Being The Beginning Sunday January 23, 2011
1 The Exchange Sunday January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings
5 Odd Shoes
7 A Love Supreme
8 The Three Cornered Light
10 The Watchman
11 The Upright Way
13 The Cave of Montesinos
16 The Perfect Square
18 The Uncontainable
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being
Becalming Unscientific Postscript
“When the song of one’s self is coming all of a piece, page after page,
an attic room and chamber pot do not insult the soul.”
Flanagan lights a cigarette and returns to looking at the computer screen. The notion of reflection continues to irritate him for in his dream it had sucked him in. What if, he wondered, the universe shakes when he shakes? Not in a chaotic way, but as a result of the bildende Kraft, the formative force? He had long argued with Mac that he thought that everything is a reflection of everything else, and that the whole of time and space is double-helical, reflecting the DNA of the smallest living thing, the beginning and end of themselves, the beginning and the end of all nature; galaxies linked as the nucleic-acids are linked; curved time bending as the helix bends and that the expansion and separation of the universe is a reciprocation of the expansion and separation of the helix in the smallest thing; to divide, to create, to be a template, to renew, to breathe within ourselves: reciprocation. The universe is me, I am the universe, he had argued. When I breathe, it breathes. When I shake it shakes. When I die it dies!
‘What a load of bollix,’ Mac had said.
Flanagan began to read again.
January 6 – early hours:
It really sucks! I don’t feel much like remembering but perhaps writing will help. I’ve started so I’ll finish, as it were! It was only three days ago but already a lifetime since I drove back down to the city from where Séamus and I had arranged to meet. And all of the emotions and the ‘might-have-beens’ of the night… that bloody unfinished night, followed me down. They began early in the journey I have to say…and in earnest. Indeed even by the time I had reached the road exit of the laneway of the house hidden in the mountains, I already felt hedged in by the brooding silence of the May-waiting hawthorn that bordered the laneway.
I had waited there for a time, letting the engine idle and lowering the window to listen out into the darkness for oncoming traffic. Directly ahead of me, across the mountain road, the headlight beams of the jeep had disappeared over a crumbling dry-stone wall into a black hole and the nothingness of a forest of grim pine. I could feel that nothingness and other than a freezing wind that rustled through the upper branches of the trees no other sounds could be heard. Some birthday present eh! The only moment of light relief was when I remembered what Mac had said, after our New Year’s swim, when I told him, in general geographic terms, of my plans for the weekend. He had taken great pleasure in warning me to ‘Watch out for those kamikaze farmers in the mountains, the risible sons of Wicklow screaming Nora, Nora, Nora, as they negotiated bends in methane-fuelled tractors.’
Satisfied that one of the tractors was not about to ambush me I had eased the jeep forward onto the narrow road that tracked around the edge of the mountain and instantly shattered the heavy quietness of the early hour with a rattling, rolling metallic groan of the laneway’s cattle-grid. A few minutes later however I began to second-guess myself, and wondered whether I should turn around and head back to the house; to confront Séamus. To say to him what I had not said; to exchange words like body fluids, loudly, passionately. To break his balls! Being honest Walt, the sex was rough, welcome and long overdue. And yet, it was not like before, when exhausted and satisfied, I would hum, purr like a cat almost, then turn over and have him scratch my back. After only ten days absence, there seemed to be very little between us. Both of us had taken what pleasure the sex brought, but had given pleasure if only to sustain our own. There was nothing in the frenzy for me to wish for it all over again and in the silence that followed I thought about food and he of God knows what. Séamus has always exhibited a period of withdrawal from me, emotionally and physically, immediately after we have ever made love, like he wanted to run away or pretend that what had just happened never actually did happen. Probably because he is married! And he had used the C word. I don’t know why but I hate the way he grunted it out, aggressively, like he was still negotiating a mountain . . . or the way out.
Mind you Walt, from my perspective, it is generally an amusing time for it is in those moments that selfish bastards like Séamus are at their most vulnerable and most guilt laden. It is a good time for pissing them off and I could not resist. I told him I did not like him calling me a cunt, even if he was in the throes of passion. In the prolonged post-coital dysfunction that followed, to further annoy him, I asked whether he was going to leave his wife. I really did want to shatter his reality. ‘I like things the way they are,’ he had replied in a smug fashion, satisfied with his performance – and by implication, I should be as well. ‘Then I might ring F,’ I had said matter-of-factly, flicking his nipple with my finger, before continuing, ‘She probably wonders why I haven’t done so for so long.’
Walt, my apologies, but F will have to remain nameless in the Diary, for it is easier to sleep with, to fuck, the husband of an unacknowledged existence. Like the dodo or woolly mammoth there is a history, a footprint on the earth, but to all intents and purposes she has been hunted out of my existence: declared extinct. I’m sure F knows that Séamus and I are…were involved, as most women instinctively know when their man is somewhere else in his mind. The difference between us is that for her the finding of me, a feral animal, the naming of me, the proving of my continued existence, and the bringing of me out into the open for a reckoning becomes all-important. What to do about the “man” involved becomes a secondary concern. The reaction might be immediate but, for most, the determination is delayed, calculated, chewed upon, rationalised. I know this, having been there before. F does not deserve all this grief. Who does? I remember how we all had first met, Séamus and I, F and I. A conservator at the National Library generously invited me to a house party when I first arrived in Dublin so I could meet most of the other conservators in the city in a social setting. Séamus and F were already there when I arrived. He was a brooding handsome predatory presence whose sense of being completely resided in his crotch. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him and when he rang me a week later, he already knew I’d say yes. F on the other hand had always remained unspoken-of between us, a secret amongst secrets. I had teased him about making contact with F before but this time panic registered in his face. ‘Don’t you dare,’ he'd shouted, slapping my finger away, and then trying to apologize.
I had no real intention of phoning her, of course, but at that moment I wanted to hurt him. I have no call on Séamus, nor do I want his full time attention and would settle for what we had: the stolen moments, the afternoons of sex, the occasional night away. But the bastard now wanted space, now wanted his freedom from me whose only desire is freedom. It’s strange how you assume people will behave in a certain way. Tressa Hughes, my cleaning lady, told me how she once took a job working for a couple where the man was a paraplegic. ‘A walking bastard’, she’d called him – having assumed because he was paraplegic he would be pliant and grateful for her help – on account of his continual obnoxious behaviour…
Flanagan leant back from the screen and rubbed his eyes. He poured himself a malt and let it linger under his nose that he might smell the peat before drinking it. After a short time he returned to Rio’s diary. He had become an observer:
Shortly after exiting the laneway onto the mountain road and beginning the winding descent towards the city, Rio wrote how she had felt real anger welling up inside her and how she'd suddenly swung the jeep, crazily, into a small lay-by, where star lovers and star-crossed lovers often came to gaze at the night sky, and each other, free from the dazzling lights and intrusive eyes of the city far below. She'd really needed at that point some of that loving magic. Pulling up beside the boundary wall, her eyes focused eastwards to where the faint line of the dawn horizon was being rapidly smudged by dark, low-slung, snow-laden clouds that were being pushed landwards by a bitter-cold wind. She'd thought of Napoleon and Hitler being defeated by that same wind. 'Stepped on', she had written. She'd waited there for some time, engine and thoughts idling; fingers tapping against the knob of the gear stick; hesitating and every now and then her focus would drift to look back through the rear view mirror, back up the hill until finally, with an almost involuntary shake of her shoulders, she had accelerated away, down the hill, towards the city. ‘Screw him! Bastard doesn’t know what he is missing out on,’ she'd shouted out the open window. ‘Or does he?’
By the time she had reached the awakening suburban flatlands, the clouds had swept in from the sea and began to dump their load. It had continued to snow heavily throughout the remainder of her journey to the centre of the city, but Rio wrote that she had paid it only passing attention until having to stop at a traffic intersection. ‘Walk, don’t walk. Go, don’t go,’ she had whispered to the lights while waiting there, watching the sky. Suddenly, and for no other reason than she had needed to, as she had always done in times of rejection her thoughts drifted back to the exact moment in time, when as a fugitive child she first became aware of the mystical envelope of dawn snowfalls. She described in the diary how as a very young child, in her Grandpa Dawson’s lodge nestled high amongst the pines of Colorado, where even before she could see, smell or taste the new day, she could feel the new snow’s presence and sense its silence. There had been many other snow-filled dawns for Rio after that first one, when her Norwegian grandmother would come to her and together they would watch the flaking sky. Nan Greta had intuitively understood their impact on her. Normally they would say nothing but just held it other while looking out the frosted windows. On one occasion, perhaps the last occasion that she could remember, Nazn Greta spoke. ‘Fear not, child,’ she had said in deeply Eddic undertones, ‘Dawn snowfalls are important in the balance of things because they hide the movements of the spirits of the winter nights.’
‘What are spirits?’ Rio had asked.
‘Lost souls riding the wind, whispering,’ her Grandmother had replied.
‘Do you know who my father is?’ Rio had asked Nan Greta for the thousandth time, hoping to catch her out.
‘I’ve told you, child, many times. I never knew him and your Mom would never tell me his name.’
‘Does Grandpa know?’ She had asked that one time.
‘No!’ Nan Greta had shouted out, as if in pain. ‘And you are never, never to ask him! It upsets him too much.’
Rio wrote that she remembered crying and crying because her beloved Nan had shouted at her. Seeing this reaction her Grandmother had held her even closer and relented somewhat, ‘He was a musician from the islands child. Jamaica I think. He was long gone before you were born,’ she had answered, with artic dismissal.
The bastard! Making one of me, she had emboldened. Rio then wrote that she had often fantasised as to what her reaction would be if she ever met her itinerant musician father. What do you say to a child whose black skin contrasted so much with the white, white snow of the mountains, that she could never hide? She had wanted the bastard to know what pain he had caused . . . and what all of the other bastards had caused in his stead.
‘When will Mom be coming home, Nan?’, she had asked, again and again.
‘Soon child,’ her grandmother had answered, always apologetic for her missing daughter.
‘When?’ Rio had insisted.
‘When she’s stopped running away,’ Nan Greta had said sadly, listening for the spirits in the snow.
It was shortly after her sixth birthday, Rio wrote, that they had found her manic-depressive mother; the fairy godmother of good intentions; the chain-smoking, chain-fucking, chain-promising sad girl – she was only 23, thirteen years younger than Rio was now – strung-out and strung-up in Wichita Falls, of all places! Grandpa Dawson had driven to Texas to identify his daughter’s body. A mountain of strength, rock-like when he left, he had come back from Texas a crumbled man. With her first decent pay-check Rio had returned to her mother’s headstone and had inscribed on it, 'She has stopped running away.'
...‘I was never confused when you were there, Nan,’ I said aloud to the changing lights while touching the small, gold, hammer-shaped pendant that Nan gave me on her eighteenth birthday. I then had to bring my hand quickly back to the steering wheel in order to negotiate the sharp, right-hand turn at Jury’s Christchurch Inn. At the same time there was a text message on my cell-phone from Mac, reminding me to pick up croissants on my way to work –
As an aside Walt, isn’t it strange that the American terminology for a mobile phone is cell-phone with its paradoxical implication of being boxed-in, entrapped or contained. I remember once reading Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault. He wrote of the technocratic notion – and the danger – of society being an object to be controlled and manipulated by technology but for that technology to work its supposed “transformation and improvement” on a docile population then the individual members of a society would have to be disciplined. This discipline or subjection, would only be effective if individual members are organized and enclosed by a defined space, he called the Grid. Once established, the Grid would then ensure the distribution of individuals who are to be rewarded and those who are to be disciplined. Watching television recently, I saw a documentary about a class of inner-city kids. At one point they were being asked by their teacher to explain what a box is. The answers in the beginning were reasonably normal; a packet, Miss; a square envelope, an empty brick, a place to hide in, but then began to get more and more bizarre as the options were used up until one kid at the back, fidgeting in front of the cameras, put up his hand.
‘Yes, Tommy. What do you think a box is?’ the teacher had asked.
‘It’s a place waiting for something to happen, Miss . . . really bored like.’
I agree'd with that kid. The Grid is boring. Those priests of the Technocratic Age have ensured that there are enough satellites and that soon everyone in the world will have a cell-phone and can be locked into the Grid, to be manipulated at a whim. In Ireland they are called mobiles but it is a freedom in name only, and way overpriced. God I’m tired. Must get some sleep. Séamus has already become another memory. But then, what are memories Walt? No longer ideas but idealisations, laid down one on top of another like vertebrae, until the brain’s capacity – a being’s capacity for being – for layers, is exhausted. Short-circuited thereafter at random, or sometimes deliberated dredged, memories spark to live again to affect my breathing, my heart . . . my soul.
Right now Walt, it seems all of the memories of past birthdays are being dredged up. My mother’s death near my sixth, the Thor locket given to me on my eighteenth by Nan, shortly before she also died, and yesterday’s 36th with Séamus – yet another death in the family. And then there was David . . . David Stein, the psychoanalyst I went to see at college because of surfacing memories who gave me Foucault’s Discipline and Punish for my twenty-first birthday, and then a little later his History of Sexuality. David wanted to help me, he had reassured. ‘Déclenchement,’ he had called it. ‘Use sex to release you Rio,’ he had advised me. Allowing David to lead me on, and then me him, he and I explored every possible avenue to establish our own history, to jerk the sexual-triggers, to explore the limits of the pain I could experience – and had experienced.
In the end, Walt I realised I liked my memories and fantasies to remain separate. I did not want them to become fused like the pursuit of pain and pleasure I shared with David, so similar they no longer served as reference points. In the end I stopped equating pleasure with that pain, and unwilling to submit to it any longer, found it pathetic that David was. Seven months later a midwife in Quebec advised la déclenchement italienne to get my long-overdue labour going and the words immediately triggered an apathy, a state of non-being. Where is she now, that child of my being, of David’s being, I wonder?
Enough for one night. Need some sleep before the meeting.
'Christ!', Flanagan whistled through clenched teeth. Watching you, watching me, Flanagan thinks, remembering the dream that had woken him earlier. He downs a single malt quickly and sits there until the silence in the room suddenly reverberates. Getting up he goes to the CD cabinet, searches for Van Morrison’s album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, places it in the player and waits for the music. Soon Celtic Swing is swirling around him with its conscience of memories and then Rave on, John Donne begins and Flanagan returns to the computer. That child, that nameless child, should be told, he decides, but how? Is it his responsibility to interfere? He opens up a file containing instructions for his solicitor and adds another clause before closing it and scrolling down to the next of Rio’s entries...