she takes his cock
in her mouth
sucks out a drop of piss
arouses it with tiny
her desire secretes
in concentric ellipses
from the moist spot
between her legs
proceeding at right angles to her actions
aware of an infinity
of alternative erotic planets
his body relaxes sated
her desire intensifies its orbits
prepared to sacrifice the world
necromancing numbers pledge allegiance
to primeval geometry
the barely possible erotic energy
of the nerve endings in her thighs
from delicately jeweled contours of breath
at its moment of desire
like a million feral suns
Its needs surpass you and
its desires expand
in concentric ellipses
and render your flaccid meaty
as a worn-out slave
powerful vulnerable organ
which so many times
has surrounded his genitals
now for the first time
surrounds his mind
breathing out of every
electron and proton
expanding and contracting
speaking to the universe which it has created
and demanding its due
it consumes and digests itself
and emerges from the process
with a new and stronger shape
it glows from the pores of her skin
and the curvature
of her arms legs breasts neck belly
and in the end it glows from him too
so round, firm, circular, whole
he said haltingly.
"I have seen the perfection
of the feminine universe.
I am ready to be inducted
as a subject
of the Empire of Woman."
She spoke slowly and solemnly,
her vagina pulsing
with the rhythm of her words:
"Do you promise to love,
honor and obey;
to always respect the
to treat Woman with the worship
that is her due
as the Creator of the Universe?"
He felt a spark between his legs
and he gave a smile thoughtfully:
The hell with it."
She touched his face
and he responded
with a prodigous erection
For the next forty-seven minutes
he fucked her most vigorously
pressing her down on the bed
with an erotic force
he had never found before
grinding his pubic bone
as if possessed by a galaxy
of demon suns
(luminous spiral orgasm
skin a musical membrane
swarms of tropical birds float past Jupiter screaming)
for several weeks afterwards
it followed her everywhere
like a new kind of glowing
as she walked through the room
he watched not a body
but a nexus of cosmic forces
she ran her hands
through her pubic hair
and winked at him
she slipped on her underwear
Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/7/90, p. 221
PLEXISY ON THE RISE IN CALIFORNIA
According to the latest statistics of the California State Board of Health, reports of plexisy have nearly doubled in the last eighteen months. The precise nature of the malady is not quite clear. It is defined by the American Pschological Association rather generally, as "reality disturbance induced by plex, especially when experienced in conjunction with hallucinogenic chemical agents." But one thing which seems plain is its ability to disrupt people's lives.
The first widely publicized case of plexisy was that of a thirteen-year-old Detroit girl, "Wanda Love" (her real name has been suppressed for reasons of anonymity). Wanda multiplexed with her friends every day after school, often while smoking DMT (bought, according to reliable sources, at the school cafeteria). One day she simply refused to get out of bed and go to school. Unable to make her speak or move, her parents called the doctor. EEG recordings and PET and fMRI scans revealed abnormal brain activity, particularly in the regions of the brain called the hippocampus and temporal lobes. Three days later she simply got up out of bed as if nothing had happened. When questioned she responded that she had "gone home." She described another family, a family of deer, with whom she had lived, and reported a belief that her current life as a human was an illusion or dream. No amount of counseling was able to remove this belief. While Wanda has not required institutionalization, her grades have dropped from A's to C's, and she has become a troublemaker at school, requiring frequent disciplined for unruly or promiscuous behavior.
Wanda's case, while extreme, is in many ways typical. Not all cases involve the use of DMT, LSD or other hallucinogens; it seems to be possible to contract milder cases of plexisy from interacting with the wire in normal states of mind. And, once touched by plexisy, it seems to be almost impossible to go back to leading a normal, productive existence. According to Dr. Wayne Hoobler, of Brigham Young University, "the plexisy-ridden mind is haunted by a permanent sensation of unreality; an inability to come to grips with the fundamental solidity of the world. At any moment the world is expected to disappear, and give way to another, more fundamental realm of being."
It is not clear whether the increase in plexisy is real, or whether it merely reflects an increased awareness of the disease, and a consequently higher incidence of reporting. What is clear, however, is the remarkably high incidence of the disease: about 4-6% of regular plexers seem to be afflicted.
What is to be done about this modern plague? No one is saying that we should give up the wire and return to the primitive ways of the previous century. As Dr. Hoobler says, "an obvious first step is to increase the penalties for sale and use of hallucinogens." Beyond this, however, the course of action isnot clear. Wire science is still in an early phase of development and, at the present time, the dynamics of plexing is particularly poorly understood. More than anything, the phenomenon of plexisy should serve as a call to step up scientific research into this complicated technology, on which we have all come to so thoroughly depend.
Cognitive Morphogenesis. -- When she woke up, D.L. at first thought the whole Tanya episode had been a dream. But then she noticed that, though she was sleeping in her clothes, she seemed to be missing her bra. Apparently she had left it at the scene of the crime.
This thought filled her mind with horror: now her bra would be found in Tanya's apartment; it would be fingerprinted, and she would be locked up. She had an urge to come clean, to run to the police and tell them the story. But then she had an even better idea. She could make this bad turn of events yield something positive. Why not, indeed, let the police find her out? And then her place in prison could be taken by the only other person with the exact same fingerprints. She could get rid of the goddamn double!
On the other hand, she reconsidered, maybe she had just slipped the bra off last night, before getting in bed. She glanced over at the dirty clothes basket and there was a whole heap of dirty bras. She didn't remember which one she'd worn yesterday. How could she tell if....
D.R. lay there with her eyes closed, watching her wilder alter ego. She realized that something strange had occurred on the previous night; some kind of trouble. But a cautious voice inside her advised her not to say anything. Better not to let the double know that she suspected anything.
In fact, D.R. reflected, this double business was getting kind of strange. The two of us should be best friends, she lamented wistfully. Why, we understand each other so well! But instead there has to be this constant undercurrent of jealousy and resentment. D.R. realized that she herself was partially at fault: she wanted Dahlia's life for herself, just as the double did. But Jesus, how could she feel any differently? After all, her memory was the only thing she had to go on. The double, like everyone else, was a blank, to be filled in by guesswork.
The morning was uneventful. D.L. informed the others that yesterday she had gone to work after all. D.R. offered to take her place today, but D.L. insisted on going herself. 'I have to get out of the house,' she said gravely, as though she had been shut up behind closed doors for weeks.
John walked to the publishing house with a sense of relief. Once again it was a pleasure to get away from their suffocating presence. He didn't understand what was going on with the Dahlias, but he understood that they weren't as friendly with one another as they had been. It was all too complicated; he didn't even want to try to think it out.
He sat at his desk for over an hour, straightening things up, cleaning out the hard drive on his computer. Then, finally, he realized he had nothing to do. He had just finished formatting a textbook on nanotechnology -- building microscopically small computers out of molecular parts. It hadbeen interesting, though a little too heavy on the chemistry for his liking; he preferred material on the softer side, psychology or social science. But anyway, the book was out of his hands now; it had been passed on to production. Embarrassed, he rang up his boss, Phil, on the phone.
'Ah, John, I was just about to come see you,' said Phil. He hung up the phone and within fifteen seconds he was at John's desk. 'I'll be going out of town for a month, to help them out with the new office in Auckland. I've got two manuscripts for you to look at while I'm gone. Both by the same author, sort of a package deal. Really, John, they should be no problem for you. It's philosophy and psychology, right up your alley. The first one's a technical work, the other one more philosophical and popular, we might even try to put it out as a trade book. See what you think of it. I've got approval from upper management for you to take complete control of the project. It's a good sign; it means there's probably an editorship in your future.'
John sat up straight and forced a smile. 'That's great, Phil,' he said. 'I really appreciate this. It's a fascinating book.... It should be no problem.'
'You haven't seen the manuscripts yet,' Phil reminded him.
John blushed, then let out a tremendous belly laugh, which was entirely out of character. Phil attributed John's strange reaction to nervousness at the new responsibility being placed on him. He set the manuscripts on John's desk and without another word, he walked away.
Once he got over his embarrasment at his stupid comment, John took a look at the manuscripts. The technical work was called Self-Replicating Systems: A New Approach to Biological and Cognitive Morphogenesis. The popular book was called, more simply, Mindspace, and looked to be a series of loosely connected essays on various topics to do with mind and reality. The author was an Hungarian mathematician by the name of Frigyes Szentogothai. John was a little disappointed to find that his new project -- or half of it, at any rate, was biochemical in nature. He'd had enough of chemistry with the last book. Not that it really mattered what the subject was: his job was only to deal with the margins, the positioning of the figures, the pagination, the different typefaces, the indexing and so on. But it was a point of pride with John to read every book that he helped to typeset. None of the other editorial assistants did this; and even though John never mentioned it to anyone, it made him feel that he was on a higher intellectual plane. When talking to an author on the phone, having a knowledge of the book helped him feel more like an editor (instead of a glorified secretary, which was what he knew he actually was).
John flipped through the Self-Replicating Systems manuscript absent-mindedly. He would, he decided, deal with the manuscripts one at a time. Do the hard one first.... The first few chapters were about the origin of life: hypercycles of enzymes, compartmentalization, autocatalytic reactions.... He'd heard of the words, but he'd long forgotten the meanings. But then, starting with Chapter Five, things got peculiarly less forbidding. It was nothing more than basic mathematics: graphsand matrices, differential equations. The author was trying to give a general mathematical theory of systems that self-replicate, that produce copies of themselves.
Strange as it may sound, it was not until John had skimmed through three fourths of the manuscript that he noticed the connection with own his strange situation. Self-replicating systems? What was going on here? Was this some kind of elaborate joke? Had Dahlia Left planted this here? No, how could she have -- the mathematics all made sense, and Dahlia didn't know anything past algebra. She could have paid someone to do it. But not on such short notice. Anyway the Hungarian had sent in the manuscript a few months ago -- well before the split had occurred. No, it was nothing more than a coincidence. But what a goddamn coincidence, then!
He closed the book and stared down at the cover. But what did it mean, 'Cognitive Morphogenesis.' The development of mental forms.... Nothing in the book had said anything about that. He opened it again, and sure enough, the last chapter, which he'd skipped, was entitled 'The Evolution of Cognitive Forms.' He set about reading the chapter systematically.
John thought back to his college philosophy class. He remembered something that had struck him at the time, something about the 'continuity of consciousness.' Why do we feel time to move in a continuum, instead of a series of discrete steps? His teacher, the white-haired Dr. Grunewald, had compared consciousness to an interior movie screen. Twenty-five frames per second was enough to induce the illusion of continuous motion. Why not the same sort of thing with inward perception? How many 'self-reflections' per second to convince the mind it was a continuous stream?
Szentogothai was in agreement with the good Dr. Grunewald. Continuous experience was an illusion. Instead, the mind was a self-replicating system. It was a system that reproduced itself, asexually, several times every second. The old mind was gone, and the new one, the offspring, took its place.
And the same applied to external reality. Reality was just a projection of the mind; it followed the same rules as the rest of the mental world. The world around us was not a continuum; the three dimensions of space were merely psychologically handy illusions. The truth was that, as Szentogothai put it, 'the world exists to give birth to itself.'
John read right through the dry academic terminology, and it was almost too much for him to handle. Why, he moaned to himself, why couldn't he have gotten a simple monograph on semiconductor physics. Why this, of all things? Why this? Why was Gordon and Breach Science Publishers dealing with such a book in the first place? One of the editors must have been impressed by the mathematics, and let this other stuff, this crazy stuff, slip by. What an error; what a stupid thing!
John lay there with his head on the open manuscript, fighting back tears. Ideas were swarming around in his head, colliding with one another and self-destructing, mating with each other and forming new, immature ideas. Reality as a self-replicating system. What did it have to do with Dahlia? Why hadshe replicated herself?
It didn't add up. He tried to put the thoughts out of his mind, and focus on the typographical details. The margins were wrong, and so was the typeface on all the subheadings. The boldface would have to be changed to italic. But somehow his balance and focus were gone. For a moment John thought that he was splitting in two. One part of him was doing the technical work, quickly and competently. And the other part was lost, wandering hopelessly through a windy forest, bereft of any concept of direction, refraining from screaming only because there was no one there to hear....
He remembered how when he'd first started going with Dahlia, he hadn't been able to get her off his mind. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever dated -- so young, her skin so smooth. Her strange mix of shyness and impulsiveness had endeared him. Everywhere he'd gone, her image had followed: her face, radiantly smiling or else lost in thought ... her naked breasts staring out boldly, shaking ever so slightly from side to side. Her large ears poking joyfully out of her thick sandy hair.... There wasn't a minute that didn't contain at least one thought about making love to her ... cradling her soft face in his hands, ... telling her something ironic and making her laugh.
And now it was the same way, to an exponent of fifty. She invaded his every moment, his thoughts, his daydreams. Dahlia was everywhere: her skin not quite as soft, her breasts a bit less firm, but her thighs much stronger, the elegant angles of her face improved with age. All of space was tiled with identical copies of Dahlia's image. Today she was even more of a mystery than she had been in the beginning. Her form was covered with even more of a sensual glow.
John felt as though he were re-entering a world that had been lost to him for six years. He had met her, and he had entered into Dahlia-land. She had been the world to him, he would have done anything she requested. Then he had won her, and gradually she had become a person, rather than a portal to a magical kingdom. Their love had grown, but in the real world, not this other place, this tactile world without a name. And now, suddenly, the gate had been cast open, and a powerful wind had thrust him in: back into the other world, into the universe of Dahlia. Nothing else could exist anymore, except in its relationship to her.
The distinguished Dr. Grunewald popped into his mind again. A quote from Protagoras: 'Of all things the measure is man.' How wrong that old Greek fool was, John thought spitefully. If only that were the nature of things. Without really knowing what he was doing, he scribbled in the margin of Szentogothai's manuscript. 'Of all things, the measure is Dahlia. Of all things, the measure is Dahlia. Of, all, things, the, measure, is, Dahlia. Of all, things, the measure is Dahlia.'
He sensed that some process inside his brain had reached its boiling point.
He looked into the wall in front of his desk and he saw Dahlia's thighs, parting open to greet him. The bright lights on the ceiling assumed the form of Dahlia's breasts. He heard hervoice saying 'Come on, kiss me John. Kiss me, right there.' With a sense of relief that he had finally lost his sanity, he stuck his lips out to kiss her animated bosom.
Then the phone rang. He picked it up automatically, listening with only half his mind. 'John Harcourt,' he said briskly. 'How may I help you?'
The man at the other end sounded confused. 'I... er... hello,' he said, in a very heavy accent. The very foreignness of his voice somehow melted Dahlia's gorgeous legs into particles of dust.
'This is Frigyes Szentogothai,' the man continued. 'I'm calling regarding my book 'Self-Replicating Systems.''
'Why hello, Dr. Szentogothai.' Suddenly John was absently smiling. 'I was just looking over your book -- it's really fascinating. Particularly the final chapter.'
Szentogothai cleared his throat, oddly embarrassed. 'Er... yes... uh, thank you....'
'So, Phil told you that I'll be dealing with your books now, right?'
'Yes, he told me.'
There was a warmth about the man's voice that John found appealing. 'I'm looking at Self-Replicating Systems now,' he said slowly. 'Just reading it over, I haven't really gotten started making corrections yet, to tell you the truth.... In three or four days I'll have a list of corrections for you, and I'll mail you the manuscript, all marked-up.'
'Well, yes, that's why I wanted to call you,' replied Szentogothai. 'You see, I'm not in Budapest right now. Actually, I'm in Philadelphia. Not on account of this book, I mean; it's a personal matter. It's purely a ... coincidence.'
'Well,' said John brightly, 'that should certainly make things easier.'
'No ... I'm afraid not. You see, the reason I'm here is that my son has been killed.... Actually, murdered, it would seem.... Perhaps a murder-suicide.'
John paused uncomfortably. Finally, Szentogothai filled in the silence. 'He had a lot of problems...' he said slowly. 'Hung around with the wrong type of ... ah, crowd, if you understand my meaning. But what I mean to say is that I'm going to be rather preoccupied. I don't know if I'll have time to deal with the manuscript....' He cleared his throat regretfully. 'But I did bring my portable computer, so I can give it a try.'
'Why don't you come by the office today?' John proposed. 'We can talk about what needs to be done, get the ball rolling.' 'Er... well ... certainly,' replied the Hungarian. 'What time would be good?'
It was presently close to noon. 'Oh ... let's say three o'clock.'
John gave him directions, then set about work. He could do three days worth of editing in three hours if he had to. He could have all the marking-up done by the time Szentogothai got there. He wasn't sure why, but he had a strong urge to make a good impression on the man.
At two-thirty he had finished. Skipping lunch had helped,as had the already quite polished state of the manuscript. Apparently Szentogothai, contrary to tradition, had taken a look at the publisher's formatting guidelines before submitting the manuscript.
After a while, John got up and walked down the hall to get some candy from the vending machine. Along the way he passed Phil's office, and he stopped in front of the open door. 'Szentogothai's in town,' he announced with a grin. 'He's going to be here in half an hour.'
Phil was taken aback. 'That's odd,' he said. 'I thought he was Hungarian.'
'He is,' replied John, pleased at having gotten the intended reaction. 'But apparently his son lived here. Now his son has been murdered ... that's why he's here.'
'You're kidding! That's terrible.... It won't interfere with the production process, though, will it?'
'I don't think so.'
'Oh, by the way John, I almost forgot to tell you -- your wife was here looking for you. Did she ever run into you?'
'Dahlia? She was here? When? How long ago?'
'Just about, oh, two or three minutes. I sent her in the direction of your desk.'
'Well I've been sitting there since nine when I came in -- I haven't gotten up once. I didn't even get lunch.'
'She must have gotten lost,' Phil observed. 'I'd suggest you go look for her.'
John looked around nervously. There was only one thought in his mind now: which one was it? 'I ... I guess I'll do that.'
'I think I'll be leaving early today,' said Phil abruptly. He shut off his computer and got up. 'My plane leaves tonight for Auckland, via Honolulu. Wish me luck!'
'Good luck,' said John automatically.
'And good luck yourself with the Szentogothai book,' said Phil. 'Not that you should need any; I'm sure you'll do an excellent job. I'll be checking in by phone, of course.'
'Okay...' said John, suddenly tapping his feet. 'Have a good trip.'
He got a soda and a York peppermint patty, and walked back to his desk. When he got there, Dahlia Right was sitting in his chair in a black leather miniskirt and tight black leotard, leaning her feet up on the desk. 'Dressed to kill, aren't we?' said John lightly, resting his hands on her shoulders.
With a start she jumped up from the seat, knocking the Szentogothai manuscript all over the floor. 'Christ, you scared me!'
'You scared me,' he responded lightly. 'What are you doing sitting here at my desk?'
'I was bored. She's at work, and I was playing Mozart sonatas all morning, but finally my fingers got tired. So I decided to come and see you. You don't mind, do you?'
'No, I don't mind,' John lied. 'But it's just that I have an appointment in twenty minutes. The author of the book I'm editing is coming in to see me. Some Hungarian guy.'
'You're editing?' she repeated curiously, wondering if ithad been a slip of the tongue.
'Well ... I mean, in a manner of speaking. Phil's going to New Zealand for a month, and he's turned the project over to me. So, basically, I'm in charge of it, yeah....'
Dahlia grinned. 'They're grooming you for a promotion.'
'Maybe,' said John. 'I don't know. It's just more work, that's all.'
'She said you'd be getting a promotion,' persisted Dahlia. 'She wants the money -- she's greedy. She's not like me. I mean....'
'I know what you mean. What's with the get-up, anyway?'
'You mean these clothes?' she shrugged.
'It's her,' she said reluctantly. 'She's a tease. She's trying to seduce you away from me. It's just like in those stories -- the doppelganger kills a person and takes their place.... But I'm not going to fall for it! Whoever photocopied me needs to have their goddamn copy machine adjusted -- look, and to think she even had me doubting....'
Suddenly John heard a deep voice. 'Er ... if this is a bad time....' It had to be Szentogothai! He whipped his head around to greet the Hungarian, and his jaw literally dropped. The man was well under four feet tall. Three and a half feet at most. He wasn't a dwarf, he was a midget: a miniature person.
'No, no, it's fine,' said John. 'Really. Dahlia, this is Frigyes Szentogothai, the author of Self-Replicating Systems and Mindspace, the books I'm working on. Dr. Szentogothai, this is ... my wife, Dahlia.'
'She's lovely,' said the midget. He reached out for her hand and kissed it. He didn't need to bend down; it was already level with his mouth. 'A perfect beauty.' He grinned and looked up at her, as if to apologize for speaking about her in the third person. 'We have women like you in Hungary.'
At this, both John and Dahlia smiled. It was an odd comment, but rather charming in its own way. Apparently, in the world of this midget, the word 'Hungary' was a piece of flattery, a compliment.
'Well I'll leave you alone,' said Dahlia, picking herself up from the chair. 'You've got work to do.'
'No, no ... quite the contrary,' said Szentogothai immediately. 'My son has just been killed, it's most extraordinary. I'm in no mood for work. To tell you the truth, I can hardly even see straight.'
'Your son was killed?' repeated Dahlia. 'My God! That's awful....'
'I found out last night,' said the Hungarian. Suddenly he was no longer stumbling over his words. 'Coincidentally, I was at a conference in London at the time. I just went straight to the airport and took the first plane here. I've only been in town four hours. No, make that four and a half. Four hours and twenty minutes.... Apparently it was a strange sort of situation.' He took a deep breath, and swallowed back tears. 'They showed me the body at the morgue. Apparently somebody whipped him to death!'
'Whipped him!' exclaimed Dahlia in shock. 'What do you mean, with a horsewhip?'
'I don't know what kind of whip it was,' said the Hungarian. 'I just saw his back all raw and bloody, with his, ah, insides pouring out....' His tiny body tremored.
'Well Christ, of course you're in no mood to work,' said Dahlia compassionately. 'What are you doing here in the first place?'
'The truth is,' said the midget slowly, 'I think I just wanted somewhere to go. I feel I should wait here ... until the situation is resolved somehow. In Philadelphia, I mean, not in this office. But I really have nothing to do here, in Philadelphia, I mean, if you see my meaning. It's ... a difficult thing.'
'I'd imagine so,' concurred John.
'It's not as though this was completely unexpected,' continued Szentogothai quickly. 'He ... er... tended to be, ah, self-destructive, you might say.' The midget laughed morosely. 'Indeed, they say the whip was his.'
Dahlia's jaw dropped. 'You mean....'
'My son was ... how do you say it ... I don't know the English. He liked to wear women's clothes.'
'A transvestite,' offered John.
'Ah ... transvestite,' repeated the midget, testing the feel of the word on his tongue. 'Yes, a transvestite then. Ever since he was a child, he wanted to wear his mother's underwear, her dresses. It's embarrassing to talk about ... if you see my meaning. At first I tried to stop him -- I would punish him; don't think that because I'm small I wasn't able to give my boy a whipping when he needed one. Good God, a 'whipping' -- what a choice of words! I do have a way with words, don't I. That is, in fact, I actually do have a way with words, but the question is of which way.... Which way I am going. If you see.... The truth is, it makes me sick even to think about it, if you see my meaning. I never will understand.... He even went to work that way. He worked for the city; he was a teacher, God bless his queer little soul. A teacher of the homeless, of the outcasts of your beloved capitalist system, pardon my sarcasm, if you please. A lady teacher, and a strict one, I would imagine. Sh ... he wouldn't put up with any guff! We have homeless in Budapest now also, you know. That's what comes of these reforms, you know ... if you see my meaning. They just keep racing on toward the cliff like a herd of lemmings, with no thought for anything.... He wasn't a midget, by the way; he was as big as you are.... Bigger, even, perhaps; it's not unlikely. It's not impossible, at any rate. Yes, I think he was larger than either of you is. Not much, but a little. He liked to have people whip him.... I remember when....' All of a sudden the midget stopped his monologue and comically slapped himself in the face. 'Ah, what am I telling you all this for! I'm here to see about this foolish book I've written.'
'I've got the manuscript all marked up for you,' said John brightly. 'I hope it's clear. The changes are really rather minor -- just the margins and the fonts, and a few trivial thingshere and there. Also you'll have to leave space for the figures in the text. I've sent them down to production and they're going to size them for us; when I get the numbers back I'll pass them along to you.'
'I'll see what I can do,' said Szentogothai. 'It all depends upon my state of mind. I've got to collect myself together.... It's a terrible thing, to lose a son, you know.'
The midget turned and began to leave. But then Dahlia called out to him. 'Wait a minute,' she said hastily, looking at John for reassurance. 'It's not right for you to be alone at a time like this. Why don't you join us for dinner tonight?'
'Oh, no,' said the midget warmly. 'I couldn't impose on you like that. The truth be told, I've already imposed on you more than enough. Just go along, and don't worry about me; I'll be all right. As I said ... er, as I said ... as I was saying....'
'As you said what?' prodded John impatiently.
'I can't remember,' shrugged the midget. 'I said a lot of things, didn't I? I've said too much. I always do; it's one of my flaws. One of my many flaws. I do believe I've lost what little sense I've ever had. What little sense of proportion, I mean to say, if you see my meaning. It's hard, you know, to have a sense of proportion when you're a midget. Nothing appears in its proper scale. It's just like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Inside my head, I'm bigger than anyone; I'm the biggest thing in the world; I'm as tall as Mount Everest ... no, even taller, I can look down on the moon. I can grasp the moon in my index finger and shoot it like a marble with my thumb, straight into the farthest reaches of space! No, don't look at me that way.... Yes, that's right, back in the real world, why, I'm nothing more than a six year old child. Women pat me on the head like an infant ... or a dog. They don't realize I'm a man like any other.' A tear appeared on his stubbly cheek. 'I shouldn't have come here today, I can see that. I can't seem to keep my sense of proportion, that's what I'm trying to say, if you can see....' His voice trailed off. The Hungarian midget appeared to be on the verge of a breakdown.
'No, no,' said Dahlia softly. She reached her hand down and squeezed his shoulder. Somehow this midget brought out all her motherly instincts. 'It's good to talk to people. You shouldn't have to deal with this alone. Please do come for dinner tonight. It's 1956 Fairmount Street. Come at seven o'clock.'
Suddenly the midget's eyes lit up. 'Did you say nineteen fifty six?'
Dahlia nodded, perplexed.
'Why, that's the year of the Hungarian revolution!'
Dahlia shrugged. 'Will you come?'
For some reason that she didn't understand, it was now very important to her that the midget should join them for dinner. John looked at her probingly. But her face was a cipher. There were too many mysteries now: labyrinths within labyrinths. The only safe thing was to stop thinking altogether.
The midget smiled, and then his voice took on a serious tone. He recited slowly:
'I have no sons
But if I am not permitted
to carve my stone
Face with my own two hands
Your few words
at least will keep me
almost alive a little while longer.'
'That's beautiful,' said Dahlia, flattered and embarrassed. 'It's from a poem written during the Hungarian Revolution,' said Szentogothai. 'In the city of Vo'c. The author is known only as 'B'; he kept his name secret ... for fear of recriminations, if you understand my meaning. Of course, it is more beautiful in Hungarian.'
'Of course,' mumbled John to himself.
'Then you'll come?' asked Dahlia nervously.
The midget nodded, turned and left.
As soon as he was gone, John sighed with relief. 'Now there's a weird one,' he said wearily.
Dahlia nodded. Something about that Hungarian midget mathematician was unsettling. He was attractive and repulsive at the same time. His speech was comical, peppered with far too much 'at any rate,' 'indeed,' and 'if you see my meaning.' But at the same time his words were somehow deeply moving. She knew she wanted to see Frigyes Szentogothai again.
But, for the present, there were other things to worry about. She turned to John and kissed him passionately on the lips. He knew exactly what was going on: she was trying to get the jump on her double. But he was powerless to protest. He had very little experience in the area of turning away beautiful, scantily clad women intent on having sex with him. The best he could do was to shut the door to his office and lock it. Phil was gone, and no one else would come to see him at half past three on a Friday.
Incipit Dahlia. -- When Karen reached high school, the life which she had constructed for herself began to fall apart. The end of the world suddenly lost its reality for her. She would sit by the road and hear nothing but cars. And when she looked at the horizon, she would always think 'It's just about four miles away.' It was a natural consequence of her accelerating maturity, but in a deeper sense it was tragic. When she was fed up with the people around her, she had nowhere to go....
She put her flute in the closet and forgot about it: without her imaginary audience, playing didn't seem worth it. She started hitchhiking obsessively, even when she really had no destination in mind. One time she was nearly raped, but she screamed so loud the man pushed her out of the car and drove away. And she began hanging around with a group of juvenile delinquents. She didn't really like them, but she was more comfortable with them than with anyone else. They placed few demands on her.
Karen became sexually active, but she never stayed with a single boyfriend for very long. She enjoyed the sex, but not the silly lovers' conversation -- whenever the guy started getting too close to her, she knew it was time to move along....
Rebecca became somewhat concerned. She realized things weren't all that bad -- after all, Karen didn't seem to be using drugs, and her grades were still excellent. But still, she felt, a mother should do something. She consulted the high school guidance counselor, who suggested that she have a talk with Karen about her adoption. So one evening, when Daniel was working late, Rebecca sat Karen down at the kitchen table.
She had rehearsed her speech a dozen times in her head, but even so the words didn't come out right. 'Karen, I have ... something important to tell you,' she said carefully. 'I don't know if you remember or not, but....'
Rebecca was on the verge of tears. But Karen would have no sentimentality. 'Is this about my adoption, mom?' she asked immediately.
'You do remember,' said Rebecca, finally releasing control and sobbing. 'All these years, you know, I didn't know whether to mention it or....'
'I remember Mrs. Vespi,' said Karen quietly. 'I don't remember my biological mother. Except maybe a hint of a single picture, in the back of my mind....' She bit back the words real mother deliberately, in order not to give offense, and also because she had no intention of sharing her true thoughts about her real mother.
'You remember the first day that I came here, mom,' Karen continued, 'the time I ran away. Some old lady picked me up, and took me back to Mrs. Vespi's. I asked her why I couldn't stay with her, after all, she was my mother, and why did she want me to live with some strange lady.' Karen had a lifelong committment to self-control. But this memory dug its way beneathall the protective layers she had built up around herself. She burst out into tears and pounded her fists down on the table. She hadn't permitted herself to think about Mrs. Vespi in a long time. 'Then she told me, just straight out like that, she told me that my real mother was dead, and she had just been taking care of me.... And that was that. I wish I could remember -- Christ, I've tried to remember, mom, you wouldn't even believe how hard I've tried! But I was just too young, I guess. There's just one image, a really distant one, I think I'm remembering remembering it more than anything else. A gray-haired lady, looking down at me in a crib. That's the only thing.....'
'You were two years old,' said Rebecca sadly. 'Your parents died in an auto accident on I-95 just south of Philly. They were driving back from work, coming to pick you up from daycare. Their names were Rebecca and Alfred Bowman. They were in their late thirties. After they died, you went to live with your grandmother, Janet Cheshire. That's the gray-haired lady you remember. But after you'd been with her a year, she died of cancer.' She paused, collecting her thoughts. 'That's all I know, really. But we can find out ... I mean, I can help you, if you want to find out more. Anything you want to know.'
Karen didn't say anything, just stared directly in front of her with a purposeful silence. It was a silence which Rebecca knew all too well. Now, all of a sudden, Rebecca understood what had been going on in Karen's head for the past eleven years. That unnerving air of aloofness that had always surrounded her. Today, she realized, was the first time she had seen her daughter display real heartfelt pain. Karen had been carrying this phantom mother around inside of her for eleven years, without mentioning it to anyone.
'It's okay,' said Rebecca. 'Rebecca Bowman was your real mother. I know you think of her that way, so I just want to let you know that it's all right. I can't have children myself ... I'm infertile. In case you haven't guessed; which isn't very likely, I suppose. I'm terribly sorry you were deprived of the chance to grow up with your biological mother. I never thought it had made any difference, but not I see that it really has. But since the tragedy did happen, I'm thankful that I've had the opportunity ... to raise you....'
Both of them were a little bit embarrassed. It was like some scene out of a soap opera. But also, they were both glad to get the whole mess out in the open. Finally Karen said what she thought had to be said. 'You're my real mother, Rebecca. I'm Karen Rose, not Karen Bowman. Rebecca Bowman is just a name to me.'
But Rebecca wasn't as naive as Karen imagined. 'I appreciate your saying that,' she replied quickly. 'But she's more than just a name to you, Karen, I know that....' She stopped and took a deep breath. 'In a way it might be better if you remembered her. Then she would be a real person, and you could comfort yourself with her memory. But as it is now, she's just a phantom; she's a blank space in your mind. A blank space that you can fill in with anything your heart desires. It's aunique opportunity, in a way.... Oh, I don't know, Karen. You'll just have to work it out on your own, just like everything else. I guess that's all I wanted to say to you today anyway. You're an adult now, or you're almost one, and it's up to you to either deal with your problems or hide them. I'm here for you if you want me....' She shrugged her shoulders, distressed but relieved.
Over the next few months, Rebecca helped Karen to gather information on Rebecca Bowman. They got a high school yearbook, some newspaper clippings, and some paperwork from the hospital where she'd worked. But Karen was surprised at how little it meant to her. Rebecca Bowman really looked nothing like her. There was more of a resemblance between Karen and her adoptive mother. This woman, this dead doctor, had absolutely no connection with Karen's life. And ditto for Alfred Bowman, the dead personal injury attorney who was supposedly her father.
In the back of her mind, Karen couldn't quell the suspicion that these were not her real parents after all. She knew it was irrational -- after all, the state had given her mother these names at the time of adoption. And then there was the memory of Janet, leaning over her in her crib, with those corny old-lady eyes of love. Everything made sense; she couldn't deny it. But she didn't want it to make sense.
She wanted the search for her mother to lead to the end of the world. But instead it only led to this garbage, these meaningless documents and pictures.
When the time came to go to college, Karen wanted to go far away from home. She applied to Stanford and U.C. Berkeley. But she wound up not getting into either, and attending the University of Pennsylvania, a mere forty minute drive from her parents' house in Northeast Philadelphia.
At first she was depressed, but after living in the dorm for a day, she realized it really didn't matter how far away she was. She saw her parents once a week: every Sunday evening. Aside from that, her life was her own. She immediately knew she would major in music: anything else would be too much hassle. She had other things to worry about besides schoolwork.
Karen was intent on making a new start, on putting her confusing past behind her. She tried everything she could think of. She changed her hairstyle: for the first time in her life, she cut her flowing sandy locks short. She got a tattoo on her breast: a surreal, varicolored butterfly. And finally, inspired by a classmate who had changed her name from Harriet to Sherry, she decided to change her name as well. She picked the name of her favorite flower: she called herself Dahlia. Her parents, always accepting, thought this was strange but did not complain. Rebecca went along with it and called her 'Dahlia,' and after a month or two so did Daniel.
Dahlia was a different person from Karen; or at least she fancied herself to be. She didn't hang around with dreamy-eyed delinquents, she preferred intelligent, straightforward men, preferably majoring in engineering or computer science. She made a definite effort to pay attention to other people: to listen when they talked, to share their feelings. Finally, she playedthe flute for herself, and not for any imaginary audience. She played for the sake of creating music, of weaving sound patterns in the air; no other purpose was needed.
Her ideal would have been a surgical operation, one that could have removed from her mind all memories of early childhood. But lacking this, she had to resort to more clever methods. Every time the 'end of the world' or Rebecca Bowman or Julia Vespi popped into her mind, she forced herself to think of something disgusting -- eating urine-flavored ice cream, or having sex with a hog, or slicing her breasts off with a razor. She trained herself to focus on the present. All the things that had preoccupied her during her last year of high school were pushed into the back of her mind; never, she hoped, to be heard from again.
Although her musicianship never really satisfied her, her teachers universally thought it magnificent. She wasn't the fastest or the fanciest, but her tone quality put everyone else to shame. She had no patience for practicing her scales; she found 'Flight of the Bumblebee' dreadfully boring. But when she played a simple Mozart piece, or a folk song, it was enough to bring tears to anyone's eyes. For the first time, she was trying her hand at formal composition; and she found it much easier than she'd thought it would be. She envisioned a bright future for herself playing the flute in a symphony orchestra. The specifics of the vision didn't matter; she knew symphony jobs were hard to get, et cetera, et cetera. But the important thing was that she was focusing on the future. For the first time in her life, she was looking ahead and making plans -- instead of looking at the horizon.
Her first six months as Dahlia were nervous: she was never quite sure what was going to happen, if she was going to have some kind of reversal. Perhaps the old memories and worries -- she was not going to think of what they were, but their dark muffled presence was inescapable -- perhaps they were just waiting for the right moment to rise up again and strangle her.
But then something happened that reassured her once and for all. She fell in love, for the first time ever. And not only did she fall in love -- she fell in love with someone whom Karen would never have even looked at twice. With a man four years her elder, mature and already out of college: a quiet, handsome editorial assistant named John Harcourt.
John was reliable and practical; he had never daydreamed in his life. Not in the way that she had, at any rate. He was firmly, unshakeably grounded in reality. But yet he had some kind of energy that attracted her. It was precisely the emotional fire, the deep-rooted empathy, that she lacked.
His lovemaking was so uninhibited that it forced her to respond in kind. Sure, he had a rotten temper -- he even hit her now and then, if she egged him on enough. But the important thing was his intensity. Whereas Rebecca and Daniel had tactfully allowed her to keep her distance, John refused to play along.
And, best of all, he didn't know her as Karen, he knew her as Dahlia -- Dahlia only! After they'd been together three orfour months, she mentioned to him that her given name was Karen. But he shrugged it off without a second thought. What did it matter to him? She was Dahlia in her mind from that point on. Three years later, she changed her name legally, to Dahlia Karen Maria Rose.
Exponential Rate of Reproduction. -- Szentogothai arrived promptly at seven. Although her shift had ended at five, Dahlia Left had not returned home yet. Dahlia Right invited the midget in with a gleaming smile. 'I'm so glad you came.'
The midget stood in the doorway and grimaced. 'Believe me, my beautiful lady, you may come to regret it. Dr. Szentogothai is on his last legs ... er ... if you get my meaning. It is one thing to lose a son ... but to lose a son like this! if you see my.... In fact I have lost a son and a daughter, in one fell swoop.' He smiled to himself, apparently proud of his English idiom. 'It's a marvelous thing I met you, in point of fact, if you understand me. If not for your kindness and generosity, if not for your sweet compassion, I don't know what would become of Dr. Szentogothai.' Then his voice grew stronger and deeper; she knew he was reciting another poem:
'A spider is sewing the silence;
He sews up my shabby loneliness.
Although I would not have seen you in the world
Here I greet you, fellow of my loneliness
'First living thing I've seen for months!
I can talk to you!
Oh look on me as a gigantic fly. Believe
I am caught in your web.
'Suck my blood! What do I care.
I know. Oh I know it is agony.
To be hungry. But this is food to me.
To be able to give myself to you.'
Dahlia stared at him. Each word seemed to hang in the air in front of his mouth for four or five seconds, like a cloud about to burst.
'Tibor Tollas,' concluded the midget. 'Written in prison. Inspired by a real spider, no doubt. But on the other hand, I read somewhere that reality is a whore ... if you understand my meaning.'
The midget looked up to the sky, as if searching for words. But Dahlia interrupted his train of thought. 'Well, come on in,' she insisted, blushing.
He held up his tiny hand. 'I will. You cannot hurry a dead man, you know.... It's an old Hungarian proverb.'
John was fed up with the midget already. He was ready to yell I see your goddamned meaning, pick up the gabby little fellow and toss him through the window back onto the street. But his practical sense restrained him: not only Dahlia be furious, but it would cost him his job. But, really ... 'Suck my blood! What do I care.... This is food to me to be able to give myselfto you.' Why on earth was this ridiculous midget coming onto Dahlia? For a moment he didn't even believe the tale of the dead son. It was all some kind of ploy, some kind of sinister conspiracy to take Dahlia away from him. John was convinced, with an irrational but powerful certainty, that Szentogothai was somehow connected with Dahlia's duplication. But what the connection was, he was not ready even to speculate.
The three of them sat down at the table, and Dahlia began serving out food -- lasagna, one of her specialties. But before anyone had eaten a mouthful, they heard the door open. 'Honeys, I'm home!'
It was Dahlia Left, fresh home from work. She danced into the kitchen, already taking off her work clothes -- kicking off her shoes and unfastening her bra under her shirt. When she saw the midget there her face turned bright red, and she gave a cutesy smile. 'Hello!'
Dahlia Right spoke up. 'This is Dr. Szentogothai. He's an Hungarian mathematician; John's editing his book. Dr. Szentogothai ... this is ... uh ... Delilah.'
'Hello, Dr. Szentogothai,' said Dahlia Left. 'I'm pleased to meet you.' She didn't know how to deal with this sinister-looking midget. They hadn't discussed what to tell friends and relatives about the duplication ... let alone what to tell forty-five-inch-tall Hungarian mathematicians.
'Hello, 'Delilah',' he replied ironically. From his tone it was seemed that he had somehow picked up on the false note in D.R.'s voice. 'Am I to assume that you are ... er, Dahlia's, ah, sister?'
'That's right,' said D.R. quickly, glaring harshly at her double.
'I'm feeling really lousy,' Dahlia Left said. 'I think I got food poisoning from that rancid spaghetti sauce at the restaurant. I'm going to go lie down.'
She went into the other room and flopped down on the bed, leaving the door open to hear what the others were saying. The midget was talking about his son -- apparently his son had just died. Something about being a transvestite, and being whipped to death.... She wasn't sure if she was awake or asleep; she didn't know what was happening. Within a few moments she was dreaming. She was back at the table. The midget was asking her if she was really her double's sister....
In the dream Szentogothai had shrunk to about two feet tall. Seated in his chair, he could barely peek over the table. But he stared intently into Dahlia Left's eyes. 'Is that really right?' he asked her slowly. His voice became sharp. 'Don't ever lie to a Hungarian.'
'I'm ... her sister,' said Dahlia Left firmly. Then she picked up a plate from the table and threw it at Dahlia Right. D.R. ducked just in time to get out of the way.
'We've never really gotten along,' D.L. explained cheerfully. 'And which one of you is older, if you don't mind my asking?' probed the midget.
'She is,' said Dahlia Right. 'Five minutes older. We're identical twins.'
D.L. nodded miserably, glaring spitefully at her double. The bitch was stealing her identity, absolutely and completely. What the hell was she supposed to do now? Leaving town seemed like a better and better idea. But then she thought back to that TV screen at the bus station: all those meaningless names, all those meaningless cities....
'Let me take a guess,' said the midget slowly. 'One day you, Dahlia, just woke up and there were two of you. Both with infinitely accurate memory of being Dahlia. You had to compete for Dahlia's old life. But eventually, one of you began to lose the battle. And then.... Or else, perhaps it hasn't reached that stage yet. Perhaps you're still both trying to wrest your identity from the other. But it will not work, I can tell you that much. An identity is a small thing, it's simply not big enough to fit two people; any more than a single pair of pants can fit four legs. You can jam four legs in, but then you can't move around right; it's just not the same ... if you understand my meaning.'
'I understand your meaning all right,' said Dahlia Left. A sudden dizziness came over her; she had to lean down on the table to stand up.
'But ... how do you know?' asked Dahlia Right. 'I don't understand. Do you have something to ... do with it? I mean....'
'No, no.' The midget shook his head. 'Don't think that ... I certainly don't. If only I had ... then ... well, things would be different.'
'But then how do you know?' insisted John loudly. 'It doesn't make sense; there's no way anyone could believe that without knowing. I hardly believe it myself.'
The Hungarian nodded. 'I understand,' he said. 'Believe me that I do. You see, the reason I understand is that my own son.... My dear son, who is recently departed.... One of whom is recently departed, I should say. What I mean to be telling you is that the same thing happened to Ferenc. In his apartment, in downtown Pest, he woke up one morning and there were two. It was as simple as that: two Ferenc Szentogothais in one house. I know ... I know, it makes no sense. I don't know how to make sense of it. Lord knows, I've tried ... that's why I wrote that book on self-replicating systems, the one you're editing, John.... I've tried my best to understand, but I have a feeling that some things just can't be gotten.... Well, in any event, you understand what I'm trying to tell you. At first it was fun: the two Ferencs shared girls, they shared the same classes at the university, they shared, well, everything ... er.... But then things got, well ... much less harmonious, one might say. Somehow one of them convinced the other he was not genuine. I don't know how, I don't really understand what went on between them. But the point is, one of the Ferencs left Budapest and started wandering. Eventually he wound up in America, in New York. But he couldn't afford the rent, so he came to Philadelphia.'
'And was the original Ferenc a transvestite?' asked Dahlia right curiously.
'No! Heavens no!' exclaimed the midget, throwing his hands up in the air. 'Not for the life of me! He was as heterosexual as I am.... He was as normal as anyone you'd like to meet. He was more normal than most people, I dare say ... present company excluded, of course ... if you understand my meaning. It was only afterwards ... after he lost his, how do you say it, his identity. I guess he wanted to stop being Ferenc; he wanted to put Ferenc out of his mind altogether, so he decided to become a girl. I don't know -- the good Lord knows, I'm only a mathematician, I don't understand these things.'
'But you said before that he dressed up in his mother's clothes when he was a child,' pointed out John.
At this the midget shrugged his shoulders and gave an indulgent grin. 'So I embroidered the truth a little. Don't you know never to trust a Hungarian.'
'I don't believe you're Hungarian,' said John coldly. 'I don't believe you've ever been to Hungary. You mention it too often. I think you're some kind of petty crook. You've been listening in on our apartment, so you know what's happened to Dahlia, and you're trying to take advantage of it. I wish I could figure out what your scam is, you sleazy little rodent!'
'John!' exclaimed the Dahlias simultaneously.
'Apologize,' said Dahlia Right.
'Come on,' chipped in Dahlia Left. 'Don't be an asshole.'
'I'll apologize,' said John angrily. 'I'll apologize for calling him names. I'm sorry, Dr. Szentogothai, that was uncalled for. I hope you'll forgive me. But I will not apologize for refusing to believe anything he says. Now that he's lied to us once, he's proved that he's a liar. That means everything about him is suspect.'
The midget smiled. 'That's fair enough,' he said good-naturedly. 'What you prefer to believe is none of my business anyway.'
The Dahlias nodded happily. John could be such a jerk sometimes, what with that rotten temper. Dahlia Left sat down, and everybody started eating.
But then, while she was finishing off her lasagna, D.L. happened to glance at the afternoon paper, sitting on the kitchen counter. She saw the front-page story, TRANSVESTITE MURDER-SUICIDE, and she got up to look. The story began 'Hungarian transvestite Ferenc Szentogothai was found dead in his....' There was a picture of his body, slumped on the floor with his legs in cuffs and the horsewhip lying on the ground.
It was too much to be coincidence. She reconsidered what John had said and decided that there might be some merit to it after all. Perhaps this midget was more involved in things than it seemed. Certainly it would pay to keep an eye on him.....
Then she looked back from the paper to the table. She stared at the midget. He was growing. He was three feet tall, four, five, six -- he was the tallest person at the table. Soon his head would be protruding through the ceiling, into the apartment above. Dahlia Left realized that she was dreaming. She fought her way through the multilayered darkness and finally opened her eyes. Yes, there she was, lying in the bed while theothers ate dinner. The midget was carrying on, but not about his son. 'The Hungarians,' he was saying, 'are the world's greatest linguists. In Budapest, everyone you meet speaks two or three languages. Possibly three or four. Even five languages is not terribly uncommon. Yet no one, except a Hungarian, can understand Magyar. Did you know that Magyar has nothing in common with the other languages of Europe? Yes, that's a fact -- you can look it up for yourself if you don't believe me. Oh yes, it's distantly related to Finnish and Estonian -- but only distantly, mind you. Yes, the connection is very distant. Hungary is an island in the middle of Europe. Magyar is the language of the lost. Nine out of every ten Hungarians is a writer. Nine out of ten! -- and you can look it up. Let me ask you, in what language do we find the world's cleverest, wisest tales, the world's most majestic epic poems, the world's most heartfelt moving folk songs.... In what language, ah? In French? In Spanish? German? English? No, my friends,' he announced with a scowl, 'in noble Magyar. But no one shall ever discover these treasures. It is a tragedy, yes, a tragedy of the highest possible rank. 'The Danube is a silhouette of Europe's soul.' Listen to what I tell you: every Hungarian is automatically an artist, merely by virtue of his language, and his place of birth....' He raised his index finger for emphasis. 'And on the other hand, indeed, it is not going too far to say that, at any rate, every truly creative artist must have the mind of a Hungarian! The artist lives in a Hungary of the soul ... if you understand my meaning....'
'But about your son,' interrupted Dahlia Right tactfully, as her double listened in. 'Did you learn anything today? About the circumstances, I mean.'
'I ... er ... I went to see the apartment,' said Szentogothai. Suddenly his speech was broken, quiet and hard to understand ... a striking contrast from the fluent enthusiasm of a few moments before. 'I saw the room where it happened.'
The midget just sat there, staring down; he had to be prodded to go on. 'What was it like?' asked Dahlia softly.
'There were, ah, these chains on the wall,' he whispered. 'And a rack full of whips. There were metal spikes ... all kinds of, how do you say it ... er, instruments of torture. But the handcuffs had release buttons.' Now his whisper died down to an almost inaudible level; they had to read his lips. 'He could have set himself free. He wanted to die. If you, er, see my meaning.... My son didn't want to live.' A tear ran down his tiny cheek.
He sat there staring for nearly two minutes; no one dared to say anything. Finally he spoke in a normal voice. 'I'm sorry,' he concluded. 'You've been very kind.' And the midget got up and walked out the door of the apartment. Dahlia was too stunned to try to stop him; too hypnotized by his melodic, painful speech.
Then, ten seconds after he had left, they heard the sound of screeching brakes. D.R. ran to the window. The midget was lying in the street. Doubtless he had thrown himself in front of a car. From the look of his tiny body, it was plain that he wasdead. Dahlia Right ran out and lifted his body from the street, removed it to the side of the road. Meanwhile John called the police.
'What's going on here?' asked D.L. 'I don't understand this.'
'I don't either,' said John.
'You don't know what I'm talking about,' pointed out D.L.
'And you don't know what I'm talking about,' said John tiredly. 'It's just the usual, right?'
'No, really, listen,' said D.L. 'You know his son, who he kept talking about. His son who got whipped to death. I saw him -- last night. While I was dreaming. Or rather, not dreaming, not really, I was awake.'
John perked up and looked at her. 'What are you talking about?'
'Last night I went to this lesbian bar. Not on purpose, I wasn't in my right mind, I didn't notice what it was. I had a lot of drinks and when I left the place I collapsed in an alley. Then I had this ... vision, I guess you could call it. It was just like a dream, but I wasn't really sleeping, I knew where I was the whole time, lying in the alleyway. I dreamed I met this woman, and went back to her apartment. And she ... she ate me out, and then she ... she asked me to whip her. So she chained herself to the wall in this dark little room. She told me not to stop even if she said stop. So I kept on whipping her, and then.... After a while, I noticed she was dead. So I left the apartment. And then ... then I woke up. Woke up in the alley. And I got up and walked home, and that was that.
'I thought it was just, you know, a weird mental experience. But then it was like, the story he was telling tonight, was the exact same thing. Right down to the releases on the handcuffs. I mean, I noticed that, in my dream.... I don't understand it.'
'I don't either,' said John resignedly. Now Dahlia Right was back; she was listening intently.
'And then,' Dahlia Left continued, 'then when I came back tonight, I hadn't been drinking at all. I was only a little stoned. But when I lay down on the bed, I had another dream. I dreamed that ... still, I wasn't really asleep, you know ... but I dreamed that the little man was talking about his son....'
'Well he was,' said Dahlia Right. 'You weren't dreaming.'
'But what he was saying,' continued D.L., annoyed at her double's intrusion, 'what he was saying was that his son had had a double, just like me. He was saying that his son's double had stolen his son's identity, and that was why his son wanted to be a women. He guessed that your story about me being your sister was a lie. He understood the truth right off....'
'Well, that dream,' John said thoughtfully, 'isn't really a puzzle. But the other one I don't understand. How could you have known something that was happening somewhere else?'
'This proves,' said Dahlia Right, 'that you're not really Dahlia. It proves you're the double. You have supernatural powers. You're not a normal person.'
'Oh, buzz off,' said D.L. 'It doesn't prove anything. Don't give me your nonsense. You know what I think -- I thinkyou were in love with that midget. That proves that you're the double, because I could never feel that way about some grimy Hungarian the size of an eight-year-old kid.'
'You evil creature!' screamed Dahlia Right. 'The man is dead, you have no right to talk about him like that!' She picked up a plate from the table and threw it at Dahlia Left.
Dahlia Left picked up a fork and rushed at Dahlia Right, intent on poking out her double's eyes. John grabbed her and held her back. But then Dahlia Right started hitting her counterpart, and she began struggling. John could no longer hold D.L. back. The two were struggling on the floor, clawing at one another, kicking and punching. Several times John managed to separate them, but they got out of his grip and went for each other once again. Finally he got Dahlia Right into the bedroom and held the door shut. Dahlia Left picked up a large knife and started stabbing at the door. Meanwhile Dahlia Right was pulling at his feet, trying to get at the handle. Once or twice the knife poked through, and John began to doubt the wisdom of interfering at all. After all, it had already been established that the two of them could overpower him. Maybe the best course was to let one of them do away with the other -- then he'd be back to only one.
But then someone rang the doorbell. Smiling, John guessed who it was. It was the police, who had come to see about the midget's body. He opened the bedroom door and quickly walked to the front door to let the police in. The Dahlias behaved themselves, and answered all the officers' questions. When the police left, John looked at them disapprovingly, the way one looks at children who have misbehaved.
'We're going to drive each other nuts,' he said flatly. 'This has got to stop. None of us understands what's going on here, but we're going to have to make the best of it.' He clenched D.R.'s hand with his left hand, and D.L.'s hand with his right.
'You know what?' said Dahlia Left. 'I think we need a vacation.'
They all laughed and smiled at each other. It was the first time any of them had relaxed since the duplication. Somehow a weight had been lifted from their minds. The midget had been some kind of symbol for the insanity that had overtaken them. And now that he was gone, they were free to begin from the beginning, to try again....
The vacation was easy to arrange. John finished up the first Szentogothai manuscript himself in two or three days, then informed Phil by fax that, for personal reasons, he wanted to take two weeks of his surplus vacation time. He would bring the Hungarian's other manuscript along in his briefcase, and deal with it on the trip. Since there were no urgent projects in the works, Phil had no reason to complain. John bought three tickets to San Pedro, a small resort island off the coast of Belize. After John had bought the tickets to San Pedro, it occurred to him that both of the Dahlias would need passports. Somehow an extra one would have to be acquired. And this meant getting an extra birth certificate, probably illegally. The law had noprovision for the spontaneous creation of adult human beings.
He knew that it was possible to buy false documents, but he didn't know exactly where to look. So he posed the problem to the Dahlias. 'What do you think is the easiest thing to do?'
John thought it was a fairly straightforward question; he was completely surprised at the anguished look on their faces. 'I know what to do,' said Dahlia Left finally.
Dahlia Right stared at her wide-eyed, unbelievingly. 'Who gets to be Dahlia Rose?' she whispered.
'You can,' D.L. offered quickly.
'I was about to say the same thing.'
'Let's toss a coin for it.'
'I guess we'll have to.'
John was sick and tired of their 'in' conversations. But this time, to his surprise, he solved the puzzle. They were referring to the fact, almost never mentioned, that Dahlia had been adopted as a very small child. 'You're going to get some kind of original birth certificate?' he asked slowly.
They nodded, grinning.
'So one of you will be Dahlia Rose, and the other what?'
'Karen Bowman,' said D.R., so quietly as to almost be inaudible, testing the vowels on her lips.
'Karen Bowman,' echoed John. 'It doesn't have the same ring to it, somehow.'
Their idea seemed like a good one, and a fairly straightforward one as well. In fact, D.L. decided to do it the next day. While her double was at work, she walked downtown to City Hall, and paid a visit to the department of births, deaths and marriages.
But what she found was an unsettling surprise. They didn't have a birth certificate for Karen Bowman. Apparently she had been born out of state, which was odd, since both of the Bowmans had lived and worked in Philadelphia. She walked over to the office that dealt with adoptions, and asked for more information.
She left the office in a trance, with a new name on the tip of her tongue: Marcia Raymond. It made so much sense that she could hardly understand it. She had gotten used to things that made no sense at all. She had known all along that the Bowmans looked nothing like her. The problem of the passport was solved; she could find her birth certificate in North Carolina. Dahlia called up city hall there and argued with the clerk until the old man agreed to FedEx the birth certificate.
But anyway, how could she go on vacation now? She had some detective work to do....
It wasn't difficult. According to the phone book in the library, there were only nine Raymonds currently living in the county where she had been born. She called them up, in sequence. And on the fifth try she found Marcia's father, now in his late seventies and living alone. Dahlia told him who she was, that he was her grandfather; of course, he invited Dahlia down to North Carolina. Dahlia told him she would see when she could get time off work. And she got Marcia's number, in New York City of all places. Her married name, he said, was Marcia Moricz. After a few years of 'troubled times,' she had married a nice man andstarted a career as an advertising executive. Dahlia was so baffled she didn't have time to think about it. Her real mother -- her real real mother -- was only a two hour drive away!
After careful consideration, D.L. decided against calling Marcia on the phone. It would be too impersonal. After all these years and lies, her real mother had to be something more than a voice. She had to see the woman! So she got the address from information, and resolved to set out on the next day. There were three days before the trip to Belize; hopefully that would be enough time.
When D.L. got back to the apartment at six, D.R. couldn't read her expression. She intuited that something very strange had happened ... but she couldn't figure what. D.L. considered telling her double -- after all, what had happened to their new spirit of cameraderie? The violence and deception were supposed to be gone with Szentogothai. They were supposed to be a happy family.
But in the light of what she had discovered, everything looked different. She had to share her clothes, her job, her boyfriend -- but she didn't have to share her mother. Finally she had something all her own. And she knew that, if the double had been the one to go to city hall, that snivelling fool would have done the exact same thing to her. It was an irresistable opportunity.
She went into the bedroom and lay down. As she closed her eyes, she felt a shock run through her body. She opened her eyes again and sat up. She could have sworn she saw that sinister midget, sitting on her dresser across the room, opening his mouth to recite some more of that banal Hungarian poetry. But no, Szentogothai was dead; she'd touched his corpse with her own hands. She lay back down and slipped into a deep, cold, dreamless sleep.
She slept twelve hours, until the next morning. Come nine o' clock, neither of the Dahlias felt like going to work. They decided to quit the restaurant, for real this time. D.R. sat home all day playing the flute and watching television. And D.L. went out 'for a walk' -- a walk straight to the Amtrak station, where she caught the express train to New York.
The address was easy to find; it was right off the subway. D.L. buzzed the intercom button for Marcia's apartment and a man with a foreign accent replied, 'Who is it?'
'Is this the home of Marcia Moricz?' asked Dahlia tentatively.
'Yes it is,' he said. 'Who is this, please?'
'I'm her daughter,' said Dahlia simply. She heard a woman's voice in the background, but she couldn't understand what it was saying.
Finally the man said, 'I'll buzz you in.'
When she got to the apartment an attractive young woman was standing in the doorway. She didn't look a day over thirty. Her face was smooth and even in tone; her figure was incomprehensibly perfect. She certainly didn't look like an older version of Dahlia. But yet, the resemblance was powerful, it was undeniable. By the time she was thirty feet from the door,Dahlia knew: this was her mother.
'Hi mom,' said Dahlia shyly.
The woman blushed. 'Hi....'
Dahlia reached out and hugged her; the two embraced for five or ten seconds. Then Marcia stepped back and said 'Come on in, have a seat. This is Gyula -- you talked to him on the intercom. And ... I don't know your name.'
'Dahlia,' she replied.
'That's pretty,' Marcia said, surprised.
'I know,' Dahlia said, blushing. 'I made it up myself. The name my mother gave me was Karen. Or I mean, not my mother, but my first adoptive parents, the Bowmans. I don't remember them.' She proceeded to summarize for Marcia the convoluted story of her childhood.
'Then it's really you,' said Marcia. 'I really have thought about you now and then, you know. What you might look like, what you might be doing. Not very often, I mean....' She paused awkwardly and smiled, afraid of offending the girl who stood in front of her. 'At least a couple times a month, I don't know.'
Gyula chuckled. 'She's brutally honest.'
'Well I didn't even know you existed until yesterday,' said Dahlia. 'I went to get a passport and they told me I was born in North Carolina. So I called North Carolina and they told me that my mother was Marcia Raymond. And then I called your father, and he directed me here....'
'You talked to Dad, huh,' said Marcia quietly. 'How's he doing? I haven't heard from him in a while.'
'He sounded all right,' said Dahlia, surprised. 'He didn't seem to think it at all odd to hear from me.'
'Well he doesn't tend to express his emotions much. WWe never did get along very well ... the truth is, it's been two or three years since we've talked. We just have nothing to say to each other.'
Suddenly Dahlia looked at Gyula. 'You're Hungarian, aren't you,' she said intently.
'In fact I am,' said Gyula, pleased. 'How could you tell? Is my accent that obvious?'
'No, no, your English is excellent. It's just that ... I knew someone who was Hungarian. Pretty recently ... actually, he just died in a car crash, it was two days ago. He loved to talk about Hungary, and I think he mentioned the name Gyula. God, he was always reciting this Hungarian poetry ... I wish I could remember it.'
'They say nine out of every ten Hungarians are writers,' said Gyula. 'Myself I can't stand poetry. But the Hungarian short story, now there's something to talk about. Ah, but you don't want get me started. You two have more important things to talk about.... You really do look remarkably similar, you know.'
'She's much more beautiful than I am,' said Dahlia shyly. 'I can't believe you're ... how old are you? Thirty-seven?'
'Thirty eight. I was sixteen when I had you.'
'I know,' said Dahlia, embarrassed. 'I guess I just miscalculated ... the time of year or something. But jeez ... you don't look much older than me. Have you ever been a model?'
'Not exactly...,' she said mysteriously. 'I work for an advertising agency now; I'm a junior account executive. It's kind of fun. Gyula is an architect and an accountant. He's also a brilliant writer, although he doesn't like to brag about it.'
Gyula waved his hand dismissively. 'Don't listen to a word she says.... In Hungarian, I could make a little magic, now and then. But in English I'm just another scribbling fool.'
'You know, it's weird,' said Dahlia, scrutinizing Gyula's face. 'You look an awful lot like the Hungarian guy I knew in Philly. You could almost be the same person. Except he was a midget; he was three and a half feet tall.'
Marcia and Gyula exchanged a knowing glance. 'Three and a half feet tall?' asked Gyula dubiously. 'What was his name, if you don't mind my asking?'
'Szentogothai,' answered Dahlia.
'Szentogothai,' repeated Gyula. 'And what was his first name?'
'Ooh, I forget,' said Dahlia, embarrassed, scratching her chin in frustration. 'It began with an F....'
Gyula began to suggest something, but then thought better of it.
'That's right.... It began with an F.... Something like frigerator.... That's right, Frigyes. Frigyes Szentogothai. Author of the book Self-Replicating Systems. Well, the book hasn't come out yet. And another book too, I can't remember the name. Mindspace, that's it, Mindspace. That's how I got to know him; my boyfriend was editing his book.'
'Frigyes Szentogothai...' repeated Gyula. 'Frigyes Szentogothai....'
'What?' asked Dahlia nervously. 'What does that mean to you?'
'Szentogothai,' he said to Marcia, 'was the surname of my aunt Rozi after her marriage. They lived up in the hills, they were the black sheep of the family. That's it, Marcia! That's what happened to Frigyes.... And now he's dead. Hit by a car, she said. Can you believe that? We were just this close to meeting him.'
'You know, that reminds me of something else,' said Marcia thoughtfully. 'Did you see in the paper this morning, that man who was whipped to death in Philadelphia? He was a Hungarian too, I think. Let's see if we can find the article.'
Suddenly Dahlia was very very sorry that she'd kept Marcia a secret from John and her double. Something strange was going on here -- somehow Marcia and Szentogothai were mixed up. It didn't make any sense at all, but then again, nothing about the midget had ever made sense....
Marcia dug the newspaper out from the trash can. 'Ferenc Szentogothai,' she said triumphantly. 'Hungarian transvestite. Hungarian transvestite! Survived by his father, Frigyes Szentogothai, and his sister Katica Csanyi.'
'Frigyes had a son...' mused Gyula. 'And we thought he was dead at the age of two. Or at least Tibor did. I was never sure....'
'You knew Szentogothai?' asked Dahlia, confusedly.
'I think that the man you knew as Szentogothai was my older brother,' said Gyula. 'He disappeared at two years old, we never saw him again. Everyone assumed him dead....'
It was too much for Dahlia to handle. So she really had killed that sham lesbian, that transvestite devil.... But that had been a dream, a delusion. Or had it? There was his picture in the paper, looking exactly as he had when she had left him. Bloody, flogged to death, lying helpless on the floor.
'Do you remember anything ... unusual about his appearance?' asked Gyula. 'Besides the fact that he was a midget, I mean. Anything about his body?'
'No,' said Dahlia quickly. 'I didn't know him that well, though. My ... my boyfriend was much closer to him.'
'First his son, and then him,' pondered Gyula. 'Obviously I'll have to make certain. You said he was just killed two days ago ... that means he certainly hasn't been buried yet. I'll have to go to Philadelphia and have a look at the corpse. Then I'll be able to tell for sure. You see,' he said, looking meaningfully at Dahlia, 'Frigyes was born with a tail.'
So the three of them -- Dahlia, her mother and her stepfather -- went back to the train station from which Dahlia had just emerged. Dahlia's train was still there, waiting to return to Philadelphia. They got on and in a matter of minutes the conductor gave the last call. Marcia spent the trip telling Dahlia, shyly but enthusiastically, and with serious omissions, about her days as a strip dancer. Dahlia was envious of her mother for having the guts to take off her clothes in front of people. She told her how much she hated her job as a waitress, how she wanted to play flute in a symphony orchestra, how she loved to compose.
Meanwhile Gyula stared out the window abstractly. He was thinking about his grandmother. He had always known Tibor was wrong -- some supersitions were nonsense, certainly, but some of them also had a basis in fact. There were also some things that were truly inexplicable, unless one recognized the existence of some force acting behind the scenes. Some force like Grandmother.
They went straight to the city morgue from the Amtrak station. It was no trouble getting to see the body. And it was Frigyes Moricz, all right. The tail was still there, plain for anyone to see. It wasn't quite long enough to poke a hole in his pants, but it was a tail nonetheless. And somehow, in Dahlia's mind, it seemed entirely appropriated for Szentogothai to have had a tail. Why not, after all? He was so quaint and charming -- almost elflike. Why not an elf's tail to boot?
From the morgue, Dahlia decided to take Marcia and Gyula back to her apartment. She had no worries about introducing them to the double. Things had gotten so strange already, that seemed like a minor problem. When she opened the door, John and D.R. were standing at the stove, making dinner. D.R. turned around to see who it was, and Marcia nearly fainted. 'Why, you have an identical twin!' she exclaimed. 'You can't be my daughter! I don't remember it all that well ... but I know I only had one of you!'
Gyula shook his head. 'They aren't twins, Marcia,' he said slowly. 'They aren't twins.'
'What do you mean?' asked Marcia. 'They look exactly alike. How can you be so sure?'
'It's Grandmother,' he said hoarsely.
'What?!' Marcia was angry. 'My daughter is your grandmother.'
Gyula smiled indulgently. 'Have you ever heard of a Doppelganger?' he asked. 'A double?'
'This is your mother?' asked John impatiently. 'D.L.?'
'Mmm hmmm,' said D.L. 'When I went to get a passport, I found out I wasn't really born in Philadelphia, like I'd always been told. I was really born in North Carolina. And my mother wasn't Rebecca Bowman -- she just adopted me. My mother was Marcia Raymond -- her.' She pointed to Marcia.
All of a sudden D.R. grabbed John's arm and pulled him into the other room. 'Listen,' she said furtively into his ear. 'I don't know who this lady is. My double has gone crazy, is what happened. I wasn't really adopted, I just made that up, for sympathy I guess. Rebecca is my real mother. I used to play I was adopted, just for the hell of it -- I had a whole scenario I used to run through in my mind ... a teenage mother, abusive foster homes, the whole shebang. After I'm born my real mother becomes a high-class prostitute.... And now that stupid doppelganger is confusing these fantasies ... I don't know what she's doing. In her mind it's real. And somewhere she found this woman....'
The others walked into the room. 'Telling him lies about me?' asked D.L. suspiciously.
'I'm just telling him the truth,' retorted D.R. 'The truth is that I wasn't adopted. It was just a story I made up, a fantasy. This proves that I'm the real Dahlia; you're just a fake, a duplication. Your program is breaking down.'
'On the contrary,' said D.L. 'It's your program which is breaking down. You're forgetting your actual life, you're classifying it as a fantasy. Even though mother is here, you're denying her presence, because you can't accept the fact that it was I who found her and not you.'
'Listen,' said Gyula. 'I want to talk alone with Dahlia. Both of you, I mean. Please.'
Marcia and John nodded. They didn't know what he meant to do, but they accepted that he had some insight into the situation. After all, he had picked them out as doubles rather than twins. 'Let's go for a walk,' suggested Marcia.
They walked two blocks north, to the abandoned Fairmount Prison, and stopped to look at the immense stone wall. 'Christ, it's hard to believe you're her mother,' said John. 'You look almost as young as me, I mean. And you really don't look that much like her.... But then, I guess I don't look a heck of a lot like my dad.'
'Let's go into the prison,' said Marcia. 'Is there a way in?'
'You have to climb over the wall. I've done it before, but I wouldn't recommend it.' He laughed.
'Let's do it,' said Marcia. 'Come on.'
'No, really.... It's silly. There's nothing in there, it's not worth the effort. Besides, we should be going back.'
'No, I don't think so,' said Marcia. 'Gyula likes to do things slowly. He probably has a lot to say to them. He's a very intelligent man.'
'I'm sure he is,' said John, shrugging his shoulders. It was a stupid idea, but he didn't feel like arguing. 'Fine, let's go in.'
He led her to the low point on the wall and the two of them clambered up, then lowered themselves down on the other side. As John had told her, the interior was fairly drab. It was just an empty prison yard, with a grey stone prison next to it. 'I love these walls,' said Marcia softly. 'They make you feel like you're in a different world.'
'Jail is a different world, I guess,' said John.
Suddenly Marcia felt her body tingle. 'Take off your clothes,' she commanded.
'Doesn't this place make you feel like taking off your clothes?'
'Not really,' John said honestly. Why would it? 'Let's go, all right? I'm sure they're done talking....'
But Marcia walked over to him and pressed her body tight against him. She felt the old feelings returning -- sensations she hadn't had for fifteen years. She kissed him hard, then unbuttoned her dress from the back and let it fall to the ground. Her breasts were still as radiant as ever. From the look on his face she knew that she had won.
When they got back, things were quiet. It seemed that nobody was home. But finally, they saw Dahlia lying on the bed. John looked at her curiously. It wasn't D.R. or D.L., it was another Dahlia. Or was it the original one? And where was Gyula?
They woke Dahlia up. She propped herself up against the pillows and grinned. 'He took her away,' she said. 'He knew she was the false one, the double. So he took her away. I don't know what he's going to do with her. Maybe take her back to Hungary, to his grandmother, I don't know. Maybe he'll kill her, it doesn't matter to me.'
'But....' John knew what he wanted to ask, but he couldn't bring himself to say it.
'Do you really want to know,' she asked him pointedly.
'I don't know,' he said. 'Yes ... yes I do. I have to know.'
'D.L. was the false one,' she said. 'I'm D.R. Or something close to her.'
'How do I know that you're telling the truth?'
'I don't. You don't.... Id doesn't really matter, does it?'
'How do I know you didn't just kill them both and make up this crazy story?'
'You don't know anything, John,' she said angrily. 'So just stop harassing me about it.'
'So is this really your mother?' he asked nervously, his mind straining to reconcile the various pieces of information.
'No. Like I told you, that was all a fantasy. It was all something I made up, just to amuse myself. The whole business about adoption. It's just a silly thing, just like changing my name to Dahlia. Just like the imaginary playmates I used to have when I was a kid. Remember I told you about it. The world at the end of the world. The people I used to play my flute for -- Guwumbu and Tirungi and Mak-sook-woko and all those little brown children. I told you there, at the horizon, you know.... I liked to think my real mother lived there. I liked to think I was adopted. I don't know why. Somehow mom and I never quite connected. I'm sure it was my fault, I've never quite connected with anyone. I guess I'm just socially deficient, that's all. So I just made up the story that I was adopted, that somewhere else there was another mother who.... And then,' she shrugged, 'then I came to believe it. That sort of thing happens, you know.'
'It never happens to me,' John said coldly.
'I don't know why I lied to you about it,' said Dahlia tearfully. 'There was no reason, really. I guess I'm just freaked-out and crazy, that's all....'
'Don't look at me,' said Marcia. 'The only thing I can think of is a DNA test. All I know is I had a kid when I was sixteen, and gave it up for adoption.'
'Jesus, you're both insane,' said John bitterly.
'I suppose we are,' said Marcia. 'I've been in remission for fifteen years, ever since I met Gyula. But seeing my daughter somehow snapped me out of it ... I don't know. I don't understand any of this.'
'Of course we're insane,' said Dahlia. 'Did I fool you? Really?'
'Fool me? What are you talking about?' asked John. His face was turning red.
'I just wanted to see if you would believe that I was her. You really did, didn't you.'
'I don't believe anything,' said John. 'Now you want to tell me that you're D.L., and the other one was the double. That's all right; it doesn't matter. As far as I'm concerned, both of you are Dahlia. Or were Dahlia, whatever. I just wish you'd stop playing games. Good God, I don't know how I ever got involved in this....'
'I do,' said Marcia. 'I know exactly how. You couldn't resist her, could you. She's got something. She's got the same thing I have, it's just expressed in a different way. You hate her, you have no respect for her, you think she's crazy, absurd, she's a maniac. But yet you keep on coming back for more.... She appeals to something in you. Some part of you that you always try to hide.... I've passed on the curse to my daughter.' Unexpectedly, Marcia put her hands in her face and cried.
'So you think she is your daughter,' said John, ignoring the rest of Marcia's explanation.
'Of course she's my daughter!' snapped Marcia. 'How could it be any other way? Just look at her -- her mind works justlike mine does. If she'd had my parents, she would have ended up just like me. As it is, she has a fighting chance.'
As Marcia spoke, they all heard a noise in the other room. Then Gyula and the other Dahlia came in through the door. 'I'm sorry we were gone so long,' he said. 'I was asking her some things about Frigyes.'
'So you are D.L.,' John realized, looking at the Dahlia on the bed.
'She was playing games with you,' said D.R. He looked at her closely, then looked back at the Dahlia on the bed. The differences were gone. And then he looked at Gyula. The man had shrunk to a little over four feet. He was now at least seventy years old.
'It doesn't make any difference,' said John. He looked at Marcia. 'Your husband has turned into Szentogothai.'
'He does that,' said Marcia. 'I've gotten used to it by now. He'll be back to normal soon.'
'Does he grow a tail too?'
'It's a classic case,' said Gyula, ignoring their conversation. 'I've heard about this sort of thing but I've never seen it myself.' He glanced at Marcia. 'And you're just part of the problem. You're not her mother. Rebecca Rose is her natural mother. If you don't believe me we can have a DNA test done to confirm it. You're just a fantasy she created. A sort of excuse for being the way she is....'
'I'm just a fantasy,' repeated Marcia. 'Gyula....'
'I'm telling you the truth,' said Gyula. 'You can believe me or not, it's up to you. You're a story that part of her mind liked to tell itself. The rest of her mind never knew about it.'
'But I'm here, I exist, I live!' exclaimed Marcia helplessly. 'What do you mean, I'm a story?!'
'I mean that Grandmother is involved,' said Gyula solemnly. He stared at the ceiling. 'But what does Grandmother matter, anyway? She's just a crazy old bat. I don't understand everything, Marcia. But I do understand this: they have to be brought together again. And the reason you're here is to help her do it.'
Marcia shrugged her shoulders. 'What do I do?'
Suddenly the look on Gyula's face changed. He sat down on the floor, with his back against the wall, and put his face in his hands. He sat that way for two or three minutes before anyone said anything. 'Gyula,' said Marcia sharply. 'What's going on now?'
He shook his head. 'Don't ask me. I'm in over my head.'
'What on earth are you talking about?'
He reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. After fumbling for half a minute, he withdrew a picture. Ignoring Marcia, he handed it to John. 'Look at this,' he said in an even tone. 'Look familiar?'
John stared obediently at the picture. It was a homely young woman, dressed in a peasant's dress. The only noteworthy thing about her was her face. It looked exactly like his.
He scrutinized the faded picture again and again. The morehe looked at it the more it looked like himself. 'This isn't me,' he said finally, slowly.
'It isn't?' asked Gyula, with a raise of the eyebrows.
'It looks exactly like me. But I've never dressed up in women's clothes like that.'
'Are you sure you weren't hypnotized?'
'What do you mean by that?'
'If you were hypnotized and told to dress up in women's clothing and told to forget it....'
Marcia leaned over John's shoulder and peeked at the picture. She had seen it before. She looked at Gyula, baffled. 'You mean....'
John was beginning to get angry. He started to say something, but Gyula interrupted him. 'This is a picture of Grandmother as a young woman,' he explained.
'There's quite a resemblance,' John said coldly. 'But what does it prove? Who cares? So I look like the woman.'
'I can tell you what it proves,' said Gyula. 'According to the standards you're setting up, it proves nothing whatsoever. First of all. But I can tell you what it proves to me.'
'And what is that?' snapped John. 'Why don't you stop playing games?'
'Grandmother is the force behind all this ... strangeness. You are Grandmother. You put the pieces together. What does it tell you?'
'I give up, what?!' said John. 'I'm not going to play with you, Gyula.'
Gyula smiled gently, and John put his hands around the Hungarian's throat. He squeezed hard; his intention was to kill, or at least to render unconscious. But the three women had no trouble pulling him away.
'I understand it, John,' said Dahlia Right. 'It means you're crazy. It means that, when I split into two different Dahlia's, it didn't really happen, not in the real world. It only happened in your head. It means that my double and me, and Marcia and Gyula, are only parts of your illusion.'
'But I'm not insane,' protested John. 'I'm just the same as I always was. When I first saw you double, don't you think I questioned my own sanity? But my thought process isn't crazy. You can't fool me that easy -- you're going to have to do better than that.'
'It's not a matter of crazy,' said Gyula. 'It's all a matter of power. You ... Grandmother ... have the power. But power makes you crazy. So you blot it out from your mind -- you blot out the awareness of your power. You try to become just another ordinary person. John Harcourt, editorial assistant, Mr. Average. But then, after a while, the power slowly slips out through the disguise. You begin to exert your powers without even knowing it.... Strange things start happening around you.... Think back, Grandmother, remember. Remember Budapest....'
John scowled, disgusted. 'You're the crazy one,' he spat. 'I'm not your goddamned grandmother.'
'Have it your way,' said the Hungarian with a tired shrug. 'Come on, Marcia, let's go.'
Marcia took Gyula's hand, and followed him out the door. John was left alone with the Dahlias.
For five or ten minutes, no one said anything. Then finally, D.L. piped up nervously, 'Let's get out of here. Let's go to Belize today. I've got to get away from this place.'
'I don't know if we can do that,' said John. 'I'll have to call the airline.... Plus, did we get that passport?'
'It came in the mail,' said D.R. 'Sorry, I should have told you.'
John shrugged his shoulders and called the airline. He was put on hold, and he waited for over twenty minutes, just staring at the Dahlias while they stared back at him. It seemed like the whole damn world was made of eyes. What about some tits, some feet, some elbows, knees, some navels or backbones, some noses? But no, only eyes, huge round eyes with dark rich hazel surrounding the pupils. Four eyes, one person, trying to see through him somehow.
But when he finally got through, the call only took half a minute. It was all right: they could leave at eleven thirty the next morning. Technically, they would be flying standby, but the plane was expected to be half empty, so there was virtually no chance of a problem. They were off to Belize!
The plane was in fact even less than half full. For the first leg of the flight -- New York to Miami -- D.R. stretched out across three seats and slept, while D.L. and John played Pocket Scrabble. Then, in Miami, the stewardess announced that the same plane was continuing to Belize City. However, anyone who wished to was permitted to leave the plane for the half hour stopover.
Since D.R. was sleeping, John and D.L. opted to stay on the plane. They were in the middle of a Scrabble game anyway. They didn't notice that everyone else got off. And they also didn't notice when the plane took off without letting anyone else on.
It was a good forty minutes later when John noticed something strange was happening. He had just won the game, 324 to 275. He raised his head and looked around him. The plane was empty. There was no one sitting in any of the seats. 'Guess Belize isn't a popular destination this time of year,' he said nervously.
'They wouldn't run the plane with only three people on it,' pointed out D.L. 'In fact, we weren't even scheduled to be here. This is an empty plane.'
'I wonder what's going on,' said John. 'I'll go find a stewardess and ask her.'
He came back in about two minutes, with a very sour look on his face. 'No stewardess,' he said flatly.
D.L. opened her mouth to say something, but John interrupted her.
'No pilot either,' he continued. 'Guess the plane's on auto. I don't like this, Dahlia....' He looked at her probingly. Obviously she was thinking the same thing he was. What did this have to do with Gyula, with his foul old grandmother, with Szentogothai, with self-replicating systems,with all that mind-destroying nonsense? Rather than escaping from their troubles, they had plunged yet deeper into confusion. 'I'm going to try to figure out the radio and call someone for help.'
'You know it's useless, don't you?' asked D.L.
John thought about it for a moment, and then said 'I don't know what's anything.' He went up front to look at the radio.
After half an hour's fruitless effort he couldn't stop the tears from pouring. He'd found the radio almost immediately, and figured out what seemed to be the way to control it. But it didn't work, god damn it! It looked like the simplest thing in the world, but since the obvious thing hadn't worked, he'd tried a hundred other ideas. But it was all a hunk of shit!
Finally he got up and went back into the cabin. That moment, as he left the cockpit, was the second time in his life that John seriously doubted his sanity. The whole damn cabin was full of Dahlias! Not just Dahlia Left and Dahlia Right -- that simple naming system would have to be trashed now. Dahlia 1, 2, 3, ... up through 300 or however many people you can fit on a plane. Every seat was full! So much for the empty plane.... He looked around at them and he could read the looks on their faces. Each one was slightly different, he was certain, just as D.L. and D.R. had been different from each other. And each one was equally baffled. Each one felt herself to be, either the true Dahlia Left, or the true Dahlia Right.
He rushed back to his seat as fast as he could -- Row 15, Seat B. He wanted to identify the original D.L. and D.R., and mark them somehow. But the closer he got to Row 15, the more impenetrable the path became. The aisle was filled with Dahlias, fighting each other. Each one was claiming her right to Row 15, Seat A or C, contending that the others had knocked her out and removed her against her will.
But if they had all been unconscious for a moment, John realized, then none of them actually knew if she was the original D.L. or D.R. Maybe the question had no meaning. They were all just created, and then randomly distributed throughout the seats. He cursed the stupid impulse that had sent him into the cockpit to fiddle with the radio. If he had only kept an eye on her, this wouldn't have happened!
Finally he settled down in his old seat and offered the Dahlia next to him a game of Scrabble. This seemed like a ridiculous thing to do, but it was better than sitting there and stewing over irresolvable issues. The game started out excellently -- he got the X and the Q in the first move. But well before he got a U to use with his Q, he noticed the plane was beginning to descend. It was coming down over bright blue ocean, toward a tiny brown isolated island.
John had no fear of landing; he trusted the auto-pilot. But the Dahlias were not so confident: they were nervous, complaining to one another and clenching onto the armrests. John was glad when the plane finally touched down. There was a bottleneck in the hallway while a few of the Dahlias struggled to open the door. But finally they got it, and everyone piled out. Aside from the airstrip itself, the only sign of human occupation was asmall metal shed. John walked over to the shed and opened the door. It was stocked with food, books, vitamin pills and various other supplies. There was a note taped up on the wall:
My Dear Friend John:
You will be safe here.
Eventually, perhaps, you will come to remember something, if you see my meaning. Then you will be able to think about leaving the island. Until then, make the best of it. In time, no doubt, you will come to see the bright side of the situation. Admittedly, it isn't Budapest, but it's not the pits of hell either.
Thank you, by the way, for your diligent work on Self-Replicating Systems. I trust that, when you return, you will do a similarly outstanding job with my other manuscript.
-- Frigyes Szentogothai
He opened up his briefcase, which still contained the Hungarian's other manuscript, and put the note inside.
But then suddenly John felt dizzy. Szentogothai! Szentogothai! That farcical midget was at the center of it all. Or was he? As he fell to the ground, John noticed something strange about the image of the note in his mind. It was in Dahlia's handwriting.
He opened the briefcase to check the note: yes, indeed, that was Dahlia's handwriting. And then, on a whim, he opened up the manuscript he had brought along -- the Hungarian's other manuscript, entitled Mindspace. He skimmed through the first few chapters, which, as he'd observed before, were informal essays on a variety of topics. It was interesting but, in the circumstances, it failed to hold his interest.
But after a few minutes he found something that held his attention. There was a section called, of all things, "The Duplication of Dahlia Rose." Unlike the other sections, it was a piece of science fiction, rather than a narration of ideas and opinions. It began "It was morning in Philadelphia. John stood in front of the bathroom mirror...," and proceeded to tell the strange story of a couple named John and Dahlia.
It was an exact record of the strange events that had happened to him over the last few days.
He read through it furiously, skipping through the other parts, eager to see if the story diverged from reality at any point, wanting most of all to see how it ended up. But just as he neared the end of the story, he felt a sort of dizziness coming over him. His eyes became less and less able to focus. The last words he was able to read were, precisely, these.
A vision passed through his mind. He was lying with Dahlia, the original Dahlia, on a sort of black formless mattress in an oddly shaped room. The room had thirteen walls; he could tellwithout even counting. There were no windows, and no doors -- there was not even a ceiling; the room simply opened up to the starry sky. Her breasts were so firm and delicious they seemed to be laughing with joy; her legs appeared to stretch out for miles. Her fingers moved along his body in always surprising ways. The silence began to sound almost choral, like a passage from Mozart's Requiem. She puckered her lips as if to blow him a kiss, and purple fire spurted out. But when the fire touched his face it didn't feel hot at all -- it was cold and wet, as though someone had poured a bucket of water over him.
John opened his eyes. Six Dahlias were bending over him, all splendidly naked, and looking extremely concerned. One of them was holding an empty bucket. 'He's OK,' another one said.
'That note,' he said hoarsely, returning to the thought he'd had before he'd passed out. 'It's in your handwriting. But it's got the midget's name at the bottom. What's the deal?'
'You know as much as we do,' said one of them. 'It's all....' She shrugged her shoulders, at a loss for words.
'It's a very small island,' said another. 'I hope there'll be enough food for all of us. Only five or ten square miles.'
'There'll be enough food,' said yet another Dahlia. 'Whoever set this up knew what they were doing.'
'What do you mean by that?' snapped John. 'Who's whoever? What do you know that you're not telling me?'
'I don't know anything,' she said. 'I just meant....'
'There's something going on,' said John persistently. 'Something new ... I mean besides the obvious.'
The Dahlias were nonplussed. Some of them shrugged their shoulders. He got up and walked around. There were Dahlias, Dahlias everywhere, all of them equally breathtakingly beautiful. So many rosy jutting nipples, so many pouty lips, so much sandy hair, so many rounded infinitely caressable buttocks and bellies. And all of them her -- all of them with the exact same sets of memories, written all over their faces.
But not exactly.... Some of them were clearly D.L.-ish, and some were D.R.-ish. Yes, the closer he looked, he could sense subtle differences between all of them. They were all Dahlia, but they were different inflections of Dahlia. It was as though he had five hundred living sculptures of Dahlia in front of him, each one crafted by a different master sculptress. Given any two of them, he could tell them apart, but only while he was looking at them -- once they faded into the crowd, it was impossible to pick them out again.
Some of them ignored him as he walked around. Some of them tried to engage him in small talk. Others made sexual overtures, pinching his ass or rubbing his back. But he brushed them away even as they aroused him. An idea was coming into his mind. He couldn't yet say what, but he knew it was important.
The idea was always just around the corner. One more Dahlia, he knew, would trigger the reaction in his mind, the reaction that he needed. One more glimpse of her sandy hair in the tropical sun. One more glimpse of her large brown eyes looking around in confusion.
But the longer John walked around, the more certain hebecame that the idea would never come. And then, just as he had given up hope, he realized that he had hit upon it. The crucial idea was that there was no other idea. This was it: what he was seeing. There was no other aspect to the world. There was only Dahlia, viewed from arbitrarily many perspectives.
John realized, regretfully but with absolute certainty, that he did not exist. That he had never actually existed. That Dahlia was, and always had been, the only reality.
Marcia had been manufactured, had been part of a false history which Dahlia had constructed. Similarly, John was a fabrication, a piece of a twisted erotic fantasy. Dahlia had never had a boyfriend named John. She had imagined one, and she had invested this imaginative creation with some part of her own consciousness, her own life. But today this animated construction 'John' was one tiny mental process, one infinitesimal fragment of identity, lost in the morass of Dahlia's psyche. Everything was dissolving, and what it would lead to he had no idea.
This realization was shocking, almost enough to make him faint again. But after a few minutes, the shock passed into another sensation: relief. Until this moment he had suspected that he was insane. But now he saw that the truth was quite different. He was perfectly sane, he was normal; his cognitive processes were intact. He was, precisely, that aspect of Dahlia which was not crazy. The rest of Dahlia was lost, subdivided, infinitely confused. Doubling had not been enough for her -- the halves had battled each other violently. She had needed incomprehensible redundancy. But he was strong, coherent, whole. There was nothing wrong with him, John. He smiled at the Dahlias condescendingly as they milled around the island, or lay on the sand letting the sun seep through their eyelids.
And then he let out a scream, by far the loudest scream of his life. His body felt different, frightening, wrong. There were large breasts on his chest ... his hips felt weird. He looked at and felt himself slowly, as if in a trance. He was no longer John, he was no longer a man -- he was just another Dahlia! Aghast, he ran out toward the sea, running and running until his head was underwater. He let the salty warm ocean seep comfortably up his nostrils, and into his mouth, until the very idea of breathing was foreign to his mind.... As his consciousness faded, in the back of his mind he saw himself: he was John again, he opened his eyes and he realized that he was sleeping in bed, his mouth full of mucous. A huge wave of relief swept through him. Then it had all been a tortuous nightmare! D.R. and D.L. were sleeping peacefully by his side. Only two of them -- two! two! two! Suddenly Dahlia's mere duality seemed a mild thing, hardly worth getting upset about. After all, having two Dahlias was pretty troublesome, but how much worse it would be to have three hundred! In the final analysis, as numbers went, two was rather small. He caressed their sleeping faces, then got up to have a glass of juice. It didn't seem right to go back to sleep just yet. But then he realized the glass was not in his hand, but around him. In the glass of apple juice John spiraled downward, and felt herself slowly lose the ability tobe.
is a form of mental
it is triumphantly
it needs the discipline
and the freedom
you can beat me
with your fists
or you can whip me
with your belt
or you can trace your long tongue
across my body
or kiss my nipples
with the pink lips of your
soft brown cunt
i see that your love
by the black
of your fury
the chocolate brown
of your skin
all the milk
i counter your anger
which is irrational
with an irrationality of my own
i place myself inside your skin
and feel the tension
the grinding shifting
the impotent struggling
knives slashing heads
and skin exploding
the fragmenting self
and centerless violence
of your gorgeous
very nearly insane
Whip me, baby!
Fucking hurt me!
Rip apart my fucking flesh!
You're so damn angry,
take it out on me,
I don't give a fuck
it's just a bag
of bones and muscles
just a part
of the web of illusion
just a nothing
we are nothing
just a dirty dream
i can see a beauty
in the femininity
of your anger
in the curious infinite-dimensional
of your woman rage
my rage is directed in its aggression
it has all the purpose of a warrior
yours is exploding out in circles
in spheres and sparkling terrible diamonds
puncturing itself with a thousand noises
and forever moving itself around and round
there is something terribly dark
to the universe of the male
about a woman enraged
(what if the sky turned yellow
and the sun filled up
with the pale blue of sky --
perhaps millions of sparrows
would swoop down
peck open our skulls
and drain our heads of brain --
a tremendous vagina filled with teeth
would open up in the place of the moon --
the plants would frolic to the sound
of the tearing of our muscles
and the crunching of our bones)
Take off your belt, bitch
and fucking let it loose on me!
I can take whatever you can deliver --
I don't really care
the evil force
keeps it in limits
keeps you free
continually repressing it
contorts your muscles
forces you to
though i admit
there is a strange beauty
in the exploding woman
(women in teddies brandishing bullwhips
men in dog collars down on the floor
licking the toes of gorgeous bimbos
begging with boundless self-abasement
to be granted the privilege of sucking
a bloody menstrual cunt)
the Goddess tearing off her flesh
enraged with the flaws of her creations
knowing that eventually she will have the power
to build it all again
i have struck you in anger
i have attacked you with words
it is for this that you are angry
i wish to atone
for the ways i have offended you
the wild jungle plant
of your confused lovely womanhood
and i don't recognize
any objective standards of right or wrong
i must become at home
in even the darkest chambers
of the palace of your womanhood
it is for this that you are finally
taking off your belt
"No, I can't do this," you say shyly
"Yes you can."
"The anger is in you.
I can feel it.
You have to let it out."
"How's that? Does it hurt?"
"A little bit.
It's not very hard though."
from each thing
contains a gap
of finite breadth
waiting for the object
waiting for time
to reestablish its continuum
and as the world is magically created
there is a very tiny sound
it is the crack of the Goddess's whip)
WHACK! -- Don't you ever strike me again!
WHACK! -- Don't you ever strike me again!
WHACK! -- Don't you call me rotten names!
WHACK! -- Don't you call me rotten names!
WHACK! -- You will speak to me with respect!
WHACK! -- You will speak to me with respect!
WHACK! -- Don't you ever strike me again!
WHACK! -- You will speak to me with respect!
"Does it hurt yet?"
WHACK! -- Don't you ever tell me what to do!
I can make my own decisions!
WHACK! -- I don't have to do what you tell me to!
WHACK! -- You fucking bastard, you fucking hit me!
WHACK! -- You have no fucking right to hit me!
WHACK! -- Don't you ever hit me again, you hear?!
WHACK! -- Don't you ever hit me again!
WHACK! -- You say you love me, you fucking bastard,
WHACK! -- then you call me nasty names
WHACK! -- and you hit me!
WHACK! -- You'll never treat me that way again!
WHACK! -- You'll treat me with respect!
WHACK! -- You'll treat me with respect!
WHACK! -- You'll treat me with respect!
WHACK! -- You'll treat me with respect!
"Have you had enough?"
as the whip opens his flesh
it opens segments of their minds
that have been glued shut forever
her anger is valid
a representation of the needs of her organism
and he is solid and substantial
enough to absorb her force
(this is sickness
his kinky whimsy
feeding her unstable insecurity)
this is the symmetry of illusion flesh
through pain delight
through sickness health
through woman man
and through man woman
WHACK! -- this is the Empire of Woman!
WHACK! -- this is the Empire of Woman!
a chorus of whispers
a chorus of words
a chorus of self-expanding languages
a chorus of beautiful shouts and songs
this is the Empire of Man
creating overt forms
triumphing and rampaging
with its beautiful aggression
but always in the background
there is the shaping force inside
the beautiful whisper full of power
WHACK! -- this is the Empire of Woman!
Philadelphia Inquirer, 21/12/2091
PLEXISY A FRAUD, EXPERTS CLAIM
Over the past five years, claims of plexisy have increased tenfold. Plexisy has been cited as the ailment of the age, the cancer of the twenty-first century. Members of Congress have called for the establishment of a special national research program to fund research on methods of plexisy prevention and cure. Most disturbingly, the World Wire Consortium has been hit by over five trillion dollars of lawsuits.
But in universities around the world, skepticism in regard to this new malady is growing. Several leading wire scientists have publicly expressed their skepticism of the very existence of the phenomenon of plexisy. According to Dr. Niles Briklund of the University of Stockholm, "There has not been one convincing case of so-called plexisy in all the world. Every single individual claiming to be affected by this malady has in fact had a history of mental instability. The claim that plex causes mental breakdowns, even in conjunction with hallucinogenic chemical agents. is completely unfounded. The explanation is obvious: it's just a method which some lawyers have found to make some money."
Not everyone agrees with Dr. Briklund. According to James Hale of the Ames Research Lab in Berkeley, "Niles's view is rather extreme. There are a lot of false claims, to be sure, but there is also a lot of very suggestive evidence. On the one hand, I don't think we really understand the phenomenon well enough to be filing lawsuits. But on the other hand, I don't think we can say that there's nothing there. There's definitely enough [evidence] to merit serious scientific investigation."
What conclusions are we scientific ignoramuses to make of all this? Clearly we must step aside and let the experts sort out the technical issues. But in the meantime, it seems clear, we should stand firm against questionable lawsuits. Every dollar paid out by World Wire is a dollar taken out of our taxes. Sorry, folks: we're not ready to shell out five trill for an ailment that rests on dubious scientific foundations.
February 14, 2092
I haven't written in this stupid puter for ages. Years, actually. Three years I guess. Three and a half. Got boring or something. Just haven't had the time. But now I'm going to attempt something more substantial. Everything is different now. The pain is so great that all the work I'm supposed to be doing, my new theory of self-organizing AI plexes, doesn't really matter anyway. Jesus Christ, what's going on.... I can't even write it. I can't even write it down. I've been trying to write it but the words won't come; I had to decimate the spaces.
It was his failure as an artist that did it. He finally realized he would be unable to sell his sculptures anywhere. Every gallery in Philly, New York and LA had turned him down. Even the holosim repositories on the wire didn't want him. I don't know why, he's plenty good, it's just a matter of style I guess. He's old-fashioned, just making these colored body shapes, not into shapeshifting and multiplex like all the modern sculptors.
So anyway, he started withdrawing into himself, becoming really nasty, such a goddamned bastard, glaring at me all the time, not wanting me to touch him; I don't know.... He was sick of being supported by me, but couldn't face the thought of putting his art aside to get a job.... But that couldn't have been the essence, could it? A bunch of stupid rejection letters? There's something deeper down, there has to be. There's something sick and twisted, disgusting, down at the core of us.
I don't know where to start. You have to start with the essence. But there isn't any way to get at the essence, really, I don't even know what an essence is; it's just a French perfume I suppose, sprayed on for foolish people who don't like the smell of sweat. And, in my considered opinion, no smell is so sweet as the sweat of my sweet beloved Chandra. As sweet as my delicacy, my beautiful, my magic boy....
'No smell is so sweet' -- tra la la la! 'In my considered opinion' -- what a bunch of bullshit! It's all a fucking bunch of bullshit. A fucking bunch of bullshit! There is no way to tell the whole thing, that's the problem. It just sprawls out in all directions, moving, weaving, shifting, diving, divagating ... divaginating, I suppose.... These words just fuck me up the ass. This is all so stupid. How can I write something this dumb. After all, intelligence was always my only redeeming quality. Even all the people who hated me always had to admit that I was smart.... I got bachelor's degrees in physics when I was eighteen, for fucking crying out loud. I have an I.Q. of 180 plus. I'm supposed to be a genius. A fucking goddamn girl genius, that's what they say! I've written six technical books already and I'm only twenty seven. I've got a dozen spaces on the wire devoted to my work. In five more years I stand to be promoted to full professor. I'm the whiz of the Drexel comp sci department. Genius, genius, genius....
Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration, that's what they tell me, and I guess I've perspired a lot writing my books and designing my plex agents, but it's all Chandra's fucking perspiration that suffuses me now, it's all his fucking goddamn sweat oozing all over my taste buds and making me feel as high as the cow jumping over the motherfucking moon. I can't understand it, can't understand anything. Wish I could stand up so high that everything looks little and ordinary, like bikes when you see them from the window of an airplane, buzzing around at their absurdly slow pace, taking forever to get from one highway interchange to another.
'Of all the words of mice or men, the saddest are, it might have been!' Fuck all the fucking fucking goddamn motherfucking fuck! What a bunch of damn bullshit. The subtle curves of his facial expressions and the hidden musty corners of his psyche, the chocolate milky beauty of his wonderful legs and his amazing pert cock.... It's all a bunch of shit!
Chandra, Chandra, Chandra! Chandra, Chandra, Chandra! Chandra, Chandra, Chandra, Chandra!
No -- fuck all! -- I can't start off like this, not with this bullshit. This is ridiculous. This is not even madness; it's not as pure as madness; it's just plain bullshit.
February 15, 2092
I'm thinking about killing the fucking slut bitch. But I couldn't actually kill her. Especially if she didn't exist because she was only in his head. You see how confused I am.
I never really wanted to kill anybody. I've got to distinguish delusion from reality. Obviously I never really wanted to kill anybody; I only dreamed it, daydreamed it, whatever. I'm not a violent person. Why am I writing this motherfucking garbage. I'm not all that violent a person. Anyone can fantasize about killing, it doesn't mean anything. It's all about Chandra, about me and motherfucking Chandra, my fucking goddamn gorgeous sex god, my horrible tormentor, my Marquis de Sade and Sacher-Masoch, my sweet little schoolboy, my loving protector, my good warlock Glenda, my Wizard of Philadelphia, my muse, my beautiful inspiration, the only man worth even thinking about in this stupid shitglob of a world....
Fuck it again. I can write again now, filled up with this demented pain and hate, I can write better than I could before, I think -- more naturally -- but I still can't say what there is to say. It's all a bunch of shit.
February 16, 2092
I thought I could somehow put an order on these happenings. I thought I could make it into something orderly, something neat and comprehensible, something like you read about in a book. At least like a holovid. But it's never like you read about in books; it doesn't come at you in chunks of plots and charactersand events and dialogues. It comes at you in nothings, it comes at you in nothings, in big fat oozing wads of nothings, in big fat oozing wads of nothings that soak into your skin and your mouth and your eyes and your cock and your ears and your nose and your tongue. (No, are they nothings; is that right? They're only nothings until they soak in -- they're only nothings until they penetrate your mind.... They're really experiences; that is, we like to call them experiences, but this is just a label put on top of what are really nothings.... Fucking overintellectual bitch that I am.)
What am I doing here? I'm hardly writing; I can't tell the paper from the insides of my mind. I'm not understanding things the way I was supposed to. Everything connects to everything else, right, but usually we suppress most of the connections; we only keep the 'important' ones, and we follow the important ones, one idea to the other, one idea to the other, one idea to the other ... we just follow the important ones, one after the other, and construct this train of thought. But the train of thought is just a stupid fucking illusion. This is what the plex knows. Who the fuck really knows what is so fucking important anyway. It all just sprawls out in all directions, in all directions, in all directions, in all directions....
And the end of this stupid asshole diary entry -- Chandra has come into the room. He's still so beautiful even when he hates me and acts like a jerkhole.
February 17, 1992
I should write about the knife game. Happened half a dozen times, at least. Most recently, three days ago.
Think about it like a scene from a movie. The beautiful black actor, slight but well-toned and elegant, slips off his jumpsuit and casually drops it on the ground. Slowly and deliberately, he falls to his knees, and rests his head on the wombat pelt that lies on the livingroom floor in front of him. A steady current of tears falls from his eyes onto his legs. He reaches his hand out, picks up the knife, and puts its point against his stomach, just below the ribs. Cautiously, experimentally, without ever making a sudden motion, he begins to push it in.
I can't watch any more; I rush away from my position outside the window and roughly open the door. Out of the corner of my eye I see him shove the knife under a nearby chair, jam it into the infowire socket, wrecking it. There is no blood; he hasn't done any serious damage yet. 'Jesus Christ, Chandra, what are you doing! It's not that fucking bad that you have to kill yourself!'
He gets up, not looking at me or speaking to me, puts his skirt and shirt on and walks out the door. He walks down the sidewalk, methodically picking up loose bricks and throwing them through the windshields of the bikes parked along the street. Another black man wreaking havoc in the city. The pigbots willclobber him. They won't understand that he's an ethereal being; they won't feel the delicacy of the fabric of his mind. 'Stop it!' I yell from the doorstep. 'You'll get put in jail!'
But it isn't true. The pigbots never arrive; nothing whatsoever happens. No one notices, or if they notice, they're afraid to interfere. Five or ten windshields more or less apparently counts for very little in the streets of Philadelphia. Eventually he tires of the windshield-smashing game and he just walks along. I follow him at a distance; he just wanders aimlessly from one street to another, not looking at anyone or anything, just moving and moving. Eventually he stops at a bakery and orders a vast number of eclairs and other pastries, which he stuffs in his large knapsack and does not eat until, about ten minutes later, he sits down on a bench by the fountain in Rittenhouse Square. The fountain is choreographed with remarkable precision to Mozart's Jupiter Symphony. In ten minutes he consumes fifteen pastries. By the time he's almost finished, the grim and sour look on his face is almost gone.
I decide that he's OK, relatively speaking, and go back home. I'm reading Huckleberry Finn; I plop myself down on the couch and absorb myself in the novel. The scenes are so funny I can't stop laughing. But I choke back my laughter automatically when Chandra walks in through the door. He says, 'I can't believe you came in just when I was about to do it. You were watching me weren't you.'
'Of course I was watching you. I could see very well you weren't all right.'
He doesn't say anything, just stares at me intently. From his look I infer that he does not want any words between us.
We don't speak until the next day. Then, in the middle of the afternoon, he beckons me to the bedroom. He says 'I love you,' drops his clothes on the floor and walks toward me. He presses his body on mine, covering me with kisses. 'I love you, love you, love you.'
And this is all the fault of nothing. I can't even remember what we were fighting about. Just a big piece of nothing. Shit.
February 20, 2092
Do you know what I think of all this writing in here? It's all just verbal diarrhea.
I can write anything I want in here; it's just for myself anyway. I used to think I could be a writer but I don't think I could anymore; I've got no sense of structure. Still, I could do better than this.
I've been reading Gertrude Stein. More verbal diarrhea. I can write better than her. It's hard to believe she was a woman. She doesn't have any feelings. But maybe things were different back then....
February 21, 2092
Love among the warped; love warped by the warped; warped love warping the warped beyond their usual warp; the warp of love warping the warp of the warped into a new warp, a wilder and warpier warp, a warp which warps every warp into the world into the rhythm of its warping. Warped by the love of the warped, the love of the warped is inevitably a warped love. The love of the warped warps. The love of the warped is always simultaneously a love for that which is warped, and a love emanating from that which is warped. Therefore warped love is invariably doubly warped. The warp of one warped lover is complementary to the warp of the other. No two lovers are warped in exactly the same way. No two lovers warp each other in exactly the same way. No two warps love each other in exactly the same way. No two loves warp each other in exactly the same way. No two warps warp each other in exactly the same way. Love among the unwarped is not really love. Love among the warped is really love but it is also really warped. Love is always warped. Love which does not warp is not really love. When the unwarped love they instantaneously become warped. Or else their unwarped love disappears before it comes into being. Only a warp can sustain love. Love warps. Warps love. Love warps love, and warps love warps. Love among the warped is not love despite its warpiness, it is the warpiness of love among the warped which makes it love. The orbiting of souls around each other does not make love. Love among the unwarped is just the orbiting of souls around each other; therefore the unwarped can never love. As soon as they love they become warped, warped by the warpiness of love. Love is a collision, and when two bodies collide they always become warped. Love is collision, collision warps. Warped souls collide because they are warped. Warped souls warp when they collide. Collision causes and is caused by warp.
Souls are bodies. Bodies are souls. When two souls collide they become warped. They warp each other; one warps in where the other warps out. One warps out where the other warps in. The unwarped do not know that souls are bodies and bodies are souls because they have never loved. The unwarped have never loved because love always warps. Love among the warped warps bodies and souls; it warps bodies into souls and it warps souls into bodies. It warps the body of one lover into the soul of another. It warps the soul of one lover into the body of another. It warps the body of one lover into the soul of that same lover, through the medium of the body and soul of the other lover. It warps the soul of one lover into the body of that same lover, through the medium of the soul and body of the other lover. Body and soul are not the same. Body is body and soul is soul. Only the warped see that body and soul are the same even though they are not the same, because only the warped can love. But not all the warped do love. Some never find love even though they are warped. Love is only one way to get warped. Some of the warped who love are unwarped until they are warped by the love of the warped. Some of the warped who love or do not love are warped from the beginning, others warp slowly over a lifetime, and others become warped all at once, perhaps while walking down the street and watching one person attempt to saw off another's limb,or while masturbating in the restroom of an airplane as it comes down onto the runway, or simply while sitting in a classroom staring at a clock. The warped who do love are lucky. The warped who do love are lucky to be warped so that they can love, and also lucky not to be among the warped who do not find love. A warp by itself is just a warp. A warp together with anothim, complementary warp is something different. It is love among the warped.
February 22, 1992
Let's see what the stylizer does with that shit I wrote last night. No, fuck the stylizer. Straight from the soul, baby.
I am twenty seven years old and in the deserts of his misery I have died seven hundred and fifty million deaths.
Do you dare speak to me of love? I tell you that the contours of his flesh are syllables of a never-spoken language, an intergalactic lingua franca used for telepathic communication between intelligent stars.
Do you dare speak to me of love? Do you dare speak to me of madness?
My language is that of the luminous mad. My language is that of the madness of love and the loving of madness.
My skin is filled with a million delirious nanobots, ejaculating alien pods of light.
I tell you that psychiatry and psychology are the ramblings of a drunk lying face-down on the pavement, outside of Washington Square Park, pigeons crapping on her back and pecking the snot out of her nostrils.
I understand madness: it is the natural reaction of the mind to the inner contradictions of the world. No one is saner than the whores on 42'nd Street and Eighth Avenue, standing outside in the freezing winter rain wearing nothing but lingerie and nanolights. They are thrusting their sex out against the petrifying world: with all their intricate perversion, they are making a stand for life.
Am I mad about Chandra? No, my madness is not about anything at all; that is exactly what madness is about, not being about anything at all, just being for its own sake, independent of the world. Like a rocket blasting from its launching pad and exiting the boundaries of the earth. Or a third ball dangling in the center of a young man's scrotal sack.
I am in love with Chandra because I am me and he is Chandra; because I am just a little mad and he is far madder; because his olive brown flesh is infinitely more solid than the surface of this dead planet Earth.
No, don't try to speak to me about love; it is I who must tell you about love. Though in all probability you won't understand a single word, I feel I must tell you anyway. Do you realize that atoms which once formed part of Chandra's seminal fluid are at this very moment drifting in and out of your lungs? The 'O' of his lips is the sensual circle traced out in the airby his swiveling hips, which is the dragon that swallows itself by the genitals instead of the tail, and if you don't grasp this, then you grasp nothing, then you are just a pattern floating in an abyss, which is exactly what I am, which is exactly what we all are; and yet there is one true reality amidst all this chaos, and his name is Chandra.
February 22, 2092
I remember meeting him one time at the airport. I was standing on the stairs and looking down into the great room of the Penn Station terminal, and I saw him emerge from the crowd in his floppy red dashiki with a puter under his arm, his mouth twisted into that distracted expression with which I have become so insanely familiar. He appeared out of the crowd like a comet zooming out of a distant galaxy toward the earth. Like -- wait, I've got it -- like a phosphorescent flower suddenly blossoming in a pitch dark cave full of intelligent ravenous bats. Although I had known him for several years, I felt at that moment as if I had never seen him before. I had the strange feeling that I was looking at something that had been seething in the back of my mind for ages, and had somehow sneaked its way out into the front of my mind, like a fan who has eluded the stadium pigbots and run onto the baseball field during a World Series game.
It wasn't any one of his physical features, nor was it the expression on his face; if I weren't such a rationalist I might perhaps call it an aura. Like something you feel in the plex. The intricate patterns by which he directed his muscles gave his body the appearance of an ocean about to surge over its edges. Perhaps some subtle facet of his looks or his carriage reminded me of someone I had known in early childhood, someone whose memory was lost from my consciousness but whose features remained encoded in my brain.
He came up to me and hugged me. As I brushed my legs against his knees I felt absolutely nothing; and I was almost disappointed by this lack of feeling, as if I had unconsciously expected some kind of surreal electrical charge to jump from his skin onto mine. I don't understand what it is about his knees that so attracts me, but every time I look at them it's like I'm transported to another planet. His legs are the most beautiful things on Earth, but his knees, his knees alone, belong to Hungarian Jupiter....
As he spoke, my attention wandered, mostly along the angles and lines that delineated his angled face. Then I heard him say something about suicide, and I perked up, but I was embarrassed at not having been listening, so I didn't ask him to repeat what had come before (a little later I heard the story again: his aunt had poisoned herself with insectibots, only four months after having been released from the mental hospital). This was my first taste of something that I have more recently identified as a distinctive quality of his conversation: the fact that he never makes the slightest effort to make a story sound interesting. When I tell stories, he always laughs at my exaggerations and myhabit of emphasizing silly details, but as I write this now I see why these faults of mine strike him with such particular force: they are exactly the opposite of his own way of communicating. As the years have passed, he has gradually adopted some of my histrionic habits, tempering his natural reserve with occasional ironic suggestions and outbursts of emotion. But in the beginning there was none of this. If you listened carefully to every sentence that came out his mouth, and made an effort to connect each one with those that had come before it, then you would find after a few minutes that you had been listening to an amusing, thought-provoking tale. But there would never be anything in his tone, or his demeanor, or his expression to suggest these positive qualities; even if he were speaking about animal sex in Buddhist monasteries, he sounded as though he were reciting obituaries, or perhaps flipping through his mail and reading the return addresses aloud. Above all it was a kind of misguided and involuntary politeness -- it was as though he were afraid that you would feel obliged to feign an interest in what he was saying, so that he felt it necessary to say with his tone, 'Here's an excuse for being bored'....
He glanced down at my tattered jeans and read aloud the words that I had written there in ballpoint pen:
The delirious flowers
of your secret arboretum
will one day burst out into flame
'That's pretty,' he said. 'Where does it come from?'
'I made it up.'
Those three lines, written so offhandedly, have come to symbolize in my mind the whole of my relationship with Chandra. Unfortunately I can't remember what was in my mind when I first wrote them down. I know had been reading Rimbaud and Octavio Paz, in the stupid hope that all their strange images would somehow fill up my brain, leaving no room for the dull routine thoughts that seemed to follow me around. Perhaps I had been thinking of Rimbaud's famous letter, where he calls the poet a 'thief of fire.' But whatever the original inspiration, the lines fit him perfectly. Chandra's brain was certainly a breeding ground for delirious flowers....
We went home and while I was kissing him all over his legs he starting talking about the Brothers Karamazov. I immediately started sucking his cock to make the moment more poignant. Something about the purity of Alyosha's love for that girl, I can't even remember her name. The thing is he wasn't trying to be funny, or trying to show off, or really trying to do anything, he was just being Chandra, wonderful Chandra, magical artistic sex god genius Chandra. And every word he said made his cock taste more delicious! It was his grammar more than anything -- his grammar and vocabulary are impeccable, in fact almost too correct, as though he were educated at some prestigious academy along with the daughters of Senators and business tycoons. Somewhere, peeking out between his carefully articulated 'r''s and 'p''s and 's''s, there is a tiny hint of some kind of ghettoaccent, but it is terrifically hard to find.
His mother was white, his father black, which made him olive brown, or chocolate milky brown, or some kind of mix and match of stains and colors. When I first met him I thought he was one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. (Black men and Oriental men, I have always felt, are much more beautiful than white ones -- white men all look so pale and sickly. A black man can be slight like Chandra and yet still look so masculine.)
The first time I met Chandra's mother Clarissa she said to me: 'White people don't know how to have fun. They just look at me funny as if I were some kind of piece of shit. Black people never looked at me that way. No, siree. The way they can dance, man; it's sooo sexy; white people can never dance that way, it's like they never know where to put their feet. Black people don't need no plex, they got it all inside.' As she spoke she looked at me almost accusingly -- my skin is much whiter than hers; whiter than white; next to Chandra I almost look like an albino. And in fact I am a pretty poor dancer, although one of my uncles, just as white as me, is a professional jazz dancer who has performed on Broadway. But when I told her about my uncle, she completely surprised me by saying 'Well, maybe he has some black blood in him, then, you never know?' Of course I did know perfectly well that this was nonsense, but at this point my relationship with Clarissa was still good and I didn't want to argue with her. In fact, as I observed later, while Clarissa had once been a dance instructor, she moved with little natural grace, and she danced somewhat woodenly; whereas Chandra, though he walked with a distinctly 'white' rhythm, was nevertheless invariably graceful, and when he danced he displayed precisely the primitive eroticism which Clarissa associated with blacks. With my previous boyfriends I had never enjoyed dancing, especially not multiplex; in fact with my boyfriend Marcus, my reticence to dance had become a recurring joke; but it was such a pleasure to plex with Chandra on the dance floor, watching him purse his lips and sway his wide hips in tremendous arcs, that I soon found myself happily dancing away.
What I wanted to capture, by watching him dance and dance, by obsessing my eyeballs on the curves of his chest and the obscene thrusts of his buttocks and the pointless ironic winks he would throw at me, grinning, and the lovely soft roundness of his stomach, and his long, perfect, strong olive-green legs, which bruised remarkably easily, particularly on the thighs, and were thus never without one or two large blue-black splotches -- what I wanted to capture was the beautiful mystery and inscrutability of his flesh and all it revealed to me. For, after all, we can never really know anyone else's mind; another person is nothing but flesh to us. What we call somebody else's mind is just a bunch of patterns that we've recognized in the actions of a certain mass of flesh. If the wire has taught us anything it's this: there's nothing but information, pattern, structure. It's all abstract. The peculiar twist of his most thought-provoking statements is to me indistinguishable from the way that, when we make love in the position where he is sitting up, supporting himself with my arms, and I am straddled across his lap, hetwists his body to the side as he thrusts up and forward, brushing his chest against my nipples. No one can tell me that the twist of his thoughts and the twist of his body do not represent fundamentally the same thing: the desire to add a little extra to what is really more than enough, and not only out of generousness, but also with the barest hint of polite mocking sadism, as if to say 'You want me to give you pleasure, eh? Well, I'll give you pleasure, all right; I'll give you so much you won't be able to bear it and you'll beg me to give you pain instead!'
February 23, 2092
Listen to all these ridiculous thoughts.
I am sick of the mind, sick of all thought, I have thought too much and read too much and puted too much and had enough of thought; only someone who has thought as much as I have, and there are very few who fit this criterion, can possibly be as sick as I am of thought. And though I am very sick of thought I am even sicker of society, which is after all the cooperative construction of everybody's thoughts, a kind of vector summation and quantization of everyone's thoughts. I am sick of the mind and sicker of the social; and I am even sicker of the plex, which is society turned into a kind of dim form of mind. The only thing which interests me any more is the body. I want to string thousands of words together, but not one after the other, in a line, instead in a four-dimensional structure that will eventually form an exact sculpture of his body, his enchanted body, that mysterious world in which I discovered and lost so much (and from which his brilliant, twisted mind exudes like so much smoke from a scented candle) -- and to call this a 'four-dimensional structure' is only an approximation, because it is really an n-dimensional structure, where n tends to infinity, for what I want to capture is not merely Chandra's body as it exists in this space-time continuum, but rather his body as it transcends the constraints of spacetime, as it exists in any number of possible spacetimes, his body as a pure pattern, as an ultimate reality, transcending everything and ultimately complete in itself, like Pascal's sphere whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere. (So pompous! So pretentious! And yet so true, so fucking true, so fucking true true true! I don't care if no one else ever understands it, it's really not all a fucking confusion. If they could suck his beautiful cock then they'd understand it all.... But no, that's not even true, that's just a stupid thing, because it wouldn't really be him, it would just be their perception of him, which isn't the real thing.... And my perception is the real thing? Fuck fuck fuck everything ... fuck fuck everything.)
Do you want to talk about philosophy, Imaginary Reader, Nonexistent Reader, O you Big Piece of Shit? I'll tell you something about philosophy. I have purchased all the works of the great philosophers in the old form, the paper form, not noteputer, and every time Chandra and I walk down to Fairmount Park, we choose one of these exalted tomes to bring along withus. When we get there we sit down on a bench and rip out the pages one by one, and make paper airplanes, which we fly into the wind. Not because the philosophers were all sexist bastards, which they were, but because thought is stupid. They thought their thoughts, and now they're dead, and now we can kill their thoughts again, by sailing them into the wind, eventually to fall and decompose, back into the nature from which they originally emitted.
We feel that it is quite a bargain to get, for example, over 230 paper airplanes from the $90.00 paid for the Dover Books edition of the Selected Writings of Charles S. Peirce. How is it that Charles S. Peirce is called an American philosophim, when nowhere in her 460 pages of Selected Writings does she ever mention paper airplanes, or chewing gum, or even baseball, a game which I despise, but which I had always thought to be the essence of the American philosophy. (But then, perhaps this is not Peirce's fault, perhaps the person to blame is Justus Buchler, the editor of the volume, who took upon himself the task of selecting from Peirce's thousands of pages of writing precisely those which seemed most likely to appeal to a worthless peon, a Waldenbooks customer like me. How much is it reasonable to expect from a guy with a name like 'Justus Buchler'? Would you ever suck the cock of a guy named Justus Buchler? And as for me, who am I to complain, for after all Peirce was just a madman like me, just a poor old guy with a long white beard who worked for the Coast Guard Geological Survey all day and went home at night to scribble out her demented visions and call them 'philosophy'; and how often is it that two madmen can meaningfully speak to each other? -- in the airport tunnel by the Broad Street Station there are fifty madmen lying in a row on tattered sleeping bags, and none of them speak to each other at all, they all just lie there staring at the pavement or the sky, waiting for the govbots to bring by free food and water, living out their own dejected, delirious realities.)
No, I doubt if you want to talk about philosophy; no one ever wants to talk about philosophy, especially with a marginally attractive girl. In truth no one reads philosophy putes at all, not even once like I always do before turning them into fleets of paper airplanes. This is because if they really understood all the ideas of the great philosophers it would drive them immediately insane. For nearly all of the great philosophers were sick, twisted men who were never in love. They were warped but unlucky. Schopenhauer, a brilliant but bitter man who was never in love, a warped and unlucky human being, a man whose most important interaction with the feminine world was when he once pushed a woman down a staircase, argued that there are only two ways to penetrate through the world of illusion to the true reality underneath: one is the experience of willing one's own body, and the other the experience of aesthetic appreciation, of sinking into oneness with a work of art. But he was wrong, the cold-blooded fool, because there is a third alternative, and one that is in every respect superior to the two she mentions: the experience of willing another body, while at the same time intensely appreciating that body as a perfect work of art, andfurthermore being willed by that body -- willing and being willed, being willed and willing, around and around in a circular motion, the intrinsic chaos of which is forced into regularity by a biological metronome, a metronome tremendously more ancient than those neuroelectric processes with which we construct our illusory world. In short, while simple lust is a part of the illusion, true erotic love is a way to break through, and in fact a more powerful method than the two which Schopenhauer recognized -- Yes, yes, yes, Schopenhauer, you old repressed fool, you strange feral cranium, you disembodied brain whose pages made the worst paper airplanes I've ever seen, if you had loved Chandra day after day, lusted after his strong legs every morning as you watched him walk away from the shower with his towel only half covering his ass, then you would have rewritten The World as Will and Representation as a dithyrambic love poem and called it The World as Chandra and Representation instead; and this is not a conjecture but a fact, I know it as surely as I know that my name is Alexandra: my proof is that Nietzsche, who began as a Schopenhauerian, broke with Schopenhauer when he fell in love, and his greatest work Also Sprach Zarathustra is in fact a extended love poem to a young Russian girl named Lou Salome'.
In fact I have discovered an even deeper secret. Friedrich Nietzsche, who railed against women in his books with such abominable fervor, was himself a woman. This is why Lou Salome' would never have him. He had the body of a man, but deep inside he was so feminine, so feminine.
Nietzsche, more warped than anyone else, and luckier than anyone else who was warped, and more warped than anyone else who was lucky, in short a very warped and very lucky person, wrote in her autobiography, with her usual crypticism, that Zarathustra was in fact the work of a young Russian woman (after the poor guy went insane from syphilis, his vicious bitch of a sister struck these words from the manuscript before sending it to the publishers; but now the sister is long since rotted and the words have been put back), and -- this is a true story, I'm not making this up -- it was exactly this page of her autobiography that achieved the best flight of any of my airplanes. It zoomed straight up out of the grove of trees in which we were hiding, in whose leafy obscurity we had just finished making love, and as we rushed out and followed it the wind carried it out of the park and across the road, then up higher in the air and finally over a barbed wire fence into an old abandoned house that looked for all the world like a castle. I climbed the fence and searched for it for two hours, intent to reclaim this enchanted plane, but it was worse than looking for a needle in a haystack, it was more like searching through a haystack for a single magical piece of hay, a magic piece of hay no different in appearance from all the rest; there was so much garbage there that to find the plane would have required weeks or months of labor, and even this might have been fruitless, for eventually the wind might have blown it away.
As far as I know the castle is still vacant: when this diary is published and becomes a best-seller (with Chandra and I given fake names, of course) and makes me twenty billion dollars, I will use the proceeds to buy this castle, and we will live there,Chandra and I, the King and Queen of Philadelphia, and we will buy the works of the great philosophers in expensive original hardcover, and make the pages into paper airplanes, and throw these airplanes from the roof of our castle, and watch them zoom across the street into the park below. And it is in honor of this future life, of our future reign in the Philadelphia Castle, that we plan to give our child, the one in my belly, the name Zarathustra. Of course there is no child in my belly but he is potentially there. All I need to do is run down to the drugstore and get some antianti. Chandra agreed to the name because he likes the sound; he thinks I chose it out of simple admiration for Nietzsche, but on some night when the moon is glowing I will tell him that the name was actually selected as a symbol of love, because Zarathustra was the love-child of Nietzsche and Lou Salome', and that, therefore, to name our child Zarathustra is an act of cosmological wizardry, a ritual transmogrification of the imaginary into the real.
Listen to these, by far the most beautiful words I have ever seen, heard or imagined. Listen to Friedrich Nietzsche, a syphilis-crazed compulsive masturbator, a woman trapped in a man's body, the greatest woman artist ever, a woman who made her tortured way from one doctor to another to another, none ever giving her lasting solace from the terrible pains that plagued her eyes and her stomach, a genius writer and prophetic thinker who had to self-publish so many of her hard-won writings; listen to Nietzsche, the Empress of the Warped, sing of the beauty of her warped existence, of the love of the warped, of the warp of warped love, of the loveliness of warping and loving, of the warpiness of loving and warping, of the beauty of souls colliding and warping in the dance of delirium:
O man, attend!
What does deep midnight's voice contend?
I've slept my sleep,
and now, at dreaming's end
The world is deep
Deeper than day can comprehend
Deep is its woe
Joy, deeper than heart's agony
Woe cries 'Fade! Go!'
But all joy craves eternity
Craves deep, deep, deep eternity!
'All joy craves eternity!' sings Zarathustra, but this is a code phrase, and what it really means is 'All joy craves Lou Salome'' -- for to the lover the loved one is eternity, and is not only all of time but also all of space and all of imagination as well, even those realms of imagination with which time and space are incommensurable. Zarathustra's doctrine of the eternal recurrence, which states that time has a finite length, so that in the boundlessness of eternity every person's lifetime must be repeated infinitely often, exactly the same down to the last detail (a doctrine which, as I once told a room full of wire sci students, receiving in return only a bunch of nasty glares, is amathematical consequence of the Church-Turing Thesis) -- this bizarre theory of the eternal recurrence could only have been created by a lover. In all the vast and stupid literature on the eternal recurrence this fact has never once been noted. Schopenhauer was at bottom a Buddhist; and Buddha too was never in love, which is why he left her wife and family for a life of celibacy on the road (today he would be labeled a vagrant and a 'deadbeat dad' and locked in prison -- fucking bastard!) -- which is why he was so absurdly pessimistic and made his stupid famous claim that the world brings only suffering. Only a body that is not in love can make its mouth call the world a place of horror. Only a body that is in love can cry out with Nietzsche 'One more time again! Bring on the decades of syphilitic torture, it doesn't matter, so long as I get those five minutes sitting chastely with my lover; so long as I get the minute, lingering sensation of his lips on my cheek!' (And does it matter to me whether Chandra loves me in the same way that I love him; whether he feels the same passionate, unearthly, life-absorbing fleshly dementia? Of course it doesn't. I am better off than Nietzsche, not only because I do not have syphilis, but because I am loved by Chandra in return, if not with the same kind of love that I direct toward him, then with his own kind of love, which is in the end an even better thing. (Anyway, reciprocation can prolong love, but it never makes love any more intense or any realer. No one asks whether the sun feels the same pleasure that they derive from its heat and its light. When skipping naked through a meadow with a childish grin, one doesn't worry about stupid questions such as whether the universe appreciates one as much as one appreciates it.)) For everything is Chandra, everything is Chandra, everything is Chandra! It is this feeling, this sensation, that is the important thing. Everything is Chandra, just represented in different ways; and the key to deciphering this representation is itself in Chandra's body, it is in the delicately shifting angles which his thighs make with each other as they scissor open and shut as he fucks me, and in the indecisive spreadeagling of his nostrils, and in the omnipotent roundness of his belly, and in the luminous, rugged plains of his acne-scarred forehead. And I want to type his name over and over again: Chandra! Chandra! Chandra! because seeing his name makes me think of his body, and in typing his name I may fasten the image of his body in my mind (i.e. in my body), engrave it so firmly in the hundred billion synapses of my brain that, even as I become old and senile and forget my mother's face and my own wire address, the image of Chandra as he appeared to me in those first years will still be vivid and alive. For his flesh is above all a prism: it transforms the muddle of my life and world into an orderly spectral elegance, an elegance which is always 'there' in a fundamental sense, underlying all the mess, but is only discernible through the medium of his body. The dilapidated, overpriced apartment that Janine and I shared in Manhattan, with its rat-chewed floorboards and fifty-year-old AI unit and drug dealer neighbors, this is engraved in the lines on his face, and in the tiny wrinkles of his scrotum, and in the just barely visible veins on the backs of his legs. The wholefilthy city and all the people whom we knew there are incomprehensible to me except when filtered through the strange kinks in his hair, the musical quality of his laugh, the pungent flavor of his sweaty neck. That night in Atlantic City when we won five hundred dollars, and then went back home to our cheap hotel room bedecked in cheap costume jewelry, has a meaning only insofar as the dirty carpet left marks on his buttocks when we rolled off the bed making love; only inasmuch as, when the jackpot bell rang, his slightly crooked upper teeth jutted out of his mouth in a large and infinitely brilliant smile. And so this disorganized, ridiculous noteputer space, this vain attempt to project infinitely many dimensions into one, is above all the story of Chandra's body, the story of his pulsing, imperfect flesh: a self-organizing system of electrical currents, a self-contained olive brown water-filled cosmos, a glowing sexual delirium....
February 25, 2092
I loved his body, oh how I loved his body. Even his asshole, which he never seemed to care for much, I loved so intensely, insanely. The only part of his body I ever hated was his mouth. I never hated his mouth for longer than two or three hours on end. But that is more than enough time for a hatred to live out its life. I hated his mouth, primarily, not for the nasty things that it said -- which, God knows, would have been enough -- but rather for its the bizarre and infinitely deprecating expressions. He had a habit of exaggerating his expressions, so that where a normal person might purse their lips just a little, he would form hers into a perfect 'O'; and when an ordinary person might make just a tiny hint of a frown, he would curl down the outer edges of his mouth until he looked like a circus clown.....
As I absently watch him change his expression, I often think of the picture the wire gives when it plays early Frank Zappa music, in which the mouths of the eight members of the "Mothers" band are displayed in a two by four array, each one enclosed in a little box. It seems to me that, while a display like this with about fifty entries would suffice to describe an ordinary person's mouth in all its ramifications, to describe Chandra's mouth would require at least ten times that number. Chandra's mouth is as malleable as clay; in fact I am not entirely certain that it has ever made the same expression twice (though this is only a relative statement, since of course nothing ever really re-exists; the world reconstitutes itself at each moment, the primary function of each object being to create other objects, and thus ensure the illusion of the continuity of the world; but the coarse-grained nature of our perception and memory nevertheless produces the effect of the same things popping up again and again, so much that we even fall into 'routines,' and become bored with looking at the same faces or landscapes, when in fact there is nothing falser or stupider than this concept of 'same'...). These days you can buy lipstick with nanobots that artificially puff up your lips; but this was not necessary inChandra's case, as his lips were already filled to the bursting point, giving his the appearance of an animal in heat. Of course they wrinkled slightly at the corners, where he had now and then had fever blisters, but even his fever blisters were rounded, fatty, fulsome. Unless he intentionally sucked them toward his teeth, his lips always gave the appearance of being on the verge of blowing a kiss. And inside his lips, of course, were his teeth, of which he was endlessly ashamed, because his two top front teeth were excessively long and jutted outward, and because immediately to the left of these two he had an extra tooth, short, stubby and angled oddly backwards, like a nail hammered into a board by an inept carpenter. He claims that his crooked teeth are his own fault, that they were created by his obsessive fear of pain, which caused him to leave his baby teeth in his mouth for weeks after anyone else would have pulled them out, so that his adult teeth had had to come out by unusual routes. But for my part, I have never had any fondness for straight teeth; quite the contrary, the appearance of shiny white teeth neatly laid out in a straight line has always offended me in the extreme. It reminds me of a row of soldiers standing at attention, in their neatly pressed uniforms, their guns held rigid by their sides, listening to their commanding officer exhort them to be ruthless and bloodthirsty, to kill the grimy gooks and Jews, to rape and plunder and torture and maim, because that's the only way to get into Heaven.... Ah God, that sounds crazy, doesn't it! When I was a child my parents tried to force braces on me and I violently refused; similarly, when Chandra has begged me to buy him braces (something that, until recently, has fortunately been beyond our means), I have put the question off without saying why. He does not realize that by thus attempting to make himself more attractive he would only make himself less attractive to me. This would only increase my hatred for his mouth, which up till now has only been an occasional visitor to my mind.
And I have not yet mentioned his tongue, a tongue which is infinitely more attractive than mine, because for the last ten years mine has been plagued with cold sores, which even when they vanish leave tiny bumps and odd red scars. The luminous smoothness of his tongue is a great source of jealousy to me. He does not like to French kiss with me so much anymore, unless he is really really drunk, because of the ugliness and bumpiness of my tongue, but sometimes I force it on him anyway and I am reminded of those first days, when we would French kiss every day, sometimes for a terribly long time.
In fact, the first time I ever kissed him I French kissed him in his dorm room for three quarters of an hour. As I found out later, he was not entirely pleased with this experiment in protracted face-sucking, but I was impressed, as I had never meditated on anyone's tongue for anywhere near that length of time. I felt that I was moving toward an understanding of the essence of tongueness. And I felt that by exploring every corner of his mouth a hundred times I was making it my home, so that in a moment of despair I might be able to curl myself up into a ball and conceal myself inside it, living there together with himtongue just like man and wife. His tongue made no protest to this hypothetical marriage; indeed it seemed enthusiastic. But eventually his brain protested and he pulled away....
Another time I French kissed him in the back of a VR theater showing a hotwired version of an old Godard flick, "King Lear." And now that stupid movie King Lear flashes through my brain every now and then when we French kiss -- how inanely appropriate that it was a French movie -- that terrible movie, the worst Godard ever made, which goes beyond surrealism into pure ontological anarchism; how many times must I relive that ridiculous conference of Mafia dons planning a new film of King Lear, while a descendant of William Shakespeare wanders the post-nuclear-holocaust earth searching for information about his famous ancestor, and Godard himself wanders around wearing electrical cords instead of hair. Now and then throughout the movie the following words flash at you, hovering out in the middle of space: 'NOTHING. NO THING.' And here and there one sees a woman, the most beautiful woman ever on earth, the only woman as beautiful as Chandra, but whose beauty, unlike Chandra's which is distributed evenly throughout his body, is concentrated primarily in her face, and to a large extent even more specifically in her smile, that radiant smile, that crystal of iridescent lust, which I categorized when I first saw it as one of the three or four most remarkable things I had ever set eyes upon; that smile which I instantly recognized as being the smile of the mystery woman who for years and years had been sending me telepathic messages in my dreams. I remembered these messages, all of a sudden, as if they had always been on the top of my mind. It was only with difficulty that I could accept that I had never remembered them before. Someone had been talking to me for ages but I hadn't been able to accept it; now here she was, the mystery voice in my head, turned into actual incarnate form, turned into a woman! This actress, whose name as I learned from the credits was Julie Delpy, had only a bit part in Godard's King Lear; but several months earlier I had happened upon another old movie in which she had had a leading role. Watching this other movie, however, Le Passion Beatriz, had proved almost too much for me to handle; to see her standing there buck naked, tears running down her face, stabbing her father in the heart with a stake, and then to see that exuberant smile, that smile more central to the universe than the equations of supergravity and nonlinear psychophysics wrapped into one ... it was enough to make me literally faint in the theater. Even the plot of the movie, it seemed, was calculated to dement me (although the movie had been written eighty years before my birth), because it relied on precisely her extraordinary beauty: her father, so the story went, was so entranced by her that instead of offering her to a young man for marriage she raped him, and then, crazed by love, tried to convince the local priest to make them man and wife. One had to sympathize with her for killing her father; but yet, how could one fault the father for not being able to resist her infinite charms? The whole story took place in a medieval castle, precisely as dilapidated as the castle in Harlem that, in my fantasy, Chandra and I had vowed to make our own.... I sawBeatriz maybe five or six times, once with Chandra in the VR house and the other times on the wire at home while he was at work; but as I said I found it too much to handle; it was an experience much like an acid trip, and like LSD I eventually stopped doing it because it took me too long to recover. (For two hours of infinite ecstasy, is it worth two weeks of numb confusion, wandering the streets unsure if anything is worth doing, refraining from suicide only out of knowledge that eventually the trance will fade?) I wrote two letters to Julie Delpy, sent them out on the wire in a fit of insanity, hoping that somehow the network would reach back in time and bring me to her: the first one, written right after I saw Beatriz for the first time, was a perfectly ordinary, cordial fan letter; and the second one, sent six months later, asked if she had been sending me telepathic messages, and if so, why. But I never received an answer to either letter. -- 'Is this madness?' I would often ask myself, 'receiving passionate telepathic messages from a woman with an indistinct face, and then, upon seeing a face in a movie, feeling an undeniable match with one's mystery lover? Why is this madness? It's an experience, that's all; no one can tell me that my experiences don't exist. I believe I have dealt with this experience more rationally than I have dealt with, for example, the experience of working. Why no,' I would answer myself resolutely, every time, 'this is not madness. I will tell you about madness. Madness is a hand slipping down your pants and slowly caressing you to orgasm, when in fact you're not even wearing pants and you don't see any hand and you're busy trying to read an article about the privatization of Lunar lending institutions. Until the invisible hand starts to claw you, it really doesn't matter, does it? Until the invisible hand grabs your cunt in a death grip and tries to tear your clit right out. If you're lying there and sometimes you hear his voice and feel your breasts heave on her chest, nipple to undulating nipple, that isn't madness, it's perfectly healthy, and what the fuck is the fucking problem with it. It's not my fault they can't get telepathic messages too....' (Until very recently, this crazy 'imaginary timewarp lesbian lover' experience was the only real bout of madness in my life. I ascribe it to the bad effect of my cold sores: at that point I'd had about forty sores in my mouth for a period of over a year.)
Firsts always stand out in my mind. Important firsts. I'm in love with beginnings. The first day I kissed him; the first day I punched him. I can't even remember it, can't even remember what began it. 'God, you're a bastard today!' I said, unable to tolerate the force of his hostility, as expressed in his glare, and especially in the twist of his mouth, and he punched me in the chin, and then I reached out, without thinking, and chopped him solidly across the face with the side of my hand, leaving a perceptible bruise on his chocolate face. A few weeks later, he slapped me again and I slapped him back again. And two weeks after that, it happened again, except that I struck the first blow. The routine was started: our entire bodies were enacting the hatred that had originally transpired only between our eyes and our mouths. From then on we punched each other regularly, orat least whenever we had a major fight, which was perhaps twice a year.... It wasn't as serious as the domestic violence you see on the wire; the worst he got from me were a couple bruises on his leg, and the worst I got from him was, once, a bit of a black eye. But nevertheless it was pretty ugly. I didn't understand why it was happening, and I suppose he didn't either; but then it isn't often that anyone really understands anything, we mostly just play along.
But anyway, the truth is that, abhorrent as they were, our physical fights were virtually nothing compared to the mad and horrible scenes which followed them. Invariably, after the fight was done, he would wind up lying on the floor, screeching at the top of his lungs, bashing his head against the wall, ripping the wire sockets out again and again and again. It was a terrifying sight to see, and I would sit there trying to hold him back, cradling his head in my lap, feeling as though it were I who were hitting his head, although in fact the physical blows I had given him were paltry compared to the ones he had dealt himself. Now, sometimes he did this even when we had not had a physical fight, say if we had just had an argument, or, very occasionally, if he had had a terrible day at work or school; but over the time that I knew him, these outbursts were most often associated with our fistfights. The acne on his forehead would light up as if it were at any minute going to burst out into bright red flames. His eyes bugged out like sick cartoons, his lips bloated beyond their usual puffiness, and his tears and snot conmingled on his face into a slimy green blur. His body stiffened, then gave out like an animal clubbed over the head, then stiffened again, then lost all its energy, and so on, over and over, as though he were attached to an invisible electroshock machine, dying a series of painful, not-quite-final deaths. Occasionally, he would come up with new forms of self-torture, such as the time when, after being bawled out by his boss, he came home, yelled at me for not mailing some letters that I had promised I would mail, then stripped him clothes off, took a clothes hanger from the closet, and whipped and whipped himself until he was covered with welts and bruises. This was surprisingly erotically stimulating: I found myself hypnotized by the sight of his slim but strong hairy legs and ass bouncing in and out under the force of the hanger. As he writhed his body around in pain it seemed to me that he was making love to some kind of invisible succubus; and that by striking himself he was trying to unwrap the demon's powerful cunt from around his body. Which was, of course, purely my delusion; there was nothing like that going on in his brain. But still there was something strange about the spring of his delectable buttocks in and out as the hanger hit them, something which hinted at a perverse pleasure underlying the pain. But the hanger incident was an anomaly; usually he just hit his head, or brought his fists down on his body again and again, with a look on his face so blank that he might as well not have been Chandra any more. While his mind entered this world of premature death, his body was left helpless, and was possessed by evil spirits bent on torture and destruction. One time he told me that he had been doing this since he was eight or nine, which relieved meimmensely, as I had feared for a while that I was the root cause of it.
Now, what is the neurological fluke that makes a wonderful young man like Chandra -- a beautiful, intelligent, highly talented, goofy, creative loving man -- desire to beat the living shit out of himself? It's easy to say he's just crazy. Definitely he is pretty crazy. But on the other hand, I've known him for a long time, and he's certainly able to conduct himself in the world. He doesn't even rely on the wire to the extent that some people do. So he can't be totally insane. One thing I know is that he possesses a unique gift, the gift of turning his body into a brain: of extending his consciousness throughout his arms and knees and ankles and cock and wrists and neck and belly. I am convinced that he does not know that he does this: he does not understand the difference between the way he lives in the world and the way everyone else does. He doesn't see that he is really there, interacting with the world directly, while everyone else lives at one remove. And I don't see this either, until I work myself up into a trance by staring at his body, by staring at one part over and over again till it becomes a constant, a self-contained universe of olive brown and blood. This is my madness, or it is his madness, or it is no one's madness, it is an elemental field of madness into which we both enter at will; or else it is not madness at all but absolute truth. And I can't help but think that his mad self-torture is related to his unique, beautiful gift -- for we all despise ourselves on certain occasions, and the most natural reaction to this feeling is to go ahead and beat yourself up; we learn restraint, and thus become sane, but we pay for our sanity by accepting a general degradation of our natural ability to perceive and respond to our own feelings. Chandra was so very close to his feelings that he was unable to resist them. And it is precisely for this reason that he is the only person I will ever love -- except for the mystery woman of the telepathic dreams, the ancient shadow inside my hyperactive brain.... Oh, Julie Delpy, why do you exist? -- your vivid reality has ruined my vision! Now, when I dream of you at night, you're flogging yourself with a white plastic hanger -- and grinning that soft angelic smile the whole time.... Christ, why are we like this? (Do you understand, Chandra? You don't understand any better than me) -- we are not 'less than zero' as in the old film, we are off the whole real axis, into the realm of the imaginary numbers, or off even further, into abstract algebras of self-creation beyond anything the mathematicians have undressed. But yet we are just ordinary 'young adults': it's just pent-up lust, unfulfilled dreams, routine domestic squabbles, ten times tortured artistry, a tempestuous love affair made freaky by the agile madness of our impossibly vivid flesh. No one else will ever understand us, or so says the demon in my brain, and that is why we must always stay together. Can you imagine that, if Chandra left me for some more ordinary girl, she would ever be able to satisfy the delirious requirements of his twisted mind? Or that the blonde hunks I gawk at in the street, or the studious, be-spectacled geeks I admire in the university VR house, would not bore me todeath within five minutes? How long would it take me to explore their limited realms? There is no love like that born of madness. There is no madness like that born of love. Chandra's seminal fluid courses through my brain like one of William Blake's illuminated manuscripts. His legs and his buttocks are snow-covered peaks which constantly shift their shape, and are consequently always a challenge to climb. And my skin -- this is the first time I mention my own body -- my smooth pale skin is an intelligent medicine which in certain circumstances can rapidly soothe his symptoms but only very slowly cures the basic ills that underly them....
Yes, all too often with Chandra and me what began with passionate love ended with equally passionate hatred. Not that the love ever disappeared but it was overlayed by hatred. The hatred, though it was not much, stretched itself thin over the top of the love, and in this way managed to obscure the love, which was in fact much greater. Fucking goddamn pity.
February 28, 2092
Reading Flaubert, Sentimental Education. Also rereading Proust. And more Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans. He has this wonderful passage about beginnings, middles and ending. I think he's really onto something there. To begin with love and end with hatred. Beginnings, middles and endings.
February 28, 2092 (late night)
I have always been very strong with beginnings. There is always much love in my beginnings. Much primitive power, much primitive power, the kind of power, I often like to think, the kind of power that makes worlds. I often think that when I am beginning I have the kind of power that makes worlds. Perhaps there is no one else on earth who has this kind of power when they are beginning. Or perhaps there are some others, but not very many others, of this I am certain. It is a very rare thing, to have this power, this world-constructing beginning power, this brilliant power of constructing and beginning.
He is not so strong in his beginnings; his beginnings are almost always foolish and tentative; the only times he is strong in beginning is when what he is beginning is not his own. The only times he is strong in beginning is when the thing he is beginning is borrowed or stolen from outside sources. He can be very strong in beginning something that he has seen in a book or in someone else's sculpture. But when he is strong in beginning something that he has borrowed or stolen from external sources, the strength is not his own, the strength is also borrowed or stolen. So he is really never strong in beginning. Rather his strength is in the middle. Sometimes after a very tentative beginning, an ambiguous, halting and faulty beginning, or else after a strong beginning borrowed from somewhere else and therefore absent of real strength, sometimes after one of thesekinds of beginnings, which are the kinds of beginnings that are customary for him, sometimes after one of these kinds of beginnings he moves into a middle which is really very powerful, and genuinely powerful, consisting of strength that comes directly out of her. Sometimes his middle is really very strong, and with a strength that is not borrowed or stolen from books or other external sources, with a strength that is genuine because it comes directly out of her.
My middle is sometimes strong also, and when it is strong it is even stronger than hers is when his is strong, but my middle does not become strong in the same way that his does on those occasions when his does become strong. His middle becomes strong almost unintentionally, almost automatically, it emerges out of nonexistent or borrowed or stolen strength and it takes his aback; he is always a little surprised that he had such power in him, because after all no such power was demonstrated in his beginning, no such power is ever demonstrated in his beginning, the power demonstrated in his beginning is always either weak or borrowed or stolen. His most beautiful sculptures arise in this manner. My middle does not become strong in the same way that his does. My middle never seduces me or sneaks up on me, instead I have to seize it by brute force. My middle becomes strong out of grim and determined self-overcoming. After my very strong beginning, and I always have very strong beginnings, sometimes even world-creating beginnings, after these very strong beginnings a very powerful impatience washes over me, and I become tired of what I have begun, because I am no longer beginning, and I want to find something else to be beginning, because above all else it is beginning things that I find real and exciting. It is in beginning things that I feel most of all myself. But I have a very strong self-overcoming; it is not quite as strong as my beginning, but it is very very strong anyway, and on many occasions my self-overcoming is strong enough to overcome my impatience and to allow me to continue what I have been beginning. And this is like a new beginning; because my impatience has made me stop, when I start again it is like a new beginning. I do like beginning. I really do like beginning. When my middle is strong it is because it is really a new beginning. When his middle is strong it is because he has forgotten about beginning; it is because his fragile system has recovered from the shock it always feels upon beginning; and then he makes a middle which has nothing to do with beginning, which is a middle only a middle, only a middle only a middle, which has no beginning and no ending in it at all. My middles are only beginnings; everything I do is only a beginning; an array of beginnings, a cornucopia of beginnings, a buzzing swarm of fluorescent beginnings. But for him a middle is only a middle and only a middle.
Yes, when it comes to beginnings and middles we are very different, Chandra and I. I am strong in the beginning, incredibly strong in the beginning, sometimes world-constructingly strong in beginning, but this strength continues into the middle only when by overcoming my own impatience which makes me stop after the beginning I manage to transform what isreally the middle into something that seems like a new beginning. He is on the other hand terrible in the beginning, his beginnings are tentative or borrowed or stolen, but sometimes when he has forgotten about beginning, when he has overcome the trauma that he feels on beginning, a middle issues forth from his that is really a middle, it is only a middle, it is more of a middle than any middle that has ever come out of me. But then there is the business of ending; after beginning and middle there is ending; and when it comes to the business of ending the two of us are very much the same. Our beginnings and middles are very different, but regarding endings we are much the same. We both come out of our strong middles with a feeling of contentment which is very different from the impatience that I feel on coming out of a strong beginning, but which has the same effect as this impatience which I feel on coming out of a strong beginning, which is say that the contentment that we feel on coming out of a strong middle will tend to stifle the desire to go on to the next stage, which is the end. On feeling the contentment of a really powerful middle we lack the desire to continue to the end. We feel we are finished when we really are not finished at all, when there are still more things which demand naturally to happen. It is so much of a relief to have gotten through the middle, to have achieved a strong and powerful middle, that the goal of constructing a really strong ending seems somehow irrelevant and dumb. But sometimes the energy of the middle somehow extends through the ending. Sometimes, in Chandra or me, the power of the middle extends through the ending, and then a really powerful ending is constructed, an ending that is full of beginnings and middles, but is yet stronger than beginnings and middles, because it is an ending and a strong ending is the strongest thing of all. A certain percentage of the time we construct remarkable and brilliant endings.
But when the power of the middle does not extend itself through the ending, when the middle grows tired and its force disappears after it has completed the ending of the middle, then sometimes a terrible frustration occurs in the place of a genuine end. Sometimes a terrible frustration puts itself in place of the brilliant ending that would have occurred if the force of the middle had sustained itself. My beginning is always full of love, and when it is successful and full of power my middle is always full of love as well. His beginning is never full of love or hate, but is always too neutral; this is his harmonious facade; but his middle is full of lovely love, it is full of a lovely kind of love, is full of a love that is very different from the love that fills my strong middles, it is full of a love that in its essence reaches for nothing beyond itself, a love that is thoroughly and truly contented to be a middle, only a middle, a love that is love and is only love and is truly lovely. My love is never quite like that; even when it is ninety nine percent contented there is always a little tiny part that wants to be some kind of beginning, that wants to move or think about moving or in some manner go beyond. My beginning is full of love, and both of our middles are sometimes full of love, and when our endings are successful they are so full of love thattheir love spills over into everything, into our future middles and endings and even sometimes into our future beginnings. But when our endings are not successful they are sometimes full of hate. Sometimes they are just full of nothing; they are too neutral, like his beginnings; but it is better to be too neutral than to be full of hate. But sometimes our endings are full of hate. When our middles fail to go beyond themselves and create the energy to continue, sometimes our endings are full of hatred which, while it is not very much, is capable of stretching itself very thin, and thus obscuring the underlying love which is really more bountiful and more powerful.
This kind of stretching is a kind of madness. This kind of stretching is our kind of madness. No, it is one of our kinds of madness. It is one of the ways in which we are warped. This business of beginning and middle and ending is a kind of a warp.
For two warps to match they have to be similar in some ways and opposite in others. This is the geometry of warping. Because we are similar in ending and partly similar in middle and not at all similar in beginning, we are warped in mutually attractive ways in the matter of beginning and middle and ending. This kind of mutually attractive warping is the beginning of love among the warped, and thus of love itself, because, as I have explained already, all love is love among the warped, and love which is not warped is not even love.
Sometimes the geometry of warping really frustrates me. Then I remember what is the true key to understanding, something I set sail into the wind in Fairmount Park about two years ago. Then I remember what is the true key to understanding:
FIRST, LEARN HOW TO BE ENTIRELY UNRECEPTIVE TO SENSATIONS ARISING FROM EXTERNAL FORMS, THEREBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF RECEPTIVITY TO EXTERNALS.
SECOND, LEARN NOT TO PAY ATTENTION TO ANY DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THIS AND THAT ARISING FROM YOUR SENSATIONS, THEREBY PRGUING YOUR BODIES OF USELESS DISCERNMENTS BETWEEN ONE PHENOMENON AND ANOTHER.
THIRD, TAKE GREAT CARE TO AVOID DISCRIMINATING IN TERMS OF PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT SENSATIONS, THERBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF VAIN DISCRIMINATIONS.
FOURTH, AVOID PONDERING THINGS IN YOUR MIND, THEREBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF DISCRIMINATORY COGNITION.
These are the words of the Zen Master Huang Po, who lived in China in the Ninth Century A.D. But they might as well have been written by anyone. I myself wrote these words on the wall of a toilet stall in the basement of the student center of New York University.
Huang Po teaches how not to be warped: Do not distinguish between different things. The act of distinguishing one thing from another is not distinguishable from the act of preferring one thing to another. Even the eye prefers one shape to another in its perception of an object; this happens before the consciousness knows that a shape has been perceived. And preference leads directly to emotion. To prefer one thing to another is to become attached to that thing. To become attachedto something is to warp one's inner self in the direction of that thing. To distinguish is to warp. Those who are not warped cannot really distinguish and really cannot think and cannot really perceive. Of course, everyone is warped, and so everyone can love and otherwise emote, but some are warped more than others, and so some can love and otherwise emote more intensely than others. And of course there is a paradox, because if Huang Po had himself succeeded in avoiding to make any kind of discrimination, he would have been unable to formulate and deliver his eloquent lectures, which I bought for $12.95. Of course there is a paradox in the concept of not being warped. Everything is warped in some direction. Some do not realize that they are warped because they are warped in almost the same directions as almost everyone else; others are warped off in different directions and thus their warpiness is apparent, whether or not it is any more warpy than the warpiness of those who are warped in almost the same directions as almost everyone else. Sometimes it is actually more warpy and sometimes it isn't. These things are difficult to measure, but not so hard to feel.
The Zen Teaching of Huang Po one was of the few books I really regretted tearing up and flying through the air. But after I was finished I was glad of it, because after all this guy Huang Po was a warped motherfucker. If he believed what he was saying he would not have been saying what he was saying. What he was saying has not to be said to be believed. What he was saying has to not be said to be believed. What he was saying has to be not said to be believed. He said 'The fundamental Dharma of the Dharma is that there are no Dharmas, yet that this Dharma of no-Dharma is in itself a Dharma; and now that the no-Dharma Dharma has been transmitted, how can the Dharma of the Dharma be a Dharma?' This is what he said, and if you can't understand this, you're a piece of turkey dropping, but if he believed this in his bones and not only his hyperactive verbal centers, then why would he say it, why would he have any need to say it? Why not just throw his old bald head back and sing a song about raging waterfalls, or child prostitution, or brightly colored jeweled javelins, or just sit there like all the other damn Chinese and listen to the beauteous call of the acid-tripping nightingale? The truth is that his mother, some strange old Chinese lady, must not have potty trained him correctly, and that is the reason for his Dharmas and his lectures and his book.
Beginning middle and ending. Beginning middle and ending. Beginning middle and ending. Beginning middle and ending.
Sigmund Freud said that not being properly potty trained is the beginning of being warped. But this is not the only way to get started being warped. Everyone begins being warped. Everyone begins being, warped. Being warped and warped and warped is something everyone begins. And then we come to the middle of being warped. We come to the middle of being, warped. Finally coming to the middle of being warped is something everyone begins. Some of us experience it as more of a beginning, and some of us feel it as more of an ending, but everyone understand that the middle of warpiness is both abeginning and an end, but that it is most of all a middle, a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of the absence of alternatives, of warpiness on every possible side, a feeling of tremendous, womblike, warm and vicious warpiness. And then the middle of being warpy comes to an end, or at least I think it does, but the ending of warpiness is something that I can't say very much about, because I am in the middle of being warped, like Huang Po was in the middle of being warped when he spoke his strange sentences, and maybe when he finished saying his sentences and grew a little older he got out of the middle of being warped, and got to the end of being warped, and knew what the end of being warped was all about, and maybe someday when I am done saying all my sentences and I grow a little older I will get out of the middle of being warped and get to the end of being warped and I will know what the end of being warped is all about, but I don't quite believe it, I don't quite believe it, in truth I don't really believe it at all, I hardly believe there was a beginning to being warped, not being potty trained or being not potty trained or being incorrectly potty trained or anything else; I hardly believe that there was a beginning to being warped, or that being warped is the kind of thing that can have an ending; it seems there is just the middle to being warped, a middle that extends in all directions, not a sphere whose center is its circumference, but a warpy warping shape with all kinds of strange properties whose center likes to threaten to be its circumference, and spits at you with all kinds of incomprehensible sounds words. Just the middle of warpiness. And Chandra and I are both strong in our middles; here in the middle of our warpiness we are both pretty powerful and we are hoping for an end, but there may be no end to warpiness, there may only be a middle, but on the other hand there may be an end after all, or perhaps an end that is not an end but just a different kind of beginning of a new kind of warpiness. Anyway we both are very strong in all our middles. What we have to work on is avoiding unpleasant ends. When the brilliant end comes down it is tremendous to feel and watch but when it fails we have to avoid letting the hatred stretch itself out over the love, because the hatred really is not much, but it manages by stretching itself very thin to obscure the love anyway, even though the love is much more bountiful and much stronger. Hatred is not the opposite of love, any more than ending is the opposite of beginning. Are there really any opposites? The only things I see are warps. Warm warpy warpiness, warpily warbling and warping. I don't know how Chandra was potty trained; even Clarissa probably doesn't remember, and if she does remember she might well lie about it for some weird reason of her own. I don't like the Dharma of the Dharma and I don't want to blot out all my senses and all my thoughts. I like distinguishing things. I like being warped except on those occasions when I don't like it; on those occasions I do not care for being warped and I would prefer to find an alternative, at least for temporary respite from the stress of being warped, but I have never seen any evidence that such an alternative exists. Right here there is something: I can assert that with an absolute, vivid certainty. Beyond this middle, beyond right here, there may be a beginning and an end, but I cannot verify this, I cannot feel it with my thoughts or with my senses, and so the only thing that exists is the middle that is right here right now, the middle that is Chandra and is me and is surrounding me. Right here there is something. Right here, there is something. Right here there is, something.
All these words. Ridiculous words. Just more words, again and again. (I spent several hours a day for two years one time writing a 2 meg semipornographic science fiction hypernovel called WARGASM. When I finished WARGASM I vowed to give up writing for good, or at least until I had published the two thousand pages I had already written. But I didn't keep my promise, of course not. I wrote that dream, that dream of true reality in which Chandra was a woman and I was a man; and I let the stylizer take it over and turn it into something meaningful. Something alien and almost frightening, with such a gleam of reality. Fuck. I liked that dream so much I almost tried to publish it, on the wire at least. But the idea seemed wrong: true reality meets false reality, and then what happens? It's like antimatter colliding with matter, right? The whole universe would explode.)
March 3, 1992
I'm getting up toward the present now in this record, this ridiculous disorganized incomprehensible record. Which started out as a celebration of our love, and has ended up as a logbook of our decline into total madness. What I'm going to write about now happened only a few weeks ago, about when I started writing in this stupid noteputer.
He had joined this Zen Buddhist church, which met in Society Hill, right in Center City Philadelphia, and it really pissed me off; he was eating vegetarian food and meditating all the time. It suited his disposition, I suppose; he was always sort of quiet and meditative, out there in the other world. But it made me think too much of this Japanese Buddhist church I had briefly attended in New York, called Nichiren Shoshu, which was based on the repetition of the phrase 'Nam myoho renge kyo' over and over again. (Every time I went to their church it was always the same thing: everyone sat there together chanting nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo.... Occasionally the monotony was broken by someone else chanting more incomprehensible words in a foreign language, so fast that even if I had known the language, I still wouldn't have been able to understand it. Apparently it was considered that enlightenment was proportional to velocity ofspeech.) Anyway, Chandra was in this other Buddhist church, and I really couldn't stand it; I argued and argued and argued and argued and bitched and bitched and moaned: 'How can you belong to such a stupid fucking church! You're not really so fucking stupid as all that! Organized religions are all evil! This isn't ancient fucking China, you know!' Although his religion had nothing to do with Nichiren Shoshu, every time he meditated I just thought about that same stupid motherfucking phrase: nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo.... He was spending all day reprogramming the stove to make these long elaborate meals, disgusting pumpkin and lentil goop and weird yeastless, sugarless, flavorless bread. Anyway he became more and more fed up with my bad attitude toward his religion and his new diet (Christ, I really hate organized religion! I know it's irrational, but don't I put up with all his irrationalities, dozens and dozens of them? Why can't he accomodate a couple of mine?) and he started getting more and more hostile. He would sit around for hours just writing in his diary, writing horrible things about me I'm sure (despite often wanting to I never looked), not speaking to me or having anything to do with me. He still fucked me when I came onto him but there was no passion in it.... One day I bought a book on massage and after a fight I offered him a rubdown. He said no but I insisted and gave him a three-hour long whole body massage, which his body seemed to enjoy immensely; for me it was an almost transcendent experience; running my hands over every part of my body was like cradling an object of worship; it felt like a direct transmission of love. Kneading his firm hairy thighs and chopping them with the sides of my hands, I felt that I was expunging all the tension and negativity and restoring him to his natural state. His pelvis thrust up and down as I rubbed the oil on his buttocks; his erect penis pushed his body up. I rolled him over and tried to mount him ... he permitted me but was clearly not pleased about it. He was still angry. The next day, as we were driving home from the supermarket, he got extremely mad about some comment I made about his driving ('You should have turned there; how could you let that guy get ahead of you!'). He just yelled and yelled and yelled and yelled and yelled ... eventually I yelled back, and everything was ugly again; the massage hadn't helped a bit. The next day -- January 30 -- was his birthday; I went out and bought his $70,000 worth of presents ... some sexy underpants and other clothes, some gold jewelry, some books, a watch, a new wallet and other accessories. It was a big deal because we had never reallybought each other presents before, and the reaction was tremendous! Pure gratitude and love; more love than I'd ever felt before from him. Somehow he had found his way to forgive me, a few hours before I'd given him the presents, and then when he'd seen how much I'd gotten him, the forgiveness had blossomed into unbounded affection and passion. Wow! But while I enjoyed it, I sucked it up, I still didn't trust it, not at all; the memory of his anger, his infinite anger, his raw male rage, so primitive and unlike him, was still fresh in my mind. So that's when I got the idea for the whipping game.
I approached it obliquely. I showed him a book about VR and women's sexual fantasies that I'd been reading, and I told him that, like these women, I'd had lots of fantasies as well, and I was thinking it might be fun to act some out. First I asked him if he had any interest in being spanked, but he pooh-poohed the idea instantly, almost violently. Actually I remembered well that he had hated it when I had tried to spank him sexually before, though I had enjoyed it reasonably well. So then I said, 'Well, what about the opposite role then?' He shrugged his shoulders. 'Hey, maybe ... you know, maybe that would help you to work out some of your anger. I've got this fantasy... I walk into the room, the man is dressed in a skimpy outfit.... G-string underpants. As soon as I walk in the door he smacks me in the face very hard.... It's all contained in that first smack, the first smack has to be totally demoralizing. Then he throws me down and hits me and kicks me and whips me.... Not that much, you know, just enough to put me in my place.... Finally after I've been beaten into submission he forces me to suck his cock until he comes twice. Then he gives it to me doggie style....' Before I was halfway through explaining it Chandra was grinning a big wide grin. 'Ooh, Baby!' he said, laughing. Clearly he liked the idea. It went against the grain of his personality, his mild, unassuming demeanor, and perhaps that's why it struck a sexual chord.
'Don't you think that would help you to work out your anger?'
'I don't know, honey,' he said, shrugging. 'I'm just not feeling any anger anymore. It's all just ... gone.'
'It's not really gone though,' I said, confusedly. I was already fixated on the whipping idea. I couldn't accept this insane harmoniousness, the way he could just return to loving behavior so suddenly after being full of hate. It wasn't like him: usually his grudges lingered and lingered. 'I'm sure you can find it. It must have gone somewhere.'
'Maybe.... I guess so.'
So we tried the fantasy that night and it didn't work. He was too lovey-dovey -- his anger, which had been so incredibly intense, was really completely gone. He dressed up in the new black G-string I'd bought him, and whipped me a few times with a small belt; it didn't hurt much and it was mildly arousing but he didn't keep it up ... we ended up just fooling around as usual. Which was great since only a day earlier he had been repulsed by my touch ... but I was a little disappointed; I had really liked the idea of him taking out his newfound masculine rage at thesame time as fulfilling one of my fantasies.
The next morning we woke up and we were lying in the bed hugging and talking, very affectionate and friendly. Then I made some comment like, 'Well, let's go get one of those yummy Buddhist breakfasts, maybe some pumpkin and rhubarb scum mush. Yummmm.' And he said, much to my surprise, 'I'm ready to whip you now.'
No black G-string. No pretense of fantasy. Nothing erotic at all. I just lay there on my back and he punched me and punched me and smacked my ass hard, all the while reciting everything he felt I'd done to him, everything nasty I'd said to him, every time I'd tried to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. It was painful but not excruciating ... certainly it was not at all sexually stimulating (although my nipples did get hard from the constant pushing of my breasts against the bed whenever he smacked me; and my cunt started to feel warm from all the friction). Clearly, I thought to myself, being beaten is a lot more stimulating in fantasy than in reality!
And then he surprised me again. 'My hand's getting tired,' he said, and he walked over to the wall and ripped the wire out. Those wires and thick and hard, man; they're virtually indestructible. I know; I've lectured about them dozens of times in the intro class. I was scared crapless just looking at it move in his hand as he walked back to me. I just about pissed myself. Now he really started yelling. 'Don't you ever tell me what to do again! My religion is my own fucking business! My food is my own fucking business! You may make the money, bitch, but you're not my goddamned boss!' The wire came down again and again ... suddenly the pain level was increased by a factor of ten. Every time it came down I was on the verge of getting up and walking out of the room ... but no, I couldn't do it, because after all it had been my idea; I had wanted him to get out his anger, and now he was doing exactly that. Again and again and again ... he whipped me thirty six times with that dumb sick thing; after the first ten I was fighting back tears. I hid my face in the pillow to muffle my moans. And all the while his awful, hostile yelling.
Somehow in my fantasy the whipping had never actually hurt! The reality was somewhat different. I couldn't remember ever having experienced so much pain. When he was done he pointed out six or seven welts and two places where the skin was cut open. But somehow, after the agony was over, I was erotically electrified. I was riled up for service; I was a demure old-fashioned woman as never before or since. I begged him to let me suck his cock. I'll never forget the glowing grin on his face after he finished the whipping. 'How do you feel?' I asked her. -- 'I feel very tall.' -- 'So you liked it.' -- 'Yeah.' -- 'You got your anger out.' -- 'Yeah, sure.... Not all of it.' -- 'Oh, you want to do it again.' -- 'Not right now. Later.' -- 'Well,' I said, feeling infinitely servile, 'whenever I misbehave, you know, you can just give it to me...' -- 'That's right,' he said, 'you need discipline. Your mother never disciplined you properly.'
Soon he had to go to work; the whole time he was gettingready I was in a state of delirious sexual fervor. The sight of his face made me tremble with fear, but my cock was hard as a rock. But after he was gone the whole thing started to seem a little sick. The incredible pain of the wire coming down rose back up in my mind and blotted everything out. I started shaking and trembling. I went to see him at work and explained what was going on in my head. At first he was glad, he said 'Well maybe that'll teach you not to mock me.' But then, after a few minutes more, he became apologetic. 'Don't worry, we don't have to do that ever again.' I left and went home and tried to concentrate on the book I was reading, which was Madame Bovary; more Flaubert. But all his abstract cynical crap started to make me sick. All I could think about was that motherfucking whip! The more I thought about it the more sexually aroused I became. Eventually I craved nothing more than to have him whip my ass again. I was amazed at myself: the feeling of being whipped was terrible, incredibly painful, not pleasantly stimulating in any way. But yet the thought of it, a few hours later, was enough to have me almost creaming in my pants. When he got home from work I eagerly rushed up to him and told him I was waiting for more discipline. 'How's my darling sadist?' I asked him. 'Stay away from your whip, I've been good today, haven't I?' We talked about it for a while; he said that although he'd very much enjoyed taking out his aggression on me, and he felt it had been an extremely worthwhile experience, he didn't really think it was a good idea in general, since he was opposed to violence on both religious and personal principles. 'No, no!' I implored him hurriedly, driven on by the warm and throbbing feeling between my legs -- 'really it's a good idea; it'll help teach you to assert yourself, not to be so damn mild-mannered. Imagine how you'll react the next time I make a negative comment about your religion. Instead of taking it to heart, you'll just think: 'Ha! You'll pay for that tonight!'' he thought about it for a while and then said, half-heartedly, 'Hmmmm.... Maybe you're right....'
After dinner he put on his black G-string; I ripped it off and then fucked him on the livingroom floor. And the moment I came, the moment I felt those waves move from my clitoris and send their thundering quakes through my body, I felt as if a cloud were suddenly lifting from my mind. 'This is sick!' the voice in my head said. 'You can't live your life according to some twisted S&M fantasy! What the hell is going on here -- you're thinking with your cunt instead of your brain! You've been on the wire too long!' I told him that, now that I had come and the whipping experience was thus complete, I had come to agree with his previous opinion that the whipping shouldn't be repeated ... at least not very often. 'But if you become very very angry and can't find a way to get it out, feel free to put forth the idea, I'm willing to go along with it....'
March 12, 2092
There is never really an end, there are always more pulsingblobs of nothing smacking in at you. But you can make yourself an ending. This madness has lifted me and possessed me, grabbed me by the hair and forced me to ascend to a new level of sick inspiration. In this evil, torturous enchantment I will make myself an ending, an ending of this ridiculous little notebook that's going in a box in my father's attic on top of the manuscript of WARGASM that no one will ever read. And such a tiny fraction of the manuscript of WARGASM this thing will be. Reality, such a small fraction of imagination. But it's so fucking fast, so fucking harsh, so damn tremendous! You let someone else inside, into the secret world of your self, and you forget that they're not you, you forget that they're the outside, and they may just sneak up on you and destroy you in some sickening way you could never expect. It's all set up out there by the mind, but even so the mind can't keep track of it. It's all a bunch of shit philosophy; I can almost think about it calmly today, tonight, for some reason. If I hadn't ripped up all those books to make those fucking paper airplanes I might understand a little better. What a waste of money; what a fool I've been. And this is so much diarrhea. And I'm a certified fucking genius.... But I don't think so, that's fucking bullshit, no one ever understood. No one ever solved all these sickening puzzles of mind and reality. I once thought that Chandra had solved them for me but that was all a load of fucking shit; it just made me act and feel really stupid. He's even more confused than me, the fucking silly bastard. Fucking silly bastard, fucking silly bastard, bastard whom I love so much fucking more than the rest of the motherfucking world. I'd like to strangle him with the fucking wire, wrap all the wires in the world around his neck. We just convince ourselves, and go on and on, and forget that we convinced ourselves, until it rips off our fucking tits again.... Christ, Chandra destroyed me ... but what the hell does it really matter? What in fuck's name does it add up to? No one can understand a fucking thing. It all comes down to that Chinese bastard Huang Po. I read it over and over and over again, and I speak and repeat it to myself, and I write it down on pieces of paper and then throw them in the trash can, but I just can't make sense of it, I just can't accept it, that all there is is nothing. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
FIRST, LEARN HOW TO BE ENTIRELY UNRECEPTIVE TO SENSATIONS ARISING FROM EXTERNAL FORMS, THEREBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF RECEPTIVITY TO EXTERNALS.
SECOND, LEARN NOT TO PAY ATTENTION TO ANY DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THIS AND THAT ARISING FROM YOUR SENSATIONS, THEREBY PRGUING YOUR BODIES OF USELESS DISCERNMENTS BETWEEN ONE PHENOMENON AND ANOTHER.
THIRD, TAKE GREAT CARE TO AVOID DISCRIMINATING IN TERMS OF PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT SENSATIONS, THERBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF VAIN DISCRIMINATIONS.
FOURTH, AVOID PONDERING THINGS IN YOUR MIND, THEREBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF DISCRIMINATORY COGNITION.
FIRST, LEARN HOW TO BE ENTIRELY UNRECEPTIVE TO SENSATIONS ARISING FROM EXTERNAL FORMS, THEREBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF RECEPTIVITY TO EXTERNALS.
SECOND, LEARN NOT TO PAY ATTENTION TO ANY DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THIS AND THAT ARISING FROM YOUR SENSATIONS, THEREBY PRGUING YOUR BODIES OF USELESS DISCERNMENTS BETWEEN ONE PHENOMENON AND ANOTHER.
THIRD, TAKE GREAT CARE TO AVOID DISCRIMINATING IN TERMS OF PLEASANT AND UNPLEASANT SENSATIONS, THERBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF VAIN DISCRIMINATIONS.
FOURTH, AVOID PONDERING THINGS IN YOUR MIND, THEREBY PURGING YOUR BODIES OF DISCRIMINATORY COGNITION.
But what about feeling? Isn't there any feeling? Feeling, feeling. Feeling, feeling. Feeling, feeling. Come on Huang Po, you motherfucker, what about feeling? There's nothing but feeling. There's nothing but feeling. There's nothing but feeling. Come on Huang Po, you motherfucker, what about motherfucking feeling? If I fucked your mother would there be a feeling? If I fucked your mother up the ass with an Uzi there would be a feeling. There would be a motherfucking feeling. There would be a feeling. If I raped your ancient Chinese mother with a machine gun in front of your motherfucking eyes you would have had a motherfucking feeling -- and would you have tried to extinguish it -- to 'purge your body' of this sensation? When that slut bitch fucked Chandra I had a fucking feeling, although I wasn't even there, and she wasn't there either; I had a motherfucking feeling. It was only the feeling that was real at all. Only the feeling. Only Chandra was there, he was there by himself, but in reality he was elsewhere, I suppose, or that's what he says now, I don't understand quite where he was when you come right down to it. The only thing I'm sure of is the feeling. No, no, there isn't any feeling. Huang Po is right, there is no feeling. There is no goddamn fucking feeling. But there is a feeling. There is a feeling coming out of Chandra! There is a feeling!
So many beginnings. I think I understand them now. I understand why I kept getting off on the wrong foot like that, trying to write about this. The thing is that every beginning is right. It doesn't matter where you start, you'll always zoom into the same attractor if you keep going long enough. I tried to put too much into the beginning, when as it turns out the beginning is arbitrary. It doesn't matter where you start, it eventually leads to Chandra.
I think I can tell it more correctly now. Or at least I can tell it straight. But I'm going to leave all the confusionthere, I'm going to resist the urge to throw this stupid asshole book out. I'm going to leave the confusion there because confusion was what it was all about. It wasn't about a single perspective, a single point of view. It was about all these shifting perspectives, about moving from one view to anothim, from mine to hers and hers to mine and old to new and new to old. It's all at bottom incomprehensible, you're going to distort it however you look at it, so there's no point in fussing around too much about the way you present things.
I'm going to set this thing aside, this rambling collection of beginnings. I'm going to set this thing aside and then begin again. I'm going to begin again and make a beginning, middle and ending this time around; a beginning, middle and ending that really makes sense. This time I won't get bogged down thinking about the beginning, I'll just move on to the ending. I'll get to the killing part, although there really wasn't any killing, I don't know why I said that, really, what I mean is I'll get to the part that made me feel like there had to be killing.
But first I'll let it sit awhile ... I'll let it sit for three or four months, until my mind has calmed itself down a little. Assuming that happens. And then I'll begin again.
I realize I haven't even said what happened. What happened to send me into this confusion. I haven't said anything. I've just been trying to begin again and again and again. Without ever really getting anywhere. What happened was, I can bring myself to write it now, that Chandra told me he had had an affair. An affair in New York City, eight years ago, with someone that he met at the himbo joint. At the himbo joint where he was working, when I was in graduate school at NYU, and he was an undergrad at City College, and we were in desperate need of money to pay for food and rent. I had told him about my sexual fantasies, which had led to the episode of the whipping, and I had been pressuring him to tell me some of his secrets. This is what he'd come up with -- an affair with a country girl from Tennessee. Who talked to him about Shakespeare, Yeats and Byron. Come to New York for some shitty business job, transferred up from her company's office in Charlotte. Fucking hussy. He fucked her nine times, he said, and she had an orgasm almost immediately every time. She had remarked in astonishment that none of her previous boyfriends had been able to make her come so easily. Which really hurt, of course, because he never made me come nine fucking times in a row! But then, he said, he decided she was boring and so he decided to stay with me instead. This story upset me more and more the more I thought about it. I was up five nights in a row moaning and crying. The power of my reaction astonished the both of us. Three months later I was still aghast and tormented about it every day (although, except for a few days here or there, I was able to work at full concentration; I even discovered a remarkable new attractor state for infobot networks; I'm almost always able to do that; my brain is oddly disassociated). My own sweet, beautiful chocolate Chandra, being fucked by some goddamn motherfucking businesswoman bitch whore out at a male strip joint for her jollies. Like a motherfucking gigolo! We had lived in a state of total purity,untouched by anyone else, in a private cosmos apart from the world -- and then he fucked it up with some customer from the strip bar. Fucking prostitute! Fucking goddamn whore! I thought he was the only fucking male stripper who didn't hump the goddamn customers! I guess there aren't any exceptions.... All the customers think all male strippers are gigolos, and they're right! I vowed to hunt her down and kill her -- just tell me her name! Just tell me her motherfucking name! her first name and last name, fucking bastard! I'll run on my own two legs all the way back from Philadelphia to New York and gun the fucking bitch down! The motherfucking asshole cunt! Then she'll be sorry she squeezed her slimy fucking paws around your buttocks -- around my buttocks! Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!!!!! I hit my head on the wall, I cried, I threw things around; I asked him so many detailed questions it made him furious.... Did you fuck me inbetween the times you fucked her? What was her astrological sign (and you know I don't give a flying fuck about horoscopes)? Did she like it better on bottom or on top? She was better looking than me, wasn't she? Did you touch her cunt with your fingers? Did you eat her out? Did she suck your cock better than I do? All the way back in her throat? What did she do with her tongue? What sorts of things did you talk about? Aaaauugkggghh!!! Just writing about it now is so fucking painful it makes me want to die; it makes me want to reach inside my stomach and pull my guts out; to pluck my eyes out with my fingers; to bang my head against the wall again and again and again. Even as I write this, I'm digging my fingernails into my wrist so hard it bleeds. Nothing has ever hurt this bad; I feel like I'm going to shrivel up and die in some kind of seizure of painful emotions.... And he just can't understand, can't see why it hurts so much. He has no remorse about it at all -- he says he does, but I can feel that he doesn't. He isn't sorry in the least bit; he thinks I motherfucking deserved this! He should be down on his knees begging my motherfucking forgiveness -- but he thinks I deserved it instead! The bastard feels no remorse, or he feels so little remorse that it might as well be nothing -- that it might as well be negative! After all, he enjoyed it; he fucking got himself off! He fucking got himself off from some stupid scumbag slut businesswoman's cunt, and all the while he was drooling over the pain it was going to cause me! The fucking goddamn bastard thinks I deserved it, and I can't even give him what he fucking deserves! he thinks I deserved to want to die, to want to rip my guts out and mutilate myself over and over and over and over again five hundred thousand times a day. He doesn't understand; this is the most horrible pain I've had since I had forty cold sores in my mouth for a year. I'm ready to grate across my clit with a potato peeler -- to wire myself up to some hellworld -- just to distract myself from the terrible, horrible pain inside. There's a goddamn cancer on my inner soul -- you goddamn fucking bastard! I'm dying, dying, dying! Sure I hit you, fucking bastard, I fucking used my fucking judo on you, and you hit me too, and look at all I've done for you; where do you fucking think you'd be now without me, you stupid fucking fool! You fucking hypocritical bastard! I fucking hateyou! If I didn't love you so much I'd pick up a knife and kill you -- mutilate you first just to make you motherfucking suffer! I'd poke your eyes out first, then cut off your fingers and your toes, then mutilate your chest and your arms and slice your motherfucking cock off.... Slice your cock off and fucking eat it! Good God, you make me feel like some sick maniac! Why the hell did you do this to me! Why the hell did you do this to me! Why the hell did you do this to me! I'll fucking kill you and then I'll kill her; I'll mutilate the both of you. And they'll never motherfucking catch me. You fucking goddamned bastard. You make me think to myself for years about our motherfucking purity -- our fucking special relationship; how we motherfucking found each other so young! The fucking look of recognition -- did you give it to that whore? Fuck, every motherfucking time I fucked you I thought about how I was the only one, how you were my own special secret territory, you gave me the look, the fucking look -- and every fucking time I lied, I lied to myself because you lied, you fucking lying bastard! I fucking hate you, hate you, hate you! I've never hated anyone more! I should fucking rip your goddamned limbs off! But I can't even leave you, I can't even hurt you, I can't even curse at you let alone mutilate you, because I fucking goddamn need you so fucking much, you bastard. I still need to fuck you and hug you and touch you, I still need to talk to you and watch your beautiful body. But it's just such a torture, such a motherfucking torture, such a goddamn fucking motherfucking torture to be alive these days. I can't stand to see you; everytime I see you I think of your motherfucking girlfriend. But then I can't stand not to see you because I can never stand not to see you, becasue I love you so goddamn motherfucking much -- so much that I never went and fucked anybody else, any one of the cute guys who wanted me, and yes it was a fucking slut you fucked because who else would fuck some bastard from a strip bar, and I could have fucked them if I wanted to, but I didn't want to ruin our special relationship, our special bond from when you were sixteen and I was seventeen; our special fucking thing. God, all these motherfucking years! God all these motherfucking years! You lied to me all these years! All these motherfucking years and I've been living a fucking lie! Why didn't you tell me -- were you afraid I'd turn around and fuck someone else too ... maybe I'd find someone better than you, because after all you're just a fucking crazy prostitute! You're just fucking optimizing your chances, testing out the merchandise, without giving me the chance to test out the merchandise myself.... Maybe I would have found someone better than you, eh, you fucking selfish bastard! Someone not as motherfucking crazy!
And on and on and on -- you get the picture? I wasn't all that nasty to him in words or actions, I didn't say any of these evil thoughts, but I was certainly nasty to him in my private thoughts, I thought I was going to kill me or kill him or kill the motherfucker who fucked him or maybe kill all of us.... Or maybe I didn't really think I would kill anyone, but I just couldn't help trying to think it, because only killing, I knew, could give me the kind of release I needed. The feelings, thehatred, the pain in my soul was just too strong to be released by anything else. But I didn't kill anyone, and I didn't settle down either, I just kept going and going and going in my state of sheer torture. I kept on crying and pounding my head on the wall and talking and talking and talking about it. So that eventually, after three months of being tormented by the fact that I was tortured, he broke down and told me another story. I didn't really have an affair, he told me, it was just an imaginary one. I just hallucinated a lover. He just hallucinated a motherfucking lover! Just like my Julie Delpy visions ... My imaginary shadow-lover woman whom I felt rub her tits against mine when I closed my eyes. He'd had imaginary conversations with his imaginary girlfriend in public places; had hallucinated her body lying on top of hers while lying in bed in the morning. He'd even told his old friend Paul about the affair, as if it were a real one. God, how fucking sad and pathetic. I can't understand it. What fucking wireless wiry wireheads we both are -- and him much worse than me! But how much infinitely better than a real affair. It's all incomprehensible, like some surreal VR trip, it's all fucking garbage. But at least he was mine, at least he's still mine, at least he'll be mine again.... We've both been faithful to each other in reality and unfaithful in illusion. What sick kind of faithfulness this is, I don't really understand. But he is mine again, he's mine again, he's mine again!
Is the new story the real one, or is the old one? I have to believe the new one, not because it's less painful, but because it fits better with his personality. He showed me his journal from that time period and it reads like the journal of a crazy person totally alienated from humanity. Not like the journal of a person who was together enough to have a romantic affair (enough to fuck some bitch from the himbo joint, sure, but not enough to have the kind of affair that he described to me; but Christ, who really knows?). More like the journal of a person who would have crazy delusions. But there's still a nagging doubt in the back of my mind -- good God, of course there is! My love for him will never be quite the same again.... My love which is everything.... But it's not really everything, it just sometimes feels that way. And the thing is that even when I was tortured I just kept on doing my work. The torture was there as a background process, like hydrochloric acid corroding my body and my soul. The affair was always there, it never went away; it oozed out of every line of text that I typed, every infobot group I programmed.... But still I kept on working like some kind of automaton -- and doing good work too: inventive, technical, impressive (true, there was one paper that came out all full of errors; i got a million sardonic wiremails about that; I guess I can blame that on Chandra's affair; I couldn't focus on checking the details as I normally would have been able to...). Eventually the lack of a soul would have stopped the work from coming. You can't really have creative inspiration if you don't have a soul inside, if your soul is being corroded by your mate's infidelity down into a tiny little speck of shitty nothingness.... But for those three months, at any rate, therewas really not a major problem in this regard....
I said I would begin again. I don't even want to begin again. I think I'll just throw this stupid puter out. Crash it up against the wall with all the others. I don't really care about beginning anymore anyway. It's all just a bunch of fucking bullshit. No one will ever understand this thing I have with him and how he destroyed it with this affair. And then how he saved it, how he caught it just as it was plunging into the abyss, about to be lost to us forever. Or maybe not forever, but for a painfully long while at any rate. He saved it by magically transmuting reality into illusion. He destroyed it by trying to transform illusion into reality. Just like the Marquis de Sade with his 'Philosophy in the Bedroom.' It's all a psychotic feast, so warped, so fucking warpy-warped.... A psychotic fantasy and fugue performed by L.S.D. Bach.... Oh my sweet chocolate Chandra!
December 10, 2092
Well, everything has calmed down now; has been calm for a long time. I said that when my mind was finally clear again I would rewrite the story from the beginning, make it sensible and understandable, but now that my mind really is clear, I don't have any desire to do this. Fuck it. Why bother obsessing with the past? My whole obsession over me and Chandra, our purity and everything, seems really silly now. Our love is deep and serious, sure, but not that serious. If he went out to have an affair I could go have one too, it wouldn't kill us. Not that I want that to happen. But we've been through a lot worse shit than that by now, and come out all right.
All that madness, that infinite madness, was really just boring domestic stuff blown all out of proportion by my freaked-out mind. By our freaked-out minds, mine and Chandra's; our mindspace, our warpspace, our wireless plex. Really strange how these things happen. Chandra thinks we got some kind of plexisy. I'm not sure I believe it though. He thinks that hotwired acid trip had some kind of permanent or semipermanent effect on our minds, cast us away from reality. I guess it's possible: it's true that both his imaginary girlfriend and my hallucinated shadowlover tryst with Julie Delpy occurred after the hotwired trip. It's also true that, ever since then, my instinctive aversion to the plex has been even more intense than before. I haven't taken acid again either, though I did take mushrooms a couple times with Janine's friends (haven't told Chandra).
Still, I'm not really convinced that plexisy exists. I mean, I know a lot about wire sci, and there really doesn't seem to be any technical basis for it. It's getting to be a little bit of a buzzword in the field, but no one really knows what it is. To think that the plex could somehow invade our brains and make us think crazy thoughts, degrade our ability to distinguish reality and illusion -- it's just a bit much. Doesn't feel right -- the plex isn't that powerful: just a vague kind of awareness of what everyone else is doing. A sort of cosmic, sexual hummingand buzzing at the back of the mind, never quite converging into concrete situations, thoughts or feelings. On acid it gets into you more, but still, it's just a vague kind of thing, everything is averaged out. It doesn't mean you really enter into everyone else's reality; you just feel it from the outside; just the shapes, just the surfaces. It's a totally different thing from your own reality.
Or, on the other hand, maybe I'm wrong; hell, there's a lot we don't understand. In any event, whatever was wrong with me and Chandra -- with our mindspace, whatever -- it seems to have gone away or at least abated. Things seem to be OK for us now. We've both found new jobs, actually. I've moved from Drexel back to Penn, where I got my Ph.D., and been promoted to full professor in the bargain. Full professor at age 28 feels pretty good, actually, as much as I try to tell myself that I don't care about these things. As for Chandra, he's still trying to sell his sculptures without any success, but he's taken a sales job at an art gallery, and is making some money for the first time ever. He bought a whole new wardrobe, fancy dress clothes, which seems to make him feel good. He looks hot, man!
There's just one thing that's bothering me. I've started having that stupid dream again, the one I wrote in here before. Only, there's something a little different now. It's a weird sensation, I don't even know how to describe it. I know no one else would ever understand. It's like, the one of him who used to exist only in the dream, is now the real one; and the one of him who used to live in reality is now only in my dream. I have this stupid dream every night. Try to figure it out. We never seem to fight anymore. It's like he's so damn grateful to be out of the dream world that he doesn't care what happens to him out here. The old Chandra could have never held down a job the way this other Chandra -- the Dahlia Chandra -- does.
But in the dream he's a woman. And I'm a man. No matter how hard I try, I still can't quite shake the feeling that that is the way it's supposed to be. Something is wrong here. He is female, I am male. So why are our bodies not what they're supposed to be? I don't understand it.
But it's such stupid fucking nonsense; it's just a stupid dream. Maybe Chandra's right and it really is plexisy. This man-woman confusion sure reeks of sexplex. I'm not really crazy enough to take my dreams seriously. Except for times like now, when I've just barely woken up from one.... Anyway, this is a remarkably good place to come to end of this noteputer space. I'm not going to buy another memory token -- fuck it. What good does it do writing all this garbage down? I've got so damn much work to do. I think my new book on n-dimensional fractal information dynamics is going to attract a lot of attention.
The thing is, I know that, somewhere in the back of my mind, there's a place where all this is totally understood. Somewhere in the middle of that crazy dream. A place of perfect harmony and knowledge. The edge of ontological chaos, you might call it: the ideal form of being, neither too solid nor too runny.... Like a perfect soft-boiled egg! I can feel it there, a perfection that I've known, but can't get back to. I'm too far out; I'm out on the edge of being. I know the outside is the middle -- I know I'm inside perfection now -- but yet I can't seem to convince my flesh of this. Inside perfection but yetfeeling so imperfect. I'm not even sure if this makes sense or not. More sexplex; hotwired nonsense...?
Oh well. I've got to go -- Chandra's coming home; the car just pulled up. I've bought some new lingerie to surprise him with. I've also got a huge pile of annoying calculus papers to mark, but they can be put off till tomorrow.... I've started exercising again; my legs are looking awfully nice. I can't remember them ever being so beautifully shaped before. As for dinner, I'd better wire out for pizza.... Domino's has a new deal where if they don't get it to you within thirty seconds, it's free.
-- FINIS --
and she was vivid seasky blue
lapping up on my shores with rich pink hunger
gentle sizeless groans
tastebuds alive with fever
surreal ejaculations of nonexistent fluids
breath blurred with purple wind
and i smell a smell
which is definitively
an energy from the core
she is a sorceress
through the air perform green magic
our colors melt around the edges
rainbows at the limit of the world
a liquid organism of syllables
a slight modulation of her breathing
something arranges orchids
changes phase inside
and our offspring were green
like a deciduous fountain
sprouts and petals strewn everywhere
her relaxation quietly consumes itself
gives birth to brilliant spiral nebulae
she wears the fur of an interstellar animal
and rapid molecular breaths
today our bodies are a miraculous bacterium
spreading intricacy and power across red sandstone mountains
orchids dreaming minds and minds dreaming orchids
eliminating nothing as they drag their warm fingers
across the cold flesh of the sky
and i am nothing
she is nothing
we are a
we have eliminated form
there is nothing but color
the chocolate of her skin percolates through my body
with irrational vibrations
i am reduced to infinity
by the leaf sculpture
of her olive face
Converted by Andrew Scriven