:: Article

Jolts

New fiction by Fernando Sdrigotti.

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Robert Fludd’s black square representing the nothingness that was prior to the universe, from his Utriusque Cosmi (1617) – Source: Wellcome Library.

 

 

To Chris Marker

 

Undated 

A packed unmoving train in Clapham Junction. What happened before is beyond the point–this train could be everything there is to this world. A packed train where the air stinks of café latte, and where the passengers are starting to tutt and puff in their winter coats and jackets. Faces, one after the other, all bleary-eyed and lethargic. Suddenly the train starts moving and all the faces look slightly relieved.

8:33 a.m., December 12, 2014

He’s reading the news on his iPad, learning that some celebrity he doesn’t know has left the jungle on a TV show he doesn’t watch. His train is delayed or cancelled–all trains are, because of the snow. But what really bothers him this morning is the guy who was listening to his music without headphones on the 341 bus to Waterloo. The guy was listening to Nirvana and suddenly 20 years have passed since Nirvana, one after the other, on that 341 bus. It’s not about Nirvana, of course: it’s about time and about being out of synch with himself.

3:13 a.m., December 13, 1999

I’m walking with Walter when we bump into Julio in the corner of Corrientes and Tucumán, Rosario, Argentina. Julio is pissing against a wall, off his head, talking to himself, almost falling with his pants all the way down to his ankles and a tetrapack of wine in his left hand. It’s a hot and humid summer night and it will rain–mixing glue with wine is a bad idea on nights like these. He finishes pissing and turns around and comes our way, still with his pants down, hopping like a kangaroo, until he pulls them up. He’s wearing his Nirvana tee, the same one he’s been wearing since 1995, and doesn’t recognise me. He tries to mug me. I grab him by the neck and tell him “Julio, you cunt, it’s me”. He smiles: two of his front teeth are missing. He gets a piece of paper from his pocket and tells me “Look, it came back negative”, as if it was the most normal thing to say. The paper looks dodgy and people have been saying he’s got AIDS for a while, but he might as well be negative for all I care. He doesn’t apologise for trying to rob me and walks away and shouts “Say hi to the guys”. I tell Walter that somebody should shoot Julio before he kills someone. Walter doesn’t say anything. Two weeks later Julio gets killed when he tries to rob a drunkard who happens to be an off-duty cop. The news makes me happy.

Undated

The train is still packed and once again not moving an inch. People stare at their shiny little screens and their necks will hurt later on. A montage of long miserable faces and then cut to green fields, beaches, Paris, prairies, Kathmandu, Shangri-La, Siberia, Tokyo, Iceland, Cape Verde, lakes and mountains, or just Blackpool–anywhere the passengers would rather be. And a wide river. And Prague. And Dublin.

2:34 a.m., August 17, 2006

Marco is talking and talking and talking and I listen and drink and listen and drink. We’re in a place called Clair de Lune in Montmartre, the only place we could find open. Sabina is here. She doesn’t drink and frowns every time I take the wine glass to my mouth. Marcos speaks in Argentinian and I listen in Argentinian and someone else is speaking in Argentinian at the back of the bar. Someone insults someone else in Argentinian at the back of the bar, there’s some pushing and shoving; someone leaves and the space between me and the back of the bar is cleared and I see Walter. We stare at each other and move fast between the tables and chairs and we embrace. We can’t believe we’re both here, in Paris of all places. We stare at each other as if we are hallucinating and maybe we are. It’s great to see we’ve both got out of Rosario and didn’t end up in Miami, speaking in Cuban. He comes up to our table and now does the talking and we get seriously drunk, Marco, Walter and I.

8:57 a.m., December 12, 2014

And to make matters worse he’s just received an email from a literary mag saying the editors have read a fiction piece he submitted almost a year ago: the editors have read your piece with interest, and although they found it well written the editors do not appreciate the jolts in time; they also felt that the ending was inconclusive, as if this story was a fragment from a broader story. They now want him to edit it considering their comments. The problem is the piece is called “Jolts” and is precisely about jolts in time and space, about how some of us are more sensitive to fragments and how some of us are more fragmented than the rest, particularly on some days.

11:34 p.m., September 10, 2008

I can feel my stomach coming through my mouth as I kneel before the toilet seat. Nothing comes out of my mouth besides my stomach because there’s nothing else in there–I’m vomiting fear. Sabina is standing by the door, saying she’s sorry but that she’s got to do it. She’s holding a small Samsonite suitcase, my suitcase. And she does it, she leaves and takes off for Prague the following morning. And I don’t see her for over a year, until we meet to sign the divorce papers and she gives me back my suitcase. It’s my favourite suitcase.

9:23 a.m., December 12, 2014

The editors do not appreciate your jolts in time. Everything about it makes him sick: the academic snobbery of avoiding contractions, the passive aggressive “appreciate” instead of a right-out “hate”, their use of the third person plural. Who are the editors? Why don’t they appreciate his jolts in time? How do they live lives without jolts? What do they mean by “conclusive”? Should the piece end with a description of Armageddon? How can anything be conclusive when there’s always the next fragment to come? He wishes them death. He wishes them that conclusiveness. Before they kill someone.

10:43 p.m., 16 February 1998

The square is called Plaza de los Locos–there used to be an asylum here twenty years ago. Cristian, Julio, The Pig, and Esteban are here with me; we’re drinking warm white wine and smoking and we’re pretty drunk and stoned. Julio fidgets for a while in his pocket and gets a small replica gun out. He points it at Cristian and pulls the trigger and the hammer makes a dry noise. We all laugh. Then he points it at me but doesn’t pull the trigger. He points it at The Pig and pulls the trigger and there’s that dry sound and we all laugh again. Then the same with Esteban. “This is the one I used to rob those wankers,” he says and points it to the ground and pulls the trigger and there’s this loud BANG! and a bullet bounces on the floor leaving a tiny cloud before it disappears into the night. Julio’s face briskly turns pale and The Pig jumps up, pulls the gun from Julio’s hand and slaps him across the face. Julio falls from the bench and The Pig moves to him, mounts him, and starts slapping him with the front and the back of his hand, calling him a “snotty cunt” over and over again until we stop him. Now Julio’s nose is bleeding and his right eye starts to swell. We leave him there, crying like a brat, and then go to the pier to throw the gun into the river. We throw it as far as we can, hoping it will sink into the canal that used to carry the big transatlantic cargos before the ships and everything else stopped coming.

Undated

An empty carriage. Litter, free newspapers, paper cups, a forgotten smartphone. The doors are open. There’s nobody in the station save for a couple of guards. It starts snowing once again. A beautiful snow that gets into the train and slowly melts into a shapeless mud.

9:43 a.m., December 12, 2014

The editors never appreciate anything and if they do they just sit on it, like with his second book, that only sold forty-three copies and that the publisher refused to promote any further after the launch party because people in Spain and Latin America don’t really read books anymore, you should write something in English for us. And he did–for someone else–and he even swore never to write in Spanish again. But he knows very well books won’t get him where he needs to be and he’s been waiting for the trains to move in this station café for two hours. He should just break camp and go home. When you spend time in terminals you’re always at the mercy of terrorists. He should just head home, hide his head under his pillow. It’s impossible to keep on living like this, at the mercy of terrorists, editors, and trains.

9:13 p.m., January, 16, 2009

“That was the same question!” “No! Not at all!” “Yes, it was! YOU WANKER!” says Marco, “I told you not to fuck around with the i-Ching. I TOLD YOU!”. “I asked a different question, I swear!” “It’s giving you the same answer: the same hexagram and the same changes. That’s because you asked the same question. I told you not to ask the same question! You shouldn’t play with this.” It’s nighttime already and soon we’ll be heading to a gig down Republique way. I’m living in Paris once more, once more a suitcase and a short-term teaching job at Paris VIII. It’s true I asked the same question and I probably broke the i-Ching and things will never make sense again, because the question was exactly “Will things ever make sense again?” “I’ll never do this again for you. Never again,” he says. “I’m sorry,” I say. “You have some thinking to do, bro.” “What did I get, again?” “恆,” he says.

10:23 p.m., December 19, 2001

It’s impossibly hot and people are wild tonight, even with the curfew. Guille and Manu are watching the protests in Buenos Aires with Ludmila; I’m rolling under the table with Milena, Ludmila’s sister, while I fondle Ludmila’s leg. Ludmila pushes my hand away several times until she stops pushing and spreads her legs. Milena finds it funny and she pulls Ludmila towards us but Ludmila stays on the table with the other two, mesmerised by the screen. Suddenly the cops start killing people, the president takes off for Uruguay in a helicopter, and 4 more presidents fail to secure a government in the space of 2 weeks. In a couple of months I’m on a flight to Dublin, without the faintest idea of what I’ll do with the rest of my life. I’ll start washing plates the morning after arriving and then spend the next 13 years of my life changing rooms in several cities. But I’m not thinking this right there with Milena–there and then I’m young, careless, stupid, libertine, and probably free.

9:47 a.m., December 12, 2014

An empty table. Croissant crumbs. A half full café latte in a cardboard cup. A seat, still warm.

9:43 a.m., July 3, 1986

We’re fishing with my grandad J.T.. We’ve jumped a wall to get into this abandoned stretch of beach. I pierce the hook through a worm and it wiggles. It makes me feel a bit sick but it’s still a happy moment, only us three, me and J.T. and the worm.

Undated 

The empty train as seen from the station. Then, black. If writing had sound it would be possible to hear the empty train station and London in the background over the black page.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fernando Sdrigotti lives in London. @f_sd

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015.