Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind. At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars. We were a self-centred army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man’s creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all our strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2015)
You will never know how much music has transformed you, not until it has, but by then you won’t remember what it was like back when it hadn’t. You’ll swear that it was always like this, that it didn’t so much transform you as it unlocked something in you.
And yet it did transform you: there were neurological changes, dormant nerve paths awoke, new ones were discovered, tiny and impatient little specks of light now travel through you, an imminent and familiar menace, one to which you cannot wait to capitulate.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2015)
This puzzles me:
I hear the expression “words were said that cannot be taken back”, and yet I don’t know where or how we draw the conceptual line that separates words that can be taken back from those that cannot. I mean we can all easily differentiate between monstrous statements and innocuous ones, yet I suspect that there exists a grey area where we cannot do that at all, one which contains many more words than both extremes.
It all depends on who hears those words I suppose. If that is the case, maybe it should read: “there will never be a correct apology for the words you’ve said”, or in other words: “the separation line is clear to me, regardless of where you think the line is”.
It all sounds very final.
As if it were supremely important that Spring must die or else never be.
I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able—if called upon to do so—to make them a proper omelet in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world. Perhaps omelet skills should be learned at the same time you learn to fuck. Perhaps there should be an unspoken agreement that in the event of loss of virginity, the more experienced of the partners should, afterward, make the other an omelet—passing along the skill at an important and presumably memorable moment.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2015)
Hell is the incapacity to be other than the creature one finds oneself ordinarily behaving as.
Aldous Huxley — Eyeless in Gaza
Love is easy, here’s what you do:
Tell her you love her every day, several times a day. Fucking mean it as if your life depended on it. Hell, your life does depend on it.
Did you have a fight? Are you carrying a grudge? Slow down, don’t call her just yet. Go first look at a picture of her, the one you like best. Yes, that one where she’s happy, complete and laughing as if nothing else mattered. Talk to the picture, tell it that you’re a sorry moron (because you know you are) and that you love her and fucking mean it. Now call her and tell her that.
Can’t call just now? Did she hurt your feelings badly? Are you sad? Well boo-hoo-fucking-hoo. What are you going to do? Mope? Sulk like a child whose toys have been taken away? Or are you going to grow a pair and grasp that you’re the shithead who provoked it? Make amends you simpleton. Remember that once you’ve been your usual cretinous self it’s almost always too late to make amends. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Do it now.
Your fucking “standards” don’t matter, you pathetic little nitwit. Don’t ever be so arrogant as to think that you have deserved to be loved by someone like her, you haven’t. You were just lucky that someone peeked inside you and found a flame to kindle, remember that. We should all be so lucky.
When she shares something with you, no matter how trivial, understand it for what it is: you have been chosen to carry a fragile and unique gem that you need to protect and tend to. And guess what, no one gives a flying fuck about your accounting of the credits and debits of the laying bare of souls. A single one is enough for you to carry a debt you can never hope to repay.
Know every millimiter of her body as if it were your own, know it better that your own. There is a place for lust of course, but unless you’re an animal, don’t succumb to it until you’ve accepted how the simplest of her gestures or a flick of her hair can floor you and leave you breathless. Don’t be a fucking animal.
You don’t absolutely need a constant confirmation of her love for you. Don’t be an insecure little shit and trust your instincts. Only contemplate asking when you feel completely like yourself and of good cheer. Only then. There is darkness inside us all yes, but try to get rid of it (and for fuck’s sake don’t think for a minute that the darkness makes you any more “interesting”). The both of you are one now, not a unit of you plus her. Darkness will only get in the way and cast doubt when it finds the slightest opportunity.
And by the way, did you tell her you love her? Did you fucking mean it?
If you didn’t, if you can’t, if you’re not sure about all this, if you are stupid enough to think that you “need to think about it” or even if, hey, you reach the conclusion that maybe you’re not in love with her, then get the fuck out of her way.
Stop wasting her life and go be an imbecile on your own time.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2013)
Yes, it hurts, just a little, and there is no way to avoid it.
The damned conjugation of life’s little ploys always ends up pushing you to the edge of a cliff where you are exposed, defenseless, where anything, no matter how trivial, can make you loose balance and plunge you into the pit.
Even your surprise at finding yourself here is predictable.
You’ll try to argue, to reason: No, not me, why me, I had no demands, not this time. I didn’t screw up, not that much, I was good, I was courteous, I was delicate. I was prepared to be hurt, for fuck’s sake. I shouldn’t even be here. Look, that moment, that stupid awkward moment, that hesitation? It meant nothing that can’t be undone, right? Right?
See, so long as you don’t accept that you are the only part in this, that no one is punishing you, no amount of protest will ever save you; so you know, if you crave redemption, you first need to know from what.
Rest now. Everything will be alright. Messy and chaotic.
Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.
I was driving a Lexus through a rustling wind. This is a car assembled in a work area that’s completely free of human presence. Not a spot of mortal sweat except, okay, for the guys who drive the product out of the plant—allow a little moisture where they grip the wheel. The system flows forever onward, automated to priestly nuance, every gliding movement back-referenced for prime performance. Hollow bodies coming in endless sequence. There’s nobody on the line with caffeine nerves or a history of clinical depression. Just the eerie weave of chromium alloys carried in interlocking arcs, block iron and asphalt sheeting, soaring ornaments of coachwork fitted and merged. Robots tightening bolts, programmed drudges that do not dream of family dead.
It’s a culmination in a way, machines made and shaped outside the little splat of human speech. And this made my rented car a natural match for the landscape I was crossing. Heat shimmer rising on the empty flats. A bled-white sky with ticky breezes raking dust across the windshield. And the species factually absent from the scene—except for me, of course, and I was barely there.
Quando escrevo em português sinto-me desprotegido e acho que é por isso que o faço pouco. Não é por causa da língua me ser estranha, antes pelo contrário: é por ser tão próxima do meu núcleo, seja lá o que isso for.
She sits and reads with the inevitable resolve of a child who has no notion of boundaries and pays no attention to the physical form of what she absorbs. Not just books alone but anything and everything she can get her hands on: every minuscule speck of life itself around her is fair game; it all speaks directly at her and she needs to reply. At first sketching a mental image of the authors, imagining their voices, their demeanour and their lives. Placing herself there as a real semi-fictional character in a fictional semi-real life seems to be the only way to do so, but they’re not listening.
Suddenly without filter and with the same resolve words of reciprocation rush out of her. She starts to write directly from her open heart (or mind, but she can’t tell the difference nor does she care to) straight to the paper in a rush to carve it somewhere before it fades, not stopping for a second to review or reread: the real visible words on the paper are sufficient gratification. There is more to read.
She sits and reads a little slower now. The lives and the sound of the voices of the authors are inexorably fading into the distance as the text itself stubbornly pushes to the surface demanding to be heard, constantly reminding her that once it’s been written it belongs to the author no more, that the words are now the reader’s. She spots structures, plot, progression, rhythm and melody in the words. She spots herself.
Hesitant, suspecting that she’s trespassing upon forbidden territory, she begins to write with the same purpose of letting the words go as either a donation to others or else a balm to herself. She even writes a book as if she was building a house, recruiting help and opinion on every single brick, wall, window sill and floorboard and every poppy in the garden that surrounds the house is named and accounted for. She watches this house grow and change as people move in and out and the garden blooms and withers with the tragedies of other lives, now insignificant for not being hers anymore.
She sits and reads very slowly and meticulously. Unlike before, her eyes go back and forth in the text thoroughly absorbing every single word and every word becoming a part of herself. She discovers the infinitely recursive depths of perception, one infinitesimal laceration after the other and feels humbled and inadequate and in need of an answer from herself alone.
And so she writes slowly and deliberately. She suspects it but hasn’t yet fully grasped that while it seems she’s still writing from her heart (or mind, but she can’t tell the difference nor does she care to) even when building larger structures, the very slowness of the act has become a strict and sometimes cantankerous editor who makes the words linger in her mind arguing with each other, some cuddling in shining sentences others placing entire paragraphs of safe distance between them.
She sits almost immobile now, maybe not reading at all.
Every word has become a whole book, every paragraph a whole encyclopedia and every book a whole life, revisited, molded and reimagined over and over again. Her writing has now become both excruciatingly slow and surprisingly fluid. It has become a mental life of its own where the writing down of words is but a distillation of a whole universe into the very essence of her where no alternatives exist, just the exact words. As if there is no choice but to wait for them, until infinity if need be, as if slowing down to near immobility and abandoning time has finally given her the space to read everything and write everything or maybe just the one thing.
But it’s not clear if she’s reading or writing at all anymore.
On her face there is just the vaguest hint of the peaceful smile of someone who’s finally discovered that there was never anything else she could do.
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you, You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,) I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you, All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured, You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me, 5 I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only, You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return, I am not to speak to you — I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone, I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again, I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
Gould tocou durante duas horas, directamente para dentro das pessoas, com emoção. Tinha tantas notas nos dedos que, quando tocava, o seu esforço não era fazê-los mexer, era refreá-los, para que não tocassem tudo de uma vez. Tocar, para ele, era impedir os dedos de se mexerem. Muitas vezes pensava assim na música: um dó sustenido que poderia ter sido, um fá que quase se pronunciou, um si que lhe ficou preso na unha, um lá bemol que tropeçou. Era como a vida, como as pessoas que, ao escolherem ser alguma coisa, rejeitam todas as outras, uma infinidade de coisas, uma enormidade que lhes fica pendurada nas unhas, nas dobras dos pensamentos, nos cabelos espigados. É assim que se faz uma música, e é assim que aparece uma imagem no espelho, bem definida, recortada por tudo o que não somos. Gould tocou derramando-se.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2013)
I want to know exactly how many of your skin’s goosebumps would fit under my finger.
Applying pressure where it is softest, very lightly of course (after all, it is important to not scare the papillae away), moving the tip of my index a fraction of a millimetre above that dimple at the very end of your back, upwards so slowly that it would take a lifetime to reach the base of your neck.
I wonder if you’d close your eyes, sigh softly, and surrender.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2014)
I know exactly bugger-all about poetry.
It’s not that I haven’t tried, I have very often and very hard, too: after all how could I resist the temptation, led on by a high-school teacher’s remark, that reciting poetry was the surest way to impress girls? So and in step with was being discussed in class I attacked Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud and all of the poètes maudits with unparalleled determination: all my other ploys to dazzle girls having met with various degrees of failure, poetry couldn’t conceivably fare worse, I thought.
I could already picture my then unrequited crush on her veranda hopelessly swooning at my declamation of the Fleurs du Mal under the full-moon. I was going to be Cyrano, damn it, and without stupid Christian de Neuvillette, too.
Sadly, reality intervened: no matter how much I read I invariably rebelled in anger after a few pages, jumped from my chair, paced the room furiously, yelling the by now familiar, for-fuck’s-sake-get-to-the-fucking-point-what-in-god’s-name-are-you-trying-to-say-make-it-stop-it’s-making-my-head-melt-oh-hell-yes-I’ll-have-another-drink-or-ten-et-meeerde litany. Also and to add to my despair, try as I might, I couldn’t memorize a single verse.
I had no problem with the poets themselves, mind you: their biographies were fascinating. After all, how many drug fiends, gun runners, absinthe drunkards, runaway criminals and suicidal maniacs does it take to make me take notice? Not many and there were plenty of those.
The fact is that Roxane looked very distant now.
It is true that I may have been an arrogant little twit back then and simply didn’t have the tranquility and wisdom that may have been needed to fully appreciate the rhythm, flow and music of the words. Today, as time has changed me into a much bigger arrogant twit, poetry doesn’t anger me as much and I do read some of it with great pleasure. Always careful, always on the look-out for the signals that are going to make me boil again and sufficiently wise as to simply put down the book should I feel attacked again.
Not that I understand it any better, though. Some of it stuck much like the many other passages from authors who aren’t poets and often for reasons that aren’t especially noble. I can quote Verlaine’s first stanza of the Chanson d’Automne for instance (les sanglots longs/des violons/de l’automne/blessent mon cœur/d’une langueur/monotone) but the explanation couldn’t be more pedestrian: it is prominently featured on the movie The Longest Day. And by the way can you spot the apparently arbitrary separation of sentences and how irritating that is? Right.
Perhaps the word “poetry” has a very specific connotation in my mind, one which doesn’t correspond to what it is usually understood to mean; Shakespeare, to me, isn’t classified under “poetry” for instance. Not even his sonnets, which, incidentally, have served me well with many a Roxane. Or a few. Well, at least one. Who would’ve thought that one day I’d softly whisper into some beautiful ear, …Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved? And yet I did, and the words worked wonders.
My high-school teacher who I’ve now come to realise must have been an incorrigible romantic failed to tell me about the most important fact about wooing your love interest with poetry: namely that in the dance of courtship it is equivalent to the thermonuclear solution.You don’t simply pull out the verses for no good reason and offer them trivially: for one your ammunition is limited (trust me, it is) and then the effect is lost if it is used too often.
You could always use your charming struggles with poetry, instead. I’m told that it works extremely well.
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in late 2013)
Votiv Kirche, Wien
We met by coincidence on a lazy Viennese afternoon, but I still have no idea who Eduard Kosmack was.
While exploring my new surroundings I came across a museum of modern art right next to where we lived. There was no elevation in any of this, no thirst for art, no sublime sharpening of the inner vision. The truth is simply that I was out of cigarettes and the museum’s coffee-shop was the only establishment open on Sundays. As it turns out it didn’t sell cigarettes either.
There were two enormous paintings downstairs: one by Roy Lichtenstein and another by Warhol (the Orange Car Crash, maybe?), which promptly made me forget why I was there to begin with. I had never seen so closely anything quite like it. I had heard about both painters, had read about them and seen their work in books. I even knew a little more about Warhol due to a slightly alarming teenage fixation with the Velvet Underground but this was different. There was texture and dimension, there was light pouring in from the majestic bay windows of the palace, there was space!
I must’ve run up and down the stairs of the three floors of the museum hundreds of times that day. So much so that when I finally came out of it, exhausted and lighthearted, I had to sit down on a bench on the Fürstengasse to try and catch my breath and catalogue everything I had just seen.
It was of no use. All that was left was an incomprehensible and chaotic blur: giant photorealistic paintings danced in my mind to the music of deconstructed pianos while fat ladies had tea and Picasso watched mockingly as Jasper Johns painted a perfect target, ever so patiently. Moderns, Nouveau Réalisme, Fluxus, Pop-Art, Actionism, I did remember the labels but that was about it. Despite my unavoidable compulsion to devise a meticulously organised mental library I couldn’t say who went where or why anymore.
Nor could I believe that I lived a few hundred meters from such an exhilarating pandemonium for that matter—it was inevitable that the Palais Liechtenstein should become my surrogate living-room for the next few years. I enjoyed every single corner and wall of it seemingly becoming an integral part of it and it of me to the point of knowing most of the staffand every single piece exhibited by name. I was a jealous visitor too; only when truly forced to it would I share the palace with someone: I couldn’t bear the prospect of a real voice disrupting the conversation in me. Mine.
Despite my increasing familiarity with the collection there was always one single very clear image that kept creeping back, calling me. It wasn’t a painting of striking dimensions (around 1m x 1m), by comparison with some others and it hung modestly in a smallish isolated room on the very last floor, as if put there to be discovered by the worthy alone and ignored by the others.
What caught my attention first were the eyes.
It was a portrait of Eduard Kosmack, by Egon Schiele, but I didn’t know that then. I just felt his eyes, looking at me, only at me, waiting.
Egon Schiele, Porträt Eduard Kosmack, 1910
The very first time that I paid any sustained attention to it, it made me uncomfortable and vaguely angry. After five minutes I made myself leave and promised to not give it another thought.
Which didn’t last for very long.
I couldn’t let go of Kosmack’s uneven eyes, the awkwardly and simultaneously defensive and defying position, the writhing of the hands, the face, as if cut into shape by a knife. He was waiting. He was waiting for me. He was waiting for me to ask him something. He was waiting for me to ask him something or to answer a question I didn’t know how to ask. I hated it to the point of having to come back again and again just to look at the one portrait, ignoring three or four floors of joyful, pensive, mischievous, and flirtatious accomplices.
With time we became accustomed to each other. Those initial sessions of five minutes turned into more minutes and then into dialogues where time wasn’t a consideration anymore. I sat in front of him as one sits with a friend and we talked.
I asked him about his city, told him about the apparently unsolvable paradox of being, at the same time, fascinated beyond words by my new habitat and yet absolutely terrified at having been once again uprooted and transplanted somewhere. Of having become the battlefield of the memories I had left behind and those that were now forming, asking me for a ruling, as there seemed to be no place for both. Of new and old friends. Of both the pettiness of some days and the grandiosity of others. Of ups and downs. Of love and hate and indifference and sorrow and joy.
Through it all he was patient. “Slow down”, he seemed to say, “breathe”.
And as time passed my respiration grew even and my compulsions slowly gave room to a quieter contemplation both defying and defensive in pose, hands not writhing but impregnable, relishing at the prospect of, first of all, waiting.
(that’s, I hope, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Pärt”, who was born on this day, in 1932)
Für Alina is the music to youth exploring the world and probably the quintessential illustration of Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli style.
Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.