Archive for the ‘Dystopia’ Category

A Splinter of it all at Arkakao

Sunday, September 19th, 2021

So many mornings my natural instinct to rise once I'm awake is simply gone. I don't want to remember what's happened, much less accept reality as it now stands. At least, in sleep, I'm either confused enough to dream him into being, or flatly, blissfully out, unaware. In one such brief pause of unconsciousness this morning came the memory, unbidden and seemingly related to nothing at all, of an odd woman we'd met --or, rather, been forcibly met by-- at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires.

I suppose it's not entirely fair to call it "a" coffee shop; in truth it was a sort of salon de residence, a place so fondly loved as to become something of an extension of our apartments. We discovered it one day on a long stroll through Recoleta --the walks in Argentina's capital afforded double-digit kilometer journeys by foot on the regular, with enough confangled and poorly-designed twists and turns of street and sidewalk to make every pass a little different. It was near a grassy nothing of a neighborhood park approached by a multitude of streets at crazy angles, and for the first few months after it was found I struggled to get us back there, even with a few editions of hand-drawn maps.

But we pressed through, and made the place a regular haunt. It was a gleaming white palace of coffee and confections, particularly ice cream. Buenos Aires being unrivaled in ice cream throughout the world as far as I know1, Arkakao was the top of its class in the city. This, on quality alone, but what really cemented the shop as a favorite was its respect for its own craft and presentation. I do not exaggerate when I say that the vast majority of such offerings in BsAs are shoved into ten square meters of space, or else serve ice cream and coffee only in cheap plastic cups with sporks and a zillion packets of splenda, or else have literally no reception at all, like a wheeled cart that somehow got stuck on the road and opted to pretend itself a cafe.

Arkakao was comfortable, an important point after hours of treading the often rough pavements of the city. The ceilings were high, the windows were large, and a polished gold samovar dominated the room, from which all good things flowed and around which all goodies were arranged. Arriving there felt akin to reaching an illuminated page in a long book; it was a sensual idea tucked into the string of ideas that tied the man and I together as we walked, and talked, and he told me things I'd never known nor known I hadn't, endless twists of mysteries and histories that taxed my imagination and memory more than the walk could ever tax my feet, even though they sometimes bled.

One such evening, halfway through a cup of turkish fig ice cream and cappucino, as he was teaching me about the nature of nuclear explosions with many a scribbled napkin of mine in tow, a woman walking strangle side-to-side approached us with a wide, conspiratorial smile. We looked up from the discussion and acknowledged...nothing in particular, no change in expression, just an inching ever closer and closer to our table --so we left her to her strangeness and went back to our business.

Except she just kept coming, until eventually she was practically part of the table, a standing woman in varicoloured streams of whatever fake silk, the sort of pashmina or katan or whatever garments make up the bizarre fashion vocabularies of the menopausal. On finally being proffered a "Yes?" from the man, she introduced herself, not that I can say I remember her name, and she announced that she'd just had a grandchild, whose name she didn't give. That was why she was so excited, she said, though I would not have been at all surprised if it turned out she'd simply laced her ice cream with valium and confused an alleycat with some new progeny. Then she stepped back, as if to take us in, and said that she was happy for us, because she could tell, "It's gonna be good."

It had been, and it was, and I can feel naught but profound gratitude for every moment I had by his side, under his hand. I can't imagine anyone on this earth has had it half so good as to love and be loved by someone so singularly great, to be wholly owned by someone willing and capable to rip anything and everything out, or to emplace anything desired. Save time, I could not have asked for more. All memories, microcosms of the splendour of life with him: of which this, amidst the chaos and clamour of Buenos Aires, our favorite ice cream shop, its extravagances, and its fortune-telling extrovert, is but one of the uncountable many.

  1. And while perhaps not exhaustively, I do know. []

An Attempt at the Life & Times

Monday, August 30th, 2021

What life, what times, ridiculous concepts in the context of all-consuming death. And yet, things do occur; somehow, ignorant of their own meaninglessness, items, beings, happenstances still have, and take, place. Sometimes I notice, sometimes I cannot. Often I feel gratitude for what remains. Often I spite myself for feeling anything but thickest fog and deepest black. Meanwhile, MP had ordered a new camera some time back, and I can't spite myself for feeling how incensed he'd be if it were left unused, just as I'm sure he'd be incensed if I demurred from the resistance of the medium1 and left this space blank, so long as I breathe.

Let's pretend, then, together, to care about something outside the scope of oblivion:

begonias

Some begonias. Artfully shoving their viny forearms into the faces of the hydrangeas I actually planted, these begonias came as though from nowhere, never having been chosen, planted, or even much tended to. But on they bloom.

lookout

Coffee plantation lookout, from the (higher) coffee plantation lookout. Not that one needs look out for coffee here; it's everywhere! But if it's neatly rowed, it gets noticed. And if it gets noticed, it gets a lookout. And if the lookout's particularly nice, it gets a lookout of its own. And if....

hibiscus

Hibiscus Exemplaris

scratchy

There was a scratching, one night. In the wee hours of the morning, before the terrible dawn. A sort of scratch-writhing, as though a spiked golf ball were tossing itself about under my desk. I isolated the sound to this computer chassis box, took the box outside, and waited until morning, when the Bimbo suggested it was maybe, perhaps, a newly-hatched gecko?

Plausible! So I rushed out, opened the box carefully, anticipating rewards of cutitude and adorablosity...

scratcher

...but it was merely another participant in the great beetle show, digging his way down, rather'n up, for some god-forsaken reason unknown outside of beetlekind.

bush

Bush interprets burning.

footrow

And the many feets wish you a swing, a toecurl, and a pleasant evening, inasmuch as such can be had. It's neither clear nor comfortable in this truest post-apocalypse the earth ever dreamed up. But so it goes, apparently.

  1. The anchor link here is perhaps not the most relevant use of the "resistance of the medium" term of art as found on Trilema, but I'm anchoring it there anyhow in a fit of appreciation for that specific piece. Find me anyone else on this earth, past or present, or even fucking fictional if you like, why not, with half as much courage and initiative as Mircea Popescu to ask intelligent questions and follow them through all the way to the end, no matter how daunting, no matter how disappointing, time and time again. With the graciousness to then document it all, thoroughly, reasonably, openly. Often enough, in multiple instances, suited sufficiently to different minds and contexts to allow absorption by just about anyone willing, regardless of whatever learning disabilities've been baked into their heads. Not with an agenda, not to satisfy some bias or persuade some audience, but because that's the thing to do. Zero fucking bucks passed. []

The Sand Dollar

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

The temperature dials are still set to twenty-two degrees. I wake, breathe, falter, hold in the chaos as though it were filling some invisible but palpable bladder, always on the verge of bursting. I water the flowers --the new and the old, the ones that knew your appreciation and the ones that, like strangers, do not. I force myself to talk to people. The fact comes out of me like water pouring from my mouth: hello, my name is Hannah, my Master just died. In one way or another, everyone knows who I am talking about. Everyone takes a little step back, and puts some platitude between us, though I don't know what else I'd expect. Nothing. Nothing changes.

Nothing changes, and yet everything has. The temperature dials in the car still sit at their appointed twenty-two degrees, but now and then, as if in mechanical refusal to accept reality, the car won't start. I wake, and breathe, and forge, and falter, but beneath the surface of action there is storm, not calm; more questions than absolution. You, Master, are life. How can a single thing dare to go on living?

Some months ago, a stretch of time measured hilariously past when time has, for anything that matters, stopped, we went to the beach. The same beach, one of many times at that same beach, and after seeming ages of that dance with death in the waves, we went for a walk on solid ground. The tide was out, yielding a glistening path on the shore in which tiny geometric rivulets of water coursed to or from the sea, reflecting all the while the peach and dust rose tones of the approaching dusk. Master bent over and picked up a sand dollar: perfect, pristine white, entirely intact, a holy relic for they who search the surf for natural treasures. He'd found so many, and my fellow slave too; but this one he gave to me, and told me to safeguard it. I'd broken the last such specimen in my fist while unthinkingly catching some tossed trinket with the other, some time past, a little shattered testament of my own motor confusions.

I brought it home safely and we talked of how to maybe make a necklace or some other decoration of it. I placed it on my boudoir bureau, on a little purple velvet cloth passed down from my dead grandfather, next to friendly rocks and knick-knacks, the egret statuette where sit my rings, small oil bottles, a cup holding various brushes. And there it sat, for months, until....

I brushed my hair one morning, and replacing the instrument in its woven cup, let go, not fast enough to catch it falling back out and onto the velvet cloth, its tip directly against the sand dollar. As though it had been shot, as though some sniper had expertly found its very center and triggered true, the holy relic broke into thousands of pieces, shards and dust, chunks and granules, irretrivably other than what it had been. I swore at myself and made a fair fuss. Master saw the misfortune and soothed me, let me not think too much of it, though each new time I saw its pieces or picked up my brush I felt a little loss.

I felt a little loss, and then, not much later, came the largest one, the largest loss possible, greater than myself, and all else, by such orders of magnitude I shudder at the mere contemplation: him. I see my life in the ruined sand dollar: irretrievably other than what it had been, recognizable perhaps in pieces but undeniably broken. At the worst of times, I imagine I see him in the ruin, too; but he is as far from shattered as he ever was. His deeds still sing their strength and glory, far past the bounds of my memory and beyond, into the world that somehow dares to keep on spinning --perhaps a mere homage, perhaps no more than medium to bear the testimony of difference: then, when he deigned to walk it, and now, when he does not.

Droning down

Sunday, August 22nd, 2021

Fear seems a ridiculous concept, and yet I do: fear reality returning to the plastic facsimile it was before we met. I listen to the droning on of the people I've asked to fill my ears with their droning, an attempt to drown out the terrible quiet. The sudden quiet in the absence of your voice, joyous, deliberate. I listen to the droning on and find remarkable how little there is to care about. How little there always was. With you, next to you, under you, everything was interesting --all things, capable of being considered. Discarded quickly, perhaps, or shrugged away, but still a thing under the sun of your gaze, even if for a fleeting moment. I suppose the consideration for all perdures, but the algorithm that's different; the thing itself was examined before, and now, it's the relation to you, or more often, the lack thereof, that's under the lens.

What can I say about someone else's vague story of a house, or the wind, or a mood, some inconsequential scrap, except for what it might've been in your hands? What can I care for anything but where it might have lived in the annals of your life? Nothing means anything without you in it, and so I am so grateful for your presence in everything, everywhere. The exuberance, the willingness of you made all things yours, and so they remain. I realize they, and I, and life itself, cannot return to what they were, and so I need not fear it --but missing the energy you brought to every moment, we are all less vivid. And I long to be washed away.

A few steps.

Friday, August 6th, 2021

Things fall apart, the poet said, before there was what to fall, before the deliverance from sloth and ignorance, homogeneous ruin.

I remember the early days; the miles walked, desperate to keep up with him. His steps, like letters on a rolling printing press, wrote in sidewalk echo the narratives that poured forth from his mouth, his hands, as the world passed beneath his feet. The soft sound of his footfalls stopped now here to smell some roses, now there to point out some crack in the familiar world, a shoddy roof, an accomplished ant trail. Or the toes would turn to me and I would stand before the reprimand; for not knowing my basics, for speaking out of turn; or he'd kiss me with his eyes lit up and open, all space beyond a foot from us receeding into nothing, never, what and wherever.

Across four continents I walked with, for, because of him. His walks made me become myself, because my self was forced into shape in the space between his strides, in the striving to match his pace, the will to follow his lead, in the perception of how beautiful any, every step with him could be. In palaces and through favelas, to tango and manele, noon and midnight, asphalt and jungle, sand and stone, we walked.

I am but one of many, I know, who learned to walk with him. Who learned a deeper love, or, rather, were left with no choice but to learn a deeper love of him through distances in time and space spent covering the world, real and abstract. My odometer gave up long ago, but the memories, I hold still, and know in other hearts and minds who knows how far away fundamentally similar if inescapably distinct memories float on, full of him. There is nothing in the world I should like better than another walk with the man. To walk forever, into the end, together.

Or just once more. Just one more walk.

Null jokes

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

"Schtrap in 'cause my humor's about to get dark!"

Also known as "these aren't even real jokes!" and "I don't know what part of Australia you'd have to be from to imagine 'null' rhymes in any way with hoe, moe, or joe.".

***

"Do you feel like everything special about you has just been taken away?"
"What? No. Do you?"
"Sometimes."
"Why?"
"Because it's like you're in this schpear--"
"This what?!"
"Schpear..."
"Wtf is a schpear! How do you figure you're not special when you're coming up with shit like 'schpear'?!"
"Because you and master are the only ones who would even notice that. It's like if a tree falls down in no one to hear--"
"I challenge you to actually say what you mean there."
"It's like if a tree falls down in a forest, but there's no one around to hear it. Does it still make a sound?"
"Well done."
"Thank you. What do I get."
"I dunno, what do you want? I gave away my last marble1 to he who deserved it, so..."
"Fuck. I don't want anything."
"I can give you not anything."
"Sounds good. Goes along with the rest of how I feel."

***

'Cause I mean, the box that they put the urn in --if it has a little door with a handle and everything, shouldn't it also have like...a window? They lined it with some wallpaper stuff, why not put in a couch? Some lighting?

***

I keep telling people about our tuna thing2, and they think it's really weird."

"Oh really? I told my parents, and they didn't seem to think it was strange at all."
"Probably because they're hippies."
"What would you tell your parents we're eating in order to make them think it was a normal dinner? Spaghettios and velveeta?"
"Velveeta shells & cheese."
"Why, so you can throw up and die at the same time?"

***

"Can I ply you with some cashews?"
(sad face, shrug, head shake) "But I think I'll have a cookie later. If that's okay."
"Sure." (places dish of cashews on knee) "...if you can get yourself a cookie while being my nut stand."
"I'm used to being your nut stand."

***

"Hey how's that supposed grief catacomb thing progress, you know, like 'denial, anger, fear, guilt, err...'?"
"I don't know, I never really paid attention to all of that, it made me so mad."
"Well so then I guess at least we know what stage you're stuck in."
"Fuck you, man."

***

(On a walk.)
"Wasn't there a bakery or some other landmark we used here?"
"I think so --maybe a pet store or...yeah, a bakery. Maybe a pet bakery?"
"Oh no!"
"No, like a bakery for pets, although I understand why you'd take the other interpretation right now."

  1. We'd developed, over the past year or so, a sort of marble-based betting system. See, it's fun to bet with those you love, but in the context of a master/slave relationship...what are you going to bet with, exactly? So I gifted master a painted box full of marbles over christmas, and thus the pool was started. It's perhaps not shocking that I never amassed anything warranting the name of trove, or even clutch really...and in the end, after a particularly embarrassing geographical confusion and something involving Jessica Lange, I was left with just one. I put it in his pocket afore the body was laid to rest. Whether it be trinket or currency now is left for the living to guess. []
  2. I've been calling it tuna weirderole myself. It's a strange thing, living amongst gourmand cabinets fully-stocked, with the ability to make just about anything you'd want, except...you don't want anything. Not to cook, not to eat, just...bleh. But if we don't eat, we can't think, and shit starts breaking pretty quickly, so in comes tuna weirderole: divella tricolore, canned tuna in water, avocado, plain yogurt, celery seed. []

The Comedian

Friday, July 16th, 2021

The Comedian1 asks for a lot of credit upfront, as for instance in the unspecificity of the title, or the conceptual "has been" television personality that nevertheless never was; in the same way it's incredulous that I'm apparently typing out a2 Trilema-style film review, it's incredulous this gang of movie graybeards attempts to pass off its in-the-biz buddy-buddy elbowing in 2020s shitpaper as authentic.

Believe, it asks, in marginal motifs, in the sacred love between cellared New York comedy clubs and sixties Chicago jazz. Believe that the craft in the hands of the crafter never dies, believe that honesty is still valued not to mention noticed among the herds, believe nobody really buys into the old boys institution, believe. You could, too, were it not shoved down the throat in fits of anachronism to make the whole thing more palatable to modern audiences. Part of that force feeding is the cuckification of every potential male character in the film: the lead's quite literally removed from his own procreation, Keitel's stunted tough guy's all threat and no follow-through3, even the president of the erstwhile friar club's revealed to be a bit of man-gauze thrown over a sad display of stolen jokes and self-doubt.

And then, well...then there's Leslie Mann's borderline sleeve, which would come across as an excellent rendition of that particular psychological presentation if it weren't the case that's all the woman ever portrays, but exactly. An entitled, unassailable foil for the incompetent man: the incompetent woman who'll just do things anyway, the process making her more pretentious instead of more reflective and humble, as it would in any sane head.

Toss this salad with another pass of Devito shoeing his lookalike daughter into the cast for no apparent reason, a smattering of (real! hardworking! believe!!1!) stand-ups that safely covers every single stand-up cliche in the book4, and --actually no, that about covers it.

We watched this thing with a bottle of wine while attempting to somehow take something like a break from the harem's constant screaming, crying, attempting to focus, pulling of hairs, &c, which is perhaps too much to ask of any film the harem can stand to watch right now (if it's not transparent, I mean: bad ones, or at least, ones that hadn't yet made it to the good list, or the so bad it's good list, or in any case would just immediately plunge us into the memory of the last time we watched it with Master and...). So it goes with The Comedian, though I suspect it'd fare little better in a previous, still functioning, still breathable, world.

  1. 2016, by Taylor Hackford, with Robert De Niro, Danny Devito, Harvey Keitel, Leslie Mann. []
  2. Aspirantly. Aspiringly? []
  3. He's got a Vin Diesel clone in tow to make sure the lock stays on nice and snugly. []
  4. Asian guy: "So my parents are from Taiwan, they immigrated to Texas before I was born. I think immigration is incredible, I mean, the notion of moving to an entirely foreign country so that your kid has better opportunities, and then your kid becomes a stand-up comedian." The gay guy does stupid neck pantomimes, the black guy does a flat white cop impersonation, the jewish woman harps on older jewish women...the predictability is about on the level of elementary school fire drills, otherwise notated as the furthest possible distance from comedy. []

Three Motes of the Master's Passing

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

I watched a swoop of swallows circle round the mountain tops and jungle outgrowth of the enchanted lands beyond the window. They described a churning vortex in the air, delighting in the current afore a storm, then soared towards nearby skies above the town where so much recent life played out. A funnel of sharp-winged birds, inching gradually west, until at last a final visible few turned some trick and just like that, blinked out of view.

They flew like a turn of phrase. They twirled in fluid zeugmas recalling the joy of structure and diction when blessed by the grace of his hands.

***

Crickets greet the steely blues of falling evening with a filigree of song. Their indistinct orchestra fuzzes out the sound of civilization, groaning, unbearable, where beings play, pretend, or posture towards some semblance of his soul. It cannot be pronounced by them, but here and there, the crickets try, with innocent motivation, sending tiny notes of peace to my ears.

***

"Do you think the geckos will miss us?" he asked that fateful morning, before the sun and all the savage senselessness it had to show us. "What do you mean?" I asked, and he said he thought they noticed when we were gone. I watch them traipse the odd trail along the window panes, cackling questioningly in demonstrative mourn. The newest, perhaps too new to know, patrol ineptly in the crease of ceiling, cocking their tiny heads. Where is the booming sound of his laugh? Where, the benign, the open greeting?

The flowers do not nod, but seem to curl on themselves, abashed at perhaps not being now as beautiful. All that he touched, and saw, or smelled, or bit, I know now measures less, to itself, despite ever having been more than everything else.

Called

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

Around the turn of this year, Mircea Popescu and I wrote a book together: Dangerous. He described it as the greatest challenge of my life at that point, and he was right; just as he was right that it was my greatest joy. He wrote,

"For let it be known and trumpeted across the lands -- this is the life of the slave, the true life of the true slave. You wake one day and you are called, and it's always squarely outside of the reasonable, the reasonably expected, the what you thought might happen."

It was a rare day indeed, in my fifteen years under his hand, that I didn't meet with some new challenge, some task that took me beyond my comfort or natural inclinations (and how often are these things one and the same!). The disruption --difficult, often enough (but not nearly always, especially with time) sensually unpleasant, unwieldy-- grated sometimes more than others, but always required an essential thing: it made me open myself, somehow, in some way, to some degree, whether symbolically or literally or otherwise1.

On a Halloween's evening one year, we went out to a self-proclaimed costume party populated by some sort of theatre coven, where a selection of the more artfully attired were gathered on a stage. We watched for a few minutes as they went about their awkwardly-organized attempt at a contest, with voting and all, until MP grew sufficiently bored, and simply picked the most interesting of the girls there arrayed and told me to go ask her if she'd like to come out for coffee and cheesecake with us. "...you mean, when they're done?" "No, I mean now." I hesitated --a frequent fault, forever capable of some measure of harm and no measure of good and yet so often at the ready anyway. "Go on, who cares about their derpy show or whatever it is. Ask her." That feeling of opening pinpricked its way down my limbs as I walked directly across their stage in the middle of their presentation to have an apparently private conversation with the girl, who was standing next to her boyfriend, even. It could have been humiliating; that's what the ego wanted to believe just before it was forced to act, anyway. But it wasn't. All it did was make me more capable: of doing, for him, of answering, to myself, of confronting, others.

Soon after moving to Romania, and while I yet could speak hardly more than a few standard phrases, he pointed me to a certain radio station that played nothing but recitations of hymns. "Pick one," he said, "and write it down." "But I don't know what they're saying!" "Just write down the words you hear," he said. I knew only English, then. Lacking the mental gardens of language, I couldn't even really muster a verbal grid on which to fit the sounds that seemed to come in endless flurries of syllabic chaos, a deranged sort of musical scale: "sa la re na fa ma ca guh shtu fuh le me re deu meu zeu". I tried, more than once, to apologize out of it; clearly I wasn't good enough yet for this task, look how ridiculous, surely he wants me to stop now and be ashamed? "The whole thing." It stung like alcohol poured on a fresh cut that expected only a tentative, split-second dab, but then it stopped, and he laughed and he laughed, and as I recall he even telephoned some relations of his and read it to them so as to laugh with them at me, together. And the vulnerability cast me deeper in love, his control of the space within me, his to laugh at even, intoxicating.

I had a dream, once, that my master said: "Go and document all the water". And my panic was two-fold; on the one hand, for the difficulty in finding a way to even frame the project. On the other, the absolute knowledge that in any case, it must be done. Asleep or awake, in a day's work or in those tasks he gave me that took months or years to carry out, the ways that the man called me inexorably made me, make me, who I am.

And so as I rail against whatever medium will let me --the sky, the sea, the floor, the smiles of strangers who don't know, the watered eyes of those close to me who do-- pressing or cleaving or trying to extract from them what, what, what possible way could I have to meet what I'm called to do now, to witness his death, to exist in the world without him, I am compelled to remember that one essential thing: to make myself open. It's neither pin-prick nor sharp-sting, but a feeling more cutting, deeper and sicker and unbearably strong than anything I'd ever imagined before. It's so far outside of what I thought might happen that I find myself truly doubting it every other second, then reliving it the next. But I am here, and I will let it do what it will, to let it shape me or maim me or kill me or whatever besides, because it is what I have been called to do, and there is nothing else.

  1. I suppose, otherwise as in metasyntactically? Heh. []

Five days after the end of the world

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Motto: "It all feels like the same scummy scuzzy sludge of drudgery."

Leaving the house, the candles blown out, the dogs approach but sense our sadness and turn, panting towards more living things. For we must count with the alive, and yet, we're not; not quite, ghost processes with all the bells and whistles of life but no real vigor. The town is robed in fog or blanched in sun; all the same. The faces, the voices of others grate, melded sameness of not-him, portals to worlds in which he did not tread, and so into which we cannot care to gaze or listen.

Inside our walls some hollow's sturdied up, like wooden rods supporting rag dolls. We muster and step. Muster and step. We make endless lists, holding hopeless tasks, some of which still seem hopeless when the day, whatever that can be, is done --and some of which are conquered. And when, after some hours spent in Master's unmade bed where we dig our faces into the mere visage of sleep, we rise, the realization somehow comes again, anew: life's gone, askew.

We tell each other to keep focus. We push for either to be strong. But the morning comes, and the mourning comes, and the world's now and forever wrong.