:: Article

monologues without bodies, exile

By Adrian Bridget.

 

1.

 

X tells themselves that whichever package of the many stored packages of bread they choose to open, whichever bread—which one is it, X asks themselves—is the right bread to open, the outcome will be the same. X won’t like the crust.

X doesn’t like the texture of the crust, nor the way chewed bits of it tumble square, back and forth, between mouth-bones, till it turns tongue into sand. Then, the head rolls down the dunes.

But the crust isn’t even, for X, the real issue.

It is rather the fact that if bread-crust and bread-middle (having two different consistencies that provoke two different feelings, as well as withholding different degrees of solubility when in contact with mouth-water) are inserted into the mouth at the same time, then the mouth’s meat-slab, and sometimes even the mouth-walls, will go into sensory overload and, not long after, shut down.

A TONGUE TASTES APORIA!

Contradictions are hard to swallow. X cuts off the crusts of the slice they cut off whichever bread they have happened to choose. If they were ever able to, that is, make a choice.

#

The tradition of the short story format often sees it starting from a small, realistic detail—e.g. a small, good thing.

This anchors the narrative. It communicates that the reality-system of the story mirrors the reality-system outside the story (and that is what, actually, makes it a story). Moreover, the detail chosen to begin the story indirectly establishes the psychology—how idiosyncratic!—of the main character, suggesting the main character to be an actual, living person that, somewhere else, does exist.

This starting point is engineered so that the reader, upon first encountering the story, may scream

IT’S ME IT’S ME

and, in so doing, may fall in love with themselves all over again for being reminded, all over again, that there are corners of their feeling-machine that have long been neglected and that, rediscovered, might compensate for how unexceptional other, more frequent sensations are.

#

It is depression. Congratulations. You get the award for the understatement of the year. Like saying that today— Today, this week, you have done fuck all, Y says. X knows the observation to be clinical, brilliant. A drumsound, even. Fuck all was accurate. And here it is. THE START OF THE THING. THE START OF ANTILITERATURE. THE START OF THE SNAKE, CAPITAL.

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Let’s say that X, who is a foreigner, lives with Y, who is not a foreigner. And let’s say that X came to Y’s land a few years ago but has, nevertheless, remained a foreigner.

X and Y, then, do not live in the same place. In spite of living together, X is told they’re not at home, whereas Y has never heard such a thing.

Which is, of course, fascinating.

Now let’s say that X wants to be somewhere else because X wants to be less of a foreigner. This is not in any way unexpected. X has been, for a long time, wanting to be, somewhere else, less of a foreigner. And let’s say that Y doesn’t want to become a foreigner. Logically speaking, Y doesn’t feel the need to be less of a foreigner since Y isn’t, they say, a foreigner at all. Y doesn’t want to be somewhere else. In spite of living together, X and Y want different things.

Now let’s say that—and this is an argument that is frequently put forward to X—X’s being a foreigner is merely an internal configuration, or a kind of psychosomatic ailment, which would mean that X would be just as much of foreigner as they are now anywhere else. The more X, throughout the past decades, has abandoned somewhere they were to be somewhere else, the more this argument has sounded reasonable. And let’s say that, now that X lives with Y, this argument is taken for a fact by everyone who knows X, including Y, and sometimes by X, too.

Somewhere else would not, now, make sense, according to this argument-turned-fact, because somewhere else X wouldn’t be less of a foreigner but Y would, for the first time, be one. This not only means that the goal of alleviating, somewhere else, the being-a-foreigner condition would not be achieved but also that this condition, on the whole, would be exacerbated, since it would be developed in Y, who, as things stand, is not afflicted by it.

Let’s finally say, nonetheless, that there is still a chance that X’s being-a-foreigner is not just an internal configuration or a psychosomatic ailment. In this case, there would still be a chance that this sensation, in X, could actually be provoked by X’s surroundings, and that it has indeed been provoked, due to sheer misfortune, by every environment where X has lived so far. It would then be possible that nowhere being good enough is not X’s doing.

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‘I ALWAYS FEEL DOOMED WHEN THE TRAIN IS RUNNING INTO LONDON. I FEEL SUCH A DESPAIR, SO HOPELESS, AS IF IT WERE THE END OF THE WORLD.’

#

X: Did you know that?

Y: No.

X: You know it now.

Y: Thank you.

X: You’re welcome.

 

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2.

 

Today the two wooden ends of the cords of the wooden blinds, pendulous under the radiator, look like the tips of an index finger and a middle finger respectively, and when the wind moves them, it is like sleeping.

#

There are oscillations in how familiar one is or can be with language. This is most evident in those languages one hasn’t yet, so to say, had breakfast in.

For no particular reason, X finds, for instance, that a patch of land, which just yesterday seemed to have disclosed itself to X, probably aided by yesterday’s sunlight—it was sunny, wasn’t it—has again, today, under heavy clouds, closed itself off. To the point that it is no longer possible for X to speak, or even understand, words that, just yesterday, seemed to come naturally. To the point that reading is no longer a transparent activity, even though the transparency that used to be there, just yesterday, was hard-earned. To the point that, holding the bars of the gate, X looks in and doesn’t recognise what they see.

(A so-called native language plays just the same tricks as languages subsequently acquired. They just happen to be more nuanced, given that a mother tongue finds it more of a fine skill to hide something when so much, since birth, has been exposed.)

Language engenders, from time to time, a partial expulsion of its speakers. This serves as a reminder that no one truly belongs to it. Speakers of any given language are never more than unwelcomed visitors.

#

Beckett: ‘And it is worth while remarking that no language is so sophisticated as English. It is abstracted to death. Take the word “doubt”: it gives us hardly any sensuous suggestion of hesitancy, of the necessity for choice, of static irresolution. Whereas the German “Zweifel” does, and, in lesser degree, the Italian “dubitare”.’

 

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3.

 

Today it was decided that, from now on, I must speak to myself in a foreign language once a day. The subject of this self-talk is by no means defined. However, suggestions include providing oral statements of the day’s activities (if any) and comments on specific movies or books.

#

‘PIERROT LUNAIRE SOUNDS LIKE MY HEAD DISEASE,’ and for that, to Schoenberg, X will be eternally grateful.

‘IT’S ME IT’S ME,’ X says.

There are Novalis fragments, Pascal fragments, and plant pots scattered across the floor. And Hamlet. Still being played on the record player, from an old record, over and over again because Shakespeare is a master. And a master, X learned when growing up, should speak English, this language that X didn’t understand but was expected to, owing to the way certain fragments of history bled to death because they wouldn’t sell well in bookshops like books in English do.

That is the source of a deep-seated inadequacy. One that has frequently been condensed and displaced in X’s dreams.

Like in the recurring dream in which X has to poop inside a box, a big box, way too big for the size of X’s turd, which, given the incompatibility of dimensions, rolls from one side of the box to the other if the box happens to be tilted. All X wants is to keep the box from smelling until X can find a safe place, somewhere else, where they, alone, can properly dispose of the turd before anyone finds out that X had to, in front of everyone, poop inside a box.

Absolute horror.

‘What is the etymology of horror?’ (X should actually look for the etymology of Entsetzen, the German equivalent, since it is the German term that made X interested in the English ‘horror’ in the first place, or even in the Portuguese ‘horror’, spelt the same, meaning the same, but spoken a little different.)

#

Y: What makes me happy?

X: Let’s talk about anger. Let’s talk about it.

Y: I have nothing left to say.

X: I imagine myself killing and beating and burning a lot of people whose violence against me I could not explain before I killed and beat and burned them. And I burned buildings and I planted grass across a whole patch of land where one of the buildings I burned used to be, a school. And if you want me to, now, speak of anger, then you are asking me to look back on the imaginary maiming and arson and ask myself if everything has really been resolved. And if it wasn’t—maybe because it wasn’t, maybe because I still feel anger and I’m pretty sure I do—then… What is it that you want from me?

Y: Anything. I’m not asking anything.

X: Not to give you something maybe, like a thing. Like a thing that comes in a box, wrapped in wrapping paper, that you would unwrap and then open the box and then get what comes inside the box and then hold what comes inside the box in your hand. As if it had always been yours. Not that but you still want something, something that isn’t given, something that isn’t a given. Something you watch me wrestling with, in any case. So, no. You actually want me to give you something. You want the spectacle in a single act that is me collapsing, underneath the weight of what couldn’t be resolved, of what couldn’t be killed or beaten or burned, maybe because I still feel anger. And I’m pretty sure I do. Because anger never finds a way out. And, because you know anger can’t find its way out, because you know that I am stuck, you feel safe. Safe enough to watch me, up close, because I would never kill you.

Y: (cries, suddenly, hysterically)

X: (doesn’t move, watches)

 

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4.

 

X likes literature inasmuch as X is only interested in very few books, which might be either the only real works of literature or the exceptions to the norm, the norm, in this case, being literature. Of the few books X is, today, interested in, none is in English.

Words in English, to X, have become progressively stranger.

Today, for instance, X read the word ‘first’ without ever getting themselves to believe in it. X could not believe what the word was supposed to mean and what it was supposed to do in a sentence because the order of the letters seemed to be wrong. It was all wrong.

X concluded that ‘fir-’ is a strange start to any word in any language. Except for, perhaps, the case of ‘fire’. ‘Fire’ makes sense. That has probably to do with the ‘i’ in ‘fire’ being open, not closed as in ‘first’. The closed ‘i’ in ‘first’, for X, is precisely what alienates X from the experience of something in the English language as a whole.

As horrible as it sounds.

English is, for X, opaque; its words are too thought-out. In English, X needs to know exactly what they are talking about before they start to talk.

The first sounds heard by X were not fragments and abstractions of English sounds. X is therefore denied the actual, the direct, the communion, which come with the recognition, in everyday speech, of sounds first encountered before consciousness furnished one’s innards with heavy furniture.

An actual experience in language comes as thought-forms that are, in themselves, thoughtless. But the word ‘thought’ itself isn’t thoughtless enough. It is much more logical for X to be seduced by the German, in which the words Geist and Gedanke have the same start. The same ‘first’ sound. Just noise—it WAS all noise AFTER ALL. AFTER TIME. TIME AFTER TIME. Just noise, you see, an open vowel. And AFTER in German is Anus. After After, TIME AFTER THE ANUS, the cosmos.

Other languages, languages spoken somewhere else, seems to offer X the immediacy X wanted to have, once, with English. In retrospect, this was bound to fail. What X liked to read in English, which pushed X to start writing themselves, also in English, were, in fact, translations. X wasn’t aware of this until they heard Barthes speaking in French on the radio. X understood then that the Barthes X had fallen in love with was a Barthes-substitute, a mute double, a prosthetic extension of Barthes—the smoothness of which X appreciated greatly, of which the loss made X recoil in horror upon encountering the original body parts, the ones that were still warm and had hair growing out of them.

#

Today it was reported that speaking could be broken down into numerical patterns because it is an activity that happens in time and time can be broken down into numerical patterns.

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X: who

Y: who

X: who

 

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5.

 

Too many languages inside X’s head, too many languages inside X’s head.

‘And when I am not the master of my grammar I am a baby,’ X says.

‘You sound like a child when it learns how to speak,’ Y says.

‘I KNOW I KNOW,’ X says. ‘I am, after all, an amateur in the way I speak, write, and eat breakfast.’

#

It seems that the English language only becomes bodied (comes back from the death of abstraction) in advertising.

BREAD IS AT THE BEGINNING OF A LOT OF GOOD THINGS.

ONLY ONE BREAD CARES FOR YOUR HEART.

THE SLICE OF LIFE!

BREAD MAKES BONE, AND BRAIN, AND BRAWN.

DRY MILK MAKES BETTER BREAD.

MOTHER’S BREAD PURE AS MOTHER MADE IT.

IT’S SLO-BAKED! SLICED OR UNSLICED.

BREAD WITH A BONUS—MORE ENERGY, MORE NUTRITION, MORE FLAVOUR.

NEVER FORGET YOUR DAILY BREAD.

EAT BREAD—MORE BREAD.

#

Today I talked to my mother on the phone and told her that not only did the banana I ate in the morning looked wrong because the middle, and only the middle, turned dark brown, but also the ham I had later, with bread, had gone yellow around the edges. I ate the ham in the end, with bread, because it hadn’t expired. It had only been open for a couple of days and was kept in an airtight Tupperware. Still, I cut its yellow edges off. Like I had removed the crusts from the bread just before.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adrian Bridget
is a writer and translator. His published works include the short prose collection TEXTS THAT SHOULDN’T BE READ OUT LOUD and the novel Treatment. He lives and works in London, UK.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, May 11th, 2021.