Hello there. It’s been ages since I’ve managed to get a writerly post up here and there doesn’t even feel like a particular reason. I just managed to get my flat rented (I’m now a landlord) and I’ve had a few abortive attempts to write various Cafe Short-esque pieces (some too long, others need a bit more work but may yet see the light of inter-web), but other than that, not a great deal.
Happily, though, white screen has been banished with this post, gloriously and morbidly entitled #119 SUICIDE. Do read on and pray I haven’t regressed to teen angst and dark reflection on ‘the pointlessness of it all’ (sigh). The main objective here was to try to focus more of the story through the lens of the narrator’s perception – an effort I was quite excited about. However, I make no claims as to the quality of the result. See how you get on. Damn you Ruben Mancusco.
hen I was twelve, I was given a black eye by Ruben Mancuso. This was during an argument on the school playground that had been caused by one of the oldest of reasons – the love of a good woman (Sarah Froistad who was 11). I can only imagine where I would have gone if I hadn’t had that fight. But I did, and I resoundingly lost: my mother planting my blackened face in my fathers (raw) steak lunch when I got home. Ruben got hauled out of school for that – he was a bad seed – but not if you listened to the feting he received from the other kids who knew who was the real winner. I had yet to prove myself and took my jeers and sneers with no small amount of depressed resignation. I never did see Ruben again – until today that is. I can’t say I was happy to do so.
Since the time of that beating, I have found the life of an artist to be agreeable. I have decided to go the commercial route and have had much work exhibited in moderately influential galleries, though you might not like it: my work is often dark and malformed (you would say so, should you see it). I give birth to great, shadowy forms on huge canvases that loom out of the darkness with long melting eyes and a shuffling implacability. Some wear musculature looped and overlaid like unwrapped packs of wet sausage; all are brutish. I tell myself the thick paint, scored to the canvas by the brass heads of brushes, is necessary.
But now, Mancuso. It is Mancuso – cappuccino in hand, talking to a slim, European brunette by the door to the gallery book shop – who has risen. They kissed a gentle goodbye. I was entirely transported by their sense of ‘lightness’ in attitude, smiles, clothing (rich and smooth) and sunlight (the windows and doors they were standing near, casting that haloed edge of specular light through their hair). I try not to think about Ruben’s disconnection from his past, how much this image has changed – perhaps how much he has learned – so much so, that he seems to be a fresh, human spirit, reborn a new; laughing and entertaining this unknown girl with her red, damask scarf twisted around a finger.
But I see now I am not similarly disconnected. I can touch this painting on this wall in this gallery – ignoring the warning signs not to touch – and feel the raised, black paint, that is still oily and rubbery and puckered like a scar. I can see the traversal through paintings of my attitude and will, one picture to the next, flicking backwards through those still frames (#118 DESPERATION, #117 LOATHING OF SELF, #116 ISOLATION…) and I mustn’t make this connection: that each painting is the same painting, in as much as it is a still frame of the same moving image. I see it now: one still after the other, each rewinding (I must not consider their return to that first ovum of canvas) and despite changes in scale or medium, it is a blank, soulless brute looming and advancing and bringing up fists like meat, though of course in reverse. As I must not see it, it is rewinding in my mind’s eye regardless (#27 RED ON BLACK, #26 REFORMATION … #15, #14…).
“Five, four, three…”
Though I destroyed it, one was ‘GIRL WITH GOLDEN HAIR, CRYING.’
Burn the prospectus now. There is no originality here. If I had a knife, I’d score it all through. Freud is reborn. I thought these twists of image – form flicking in halogenic light behind the viewer (‘brave and original – an artist to watch out for’) had come from pre-conceptualization; were a comment on modern value and expression and immoderate tastes – and that I was uncovering a message; the message; a message I was battling to touch, or grasp or paint into clarity. I felt like I was touched by God or satellites or a dog star, universal. But it was a moment I was copying. Years I spent doing it. But Ruben and both girls are the full cycle. I have gone nowhere in my cold cellars and abandoned properties, my gradual rise through the socialites and parties, the agonising leap at one patron after another – glass in hand, canapé limp and fishy – while he has proven it all wrong. There is no justice, there is no darkness. I’ve lived a child’s nightmare, where Ruben found only sunlight and blissful forgetting on the arm of ‘GIRL WITH EBONY HAIR, SMILING’, age unknown . And…
Beside me, a sculptural form like a basket, but it is a head made from leather belts – the colour of saddle leather – fixed in wax to form a human head. It rests on a clear plastic stand in a clear glass cube, and the whole is on a white plinth. This is not important, other than it is a break in thought. It’s not my creation: I never made it or imagined it. But it is beautiful.
Later that day, I reverse my car backwards off the quay outside the riverside gallery, scraping a huge gash down a side panel as I rush past a bollard (a bollard from when the quay had been used for ship building). The crash whiplashes my neck and bounce-bounce-bounces my head off the head-rest as the back of the car hits the water – near vertical – and the underside grates on the stone pilings, until the front wheels roll for a moment, till the nose grates once more as the back of the car pushes back. We all belly flop together with a splash, a gurgle rushing in behind. The entire accident is just that, my foot slipping off the clutch onto the accelerator, the gearshift sticky around reverse. The freezing inrush of oily water is gaspingly cold, and my mind shoots out to all the things adrenaline suggests as a car sinks (undo seatbelt, un-trap feet, wind down window, whatever else I can make up in the moment as a ‘should do’). But all I can think of – as I get out of that car and sail as a shirt bagged out with water to the nearest ladder, tsunami pouring from the sleeves – is that I’ve finally been released.
#119 sank in the boot of the car.