Being The Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011
1 The Exchange Sunday, January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday, February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos Tuesday, May 10, 2011
14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas Wednesday, June 15, 2011
21 Sinan Qua Non Saturday, June 25, 2011
22 Spirit-Level Sunday, July 10, 2011
23 Witness Saturday, July 16, 2011
24 Alcibiades Friday, July 22, 2011
25 Ney Thursday, August 11, 2011
26 Birdsong Thursday, August 18, 2011
27 The Vanishing Point Wednesday, August 24, 2011
28 The Cat Walks Wednesday, August 31, 2011
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being Thursday, September 8, 2011
Becalming Unscientific Postscript
The Approximate Likeness of Being
“The metaphysicians of Tlön are not looking for truth, nor even for
an approximation of it; they are after a kind of amazement.”
Jorge Luis Borges
“It is the egotism of love that disregards the woman, and
cares nothing for her real inner life . . .
Love is murder.”
Sex and Character
As he passed the open door of his bedroom Jerome Flanagan heard the branches of the plum tree as they rattled against the window. He stopped and had a brief glimpse of a shadow moving through the branches outside. Soon the intercom buzzed, and he pressed the lock release without having enquired who was there. He waited by his opened apartment door and looked downwards towards the sliver of light under his neighbour Felicity’s door. High-heeled shoes tapped towards him along the corridor keeping, rhythm he thought with Cohen and Kremer’s Zohar that was playing on his CD. He saw her shadow first and then the shoes, red pointed shoes.
‘Hello Rio,’ he said, looking up.
‘Jerome,’ she responded quietly, as she stared into his eyes.
He leant forward to kiss her, but she shook her head, and he watched as a curl of distaste – or pity, perhaps – pulled her lips away, past him. He followed her into the apartment and the front room.
‘It shouldn’t have ended this way,’ he said to her back.
‘Nothing is ever ended, Jerome. You know that,’ she replied coldly as she scanned the room.
‘What are you planning to do?’ he asked.
‘Jack and I are heading for Eleuthera. I might not leave this time.’
‘It’s not right, Rio.’
‘What’s not right, Jerome?’
‘Running away,’ he said.
‘Running towards something, more like,’ she grunted dismissively. ‘Jack needs me. I need him. Anyway, I’ve been down the road before.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘May I sit down?’
‘Of course! Excuse my manners. Would you like a drink?’
‘No thank you.’
He watched as her skirt rode up her slender thighs as she settled into the chair. ‘Do you mind if I do?’
She shrugged and waited as he crossed the room to fill his glass with malt. He took a seat opposite her. ‘What do you mean about having been down the road before? he asked, fingering the glass.
Her eyes flashed a warning of what was to come. ‘Jack and I. . . we were . . . are lovers –’
‘What? When?’ Flanagan spluttered but at that moment he understood.
‘It started, at least the adult version did, when I was 19, on Eleuthera. Four months of hedonistic fun, unquestioned, without regret, without obligation. On and off since then, whenever he felt the need and I felt like giving. ’
‘Does that shock you Jerome?’
‘Fuck it does! But why Jack . . . your fucking uncle of all people. That’s incest. What is it he holds over you, Rio?’
‘That’s easy! Jack’s passion for me is stronger than my passion for me. Also . . .’ Her voice trailed off and her eyes closed.
‘Also what, Rio?’ he asked softly.
She was suddenly somewhere else in her thoughts and did not answer him.
‘Also what?’ he demanded.
Her eyes opened. ‘Passion! Jack has it, Mac also – in a way, but not you, Jerome. Not you.’
Flanagan’s focus returned and he saw the intensity, the truth in her eyes. ‘Yes, perhaps you’re right.’
‘Did you ever want me, really want me, Jerome?’ she asked.
‘The truth Rio?’ he questioned, staring right at her.
‘The truth Jerome,’ she demanded.
‘Someone once said that in life, love and even suicide a woman will think of others, and the effect on others whereas a man thinks only of himself. When I think of you, when I think I really want you, I am not thinking of myself and that bothers me, gets in the way. You are one of the most desirable women I have ever encountered. You could have anybody you want.’ Flanagan’s hands began to shake at that point and he could feel the tightening in his throat begin. He put the glass down, awkwardly, on the small table. She leant towards him and he had difficulty focusing on her face. The nearer she got, the more difficult it became.
‘Desirable!’ she dismissed. The word rippled over the skin of his face with its scornful vibration. Receding from him a little she continued, ‘That’s your fucking problem, Jerome. Desire, love even, is an approximation. It’s a need to create something, an illusion of being instead of being something.’
‘It’s close enough for most people,’ he argued and sensed immediately that this irritated her.
With an abrupt movement Rio stood up, walked to the centre of the room, kept her back to him and began to remove her clothes. He was mesmerized by the revelation and what was revealed, and wondered if it was really happening. She turned, came back to him and straddled him in a hazy nakedness. ‘Is this close enough for you, Jerome. Why not accept the reality that I actually exist beyond your desire. Fuck me here and now. Express your need.’
He said nothing, was too stunned to say anything, but leant forward to touch her skin just above her hip and moved his hand slowly towards her breast. Her skin goose-pimpled beneath his touch. He stopped and looked up at her. ‘It’s something I cannot be, cannot do’ he said as he pushed her off him and he stood up. He leant down to pick up her shirt from the centre of the living-room carpet and handed it to her. He watched her shrug, then turn away to dress in silence. She was neither disappointed nor embarrassed, he realised. ‘Thank you all the same,’ he said when she was fully clothed.
She sat down again and her voice softened. ‘Remember in the Church in Istanbul I said I was not very good at love but passionate about loving.’
‘I just want the expression not the reason.’
‘Is that why you took up with Flatley? No reason?’ he probed.
‘It’s what I am, Jerome. Its what I need to be me. Loves, hate, like, affection, attraction are simply volitions, the exercise of my will and are too easily modified to suit that wanting, that need. What I want to experience is not the sense of will, but the sensation. Like with Jack. I like the rotting depravity of it and its aroma of inevitable extinction. An orgasm with Jack inside me is asphyxiation. Sometimes I reach a level of arousal so intense I feel nothing, sense nothing, am nothingness. That sensation is my reward. That for me is being, and the uncontainable.’
‘Christ!’ Flanagan examined Rio for a long time.
‘I’m sorry to have shocked you so much.’ She leant forward to touch his hand.
He pulled away. ‘I now understand,’ he said angrily.
‘Understand what Jerome?’
‘You, the unforgiving you, Rio! Does Mac suspect about you and Jack?’ Flanagan had difficulty swallowing the spittle that had accumulated in his mouth, and its bitter taste.
‘No, of course not! I told him that I was going to take up with Gerrit after we all came back.’
‘Why, for God’s sake?
‘Mac wanted me to marry him.’
‘And?’ Flanagan’s hands began to shake uncontrollably; Rio stared at them.
‘I said no, of course. I’m not the marrying kind, Jerome and right now Mac’s passion for me is dangerous.’
‘Shit! How did he take it?’
‘Badly but I didn’t have a choice. Not after what happened in the restaurant.’
‘I don’t think you ever had a chance to choose, Rio . . . and Jack has taken advantage of that – again.’
‘I took advantage of him, if you must know.’
Silence crept up and settled in the space between them. The music finished and, glad of the excuse, Flanagan stood up and moved to the stereo. He felt the two of them were dancing a tango, with their emotions and their expectations of each other. If only I could dance, he thought, and sought out Astor Piazzolla’s Exile of Gardel in the rack. He found it but his hands were cramping and he could not open the box. Easier to rerun Zohar again, he decided, and so he touched the play button. Another image then suddenly dominated. Bloody weird, he thought and turned to look at her. ‘Poor Mac, castrated, metaphorically of course, by the uncle Fulbert,’ he said quietly.
‘What?’ Rio was only half-listening.
‘The Historia Calamitatum,’ Flanagan explained more emphatically, ‘Abelard’s classic medieval tale of the love affair between Heloise and himself and of their overpowering passion for each other. And of her Uncle Fulbert, Heloise’s guardian, who couldn’t abide that passion and had Abelard castrated. It’s ironic in a way.’
‘What is Jerome? I don’t understand what you are getting at?’ Rio looked puzzled.
‘Abelard’s Heloise was officially known as the Abbess of Paraclete, after the oratory where her order of nuns was based.’
‘Paraclete?’ she questioned, surprised.
‘Yes. Weird isn’t it? A closure of the circle you might say.’
Rio glared at Flanagan for a long moment. Her opal irises dilated then narrowed again and her words, when they came, were brittle, ‘I’m not sure that I believe in closure, Jerome – ever!’
She is beautiful, truly beautiful, Flanagan thought as he noticed her lower eyelids rim with the beginning of tears, like small pearls on the rim of an oyster-shell. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked as he passed her a tissue from his pocket before retaking his seat.
She dabbed at her eyes with the tissue. ‘Nothing is ever fully resolved Jerome. Our loves, hates, desires, satisfactions, retributions even, might approximate enough to accept but examined carefully you know deep down that “closure” has not happened, is not likely to happen and can never really happen. That is why, I think, I prefer the sensation and not the sense. In the pond of life, once the rock is thrown, so to speak, those same circles, like passion, spread out like ripples, carrying the closure somewhere else.’
‘What are you not telling me, Rio?’ he asked.
She hesitated for a moment but then explained, ‘The Book is still missing. I think Mac might have taken it but I’m not sure.’
‘Why do you think that?’
‘He was nearby at the explosion and also . . .’
‘A more personal thing! A computer disc with a diary of mine on it is also missing. I think he has them both but I cannot track him down. I want you, need you, to get them back for me.’
‘I don’t know about the Book, Rio. It has cost too much already. I’m not sure that it is necessary anymore. Not for me anyway. Anyway I've heard on the grapevine that the Turkish government are creating huge waves about it being taken out of the country illegally. They want it back. So what if Mac has it?’
‘Right now I think Mac is unstable; drinking again and all that. Joyce told me that you are the only one he really trusts.’
‘Did she now? What else did she say?’
‘That you helped him before.’
He looked at her, not sure that he really wanted to know her real reasons. ‘I’ll try Rio. Not for the Book or your diary, but for Mac.’
‘What do you mean? I thought that finding the Book was your life’s quest.’
‘Which you wanted a piece of? No . . . forget I said that, Rio. The Book for me, I know now, was no more than the dreaming of something that can never be. What did you call it earlier? An approximation! I think that’s true for the Book. It’s an illusion from the past. Alanna’s death taught me that. The present has enough history already.’
‘Then it was all a waste . . . you and I, Phyllis, Gerrit, Ahmed . . . all of the pain and hurt.’
‘Nothing is a waste Rio. Not according to you in your case anyway. It’s the price and pleasure of your being!’
‘What do you mean?’
‘In the sum of things we are sometimes fortunate to have our misfortune become significant enough to warrant attention to our living . . . our continued being in which it is forbidden to forget that we exist . . . still exist, Kierkegaard’s paradox.’
‘What has that got to do with me?’ she questioned.
‘What you said earlier about passion! You are right Rio. Existing, the expression of “I” should be passionate and I just don’t seem to have that capacity anymore. I’ve settled for liking myself, my approximate likeness of being.’
‘Why –’ She began to ask but stopped when she saw his hands begin to shake violently again.
Qum Kalthoum’s voice on Angel suddenly faded. Frog sounds and Cohen’s trumpet gave way to The Merciful One. They look at each other for what seems an age. Rio finally decided against asking about his shaking. The thoughts and images were crowding in on her: Gerrit’s death, Jack’s needs, Mac’s disappearance, her behaviour earlier, her diary, the Book, the Paraclete . . . Jerome’s shaking hands and his fucking paradoxes! I can’t deal with any more shit right now, she thought and stood up. ‘Goodbye, Jerome.’
Flanagan nodded and followed her to the doorway. She allowed him to kiss her cheek. ‘I’ll try and find the Book, Rio. And Mac as well!’ he said, meaning to help but knowing it was impossible . . . for him.
She nodded her head and was gone.
Flanagan pushed gently against the door to close it quietly but it suddenly accelerated and slammed shut loudly. Behind him the calico curtains billowed in a breeze that suddenly wafted through the half-opened patio door to lift the hairs on his neck. He turned to make for the far end of the room but something stopped him in his tracks. In the muted distance he could hear her footsteps on the marble-floored corridor coming back. They are so confident, he thought. But why is she returning, he asked aloud. The stiletto taps suddenly stop. He then heard voices, muffled at first but then louder: two distinct voices. He wondered what was happening and decided to find out. His hand was twitching badly as he tried to pull at the security latch. He then heard a scream, a woman’s screaming. He fumbled urgently at the latch. There was a wail, ‘Oh God, nooooo!’ Rio’s voice, he knew.
Suddenly there was a loud bang, a thud, then a moment of silence and then, yet another bang. The walls around him vibrated. Then Flanagan heard the creak of Felicity Fellows’ door opening and then yet another scream, a piercing, despairing scream. Felicity, he realised, was screaming out his name. Finally he managed to release the latch and open the door. He rushed out and nearly fell over her. She was kneeling, keening almost, collapsed to her knees in the middle of the corridor, her hand outstretched, pointing. A stream of blood was tracking towards her over the polished marble, and it mingled with the fine layer of red dust that had been brought in on the wind.
Flanagan followed the compass of her hand. He saw Rio’s body slammed at an angle against the wall, her blackness bleak against the brilliant white gloss paint. On the wall a splatter design surrounded a painting of a Connemara bog. Blood and pink tissue dribbled down the glass picture frame like melted ripple ice cream. Rio’s hand was jerking, her left eye staring and her right eye replaced by a hole with black, rimming powder burns. The back of her head was missing. He recoiled for an instant but then rushed forward to clutch her hand. Already Rio’s skin was cool. He tried to cradle her head but there was no strength in his arms and she flopped down again. Her head, what was left of her head, smashed against the marble floor tiles with a crunching sound. He looked back towards Felicity, looking for help; looking helpless.
But Felicity’s mouth was open in yet another – this time silent – scream, and she was pointing again, this time over his shoulder toward the main doorway.
Flanagan looked behind him. Beyond where the glass inner partition should have been, another slumped body, another half missing head, lay bent over backwards, covered in shattered glass. He saw a clump of blood and tissue on the ceiling, shaped like a butterfly. He thought of a Rorschach blot roaring out an interpretation of the madness before his eyes. He saw that there was no lower jaw, and what remained of a rendered face was staring in his direction.
Cormac McMurragh’s fingers were still curled around the trigger of a shotgun. They jerked, as if trying to fire again . . .