a revelation! How do you know I know Koopy, I ventured? It seemed the photo had been found by my wife in one of my trouser’s pockets.. Further, I was informed; the said photograph bore a prettily ciphered inscription on they blank side of the paper.. I had not looked at that side.. But I did there and then.. And I noticed some scribbling.. Legible.. It read; with all my love, and was signed: Koopy.. Now that was extremely strange, to say the least! Could someone have planted Koopy’s picture in my trousers on the off chance I wouldn’t notice it, thus making it possible for my wife to recover and throw a tantrum? It was hardly credible that I did know Koopy.. And had forgotten about her.. Down to what she looked like? I know my memory often fails me, but this was a different matter.. For, if I had known Koopy, and she had subsequently offered me a personally signed copy of herseIf naked, I then must have known Koopy quite well.. Youngish girls (even obese ones) don’t hand out compromising stuff like that without good reason! And the reasons seemed evident.. With the note about love to boot! And the gloves.. No.. Not necessarily the gloves.. Anyway, I must face the evidence: If I knew Koopy; it was on very intimate terms.. Logically speaking, some copulation must have taken place.. Between Koopy and the person she claimed to love.. With all.. So if it was me? The person she ‘with-all-her-loved..’ I would then have forgotten a girl I know better than most, and, with whom I had created such a favourable impression, that she loved me, she thought; and proved it with this glossy reminder. I am indubitably absent-minded.. I am prepared to admit that.. But it seems highly dubious that I should obliterate from my memory the very features of a girl with whom I have copulated.. More than dubious — impossible!

Nearly.. For one thing, I copulate seldom.. Not that I dislike to have intercourse.. No.. For, under certain circumstances, I enjoy it as much as the next man.. Or as much as I enjoy anything.. It is rather due to my failure with women: generally speaking, I am not a woman killer.. Far from it! Thus only few occasions arise when my sexual drives are satisfied.. Outside occasional masturbation.. Consequently, I cherish such past moments.. And remember them vividly.. So with Koopy? Quite incredible! And yet I knew that it was equally improbable a ‘plant’ had occurred.. For I knew my trousers nearly as well as my habits, while I was out; I always kept my trousers on.. Furthermore; I practically always had my hands in them.. In their pockets.. Only seldom extricating them to open a door or shake another hand.. Very seldom.. So.. There was hardly any possibility of sliding anything into my pockets without my hands feeling it.. Without either of my hands feeling it, rather.. And few were they who would have tried such a prank, for, if they observed my hands with any premeditation, my pockets were almost continually filled by them.. The surreptitious trickery would have to be so skillful.. It seemed unlikely.. How could I have known Koopy then? What was the explanation? That’s what my wife also wanted to know.. I told her about my hands being in my pockets, and, on the other hand, my never forgetting the characters of anyone with whom I had copulated.. But this did not satisfy her.. Nor did it me.. Thus I thought and thought: and thought.. And, to this day, I don’t know whether I even knew Koopy or not.. My wife does not believe me.. I have a feeling you don’t either.. But it is the sad truth; I do not know.

With my memory, part of it, went my fervent opinions, part of them.. These, somehow, I miss. I have few emotions.. Especially of that order.. Missing or not missing anything.. For the most part it adds to the confusion: such categorical impressions.. Or emotions, as they’re called.. Thus, I have blanketed them.. Somewhat.. I have seen others green with envy; which hardly demonstrates their success at control.. Although green seems arbitrary.. Yellow with envy, if you’d rather.. Or grey.. As you like.. Albeit, envious.. And when they entertain this peculiar form of brother-hate, they seem quite possessed.. A typical type of observed reason I have tried to avoid emotions such as envy.. As much as I could.. Which should be satisfactory.. Envy being what it is.. The envious animal is past returning; one might say, and di.. It seems to drive out common sense.. Not that I feel I really can identify common sense.. Nor that they do.. Still, they do talk a lot about it; calling it horse sense.. Sometimes.. And, very often, preceding it with ‘ordinary’ or ‘plain’; paradoxically.. For although they consider it ordinary and plain (even horses seem to have it), they continually complain of the lack of it.. In fact, in the majority of cases; I have heard them refer to it; it was usually because of its lack in some person.. person persons.. Absurd, no?.. As demonstrated by that person’s particular actions or reactions.. Where we meet or converge; they and I, as far as the role of opinion is concerned; is nearly nowhere.. I cannot help but feel their opinions dominate their common sense.. Yet, a large majority insist that the contrary is true.. But the feeling I cannot somehow admittedly help is tied up to an opinion I have.. And said opinion is not based on common sense.. Not so.. If anything, it is based on my interpretation of many similar experiences, and the comparative meagerness of experiences contrary to these.. As far as I am concerned.. It is not based wholly on that either.. Since my memory is poor.. My interpretation is limited.. And my actual scope extremely minute.. All that has to do with my senses.. Those common to each and every one of us, although perhaps many of their senses are not as obviously restricted as mine.. I put no faith in my opinions; which I nevertheless miss; and only relative faith in my senses; common or not.. Others seem to: Put faith in both.. More the former.. Less the latter.. This causes one rift.. Between them and.. me. If a rift it may be…

***

One of the people who did not have any as far his doctors went.. (Common sense that is.. According to them). Seemed to me full of it somehow.. Something he said perked me up.. Attentively! Which, by this time was unusual.. to say the least.. I had come from the street to receive treatment. Of a minor sort.. He had also come from the outside scene, though the treatment he required did not seem altogether minor.. Not to him and, in a way, neither to two white-robed goofs who were discussing him, in another.. They could have discussed his case in some seclusion. They might have even done so completely privately, behind locked doors and by shut windows.. This was ‘ethics’, someone imparted to me.. On this particular occasion, however, ethics were not being considered.. At least from their point of view.. Or mine — the listener.. Not that I meant to overhear.. I hate to be involved.. Even in a secondary or tertiary capacity.. If I can help it! But I could not help it.. For the waiting room was full, and the only space left vacant for me, where I likewise could wait (at their leisure), was enclosed between glass partitions constructed in much the way as some doors are.. There being no choice, I was content to lean on the wall.. Mind you, I would have liked to sit down, my corns and sprains being as they were.. But there, outside the waiting room, directly outside it, framed on both sides by sheets of transparent substance, there were no seats.. Nor benches.. Nor stools.. Nor ledges.. Only, in fact, a linoleum floor which looked.. Green and filthy.. So that I was content to lean against one wall.. Any wall, really.. But that one in fact… and there (in the place), were two young men; one looking sombre; the other frivolous.. Both were dressed in much the manner: long laundered stiff white great coats of cotton.. I hazard a guess.. And both, from lack of ethics I surmised, talked about their patient, one in particular: who, if one believed the gist of their banter, was quite bereft of common sense. At that point I did not question what they said. I tried my best not hearing what they said.. My principle being that to know nothing is nothing.. Which is relatively peaceful.. Certainly more so than to know anything.. which is still preferable to knowing something.. For that last state, definite as it is, nearly always leads to opinion, action, participation, and their concurrent hazards.. Many as they may be and multiple is their number! Not counting their complication! At least for me.. Ever since I can remember.. Of course, not counting those instances I have forgotten.. Which are countless.. As a result of such preconceived attitudes you may guess the extent of my vague detachment.. Yet, I heard.. What they said.. About their one particular patient.. And his lack of common sense.. Whatever and whichever way I tried not to hear.. I heard.. Now you might think I should have plugged my ears.. With my fingers.. But I am timid.. Loathe to attract attention.. And leaning there, with my nails and fingers plugging my ears, the space where I leaned being small and partly occupied, I would have done so.. Attracted attention.. Very much so.. The goofs would certainly have noticed it.. Perhaps others in the waiting room, as well.. Furthermore, my hands were in my pocket, as is usual.. As I prefer them to be.. Who knows? Someone might try to slip an indelicate object into my pockets.. And it might cause me embarrassment, anxiety.. When this does happen, it succeeds.. As you are well aware.. So I heard about the patient’s ills, and his lack of common sense.. And I also heard, much against my will, that he was preposterous.. And that his story, the story he had told them, was equally preposterous.. describing this aspect of the sick man’s account, one of them mentioned virus.. that perked me up! It did so again when he, the patient, mentioned it.. Virus? Yes, virus, he said. I attribute it to a form of virus, he specified. A little known form. Knowing me as you do, you can imagine how that stopped me in my tracks.. So to speak.. But I have jumped! Back to the goofs: chatting goofs; supercilious goofs; self-content goofs; full of their science.. For they were MDS as it turned out.. Full of their power.. The little slips: prescription slips that floated through the air, on some wind or other.. And landed gently before the pain-ridden man.. The hieroglyphics that a pharmacist could read.. Diactyl morphine, Iboquaine, bufotomin, A.C.T.H.. Piptademia Pereguina.. Such names! Such potions! Such magic! There you were, flat on your back, feeling no pain.. Plop.. Pop! And there you were standing up, feeling like Simon.. Expiation? No! Just the marvelous art of medical practice.. First on guinea rows. Then on you and me.. And aren’t we grateful? We certainly are.. The two supercilious chatting white-robed goofs knew it.. Recognised it.. There he is, one said. There he was.

He wore a bandage, partly covering a cast, which in turn covered his arm from the elbow to the knuckles. That is not unusual.. For people with fractures.. But his eyes seemed removed.. How shall I say it? I am so rotten at that sort of thing! Removed.. Vacant? Yes, some vacancy.. Some removal.. And then something more. Neither the former nor the latter.. Vapid perhaps? No… harried too! But still… still… yes, haunted, hunted, and all those, yes! But… I don’t seem to place it.. Perhaps there is no word for it.. At least none known to me.. I know such few words! Inexact words! You will have to find it.. The right word or expression.. I am sure you know it.. Equally certain he had it.. I shall call it ‘ataraxed’! O.K.? And with it perceptible, if one looked at his eyes, he waddled into the enclosure.. Wheezing a bit too.. And then leaned, wearily.. Next to where I leaned.. His eyes upraised.. His lips moving.. Some inaudible muttering passing out.. I think.. Some murmur personally unintelligible.. Quite.. Nor that I cared to make it out.. Nor did the goofs.. Yet, they must have cared about something pertaining to his shambled arrival.. For one twitted acutely.. Or coughed raspingly.. And, as if this were a signal between them, scooted out into the waiting room.. Looking back in my direction once or twice.. Or perhaps in the direction of their murmuring patient.. As they departed. Here I would like to make one point clear: I am neither a prying sort nor inquisitive.. My timidity prevents me.. Further, I shirk away from gregarious people.. With some efficaciousness.. I try my best.. It is thus doubly strange that the following tale can be here inserted.. For it has very little, if anything, to do with me.. Outside telling it, and incorrectly recollecting it.. The incidents contained happened to the patient; who some thought bereft of common sense, and who others ignored.. How I came to know of these happenings was strictly circumstantial.. We did not need a curse to meet.. He told his story to me.. I could not help but listen.. For I was waiting in the only space left bare within the enclosure, and he was leaning next to me, as I have previously mentioned.. I would have listened without hearing, or rather heard without listening were it not for the fact that virus had been related to the narrator’s account.. Both by the goofs and later by the patient.. For aspects of this organism never fail to arouse my attention.. At best all my attention.. Or very nearly all.. And at least some.. Little, but some.. In this case it first interested me with moderation but, as it unfolded, the interest increased noticeably.. to such an extent, that I, an extremely absentminded person, remember most of it.. The story involving the patient, that is.. Without further delay… that is quite a statement! I shall proceed.. to unfold it.

With a slight shudder, he opened his eyes to a dull waned light.. It creeped through some latticed panes, clouded by smog and soot and birds’ excrements, above the busy waiting room.. In fact, the panes and glass made up its ceiling, some dozen feet; or thereabouts from its floor.. But, further than that distance, from where he leaned and talked, for, strictly speaking, the space between the partitions made up another room, or cubicle, or enclosed passage way — with a cement and plaster ceiling.. Obviously enough, no light could transpierce or flow through such a topside wall.. So that the cubicle was darker appreciably than the waiting room; lit, as it was, only indirectly.. His movements, slight as they were, seemed awkward.. Hesitant.. Jerky perhaps.. And he began to speak.. As it turned out, the story was about himself.

Actually he spoke to no one in particular.. Not me, for instance.. He spoke.. Addressing something, I suppose, or maybe someone he thought suitable, in his mind’s eye, but not me particularly.. Nor the waiting people in the adjoining room, for they could hear nothing of what he said, the partition being closed.. Perhaps, if they had listened with much care, they could have barely made out some indistinct buzz.. But no more than that, if even that much. No, he only spoke out.. Like that.. Just like that.. For sometime.. I shall make a lump of it: one single ball, for your convenience..

He had given into, or partly resigned himself, to a state of affairs concomitant with a recently acquired awareness.. The latter producing within him, and that part society detected in him, two separate reactions: one of impotent frustrated rage; and another vacillating between angered disbelief and self-pity.. Although, it seemed both from his narrative and his state, neither in any way abetted the aforesaid condition, if it really existed, not did they arrest the seemingly calamitous effects they had on his subsequent behaviour and health.. The state, already partly divulged, was of recent origin, if one was to calculate the number of years it had obsessed him and directed his movements.. Recent, that is, compared to his advancing years.. Although, by its very nature, the situation seemed endless, dragging past mere discomfort, and plain mental stress.. So that the muttering sounded now rather more like talking, and had quite a fatalistic quality about it.. The extent of his apparent (or feigned) despair made this comparatively lucid description remarkable; for he used phrases, words, sentences, interjections, and not just grunts, moans, and sighs, as is sometimes the case with individuals who have given up.. The ghost.

The situation was singular.. His.. For a fortnight past this day, the one of visit to the hospital and the undemanded confessions, he had risen from bed at an early hour.. As was usual with him.. And is common with all early risers or nearly. He had done so after a protracted period of insomnia, and feeling an irrepressible urge, had directed his disjointed movements towards the tiled security of his lavatory, where relief he surmised, might have a chance of being expressed. On the way to this practical conclusion to his physical need, he had bumped into a trunk.. A lidless trunk — one used as the sole repository of his earthly goods. Now, he maintained that he was fully aware (previous to the contact) of the location of this lidless object.. He further ascertained that it lay against one wall at the end furthest removed from his lav.. Of this he was certain.. Yet he collided with the boxoid container while proceeding to the W.C… And he did so consciously, fully awake, since insomnia had kept him from succumbing to sleep.. Nor was there any doubt that the lavatory was situated in an alcove by that side of his quarters nearest to the closet, or along the partitioned enclosure at the end of the wall between the door and trunk, and his closet and shelves.. The whole process of movement, he continued, was related, he thought, to some pernicious design upon him; to some inexplicable state of affairs.. Usually perfectly complacent environments seemed designed against him materially, and, although this appeared incredible, were purposefully bent on hampering his every activity. My particular world is particularly hostile, was one of the phrases he used.. Anguish clogged his throat as he mentioned this suspicion.

But this was only a minor aspect! A very incidental inconsequential one.. For he remarked that he was perfectly cognizant of the fact that slight accidents of this nature happened to everyone.. These being the normal hazards of every day existence, further augmented in their occurrence by the noticeable increase in mechanisation, such as it was in our modern indistinguished world.. On the other hand, he pointed out, objects, familiar or not, mechanised or simple, seemed purposefully bent on obstructing his every motion, whether deliberately or not and, what seemed even more ominous, appeared inordinately successful in their attempts at doing so.

Lately, he had finally burst into a fit (one might have called it that) or preposterous rage. (I suppose this was the basis for a portion of the goofs conversation.) The frenzy was particularly directed towards the books that fell on his toes.. And the razor blades that nicked his skin.. And the doors that slammed on his fingers.. And the nails that pierced his boots.. For he wore boots, not shoes.. And the bricks, stones, or similar rubbish that fell on his balding cranium.. Sometimes from the second floor and, at other times, from the roof of a neighbouring building.. And his fury also was increased by all the imaginable misfortunes that followed each other so frequently to harm, wound, or maim his wretched body. The one body he could not do without.. Though he despised it.. At first, he explained, he had shrugged these mishaps off.. The first dozen at least.. As ordinary first class accidental but fatal examples of rotten luck! But the flow of attacks? The flow streamed right on.. It gained strength and frequency.. Ultimately, he admitted, the series could not, was not, coincidentally or accidentally engineered — It was part of some object revolt.. Of inanimate objects! With him as the object of their rebellion! He once had been confident, seIf assured.. The small comforts of life had originally been fully appreciated by him.. More so since his wife had died, he pointed out.. As a widower, the little aspects of every day peace and tranquility had made him an optimistic man.. But the rebellion, as he called it, had assumed heinous proportions; his nature had changed.. Once beaming, content, he was at present nervous, and frazzled.. And as the French language so aptly puts in this case, he felt ‘traque’.. Which means neither tracked nor haunted. It is a condition bordering on the doomed.. Agency of his doom! What could it be? He had eliminated all logical basis for the consequences that beset him.. How could they be only consequential, he argued? The accidents in themselves could be considered unfortunate mishaps and nothing more.. But the revealing and continuous regularity with which they hindered him? Bad luck could not account for such a dire repetition and similarity.. For, after realising the fatalistic aspects of the situation, he had taken many steps to insure his safety.. to prevent disaster.

For one thing, he had believed that his mobility made him more susceptible to interference.. Thus, he concluded, the least motion possible would be advisable. He nearly never left his flat. Furthermore, he thought that motion among familiar surroundings involving the use of habitual objects seemed less dangerous than action among strange ones in environments over which he exerted no possible control.. But his lodging’s windows seemed to shut by themselves only when his hands were on their base or ledge.. Nails holding down his few landscapes (in his youth his hobby was painting) extricated themselves from their usually secure position when he proceeded to straighten them out.. Or, and this seemed truly extraordinary, the picture frame and all careered from its place upon one wall as he sat in his armchair reading.. As if poltergeists were playing ping pong with his artistic attempts.. When they did fall, they did so as if some force guided them above the floor to the place where he sat, and, did not slide down as is usual to the baseboard and parquet.. The prayer rug once actually wrinkled up in bunches as he walked to his bed, so as to trip him up.. These events were the cause of unbelieving anxiety during one period.. It had led to an obsession.. A time consuming fear.. Although his thinking had always been influenced by cartesian application, his present mental attitude became somewhat mystic.. He felt occult powers around him.. He once dreamed of witches casting spells for unexplainable reasons.. He felt these spells around him, directed against him.. A human origin! His feelings towards people deteriorated to hate! They were out to git ‘im! Their pernicious instincts had caused them to do so.

He planned another defense.. Even more restricting.. He gave up shaving, cleaning himself in any way.. He only ate liquid foods.. Pearing his nails was out of the question.. Even dressing and undressing seemed perilous. Thus, he lived in rags, moved little if at all, and only went out once a month to buy a supply of tins that would last him for four weeks; although he was loathe to open them since, in most cases, they managed to injure him in the process.. All this, he remarked, was useless. Once, during an unusually calm and temperate day, one gust of wind had smashed his windows to smithereens, carrying along with the flow of air bits of glass and refuse that literally assaulted him as he lay in bed.. His face had been bruised and slashed beyond recognition. Inevitably, infection had set in so that his face had broken out in many painful sores.. And the swelling that ensued prevented him from eating, drinking, or seeing with any accuracy or usefulness.. The condition had worsened to such an extent, he had been forced to leave his quarters and seek medical attention in some clinic. As he had feared, such a journey among outside elements had proved calamitous. By the time he had reached the emergency ward, one leg was broken, all his hair had been burned off, and his behind badly lacerated. When he returned to his home after a week of treatment, patched up as well as he could be, he found the building intact save for his lodgings, which had mysteriously caved in and been destroyed by flames. His enforced inactivity had prevented him from posting the last two deposits on his insurance policy.. Thus, he was thrown out on the street without the wherewithal to secure shelter or food. The small savings he had accumulated were burnt with the rest of his possessions, he explained.

The last appalling incident forced him to a decision which, until then, he had courageously avoided. He could no longer cope with fatality. He was resigned to cooperate with the forces of destruction. He would make it easy. It wanted his end, and now so did he.. He would die, thus appeasing the violence. These thoughts had occupied his mind, as he wandered about the metropolis; bandaged, hobbling, unshaven, repulsive.. People recoiled at his appearance, as if he were contagious.. As if he carried the seeds of virus.. Contact with him might infect their whole beings.. The decision did not depress him.. On the contrary, it relieved him.. He did not care! He grimaced, as he watched.. Amused at the horror in their expressions.. He stuck out his coated tongue.. And they jumped back! One child wearing a school cap, skipping lightly behind his magnanimous governess, started crying when he approached them.. Nor was he the only one who responded with fright.. People crossed the street to avoid him.. Covered their eyes.. Darted down subway entrances.. But he didn’t give a hoot! It was settled! He even whistled as he proceeded.. To his chosen destiny.

That day, he jumped in.. From the pont-neuf! Splash! He could not swim.. But fishermen rescued him.. The next day he threw himself in front of a bus.. The vehicle swerved miraculously and hit two pedestrians on the other side.. Subsequently, he tried hanging in prison, and slashing his wrists in the penitentiary infirmary.. Upon release, he swallowed a handful of needles and chipped glass.. Which he vomited promptly.. He stole a gun, some ammunition, and stuck the barrel in his mouth pointing it at an angle towards his brains.. It jammed.. He also gulped down four pints of inactive peraldehyde: he fell down, broke his arm, passed out for three days… but that was all.. No; he could not make it! The virus was making absolutely sure he stayed alive.. Maimed, crippled, injured; all these were routine.. But dead? No! It could not be managed.. Thirty-one attempts of willful suicide had failed, he muttered.. Thirty one.. He was resigned to it. The only hope he might still cherish was insanity.. Perhaps

***

Upon the wall still, leaning, the bandaged patient had seemingly concluded his tale; one which I had heard unwillingly at first, and with some interest as it gained momentum.. A story I relate to you, because I think it fits with a series of happenings which have caused my subsequent frustration.. Was the story true? I heard the goofs allude to it in unbelieving tones. I also listened to the patient relate it as if he were relieving himself; as he possibly does, daily.. As if he were vomiting.. A mass of anxiety.. A burden quite real for him.. I may suggest it had reality for him.. That’s all.. For I had to leave his company only some seconds following the parable’s end.. A parable for me! Don’t mistake the intention, please.. The reality of his predicament hardly confirms or contradicts the real ‘per se’.. I only supposed he felt the situation to be real.. As his personal problem.. Or part of .

The clipped syllables; I could easily make out as my name; came from a door, across the whole length of the waiting room.. One gate or door identifiable as one entrance to the X-ray department.. For such was the bold blue lettering on the waiting-room side of it. Or, if this confuses the action, the side facing the waiting room, when said ingress was closed.. For holding it open with one hand, a tall bespectacled nurse stood; where it usually shut, in that space parallel and adjacent to its other half; which latter was still closed at the time.. And there; occupying the space usually meant for one haIf of the X-ray department entrance, the sister was occupied busily, and noticeably impatient.. She kept on recalling (in sound) my name.. With short pauses between the utterances..

I wanted to stop her, or at least shorten the impatience she felt, by saying: present — or… here I am.. Loudly. Instead, I moved towards her as quickly as I could, sometimes knocking into some waiting person’s leg or belongings. I finally approached, trembling with urgency. She was calling.. Now impatiently.. Now impersonally as one should be summoned in an official place.. As I prefer to be called or summoned, for, at such times, there seems to be no hypocrisy.. I like to be considered impersonally.. A number, in fact; when visiting public edifices or transacting business in them.. It suits the atmosphere of these personal locales.. And the way she called reminded me of numbers.. My passport’s number, for one.. Others as well.. 228! She might have said: 228.. I respond with no confusion upon such occasions.. Here I am.. 228.. I admit I find the system of regulations governing my behaviour limiting.. Once I am involved in the bureaucratic machine, however; I prefer an efficient straightforward attitude.. I am bound to be involved.. What tires me and often exasperates me is that ‘efficient systems’; designed as they are for particular purposes; often seem to break down or whirl around with no clear objective.. If it is direct, clear, and well organised: the condition is eased.. It is made simpler and less confusing. They press a button, and I jump, answering: present.. They say; do this, at that hour; and I do it.. The responsibility of mapping out my actions is upon them.. Given precise directions, I react as a robot might. In fact, there is hardly any responsibility upon me at all, if the system is efficient.

I was there, by her side, handing her the slip of paper I had received some nine days previous to my visit.. An official summons it was.. With my name (or surname rather) and my house’s address.. There’s been an error, she grandly announced. I asked for Mr… she specified. I know, I am that person. You? Yes, I… am that very person. I know the patient well; he is rather tall and heavily set, she explained. He is a consumptive — a bad case, she reproached. He needs this X-ray badly. You need not stay, for there has been an error, she concluded. She disappeared behind the door.. It clicked shut, as I stammered.. I might as well have an X-ray taken since I received the notice.. Since he, the consumptive, has not shown up.. Since the radiologist must be at present unoccupied.. Since I had come all the way.. But she had gone.. She did not want to waste her time on my situation. It wasn’t efficient to listen or waste.. Time.. And efficiency had to be considered in public buildings such as this one.. Without it the system would collapse! They talk about efficiency! As a matter of fact, they do little else in such places.. Hospitals, I mean.. Clinics, I mean. This is also standard procedure for factories, exchanges, markets, stores, conveyances, and much that I forget. People involved in such occupations, working in such places, are so impressed by the standards of it that they bring it home with them.. Lay it on at breakfast, for instance.. Or bewail the poorness of it between the sheets to their spouses or concubines.. Oh yes! Even sex gains or loses according to it. It’s part of the rat race. Run, Run, Run.. They talk.. But in point of fact what happens? With me, for example, leaning there for more than an hour? Mind you, I was pleasantly occupied with the patient’s monologue.. Very indicative as it had been.. Very. Similar too.. to a lot of bits I knew.. Thus, the waiting had not appeared unendurable.. Not too long.. As far as I was concerned.. But as far as they were concerned? The staff? There surely should have been a purpose in demanding my presence on that date. They had sent me a note requesting it at a specific time. I am not one who watches the clock unduly.. Rather the contrary.. I seldom watch it. I made a point of watching it that day however, so as not to be tardy. I arrived at the hour mentioned on the note.. At that particular hour, the one chosen by them, among so many, as befitting and appropriate.. An hour suited, they believed, to the radiologist’s schedule.. One in which he could efficiently confront my bared lungs with his probing machine.. Why? Because they had decided.. Not I.. For as far as I could tell, there was nothing unusual or amiss about my breathing, nor about my coughing, nor about my health in general. In fact that week, the one preceding the appointment, had seemed inordinately free of ills.. Not only as far as my chest was concerned, but also in general. And, in specific, the usual ailments that torment me, had for some time abated.. My piles had not annoyed me in any way for over a fortnight.. Neither had my usually stiff leg.. Nor my chronically pestilent sores.. Nor my incontinently dripping sinus.. Miraculously, and much to my surprise, these pains had apparently flown! Away.. Or at least, they seemed to have diminished appreciably.. Leaving me in a physical state to which I had rarely been accustomed. Nevertheless, I had received an officially printed card requiring my presence in a particular department of the state hospital on a date and at a precise hour — 3 p.m., to be exact — for a very clear purpose: It being the X-raying of my lungs or chest. Further, unquestioningly obedient as I have been disciplined to be regarding precisely printed information from any state authority whatsoever (including the department of health and hygiene) I had followed their instructions with applied care, and arrived in the proper place at the appointed time. And realising that this day seemed a very busy one indeed for X-ray specialists, there being so many people in the place when I arrived, as well as after, I had calmly awaited my turn many minutes past the agreed hour. But, when I answered a summons — the crips call of some female attendant, who scanned the space about her as she pronounced my name, and consequently presented myself ready to be X-rayed, whether or not I needed it, I had been grossly rebuffed. I had been accused of assuming the role of an impostor! I had been told I was not me. Indeed! That the man to be X-rayed who bore my surname was tall and fat while I was short and thin.. And that there was no reason under the sun why I should be there, nor have an X-ray taken of my bronchial cavity, nor stay any longer, thus taking up room desperately needed by sick and needy sufferers.. And, in so many words, I was cast Out!

Efficiency? Accuracy? I ask you. These efficiently mistaken official had served to upset one of the few potentially calm weeks out of my short existence. For I had worried days and nights prior to this visit about the strange and curt request, for one. Only to be somewhat insultingly turned out when I had complied with it, for two. Thus, upset, I wandered in the street. For in streets or public highways I have a way of wandering. I rarely go with any decision or spurt effectively in them. I seem to wander mostly, for I am usually lost.. As I am, once outside.. is usual with me. I hardly know this part of the city. I hardly know any part really, except that which bordered the street on which I lived.. For, one thing, I rarely have looked anywhere but down, when walking.. And all the gutters, sidewalks, and cobbles in my city are surprisingly similar.. It is very differentiating between the asphalt of the seventh arondissement and that of the thirteenth, for that matter.. So that looking down has a certain disadvantage as far as recognition of district or street is.. But I find that the advantages of downcast glances outweigh these negative considerations.. Since I have to consider my memory, or rather my lack of .. By obviously looking in the direction of my feet or shoes, I cannot at any time be considered either impolite or snobbish by those I most fear. If I looked about me with candour and curiosity, I would doubtless come across faces I should have instantly recognised.. Concurrently some hail-fellow well met type of display would then be expected of me; such as churning the air lightly with one hand, or greeting cheerily with mixed looks of satisfaction and surprise, or solemnly bowing and scraping full of profound respect and true humility.. The faces I should have recognised, belonging as they would most probably to relatives, friends or creditors, would expect such behaviour from me. Assuming I did recognise them as faces, and known familiar faces more particularly, my confused mind could hardly instantly categorise each face (in but a brief moment) and subsequently differentiate between those belonging to respected kin and those unmasking generous creditors.. And it’s a well known form among Occidentals to change one’s greeting according to one’s relationship with the person thus greeted.. A form which by-passes me in difficulty.. A form which I realise exists, but deem totally incomprehensive as far as I am concerned.. Though I have tried the opposite acceptance.. As I have on dismal occasions.. These indirectly being the many reasons I look down while walking about the town.. In the country where chance encounters are less probable, I promenade looking in front of me, and about me.. In every direction.. I am seldom outside towns however.. Very seldom.. In nature, there are other hazards.. Of a very different kind.. I find it complicated to provide for some of my basic needs.. Such as feeding myself, for instance.. Being a city dweller, I know not which mushrooms are toxic and which are not.. Nor can I correctly differ between edible plants and those which are indigestible.. Fruits, of course, I can spot instantly.. But these grow on trees, and trees belong to farmers, in the majority.. As does the land in which they ripen and flourish.. Land is a mysterious thing altogether.. To me.. Placards warn that it is property; this land.. Private, on top of it.. They usually warn me of this and of other things more specifically particular to the local area.. That I may not trespass, for instance.. That there are vicious animals, mostly dogs, who will see to it that I do not trespass. I only have to imagine their bared teeth, their growling, their snarling, and it stops me.. From trespassing on their land, picking one or two of their fruit, and thus feeding myself.. Notwithstanding my essential needs, there are many other reasons for my staying away from the countryside.. There, I really get lost.. Completely! Landscapes look very similar to me, just as asphalt does, and consequently I lose my way easily.. Sometimes I walk endless hours only to find I have been moving in circles.. I have in point of fact not been getting anywhere! Much less where I wished to go.. For shelter and rest perhaps.. Or for my hunger’s sake.. Besides all that, rustic people do not like city dwellers, it seems.. They suspect my type. A funny thing stems from the main cause they feel suspicious of townspeople.. They believe we are fairly greasy bounders as a rule.. Shrewd.. Types that can easily pull the wool over their eyes and cheat them.. As far as I am concerned, this is quite preposterous. I can’t even swipe their fruit.. Nor make my way easily amidst their land.. Much less cheat them.. Or even attempt it.. Much less.. Yet they look upon me wearily.. With great suspicion. As if I were the very prototype of the city racketeer! Me! Oh, well, stranger manners are in evidence.. Quite.. Quite.. Some of them come up to me and ask me what I am doing. I answer the truth: that I am walking in circles or seeking food and shelter. This makes them even more suspicious. They sometimes follow me some distance to make sure I am walking in circles, etc.. Being followed happens to make me worried and nervous.. I can’t help it.. I break into a run, darting off in a straight line, not at all a round one; such as the circumference of a circle might be. They know they are right and have found me out at such times.. What a barrier erected to forbid me their company and a possible existence amidst their rural habitat!

Very, very weary, I am lost, near the hospital. I am looking down at an oil patch some inches in front of my shoe tips. Reflected in it is the parallel street sign overhead, mirrored backwards so to speak. This presents no difficulty; reading backwards inverted printed matter (as well as frontwards..) This is no great achievement.. Most literate humans can. Some do so naturally I have been informed.. Thus, from right to left, the name reads in my mind: Crache Coeur.. Reads, now, but then it read.. Which. Or rather: Rue Crache Coeur, 17e.. I can conjure up no recollection of this roadway, that is none recalled before my making it out in the particular oil slick.. Gît-le-Coeur, I have heard mentioned.. So has St. Leger, for he wrote about it.. So have three fuzzy friends of mine who once vegetated there.. But, Crache Coeur? No.. I think not.. Thus the reflection is little or no help.. In such hopeless cases, I hail a cab.. Which I do, and luckily enough there is an empty one, empty of clients to be specific, which promptly answers my gesticulations to the extent of tooting a horn.. For it, the cab, is pointing the opposite way and the street is unidirectional (as far as regulations)… therefore I approach it, and even sit in it, muttering directions as I do.. The driver’s reaction is immediate.

I enjoy taxi rides.. For I look around me then, and not down only.. Situations being different as far as chance meetings are concerned.. I see many interesting things in just that way.. This one taxi is fatefully misdirected however.. And Crassh?!! Out the taxi — back on the sidewalk.. And away!! For people are shouting and fighting already.. So away! Fast! Fast! (viz) By pure coincidence the accident is not far from where I live.. This makes it easy.. to run home.. Or walk.. Rapidly.. So. I journeyed.. (I have not changed tenses, in a manner of speaking.. For the oil slick and taxi episode were noted down at the time of the oil slick and taxi.. In a small pocket pad. And I leave them as they were, for I never change notes.. Considering it dishonest (somehow) to change memos.. But now, as I continue to write on this subject, the notes are about things past.. So, although I have changed the tense, there was a clear and honest purpose for doing so.)

And around the corner.. Of a building on my street.. On the street I temporary live in.. Or look upon.. When there’s light.. So, around this well-known corner.. This well-travelled corner. On all clays.. But on this special day, very much like the other days, but more so; a crowd in fact.. Milling.. That’s what called.. When it is made up of people, moving hither and thither.. As they were.. Here and there.. One couldn’t follow.. I did not even try. I only wanted to get through it.. Past it.. The corner.. The crowd.. So as to be around it, as is common practice by others besides myself who live there as I do.. Returning from work.. Or anything else.. But I couldn’t! Now that’s just silly.. But it wasn’t.. Because there, haIf way around, so that I could see my street equally as well as the one that crossed it vertically and caused part of the corner, haIf way around, ready to the job I set out to do, and be there in my street, the one I lived in or on, haIf way round, there, right there, exactly haIf way round, there was me.. Yes me! I was there.. Imagine.. Just imagine! Can you conceive of it. You probably can.. I had difficulty.. But I continued.. And climbed up shaken.. To my room.. And my bed.. And my bed.. And my pile.. I was shaken.. Badly shaken.. In a terrible state — Not the worst I have experienced.. No, not by a long shot! I say that all the time.. Many other things too.. I repeat them all the time.. More so when I am shaken.. As I was.. As I told you.. So that I lay down on the bed looking at the ceiling.. And also at the corners in my room.. I knew by heart.. The ceiling; the corners; though I could not make out which were up… or if they were up! All of them.. Including the ceiling; the corners; the crowd; me.. There.. HaIf way around.

And climbed up shaken.. To my room.. And bed.. And pile.. I was so shaken.. So badly.. In a state,, Not possibly the worst I’ve experienced.. No, not by much.. I say not by a long shot, also.. Like this: No, not by a long shot! I repeat many other things as well.. Oh, yes.. More often when I am shaken and confused.. As I was then.. After climbing up and finding myself amidst my personal mysterious objects.. As I told you.. 138 words previously.. Approx 138, at point between told: and; you.. I suppose the end of the space of blank paper following same; and ten counting from the left to right; no!! of course not! From right to left! Ah.. And up! There you go.. Counting.. Again! Whoops! Seeing myself and counting!! Wow! HaIf way around and 138! Me; who couldn’t get past sixty, and can’t do so just straight and normally.. Now I am passing that figure with the greatest precision and ease! Surpassing it, I repeat, with pride of a miserable sort, and going in the wrong direction, as far as parallel and vertical ways, with no hesitation or difficulty.. I can distinguish.. I had forgotten! And the fact that I could neither see me nor could count even since the early pages.. But this marvelous rejuvenating discovery is fraught with mis-statement.. With factual inaccuracies.. For I have counted before and after.. It is only when I anxiously attempt to count that I fail at it.. Only then.. And sometimes absentmindedly, of course.. As with 138..

***

In the rag of the soul. For I felt it to be.. A rag.. The soul.. The evidence? You figure it out.. I felt it.. This rag.. Not that I am aware of my soul as such.. Who is? Nor do I believe everything I read.. As do many misguided souls.. I have seen it in print.. Yes.. I have heard it mentioned.. At times by people who really should not know of its existence.. The soul.. By this I do not mean they have none.. For if I do, so should most anybody.. But if there be such an entity, and if it functions, I cannot bring myself to believe some use it.. Or that it functions within them.. Or upon them.. Is this prejudicial? You may consider it as quite personal. Have you ever reflected the same way? About people who incessantly mention soul? And often their own.. And then act as if their soul, or a common soul, never mattered a whit — and neither had power nor function? Very seldom do I act in accordance with it.. For one thing it is hard to pin it down.. Thus it is even more difficult knowing its function.. But I feel it.. Sometimes.. Not as a tactile thing I might sense.. Nor as wholly differentiated from those things I can pin down.. Within certain .. So you see, it is vague.. As most everything else.. And yet, when I make a list of my sums, I include my soul.. As a matter of course.. Although many things are, at times, forgotten in my lists.. Among these, some appetites.. But not my soul, no.. I never forget to include it.. For I do feel it continually, as it were.. And very much as a rag.. Thus I look upon it or consider it, when I do.

But it is a long jump from feeling one’s soul to being directed by it, or governing its behavior.. As much stuff and many people would have us believe.. For they say I am dirt which I have always known. Oh, really! Which I am also prepared to accept.. But then they go off on a tangent, for some unearthly reason. And this brings them to my soul, and indeed to all souls.. This or these, they declare, are immortal. They never perish as the rest of me does.. Nor as their remains do.. Consequently, we are faced with many theories and regulations, somewhat similar to the forms we once faced and could not truly figure out.. That is, I couldn’t.. For if I do such; I shoot straight up to heaven.. My soul that is.. While if I do so; I swoop right down into hell.. The same part of me.. In case of an indefinite nature, they are at odds about my soul’s position. One opinion is that I stay in the middle, between the two H’s, and, there, I am carefully screened.. In much the manner as the C.I.D.. They (whoever they are) pass on their suggestions to the Almighty, who having nothing better to do, studies my profile. If He says O.K.. Or signifies in some manner, I continue up.. If he shakes His head.. Or something like that, I fall down.. All the way.. When I get either place, my soul that is, I somehow manage immortality.. Now that I’m dead.. In body and dirt.. But my soul manages.. The main point being a difference of climate… there we go again! Fevers! Up it’s everything you did.. But decent, mind you.. Down it’s a turkish bath.. But much worse! That’s only one side of it..

Another bit goes something like this.. Chagadam! I’m dead, right? It seems my soul, if it has taken the trouble to contact Karma, floats around a bit.. Then, when it has spent the regulation time,.. plop! It gets into another body.. The soul! Not necessarily a human one; the body.. That depends on whether my relations with Karma have been good or bad.. It might be a mole.. Or a cow.. In which case I’ve hit the bull’s eye, so to speak, for I’m sacred it seems! Or, in my past life, I might have roused the cycle’s anger, and I would then myself, humanly enough, devoted to latrines for a whole life span.. Which to some is dismal.. To others just work.. And to me far-fetched.

I could mention many others! Systems.. They all take for granted my soul’s travelling.. After I am dead.. Each one prescribes different methods of transportations as well as different terminals.. Some make it in a circle.. Some up and down.. But they all move, swing as it were.. And countless are they who swing with the systems.. As far as belief.. Though they call it faith.. Which is neat.. In any case, I am most weary.. Very, very weary.. About ups and downs, plops, circles, and such.. And although they may be correctly defined, I reserve my judgment.. I would hate to catch the wrong train or bus.. Or wheel for that matter.. So, I’m suspicious.. About post-mortem trips.. And full of reserve.. Methinks there won’t be trips.. Of the kind they mean.. There might be a little movement.. Just floating or sliding, for instance.. Each grain colliding one with another.. Knocking about with no thought or system.. Mostly circumstantially.. Bang.. But a little one only.. One you and I can’t hear at present. Everything is relative, isn’t it? (I might consider) one’s sliding and banging and intermittently knocking like travelling of a sort.. I suppose.. So travel or trips there might well be! It might happen one moment that a particle of you slides with great force down a very steep incline, for a millimetre, and contacts another particle of you (an extremely rare coincidence) and shoves the latter into a mass fortress of particles; so that the one, the latter one, is imprisoned for at least ten million moment particles, and, for this period, is unable to travel, slide, knock, or intermittently bang into any other one.. And in that last most unlikely but probable case, one (the freer one; the one that did the shoving too) would be relatively swinging, as compared to the one shoved or imprisoned, who for some time would not swing at all.. Maybe.. Of course, that type of situation likely and improbable as it may be, leads one to a type of immortality.. If we considered travelling and knocking about and being lodged in or imprisoned a ‘way of living’.. But we do not! For we are taught that living entails a certain spark distinct from simple motion.. At our level, at our human plane, this involves thinking as well.. We think.. At the lower animals’ level however, it involves mainly instinct plus the spark.. As far as vegetal existence is concerned, one still denotes procreative abilities.. At that simple level.. So does one with micro-organisms.. Which means that two of these, can produce some of these.. Or one.. Or many.. And, in some cases, all that is needed is one of these to produce more of these.. With cells, it takes on a form of splitting; one might say.. Out of one; one becomes two.. Becoming is the important.. For motion is going or coming, but not becoming.. Unless one thinks of the motion of energy, of course.. Because, in that particular case, millions of particles, at their particular level, and immense speed and resultant temperature, collide with each other, creating a huge bang! One that you and I cannot hear, now. For it mostly happens on the Sun.. And in this explosion, old particles disappear, so to speak, and new ones become.. Because of this great burning rapid movement.. The Bang!! The enormous unimaginable colossal Bang of all these varied and many moving particles knocking, shoving, colliding together! Bang!! All that energy! Boum!! All those particles! So that a simple man, such as I, stayed on his simple human level.. Living until he was dead.. Moving until he was motionless.. And thinking as is proper to his level.. Thinking of life in main.. And, of the way he banged, for instance; or slid? Yes, slid too.. Downwards with time.. Losing a hair here and a tooth there.. And, sometimes, an appendix or adenoids.. In particular cases, a leg or an eye.. Losing, in all cases.. Time even.. Drip.. Drip.. Glob. Glob.. Like a yoke, I once said, at a loss for a proper simile.. So that one was never whole exactly in the manner one had been whole before.. Change? Yes.. Motion? Yes.. Yes.. Particles? Yes.. Bangs? Yes.. Yes.. This was in no way reassuring, however.. For I wanted peace. Quiet.. Some relative form of it.. And particles or no; I wasn’t getting it! I certainly was not! Banging? So what? The way I banged? That more.. Much more.

Banging the human way.. Banging between humans.. There were two extremes one might adopt: Kill! Create.. Love.. Hate! And degrees of .. Both roads; both bangs.. Both open to me? Hate? I tried; but I couldn’t.. I just could not manage hate.. I might dislike.. Despise. But hate? Truly loathe! Wish someone’s death? I tried very often.. It must be missing in me. Perhaps, this unnatural lack explains my many failings.. It might, I suppose.. For the other extreme I did not lack.. I didn’t have to try either.. I loved all the way! Without trying in any degree.. Yet, I did.. Only once.. But with a passionate drive! Only one person.. But with all I had.. I spent it; in one direction,.. So completely.. As only the miserable can.. That there was none left for any one else.. Nor could I manage such intensity again.. (Using it for purposes of hate.. Or degrees of same..) I could not hate; for I had loved too much.. Much too much.. And subsequently, I had spent all the love I might ever feel. For her.. Or in her direction.. With the biggest bang I was capable of.. So that it was all gone; all spent.. So that it had run dry, after flowing for five years.. I shriveled.

I remember well the day she phoned me, to tell me of her love.. For someone else.. A guy I never met.. She said it very calmly.. Surprisingly calmly.. As if it were of no consequence.. She called me because we were good friends.. She thought I was her best friend: I was.. Thus, she told me first.. Before mentioning it to anyone else.. She informed me of her love.. In a tranquil manner.. She did not speak his name, for he was married.. And although we were the best of friends, loving him as she did, she did not wish to compromise him.. Which shows how she must have loved him.. Which also proves how lovable she was.. Being so straight.. A woman to clothe the soul.. As her best friend, I wished her the very best.. As one who loved her, I hoped she would be happy.. Fervently.. I hoped.. I told her so.. She thanked me. I welcomed her thanks. She hung up.

A long time elapsed, before she called me again. She was in tears.. In such a state! Everything had gone wrong, she informed me.. As far as her love was concerned.. Poor thing.. She was in such a state.. Many of her words were jumbled.. Incomprehensible After a while, I made out her intentions. She thought, it would be nice to come back to me.. Live with me again.. As before.. I tried to soothe her sorrow.. And when it seemed appeased, I gently told her there was nothing to come back to.. Nothing.. For I had spent it all.. Unwillingly, of course.. And, unfortunately, I had run dry.. I had very nearly disappeared.. So that there was nothing for her to return to, in a way.. As I had only finished this thought; mentioning my nothingness; her attitude instantly changed.. She called me proud.. A selfish bastard! As all men were! And, more particularly, me! For she needed affection and comfort.. And I refused it! Which showed me up in my true colours! A petty, selfish proud bastard! Not even a good friend! Nothing! A bit of nothing! I tried to recomfort her.. Between her interjections.. I tried to tell her that it mattered little for her sake, whether she came back or not.. For I was nothing, in fact.. Or very close to empty, at least.. But she would not listen.. And then hung up; for ever.. Nor did I see her again.. Anywhere. There was little likelihood I would.. In my room.. Or on the asphalt surface of the sidewalks.. Very little likelihood.. I didn’t.

By this time, I dare say, you might realise why I felt frustrated. The hazards, great in any case, might have loomed without .. (Concerning their apparent size and danger.. And consequent anxiety..) It would have served to make me nervous, at most.. Or, at least, peace in the outer world would have seemed difficult to manage.. I trust.. You cannot stipulate that my original attitude was unfriendly.. By the time we met; there was a certain reserve, I suppose.. But before? I would not have married twice, for instance.. Nor would I have journeyed so far to find people, whose needs I desired to analyse.. Seclusion would have deemed itself imperative; which is a rather awkward and incorrect way of putting it.. But you do get the point? Contacts would have been avoided.. Which they weren’t.. Nor, at that long past time, did I honestly attempt such a breach.. Or break.. In relations.. Did I? Now, if I, in fact, knew Koopy? Consider my wanton carelessness.. Not about the picture! But rather about involvement.. With Koopy.. And if I knew her not? I knew others — not many — admittedly.. But some.. And, in certain instances, I encouraged the relationship.. I can remember an occasion in my youth when I made a pass at a chick.. I must have wanted an involvement of some kind.. Of a very definite kind — to put it bluntly.. Hardly the ways of a retiring, unsocial, unfriendly hermit! I resolved to become one with her.. The chick I made a pass at.. Not that I managed the fusion.. But I’m considering the intention.. Now.. Well; a case of dual oneness such as this one doesn’t point to detachment, does it? And, if I thought it might be nice to be one in two, that was hardly similar to considering it preferable to be one in one.. So.

Of course, things being as they were and are; I became reluctant to put myself forward, or to make unnecessary harangues, or amicable gestures.. Bit by bit, I realised the world was not a friendly place.. Quite the contrary.. And that the hermit’s chosen solitude was perhaps safer.. In any case; less to manage.. Than social behaviour.. I also soon recognised the danger of confiding in anyone.. Not that I had great secrets to share, for my life seemed somewhat banal.. But even little confidences have a way of being exaggerated.. By those one chooses to confide in.. A casual slip of the tongue will soon land you in court, with a libel suit. That is one of the reasons, I rarely name a character in these notes.. Another is my poor memory for names.. Oh, I have labelled one or two persons. True. But when and if I have; what prevented me from divulging their true identity? For I did.. In those isolated cases, I invented altogether new names, completely unlike their original nomenclature.. Except for one… Which I forget now.. Which I somehow forced myself to forget.. Somehow… for some reason.. There is nothing uncommon about forgetting names, nor in addressing acquaintances wrongly.. I have nearly always been addressed by names which are not mine.. I have been called Alphonse, Albert, Berthaud, Chet, Don, Ely, Fanfan, Gorgonzola, Mansi, Izzy, Jean, Karl, Lupo, Moe, Neal, Olivier, Pisistratus, Quentin, Randolph, Satan, Tonton, Ursule (in a very dark place), Vladimir, Willy, Xenophon, Yves, Zaza (in an equally sombre locale) and, needless to say, none of these correspond to my right name, or surname for that matter. Once or twice people have addressed me properly.. Not that it is proper to call me by my actual name; the one registered on my birth certificate; for, perhaps, my parents or godparents chose a misnomer.. At that age, I was not passing out too much information. Thus, my forebears could not estimate what temperament I would have; nor what name best suited said character.. I do not blame them.. Not a bit.. For all I know, my name suits me to a T.. Although I have doubts.. Since few are they who associate me with it.. Yet, all this further corroborates my suspicions.. In a different sense. And it makes me relatively calm to think of the nameless narrative.. Or the falsified material.. For one must be careful; I have learned.. Very much so.

Nor is my anxiety vis à vis the world limited to such things.. Goodness no.. Many are the instances of their perfidy.. The people.. Unlikely are the circumstances of my subsequent downfall.. Varied, complex, mysterious are the fateful designs against me.. You think me a paranoiac? Consider the facts.. The evidence.. Peruse the past material.. Weigh the consequences of my action involving the outside.. Objectively record the failures of my trials.. Of my errors.. As best you can — if there is any interest left.. Which I doubt.

Have you formed some ideas, about those whom I have met? In regards to my sums.. The doctor? The charwoman? The wives? The visitors? The landlady? The father? The tutor? The bureaucrats? The guide? The cosmopolite? The brahman? The beat? The egghead? And so on… and so on.. And the ones who wish me well? Or wish me no harm? Or do not wish me at all? Or prefer to ignore me? Or find me lacking? Or find me loathsome? Or wish me dead? Or worse? The composium of their total effect? Upon me? As well as upon my wriggling, squirming, brooding, etc?.. PANDEMONIUM!!

I have gone about it the wrong way.. Contacting, that is.. But I have tried many ways.. As many as a limited man such as I might envisage.. My limitations have prevented my success.. True.. True enough.. But here I am.. As I am.. Limited.. Groping.. Existing.. What change can there be? In my limitations? What is humanly possible? Within my context?! I admit this leads me to a pessimistic attitude.. Or, at least, to a fatalistic one.. C’est la vie.. Quelle merde!

Alone.. In my room.. In my bed
But you know, and I know; it is impossible:
One must contact..
The specie demands it..
Universal motto
The back slap!!
I leave my body on my bed..
I can’t even do that..
Not even that..

All right! I was forced to it, though! Damned vipers! Ever since she cut out I retired; slowly fading, melting, merging.. At one point, I was fairly close.. I nearly disappeared! None believe it.. Nor will they believe it.. But I know it was so.. It won’t happen again.. The link.. I had managed a link.. Microscopic me.. Eliminated.. One by one.. The room, the bed, the pile, the landlady (her boy who wasn’t), the private week-ends even.. Through sheer effort, I had closed upon them, caught them, stripped them of their identity, wiped out the distance.. The great void.. The people had forced my hand; interrupted my games.. I had struggled back.. Exhausted.. Interrupted — back again! More and more, and then no more.. I know my safety is at stake.. But what can I do? They won’t stop interrupting; disrupting.. I had sworn off all contacts.. They had not complied.. Not so… not so.. My play could not continue.

About face! Here I go.. Slam the door.. Goodbye the bed.. Clickety clack, the stairs.. Spit on the landing.. Thwang! Out there: in the muck.. And noise.. Chagada cung cung! Hoaaaa there! Watch out.. I’m going to contact alright.. Don’t you worry! The first idle cat I see, I’ll contact.. And good! Man to man! That’s a joke.. Or man to woman.. I shan’t be wary.. Not in the least.. I’ll get to know him.. I’ll pry.. I’ll ferret out his ooze! Put it there, I’ll say.. C’mon, put it there! What? When? C’mon, tell me! All!! And before? And after? No, that’s not all! There’s more.. Think.. Think, man, think.. I wanta know.. I gotta know! No secrets; understand? None! I’m going to know you.. All of you.. Afterwards; you’ll get to know me! That’s it! Cozy.. Right? Who knows? Who knows? We’ll love each other.. Like brothers.. Or lovers.. Or both.. And we’ll hate each other.. Like mothers… Or sons.. You’ll see.. It will be real contact.. Bang! Right between the eyes.. When you get up; you’ll see me.. In the mirror.. Me; the same.. Vice-versa.. When you make love.. I’ll masturbate! When I eat.. You’ll feel drowsy! The whole scene — no limits.

I forgot what it was like.. Outside.. Ooh, the racket! Cripes, is it ever noisy! And the smell! Positively buoyant! A modicum. I must not skip and run.. My feet.. I must hobble.. Where? Let’s see.. The park? Why not? That’s how it goes.. There!! Lookee here! He’s resting.. There, he is.. My brother, my lover, my ghost.. Lying there.. On a bench.. So relaxed.. Looks friendly.. Friendly as they get.. Bit tattered, but congenial.. For that matter, I don’t care.. You have to start.. Right? O.K.:

Nice weather? Have to break the ice. Rules; hot though… not a peep.. I’ll try louder.. Sleeping? What the hell? Of course, he is.. I say.. oh, pardon me? No reaction! It’s him or nobody. O.K., louder.. Hey!.. Hey!.. It’s getting late. You’d better make it! Up… hell.. Man! He’ll oversleep like that.. We’ll wake him all right.. What are you doing!?.. Here?!.. Hey!! Cripes.. He must really be fast asleep.. Such deep sleep.. Or deaf.. I’ll just nudge.. Say.. Say.. . Like that.. Oops! Nearly pushed him off.. What in Zen’s whole? He must be dead! Dead.. God.. Lookee here! I’d better get som’body.. I’ll check first.. Contact? That’s a laugh! If he’s stiff.. Pouhh!! What a smell?! O.K.. Now…… No, he’s not dead.. Seventy-eight.. Seventy-nine.. Eighty… his pulse is normal.. Heart’s not faint.. I’m never any good at this sort’a thing.. Seventy-eight.. Nine.. Eighty! Exactly.. Mine, and his! And I’m well.. Sort of.. Of course, I am! So.. So then; what’s the matter? He’s alive — pulse… asleep? Yet, he doesn’t hear.. Whoaaa! Or feel! And that stink, man! He doesn’t smell either!.. I wonder what he can do? Perhaps… he’s blind too! Crazy… zy… too… much.. O.K… O.K… Cut the laughs! Seriously.. He came here to rest.. Of his own accord.. People aren’t usually brought here against their will.. Why not? A change; heh? That’s it! He’s a deaf-mute-blind paralytic who’s got sleepin’ sickness! Every day, they bring him here… They fetch him at dusk.. Of course! Why not? Sure.. Very funny.. Very.. Yet? Hey; maybe he’s doped? Wait a sec’… check… seventy-nine, eighty! Twice! Exactly! So?.. Can’t be high, right? Or it’s the watch!? Idiot! It’s been perfect! For five years! Hasn’t lost a minute… ever!! I guess… can’t remember.. Man, I’m tired.. I’ll sit…… Wish he would wake up…. I’ll shake him… hummm.. C’mon! C’mon! Up! Up! Hear! C’mon…. nothing… zero! Nothing’… try this.. Right up to his ear: FIRE! FIRE! LOOK OUT! FATHER! MOTHER! HELP! HELP!…… BASTARD!!! THIEF!… LIAR!! I’m sweating.. Imagine.. Sweating! Damn him.. His hide.. Damn his hide! O.K… FOOD!!!… Water!! So… perhaps he doesn’t speak English? Ha… ha… foreign! Heathen! This is turning into some bit.. Oh.. I don’t give a… don’t care much… really.. Like hell, I don’t! Rrrrr! Here! Hummm!… feel it?!.. There!!.. Er!! JESUS!! I KICKED HIM!! Twice!.. In the groin.. Christ! What did I do that for? Christ! Look.. Hey, buddy.. Look! I didn’t mean it! Honest!… What a fix! I… didn’t… mean any harm, man.. Quite the contrary.. Wanted to talk with you! Contact.. You know? Nothing but the best… feelings for you.. Really.. There you were… unprotected! In danger!! who knows? Sick? Who knows? Had to wake you up! See? At least find out.. For your sake.. At least.. Look! Man! Look! Forgive me! I’ll plead! I am pleading! Kneeling! Look! FORGIVE… me! Please… Man.. Please!.. Wake up; please, man…

You! O.K! O.K! That’s settled.. Want to play that way? Bastard! Egotistical bastard! Selfish.. Good for nothing! Tramp! Here I was, pleading! ME!! A grown man.. In front of what? A good for nothing S.O.B… that’s what! I try to help you.. What good? Heh? Does it do? Answer me that! Well? Do you care! Why, I could be lying here! Dead! What do you care? Lying here.. What’s it to you?! Hey! Nothing! You don’t give a squirt!! Do you?! Do you?! Jesus, I’m exhausted.. Pff… pff… no… that’s.. Really.. Too.. Much.. Pff.. Much.. Too.. Pff.. Much.. I gotta lie down.. Man.. Am I ever tired!.. Puff.. Worn ou.. tt… t

Alright.. I’ll tell you the facts.. Since it’s necessary… analysis.. Isn’t it a bit late? Don’t you think I’d better sleep? No.. You’re the doctor.. Analysis.. Free? Association? You’re an optimist, doc.. I’m glad you are.. It will help, no doubt.. The facts.. The facts? Alright.. Here they are — as they were.. Not by prearranged distortion.. Not the delusion.. Only the facts I know.. Not those I have thought about; for when recalling them I have changed them.. Nor those I have perceived with my senses.. Interpretations of that sort are inaccurate.. So are the records of my senses.. Thus, only facts that came to me during that minute of selflessness.. When all the banging stopped.

Hummmm… yeah.. Swimming.. What! Oh! Oh? Wet.. Wet? The earth is damp.. So is my body.. Covered with nature’s sweat.. A coat.. My clothes seem to float about my frame, as if I were some vat.. I must have slept for quite a while.. Upon this grass.. It’s nearly dark. The shade is gone.. Remains the black; the oily greys and blues.. I must have fallen to sleep.. Some time ago.. I hear water.. Still water rippling.. Must be a lake or pond.. Don’t recollect.. Don’t really know.. l’ve never been here, before.. Before today.. I rarely come to parks.. City parks.. They’re dismal somehow.. Neither the country, nor the city.. Not that I like the country much.. Too restful.. My needs.. It makes me nervous.. Even as a child, I had trouble sleeping in a country house.. The sounds of nature seem strange to me ; a city bum.. Most of my life.. Except for the pigeon and the swallow; those granite birds; I find no kinship with animals.. Nor pets.. I find no kinship.. Nor men.. More recently, I find no kinship; anywhere, with anyone. I’m killing time.. That’s all.. And now that I can’t count.. As I used to.. It’s tougher still.. It seems.. No, I find no kin.. Similarity? Not really.. Really.

Where did he go?
Where the hell!?
He must have gone while I was sleeping..

How did he go? Walking? Running? Walking probably.. Just normally.. Wasn’t a dream? Of course, it wasn’t! And yet.. I’ll never make it out. He was sleeping.. Most probably.. I couldn’t wake him, that is all.. He must have been exhausted.. So tired.. So numb.. Like my feet now.. So numb, that nothing disturbed him.. And yet.. It’s quite fantastic! The shouting… the kicking.. He just didn’t react! Some nervous disorder? I’ll never know! Just as well.. And yet, it irks me.. Puzzles me.. The kicking… pushing.. He never stirred.. Nor did he snore.. Though he breathed.. Oh yes; he was alive.. No doubt at all! His pulse.. A very normal pulse.. I checked it.. Twice.. But he never moved.. Unless I shoved.. Or kicked.. It must have hurt him: The last kick in the groin — why did I do it? Exasperating.. It was! I worked myself up.. To a real frenzy.. Since everything had failed.. Including the shouting… kicking.. begging.. On my knees, I was! Begging.. proud a bit.. Not a trace of it.. So what? If he didn’t feel the kicks.. Hear the shouts.. Why should he notice the begging? The humiliation?

But he has left.. Under his own steam, I suppose.. Why otherwise? Perhaps, people came for him. I doubt it.. I doubt it.. He just got up and quit! Like anyone else.. Why not? If he didn’t react; it wasn’t due to him.. More likely; because of me.. I failed to rouse him.. Completely failed! It must be me.. How else? Now that he has gone, apparently under his own powers.. Not that I’m sure.. My blood is coated.. But it’s likely.. Then it was me! I couldn’t reach him.. For some reason, inexplicable as yet.. Nothing I did worked! Would work.. The lack was mine.. It must have been.. For he seemed normal.. Outside his… mine! Perhaps hallucinations? But I can’t believe it.. All else seemed natural.. The way it should.. Yes, it was me.. I must face facts.. Hard as they are or seem to be.. Something was missing! About me.. My behaviour.. It must be more complex than that.. Some link is missing.. Between me… and others… or at least him.. And me! I want to go.

The park is not empty on this hot summer night. I can’t see much.. But. I can hear.. Now, accustomed to my surroundings; that is, as much as I can be; I hear those sounds.. Not proper to the park.. The human noises.. That tell me.. I am not alone, in a sense.. And the sounds usually come from people together.. Couples, most likely.. Since they don’t talk.. In fact, they do.. But not as three people might.. Or a group.. Their conversations are not.. If they speak, it’s not that way.. About objective things.. Or opinions.. Or the weather.. Or their long-suffering ills.. The noise of couples, flirting, giggling, struggling, making love.. If they do speak.. It’s about each other’s senses.. Feelings.. the moment; and before.. Not about things, in particular.. Not that I hear what they say.. Nor do I want to.. But being here, the noise comes to me.. On the slight breeze.. I recognise it, for I’ve made love.. I think.. Long time ago.. But I remember the sounds.. Before and during.. I think.. For I made love, before she split.. Cut out! Before all this.. For five long years.. Or part of same.. The point being; I would know these sounds if I heard them.. Like now.. With some nostalgia.. Not even that! With some sadness? No.. With some awareness? So very little.. With what? With memories perhaps.. Not sad ones or nostalgic ones.. Because it seems unreal.. Me.. Making love.. With her.. The spell was bound around us.. For five years.. So long ago.. I don’t think of that, if I can.. I don’t know why.. I don’t glance back on those five years.. A premonition? Once I did think back, as I am doing now, and some things changed.. Certain ones.. Without control.

(You’re not satisfied? Neither am I… Interpretations! Delusions! Always creeping in.. Polluting the facts… Distorting.. O.K.! I’ll vomit! And, when I have finished, I’ll cry.. Then I’ll take an enema and rid myself of the waste.. When you see the waste.. And when I simultaneously spot it.. Then.. I’ll say whatever comes out.. Just like that! O.K.? Right.. First, a pause..)

Ripe as the fruit was, it grew on a spirem of fibrous glucose, most fragile, obsessed by hunger of the measly minims (no elevenses in Bang), only luminous by bulb glow, and then, even then, frankly pallid, tense, stretched, a mite disshapened by a mere droplet or two (English tourists had whispered after a careful inspection — it grows on one’s hand, nearly invisible). Even the goated sage and the din-bell didn’t notice it readily. Yet there wasn’t a trace of hypocrisy in their manner, nor furtiveness.. Nor does it readily mutate or reflect a dozen shades, chameleon-fashion, as do our prized ones, thus concealing its aspects.. De facto, it might be externally singular in its powerlessness. I said it grew (or sprouted if you prefer) on one hand, like a hair, at first. None will be restricted by this, for, strictly speaking, it may grow elsewhere.. Not here perhaps, but in other climes.. Its description was delivered by Utot who called it ‘Plasma’, a name that really made us laugh — when you think of it. True, it is flimsy, skeinish, apparently fibrous, somewhat continually in motion (one might exaggerate and call it living) but then so many things are.. I really should not have called it a thing.. Nevertheless, a plasm or plasma! I say! Cheap reminders: upside down banks of globules, taped red tubes, and sharp spikes.. How many times? Honestly, how many times have you seen the procedure on their small public large private screens? With their sucked-in linen saliva catchers buzz — tchooua.. And the quiver jangle red tube nice and looped up the forearm to the vein? I ask you? Calling it plasm or plasma?

Ooze! It’s more like ooze.. Especially under stress; when unstable; after a shock.. A few deaths, maybe.. Sometimes I wonder how the specie survived.. Ooze is temporarily satisfactory.. Only, mind.. Still, there are certain aspects of this ooze which mystify me.. Firstly, it hates me. Yes, goddamit, it hates me quite irrationally. No one would think me a mystic, an alchemist, or cartomancer, would one? There’s obvious lack of skill.. Obvious! Oh, a charlatan perhaps; occasionally; but certainly not when concerned with ooze; vital ooze.. It hates me for only one thing, and I know what it is — knowledge.. Mind you, pure luck threw it my way.. Nevertheless, ooze is virus.. I know! It’s an error, of course. Original (I was about to mention pure) Virus rarely assumes recognisable characteristics.. For certain.. It can’t afford the obvious, but it’s the exceptions that make the rule. So ooze or not, it is virus, and very much alive at that.. Call it a stage of virus, one of the many energising agents.. One of Heel’s band.. As you think.

The virus perpetuates, walled in its unaccustomed shape, feeling the satiety of the space within.. Quite satisfied? Never! Grumble! Licking! Weaning. It must be sucking its pores.. Since it is static, for a while, I turn the useless face I wear to go beyond and through, trying out a dream figure made for love.. And there and then the connection seems awesomely directed…

Now gobble this! Five years! Five years! The ooze-caretaker (that’s me), has two ears, two eyes, one nose, one rectum, one penis: — you get the picture? I’m a number.. Within limits I eat, shit, breathe, vomit and make love.. The progression is indeterminate. Distinguishing features: a small green snake hides behind my retina (no one sees it); plumage on my ass (much harder to conceal); and a pity-racket.. Let us not forget my most precious pity racket.. Without my crutch, taxis wouldn’t U-turn, although they seldom do.. Queues would seem endless, though I never join them.. But, most of all, my stick is an excellent weapon… Wonderfully suited to my private war against the rats.. Unlike Samuel, I don’t like live rats.. Nor do I thrill over dead ones.. But I admire, respect, one might even say, adore dying rats: dying, female rats.. My racket has unusual versatility.. So do the rats.. Pour reprendre: five years in the ooze.

She was standing knee-deep in it when I met her, but I didn’t have a clew. Her voice drew my attention; then, her face wrapped in smiles and beach hair. Don’t think I was impressed; for I was not! The season had started on the eve of melancholia.. Hence I was still fasting.. Hardly in a position to be impressed.. Besides, how is one to observe something with any marked impression when the present assembly seems content; toasting her last little mousy year? Later.. Dying rats — O.K.! But mousy debs, or sub-debs, or fringed intramural debs simply don’t fit in, if you know the static from the no.

The surprise was, that after partaking of all disbursed personal comforts and rhythms; and beds to be found; she still managed to double up and over backwards as well as under the tinted glass so as to look (and she did) like an iceberg.. You would swear on it! Michaux steps in; “Free of vermin”. It’s just routine with icebergs.. Me; I saw a great wide sky and hung on good and firm — The wind Vromm pouaah ! The rain flitt flocc! –; I latched on (sheer desperation), and for some time it did not break, chip or tremble.. Imagine rushing back to look for the ooze and finding a Chinese screen.. It did not matter.. Not this time! For I was sure.. I was going to lie down a long peace and live, maybe.. For five years! On that thirsty iceberg! From then on, there were innumerable problems.. The iceberg wouldn’t float by itself, for one.. All the others were mostly submerged, and, in a sense, so was she, but she didn’t look it. I worked hard.. You laugh, but I really did. Scratching here, planing there, polishing a bit, and, of course, cleaning.. Surprising how penguins, seals and polar bears are dirty; all because they think it’s frozen.. In any case, there was much work to be done, and I’m a profoundly lazy man.. There were no tools either, which made it difficult.. Furthermore, I could not use my hands.. They were too warm and developed rashes on the outer skin.. The first time I tried, I knocked open a crevice in ‘its’ slope, and a whole army of arctic lice marched out.. That shows you! I had to coax gently but surely.. We made it past the banks, losing a chunk or two, nothing to speak of, and finally hit the great sea routes.. I had managed to launch it.. I thought.

That was pretty wonderful.. Every time a steamer came over the horizon filled with hob-nobs and cameras, she would nudge me.. No, not yet! And I polished with my breath.. The surface was like a mirror now.. One could see it for leagues around.. By moonlight it shined so brightly, the haddock boats thought we were aurora.. Once I fell off while brushing, trying to read the lettering on a cube, but I managed to swim back in the nick; and I was welcome! The trip, for the next two years or so, carried us very far. It became quite a well known sight, for there were few of us near these summer seas.. Oh yes, we took many risks, perhaps too many.. When it started singing with the warm wind, I became anxious — even jealous.. Hold there, whooa! What’s this bit? I must have slipped then.. Or did I? At once I suggested a Northern cruise.. ‘She’ had lost two diamond coatings in the warm waters, and I was dead tired.. Ready to be cremated.

Go ahead! Fade out: I’ll catch up, it laughed. I rode up to the circle and waited.. Far on the skyline she appeared, months later.. I was not sure it was her at first, but it was.. It would be good to climb on her and feel her coolness.. But she said she had fever.. Crystals fell from every moundlet; slices of metal plate drifted away.. The old crevice seemed open again.. It would be hard to patch her up.. But she wasn’t making that scene; not my scene! Look, she cried, and stretched defiantly! And God knows she was a beauty! Slender, cutting Aphrodyte.. It was then I guessed she carried a new pilot, a more efficient one. She bloomed and her ice turned pink; a roseate I won’t forget.

It’s hard to step off an iceberg without breaking one’s neck, especially when one’s crutch is bent. ! made for the first float, and, miraculously enough, settled square in the middle without a waver.. Currents are similar to women.. They often change course abruptly, sometimes only for a small distance.. So the crystal Goddess moved off, swinging, splashing with her new life.. While I caught a cold blue stream from underneath, pulling me out there, you know, where they know you better than I know you.. One can, I guess.

And that’s where the rats, the dying rats, come in.. For there they were on the float; very nearly extinct they were.. But not quite.. What a place for two rats! Weakened, famished, they could hardly move.. The stronger of the pair had managed to crawl alongside his partner’s belly. He was slapping at the layer of grey-ish hair underbelly and flesh as the other looked on, a little curious — yet horrified. The biting rat only managed one good swipe: haIf the entrails spilling over his thin snout.. And then, due to fatigue I suppose, he shuddered and expired. The remaining one, his belly open, his intestines wiggling in the frozen breeze, seemed to laugh.. At least, his lips curled over his back teeth and a small staccato whisper croaked out.. In turn, he stopped, and, after a minute inspection of his inner being, so casually displayed, allowed the thin tufted skull to fall on the ice with a sharp slap.. Dead as slate! I’ve already mentioned my rather unusual distaste for dead rats, and it will serve as an explanation for my action: I ate them.. Well chilled.. What else could I do.. No stove.. Raw.. You hardly tasted them.. They might just as well have been liquid cement, or spongy leather.. Good thing I did devour them, for days went by in complete solitude; absolute cold and thunderous silence. Sea endlessness.. Bye and bye, I caught a glimpse of another iceberg, blue-topped, tower shaped, with pick-axe icicles for a train.. It was curious.. It was distinctive! It made me awfully sick.

We all wandered in circles out there, the fools we were.. Our chapped lips kissed the glaciers.. Our frostbite moulded our faces.. Illusions of pureness blinded us.. In my case, however, there was evidence: the crevice.. When I had first slipped.. The time I journeyed ahead.. The lice.. There! They were special those damned lice, very special.. I had seen them before, by pure coincidence.. In the ooze, of course.. Naturally.. They grew fat, sometimes blew up, but mostly rolled and rolled until hermetically sealed, in a cocoon of ooze.. Plagiarists! Attempting chrysalis.. What was it the old crabman said about the lice? Something about white scourges.. Yes.. Yes! A great undersea blight.. Atlantis was still afloat.. They were a very peculiar insect; at times, parasites; at other times, rectors; In this latter capacity, the ooze must have interested them or vice versa.. For it thought, the ooze.. Oh yes, it did! Not like you for sure, but nevertheless it planned and planned, until quite certain.. Its goal? That’s more difficult to say.. The ooze is only one aspect of virus; an obvious one at that.. Hardly enough for generalisations.. The lice? Well, if they had been found anywhere else, they would have passed on unnoticed, or simply been exterminated in the old crude fashion; the one commonly used for ordinary lice.. There’s not much, is there? Very little.

Back in the fresh air with very little still.. Virus is ooze is virus and so forth.. Where had my diamond gone? The one I scraped and waxed, scratched and cleaned, polished to such a shine the night sky’s jealousy became an everyday affair.. Why, the nymphs would no longer visit the hyaline for fear of beauty!.. Cold cold beauty with the reddish fucus hair, with the glittering ice and the purple skin, daughter of the ooze coal turned rock, strong hard diamond.. Full of vermin.. When I told you I slipped, I lied.. When I related my fall to the slipping surface of the iceberg, I lied.. When I mentioned that I climbed all over her tinsel, and rested on her inclines, and slept beneath her shadow; all these times, all these sayings, all these things, all these happenings, were and are lies.. I lied then and I lie now.. For I don’t know! I do not know.. My ice, my perfect ice that never was mine, how you reflected my eyes? It must be the greatest of all waiting lapses; the one when love is scorned.. If it were love! For those who peal the garlands of our fragrance; the few who stoop to solitude.. If it were only love! Five years! I grew to feel the rock and I became the ice, at least a little.. In time, my pulse was chilled in unison with its wandering dreams.. Yet, never did I know my resting place; submerged beneath the brine.. The virus fooled me so completely.. So complete was the lie! My eyes betrayed my dust, and the dust I am must return to dirt.. My dirt.

Five years! Filth buckets! Grim, grim, grim years with her… with whom? I dunno… see! Look here.. What’s your name? Berg?.. Berg?.. I’m a fluke… there.. Crack! Ssahk! Numb.. Just a fluke.. Swick!! Swahk!

Published by RealityStudio on 4 April 2011. Originally published in a private edition by Buchet-Chastel in Paris on 21 June 1965.

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