Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Trauma and Foreplay

Jean-Paul Sartre is at his desk, trying to concentrate. He’s more than a little hung-over, having spent the night with the Surrealists, and hangovers are more than a little problematic when you suffer from wall-eye. Imagine room-spin, when your eyes are determined to go in different directions. You can’t can you? Imagine a cake where the candles are human fingers – take a bite. You can imagine that, can’t you? (The fingers are still moving.) One of these days, Sartre is convinced, he’s going to throw up on the back of his own head. Ugh – the Surrealists… They were celebrating the return of Breton from the Tropics, passing around a bottle that had a worm in it; fat and wrinkled like a flaccid member on a cold day. Drinking worm juice – the sort of childish prankery one might expect from the Surrealists, but No – this turns out to be a drink Breton bought on his travels, from Mexico, of all places. As it did a lap of the table, and came round to him, Sartre had refused it, but then the taunting started, and if there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s being taunted. That’s why women covet his manhood. They seduce him as a trophy – the great philosopher – and there’s that little smile as they think they’re being so charitable, les poutaines, and then he becomes enraged, swells hard, and gives them what for. After that, they’re begging for another ride, and this is when he discards them. What do you do, though, when it’s a ring of sweaty, roseate, moustachioed male faces, chanting, taunting – Drink it! Drink it! – eh? What then? No-one had tried the weird cactus, Breton brought back from Mexico, and there it was, sitting on the table. Slamming down the bottle, Sartre gobbled the chunk of dried cactus – bitter and tough as chewing on a workman’s vest. A workman in the sewers, too… Still, he swallowed it whole, swigged some of the firewater to wash it down, and that shut the Surrealists up.

Right now, he’s trying to remember the title for the book, he thought up last night. His great work of phenomenology, developing the concept of Dasein, although when he tried to explain it to Breton, after the third glass of pastis, the Surrealists had mocked his drunken stutter, and applauded him for inventing Dadasein: the condition of being Dada! Bravo Sartre – that is why we let you hang out with us! they said – as if he should be grateful of their company! ANYHOW. The title was supposed to be a sort of play on Etre et AvoirSomething and Something else, you know; a pair of words that were vaguely homophonous… but what? Being and Believing? From somewhere over his right shoulder, near the bookshelf, a voice:

Trauma and Foreplay

Sacre bleu! Sitting on the bust of Hegel, a cheroot in its fore-pincer, is a crab.

“What, after all, is life, if not Trauma and Foreplay?”

This, it turns out, is the last sensible thing the crab says. Also, it’s not a crab, but a lobster, un hommard, although for some reason the name escapes Sartre at this particular moment –

“………Then again, I get so easily distracted when the dustmotes are sending me messages; we’re all of us stickered on the flypaper of the mind, don’t you think? This very city we’re in – right here and now – is carpeted with fishscales, if you look close. You wouldn’t know it to look at it, and these people I call my friends are just miserably burning bushes all bleating for attention in the wilderness. ‘Oh, oh, please worship me! Build me a pyramid where I can hatch my monkeys!’ I tell you… little Johnny Sartre, crying to his mother because his sister’s votary candle is so much more shimmery it’s sure to send her prayer to the Big Beard first. Let me tell you, you couldn’t go faster if you had crystal spurs and a chariot drawn by voles. This, good sir, is the doyen of Hysteria. Watch her well, her lust is like the wavelets that aren’t whipped by the wind, but reach up for the stars, so baubley pretty you just want to kiss them to supernova.”

Sartre asks: "Are you really here, Monsieur Crustace? Is Trauma & Foreplay what you think I should be writing about? You are so wise! Of course – it is bad faith to think that life is a matter of Sex & Violence; our human condition is always interstitial! We are always between sex-acts, even in the throes of coition, whether the “act” is penetration or orgasmo-culmination; always witnesses, even as the shells burst around us! Are you here to help me write my book…?

“Depends on the little pet living in my mouth, doesn’t it? Can he be housebroken, or is it the glue-factory for Little Johnny Duck-Tooth? I am, in truth, wherever a brain may be found, wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper, and crawling with termites. Take heed: Dusk is falling on the plains of rabies. A trilby’d figure walks abroad with his head like a bone-bubble…”

The crab pauses to take a drag on the cheroot. Sartre notices, a little alarmed, that smoke emerges from under the articulated plates of the crab’s tale. Other little ones are positioned elsewhere on the shelves, inspecting the spines, and tapping on Hegel’s head for clues. Sartre is disappointed. Is the crab only willing to divulge drivel? On and on it rambles, about roses not being quite so pretty, when you see them drooling; bragging about his eyes on stalks, and how they allow him to see the mauve gases that steam from the windows of knocking shops – all the unspent sexuality, and the tiny chorus of sperminal souls relieved not to have been snapped up by The Great Egg, this time… After a few hours, it becomes easier to ignore the crab, and his scuttling enfants, but neither do they show any signs of fading away, or leaving, and always manage to scatter, when he swats at them. The one who talks remains poised atop Mt. Hegel, the whole while; just when his drone seems due to pass into irrelevance, a fragment of sense piques the philosopher’s curiosity. “Have you shared the cigarettes of the dying?” says the crab, at which Sartre looks up, then hearing only more inanities, curses – Damn them! Damn them all! I’m going to destroy the Surrealists if it’s the last thing I do!!!

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