:: Article

Speech

By Jules Lewis.

I don’t know if it was residue from a dream of the night before, or the snowy dark November afternoon, the sort that carries within it alluring and overblown childhood fears, but as I opened the front door to the three-story Victorian house on Spadina Avenue, I felt haunted by the presence of my father. In the warmth of the arched foyer, I wiped my boots on the rubber mat then started up the maroon-carpeted staircase, pausing in front of a painting of a metal box, which contained many smaller metal boxes inside of it, narrowing into a vortex of metal boxes. For a moment I felt myself, or was it my father, falling into the cold, angular tunnel of the painting, but I leapt out of it and hurried up to the waiting room on the third floor. I hung my snow-dusted jacket on the coat rack and removed my boots, once again having performed my unmatching sock trick, a calculated act of absentmindedness to give Dr. Heyms the impression of a frazzled artist, too lost in the throes of creativity to dress properly. I sat down on my usual wicker chair and opened a large hardcover atop a stack of New Yorkers, Unlikely Friendships Across the Animal Kingdom. As I studied a photograph of a small orange monkey hanging from the ear of a grinning donkey, Dr. Heyms entered the waiting room, wearing dark purple tights and a loose, sea-green dress with a jagged fashiony cut. Despite her customary black high-heels, purple-rimmed glasses and unfading streak of pink along the front of her curly white hair, something about her seemed shorter than normal, gnomish, as if her septuagenarian body had shrunk an inch or two since the previous week. She ushered me into her office with a smile that may very well have been a wince. Her face was a word I couldn’t pronounce. The angles of her nose, chin, cheeks, lips, hovered in my head like some spidery Hungarian adjective, cluttered with ys and vs and zs.  She closed the door behind us then sat down on her upholstered chair and crossed her legs, her clock-like breath tick-tocking into my ears. It was my neck that felt most exposed as I lay down on the beige chaise longue. I imagined her to be scrutinizing my Adam’s apple. I began to feel, as I had many times before, that I was becoming the sum of her scrutiny, that she had somehow captured my neck with her clinical gaze, and now it was only my neck on the couch, this naked cylinder of flesh and muscle, passageway between shapeless inner language and formal speech, between desire and reality. Lodged inside my throat, I could feel a ridged, rubbery translucent shaft, making it difficult to breathe. I wondered if Dr. Heyms could sense this. I wondered if she would intervene if I began to choke. As I lay there, contemplating how  death by some phantom object would mark my finish of nearly a year of analysis, into my nostrils drifted a waft of the synthetic strawberry scent of the tiny fourteenth floor apartment in East York where I had, many years ago, sat naked on the edge of a springy double-bed as the first and only prostitute I ever visited calmly strapped a translucent dildo around her waist, and then, like feeding a popsicle to a toddler, guided it into the dark hole of my mouth, this same dildo I could now feel pushing against the interior walls of my esophagus, nudging up towards my tonsils, a sensation that reminded me of my father’s own lude transgressions, the lies he tells over and over in the far-away country he escaped to, maybe what was demanding release from my body was not a dildo, or even a word, but a slab of my father’s life, a part of him I had long ago swallowed, keeping his secrets safe in the privacy of my neck, secrets that were now literally taking my breath away, I either had to spew them out or die, if I could just spew anything out, the word spew, say it, I said to myself, as I lay there on the couch, say the word spew, spew the word spew, say or spew to Dr. Heyms, This feeling in my neck has nothing to do with my father, that’s it, tell her what the feeling is not about, explain the absence in the subject. But how could any feeling have nothing to do with one’s father? I said to myself, as a ball of see-through hockey tape appeared in my mind, stripped from my kneepads after a house-league game at Bill Bolton Arena and soaring across the dank change room — crowded with mouthy sweaty blushy-skinned boys in various stages of undress – then arching downwards and landing in the dark hole of the plastic garbage can, like the dark hole inside my mouth, brimming with translucent garbage, while my father lingered by the door in his lumberjack’s jacket, his presence pausing me into shyness. I am feeling very shy today, I wanted to tell Dr. Heyms, as a way to excuse myself for all this expensive silence, my inert spewlessness. Like a helpless beetle flipped onto his shell, I waited for the sound of Dr. Heyms’ voice to confirm the reality of mine, but there was only her steady breath behind me, swallowing the seconds and minutes. I am feeling very shy today. The letters, like empty shells, hovered in front of my eyes, then crumbled to the ground, disappeared. Even though the window was open a crack and I could hear a streetcar squealing along the bend of Spadina Avenue in the wet snow, the room felt sealed shut, unreachable to the outside world. Or was it my throat which had sealed shut, pushing words back down into my belly, that cauldron of the unsayable. I waited for Dr. Heyms to resuscitate me from this silence. But she didn’t intervene. She just sat there, breathing. The colonial pink walls were closing in. I looked over at the door and saw myself leaping up from the couch, turning the brass doorknob, double stepping down the carpeted staircase and exiting this many-roomed house into the dark snowy evening, escaping from this country, into a different, less cluttered history, where I could once again breathe easily. I immediately recognised this fantasy to be a reproduction of my father’s desire; a desire which led him far away from the loneliness of his 1950s childhood — the lash of his old man’s belt, his royal green private school tie, iced tea and orange juice — and into the life of a traveling musician, roaming from one city to the next with his hard-plastic guitar case. Now he lives in exile, in the tropical heat of a far away land, and inside the concrete walls of his bedroom a young woman sinks her naked body into his, her eyes a bridge between his skeletal loneliness and the flesh and force of the living; his muscles tighten, the usual rush of hunger and fear shoots up from his thighs, into his neck; his body is a tank, emptying and refilling, again and again, with the same fluids, same thoughts, same hungers, same fears; once more he looks into the young woman’s eyes, but now each one is a plank, leading nowhere, into death, his body collapses, emptied; she brushes a finger against a drop of sweat hanging from the ridge of his nose. His voice! He is speaking! The same words, same lies, night after night, a promise that he will soon take her away from this place, the only place she has ever known, and bring her back to the dream world out of which he emerged. Spewless, I close my eyes. I want to lie. Say lie, I say to myself. Say I want to lie, I say to myself. I am back in Dr. Heyms’ waiting room, studying an image of two animals captured in a moment of unlikely affection. Dr. Heyms enters the waiting room and ushers me into her office with a smile that may very well be a wince. As I follow her, she speaks to me in Hungarian, a scuttle of flittery, spindly words, which I do not understand. She shuts the door behind us then lies down on the beige couch. I notice she has taken my penis and strapped it to the centre of her body. She is naked. I am naked. I kneel down on the carpeted floor and begin to fellate her. She glares down at me, eyes stern and brittle, oblivious to the pleasures of my oral labor. She asks me a question. The question she asks is my question, the only question I will ever need to answer, but I cannot form words, as my mouth is stuffed with my own organ, now a vital part of her body. I am trapped in this elegant room, this bourgeois museum, this expensive joke, choking on the texture of my own muteness. I can only beg you to repeat the question, Dr. Heyms, if you could just please repeat the question, Dr. Heyms, restate the question, one word at a time, and if you give me a minute or two, if you sit patiently behind me for one more minute or two, if you could repeat the question then give me a few moments to let me settle into myself, to catch my breath and wiggle my toes and clear my throat, I assure you the sounds will start to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jules Lewis is the author of the novel, Waiting for Ricky Tantrum, and the play, Tomasso’s Party. He lives in Toronto.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, May 25th, 2021.