I want to crawl inside your carcass- your heart won’t need to beat, I’ll do the work I’ll squeeze it in-out make blood pictures in finger prints and can you still live when I’m sat on your liver? It’s just so cosy in here and it’s a wholesome activity to be filling a cavity assisting coronary in murk undulating dark. I reach up your neck and wave hello- we have to keep up the charade of politeness. Your skin is plenty for me, stroke it back down. People greet you and think you’re alone but it’s ok I’ll put them right, there’s no need for anyone to come near when I’m doing your life job. I’ll crunch my spine in line with you make like a foetus reach through intestines and trace patterns through flesh layers. You have to guess the letters from the outside. You’re moving slower these days people can’t stand the stench, back away. But I know you see my stroked letter words. And I know your smell, I can find it with nostril twitches if I pull out hair strands, savour them, one by one. Inhaling is all I do. I get hungry these days but I don’t mind when I can’t see, I’ll follow your head noises on the Gravesend train stopping.
You must always be intoxicated. It is the key to all: the one question. In order not to feel the horrible burden of Time breaking your back and bending you toward the earth, you must become drunk, without truce.
But on what? On wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But you must get drunk.
And if at times, on the steps of a palace, on the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you awaken, and your intoxication is already diminished or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that flees, everything that groans, everything that rolls, that sings, that speaks, ask what time it is; and the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock will answer you: “It is time to get intoxicated! In order not to be slaves martyred by Time, always become intoxicated! On wine, on poetry or on virtue, as you will.”
Baudelaire, Charles. Flowers of Evil and Other Works. Ed. Wallace Fowlie. Trans. Wallace Fowlie. United States: Dover Publications Inc, 1992.
I might give Maude and Clementine and Clarissa and the rat a coherent place to live (previous short stories, if they can be so called) I’m just too busy to write anything other than snippets at the moment. Too busy writing about black and white and London and Begotten and Baudelaire. I shouldn’t complain, really.
I can feel it. Oppressive panic sensations creeping over my eyelids, my jaw bones itching, acid tickles. Its sharp, dark eyes are feeling their way over my taught skin, my flaws hidden beneath years of treatment. I let the lid open, ajar. A crack of light strikes the gelatinous bulb and my eyelashes crush one another. The tiny bastard is beating me. I can hear the bristles rising on its back, claws scraping linoleum.
Another one, then. This time I cautiously move my hand, careful to avoid any sudden movements, and extend my manicured nails to drag apart my flimsy, reluctant lids. I can feel the iris shudder, a vat of vitreous humour quakes and threatens to spill. Cornea burns. My ciliary muscles grasp at ligaments and tug, strain, do anything to fill my field of vision with tiny colours, black, pinpricks- but I persevere. My skin strains against the plastic nails. One is chipped, tearing a little; a claw rips a tissue. The world turns a strange shade of yellow and shuts down.
Coelenteron animals encircle me with their lack of civilisation. Why always pink? But how did I get here? And is that my kettle? Bursting in a series of undignified bodily steams.
Caught, again. I must try to concentrate harder. A plastic nail has snapped off and is laying on my collarbone. I can see tiny wrinkles in the skin where it is stretched over the bone like crêpe paper. My eyes are still open, I notice, and I can see shapes forming. Are they moving? I was sure I had left the cathedral several days ago. But what is a day, now? I consider Maude, the steps. It is so much more compressed here. There’s nothing on the lower half of my body, I can feel the cold there. Hairs have returned to it, the bad pennies in my body bank, extending their feelers, rustling with the draught over nerve endings I’ve ignored for years. Perhaps… Are there people in here? Ought I to move before I consider the selfish act? But there it is again, I am being watched. The rodent. At last I orientate myself in time.
Maude told me never to walk too close to the clementines. They are so terribly garish, their pores gaping and shrieking. Sometimes if I stare hard enough the leaves make green curlicue patterns in the trembling air. It’s so awfully stifling when I’m not in the mountains. The valleys hurt my ears and my eye sockets; sting them with acid sensations leaving a dull ache. My tongue is safe in its cavern unless I speak, but I stopped that years ago, now. I can barely remember the process of forming a word. I think them well enough, but my mouth won’t make the shapes, tongue twisters foreign. The numb decision was made back in ’89. We didn’t think as hard then as we do now, and I think for all of the time I have been silent I have perhaps economised on saying more things that I shouldn’t than if I had made the decision even a day earlier. I can’t for the life of me remember any of their names now. I sit here each day and gaze into their eyes stacked on my mantelpiece. A lucky cat, a photograph, a flower in a porcelain mug, a girl bleached by exposure, a plastic glitter butterfly, a baby still sticky with amniotic fluid, a dusty red perfume bottle, a smiling boy touching his partner’s forehead to his own, a wooden camel with painted black eyes, needles strewn everywhere, pencils, and dust, so much dust. There was a time when I would clean for hours at a time; I know that, I used to loathe dirt in the wrong context. Those damn clementines outside look so clean, yet they are outside, outside is supposed to be full of dirt. That’s why I can’t open the door any longer. I can’t remember when last I saw those looming snowy tips. Of course, you can barely see it from Chamonix, what was Shelley talking about? I think he might have been here before. The last one to close my door, perhaps. My finger feels a sudden rush of weakness and taps my thigh impatiently. I was never so gaunt, I remember wishing to be skinny, hearing smoky whistles behind my head… But now the skin falls off my bones like silk over scaffolding, folding and billowing as it goes. Not that my bones are anything akin to metal. I would be surprised to discover that I was storing but a litre of cartilage in my entire body. But we keep on, it and I. We keep on.
Maude Hydrangea limped convulsively back up the moulding stone step. An anomalous weed brushed her varicose vein, which lay seemingly dormant on its clammy, mottled calf. Trembling, her left hand eased itself downwards, slowing cautiously to account for rheumatic delays, and upon reaching within a millimetre’s locus of the vein she extended a fragile, jaundiced fingernail, grazing a section of skin that had a moment previously caused her a lethargic itch. The muscles in her side stretched, reluctantly.
Clarissa had said that today would be the last. Dominated, coffeehouses lined the street below, beyond: coherent and vulnerable, they were a concentrated ivy plant leaning away from the looming chasm structure. The air was incessant. Maude Hydrangea huffed a slither of it through her protesting windpipe. Clarissa had definitely said so.
The air really was alarming: thickly persistent. It had a tang, not pungent but suggestive of violence. A tense charge hung, but slept, near Maude’s rampant, discoloured eyebrow. She could feel the blood pulse there- her eye twitched as if a fly were penetrating it, her stomach was swollen, and she was black and starved. Something was at once palpable, and Maude Hydrangea was unnerved, weightless. It was unusual that the endometric walls of her inner nothing were disturbed. She remembered her buzzing youth, silent. The bildungsroman had been erased.
She didn’t wish to be romantic, but she would not splice her DNA with another’s rude and invalid influence. She believed strongly in meaning, and had been disappointed when one day, perhaps late July, perhaps in her late twenties, perhaps January or even her forties, she had noticed she no longer knew any; she could not remember its sensation. Only now: sunshine flooding the kitchen, a golden chest close, rising smoke. A word formed on her dry, empty mouth, and she leaned forwards.