This world—the one that is filled with metro-stations and worn-out buses; the one in which pink toilette paper is sold in France; the one where Esperanto never thrived as a universal language; the one where the Zodiac killer hasn’t yet been caught; the one where Natalie Wood drowned to death; the one where meteors almost always avoid the orbit of the earth—is the world that he inhabits.
The crack is the theater.
The crack oozes streams of lava.
He searched for her in every woman, in every reading of the lines, but she wasn’t there. Not yet at least. Sometimes he was one of the actors, sometimes he wrote the plays, sometimes he did both. Now he needed to cast a woman who could play the role of his mother. He interviewed and auditioned an array of actresses. Say “dear son”, say “not so much salt”, say “hope to see you this summer”, say “you don’t call anymore”, say “that’s why people have a hard time loving yo-gurt”. He looked for a tone, a gesture, a movement of the hands. Where were the warm vowels that floated from her mouth to create words, phrases, meanings? He wanted the soft familiar hatred with which she addressed him during breakfast. He sought for tints of sweet resentment, for the cold waves that her hands would spread across his back every time she leaned on his shoulders, for the strawberry breath that spoke to his frightened ear. He also desired her harlequinesque other. The black-and-white smile, the red lipstick, the pattern of rhomboids that gave depth to her dark and restless eyes. The other. Or the one that appeared while the screen glowed with technicolor images.
A multitude of actresses: or knowing how his mother became three different women.
Alex Storm had this idea about Jesus. He talked about a madman that infused reality with the strings of a perfectly baked mysticism. A mysticism that resembled the coordinates of a blueberry pie that expelled the smell of melted sugar over hot crust, or a batch of warm cookies that cracked in the cold winter air yet remained warm in the center. He was seventeen and already knew that if you wanted that sweet taste in your mouth, you had to give something up—hand it willingly to the mad chef. Your devotion. Your nightly thoughts. Your silence. So, he never wished for freshly baked pies. He would make them himself, never forgetting to put the right amount of salt into the mix. This is what he told us that day during class. He stood in front of the blackboard looking tall, scrawny, and blue-eyed (like a true Hollywood Jesus) while he shared his opinions about the son of God.
Then Mr. T kicked him out of the classroom.
Dis-res-pect-ful. We were amused. He was proud.
The blue in his eyes covered the room like a big circus tent, and like a magic trick, he turned thirty-three.
Clothes, he thought. Was it a form of concealing what lied underneath? Or was it revealing? He was confused. He went to bed early to stop the passionate thrust of useless theory-making. His eyelids felt heavy, as if it were possible for them to crush his two-precious seeing-crystal-balls with their impossible weight. More confusion. His body twitched and he knew he was no longer awake.
A multitude of mothers came running. They were all the same women.
He had interesting clothes, which made him an interesting man (or so he liked to think). He was an actor on the weekends: Costumes / Lines / Gestures / Mnemotechnics. He was c-o-o-l on the weekends. He was also l-o-c-o if you decided to scramble the letters. On weekdays he taught at a university (Kant). And he wore clothes that indicated the presence of a contradiction (that he’d never—ever—done any type of theater). He liked this. It satisfied him immensely. To have a double life that was only double thanks to the garments that were worn opposite the world-canvas.
Night: was he a superficial man? Or was he a deep-deep-deep…
Moon: a shallow soul in the middle of the river.
Sleeper. That’s what he would call himself sometimes. Or that’s what he told me when we first met. Not a dreamer, but a sleeper.
If it was possible to be the human version of a black hole, that’s exactly what he wanted to be. Inside: nothing but anti-matter. The problem was that all the people and objects it/he swallowed never came back to be the same, for they were shattered in pieces that couldn’t be collected like elements of a puzzle. Yet it was this that for him stood as the purest and most accurate form of intimacy. Indeed, the epitome of a close encounter had the movement of an imploding star, or the voracity of a naked Saturn. He wished for the darkest of waters to wash over him. After all, what did it mean to be saved? That you owed. Owed the mad chef a batch of fresh human eyes.
He wore a black leather jacket.
The black nail-polish opened ten tiny galaxies in the tip of his fingers.
When I was fifteen, my dad gave me a book called Kant: An Introduction. I opened it and started reading. Then I hid it under the bed. It felt like drinking a cold glass of boredom. Boredom is the content; the glass is the container. Boredom takes the shape of the container. There’s nothing we can do to change the shape of the container. With a blue pen I drew cat whiskers on Kant’s face.
The same day we met, he told me that Kant was not the fella we all thought he was. He liked throwing parties with the right amount of people: not too many, for conversation could suffer the symptoms of superficiality; not too few, for conversation could fall into the deep coils of theory-making. The in-between. The right amount. Balancing acts that only take place in the most expensive type of circuses. Were his eyes blue? I couldn’t tell. I wanted him to teach me something I already knew.
His smile drew grooves on his face.
Sometimes, as I walked back home from school, I wished I could buy people’s features, people’s gestures, people’s walks, people’s ways of sitting, people’s tones of voice, people’s mannerisms. Thirty dollars for that human topography. Thirteen for that movement of the hand. Ten for that flicker of the hair. A hundred for those vertical creases that appear on the side of the mouth. I first saw those marks on the face of my dad’s cousin. I was ten. I knew they were expensive.
Had the theater the face of a dreamless depth?
The playwriter, the actor, the philosophy professor. All garments against the world-canvas, and all clear zones of a dark monad. But then again, we’re all dark monads. His mother came running in a dream. She was wearing sport-shoes and red-lipstick. She leaned on his shoulder and whispered in his ear a few cold jokes and some twisted punchlines: icy adjectives, slippery verbs, worm-dirt pronouns, frosted predicates, shivering subjects. Giggling. She couldn’t be one. Thus, she became many. A force. A fiction. A lack of explanation. A 0 divided by another 0:
Kant. What was he going on about?
Gestures: Or the expression with no justification. Eventually it wraps around your life like a cowboy’s lazo. It pulls you in like gravity, or like a sphere bending space. Gestures: With a burning cigarette they open holes in the cosmic cloth. One slips through them and becomes a true sleeper, or its synonym: a starving dreamer.
He cannot fix, and so he breaks.
Or that’s what he said when he stood in front of the classroom. He was a true loco in a planet that almost always avoids the cruel trajectory of asteroids. Him—with a face that oozes streams of lava, and a pair of eyes that search inwards for a mother that keeps multiplying. Him—the black hole that laughed at Jesus yet became its double. Him—who covered the room like a circus tent with a blue-movement of the eyes.
That day I understood the price of gestures.
Valentina Rosales is a writer and visual artist from Santiago, Chile. Although most of the time she is working on her art-books series Gruesome Tales from Nature, she is currently trying to finish her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland.