POSTURING: The Pursuit of Being [excerpt] – Teddy Duncan
May 12, 2020
“Do you know some poison-poem that would burst my cell into a spray of forget-me-nots?”—Jean Genet
“Since it is impossible to make a ballet of it, I am forced to use words that are weighed down by precise ideas, but I shall try to lighten them with expressions that are trivial, empty, hollow, and invisible.” —Jean Genet
Chapter I: Birth of the Focal Point
Birth is a turbulence, a disruption of the interior and exterior and of life itself, the child no longer being an absolutely contingent organ-like part of the mother but becoming a self-perceptive (albeit with the limited perception and cognization of a new-born) baby. The birth of Essence was no more or less substantial than any other birth, nothing to take into account besides the ordinary (yet nonetheless transcendent in the literal sense of being placed beyond) occurrence of opening her eyes for the first time and realizing the multiplicity of the world, and at the sight, she instinctually cried. The mother looked at the product of her birth-labor and 9-month (and one additional week) harboring and had an instantaneous adoration that rode the cusp of hatred; a lethal emotional proximity. Essence was relatively formless and resembled other babies, as babies tend to, and the hospital room with its nurses and sterility and white walls was the baby’s first glimpse of the natural. The “unnatural” or “inorganic” being, conversely, that that is not. Nature was effectively for the child everything that is and can be presumed to previously have been (was) and will be. The baby is beautiful in the sense that she is a simplistic adaptation of adult humans, a universal (minus the presence of melanin resulting in a darker skin tone) human before distinctive features begin to form. She is just pure consolidated body parts, eyes and ears and a mouth and a head and neck and nose and arms and legs and hands and feet and little chubby ankles and wrists and fingers and toes and thighs and a small tic-tac sized extension of flesh protruding from said thighs.
The corridors of the hospital are traversed by doctors and nurses, I.V.’s are supplied to those that are in comatose or some other condition that render them unable to ingest food or the proper amount of liquids, bodies with white sheets on mobile beds are solemnly (yet swiftly and professionally—no illusions that the nurse is performing her job delivering a body, a “component” of her job requirements) rolled down the hallway to the in-house coroner, food is being prepared in the cafeteria, undesirable news is dispatched to family members and spouses and friends, bathroom toilets flush—someone in the lobby has diarrhea due to a stomach virus and is ceaselessly flushing the toilet and spraying the supplied bathroom smell-spray, embarrassed of the odor, and the focal point of this story’s mother is looking at the focal point, tears clenching to eyelashes and inexorably rolling down her face avoiding the summit of the cheek, searching for the path of the least resistance, her baby has been born and she has an attachment that one is inclined to have to their own child for various potential/realized reasons: 1. The biological fulfillment of perpetuating her own species (which seems to be present in most animals) 2. The perpetuation of herself in the form of another (in a sense an attempt at immortality or to avoid death, or at least to avoid an absence of herself) 3. An innate maternal instinct to protect and take care of the child, an immediate emotional proximity between mother-child 4. A confrontation with the metaphysical, that this is a being that came from a pre-life void due to sexual intercourse that she engaged in which is the way (pretty much) all beings have been conceived, not only endowing her with the ability to be a “creator” but placing her within the cosmic dance of creation and destruction and nothingness. (Maternal attachment could also be all of these things compounded, although some of them seem to cancel out one another…)
Outside the hospital (but still on the premises): Birds flutter-chirp in synchronized spirals weaving through post-hospital construction tree branches, abruptly landing on two virtually weightless legs behind cars attempting to exit the parking lot—flying away as incomprehensible (to the birds) vehicles approach. A plane languidly coasts through the stale, unmoving, cloudless sky, partially eclipsing the mid-day moon visible a few days a month. Grass in the islands between parking spaces silently growing; absorbing nutritious sunlight. A beetle sprawling on its back being salvaged for caloric energy by ants—soon to be deceased unless a fateful gust of wind indifferently turns her over. A feral cat furtively looks out from dense bristly bush at a pack of humans laterally crossing the parking lot. Squirrel residing in the shade tossed from a car (inadvertently blocking the sun) chewing on stray acorn tweakerishly, sporadically chewing and shooting glances right, left, up, down. A woman smoking a cigarette at the very edge of the parking lot in adherence to the “This Hospital is a Smoke-Free Zone. Thank You for Not Smoking.” sign, gently inhales and exhales the smoke that is a result of burning paper-stick. She stands hand on hip, right leg intersecting left—hugging, with the cigarette smoke ascending to the day-time sky for plane to coast through, her position and posture obstinate to non-existence or non-life or death.
Chapter II: Sunlight Touching Fingertips Through Open Car Windows; Freedom
Now we come to a drastically dissimilar time in Essence’s life, but nonetheless a life-epoch like any other (time maintaining its quantitative integrity regardless of human alterations or events). Essence is in jail, well, she’s departing from the jail. Giving her friends gentle kisses on each cheek and solemnly promising to visit when they get out, her gestures are severe, lacking their ordinary playfulness and joy that she adopted in jail—she doesn’t want to make the others envious of her departure. The others who, like her former-fellow prisoner Colten, are pending a trial that will likely convict them of a 20 to 25-year sentence. Essence’s grace with leaving is well received by everyone. They say to each other once she’s left: “Did you see the way Essence handled her name being called? None of that smiley ‘fuck y’all I’m out’ bullshit, she held it down and seemed almost sad to be leaving”. She passes out her temporal jail belongings according to a pre-conceived lay-out of who needs the items the most, her socks and sweaters and majority of her jail items are given to a skinny boy called “Bambi” who is constantly being robbed of his stuff.
Essence walks through the opening gate of the jail’s barbed fences with a flower (that she appropriated from the jail-courtyard) in her hair, Walt W. is waiting for her in front of a near dilapidated white sedan that looks as if it was in a recent accident. His arms are open, anticipating a hug. They embrace and Walt comments that Essence looks good. Walt asks Essence “Are you hungry? Or even, not inconceivably, starving? How was it in there? I know you couldn’t say shit over the phone cause the fuckers were listening.” (He says this while rampantly licking his lips and maintaining exhausting eye-contact, looking right into Essence’s very pupils.) Essence responds that she ate well due to her friends in the kitchen and that it wasn’t that bad, just really fucking boring at times. Then Essence says “let’s go, I’m tired of being around this place. It feels like they just want to lock me up again… doesn’t even feel like I’m really out yet. Feels like I’m just outside in the jail-yard… Let’s go to the beach like we talked about” in a calm tone. Walt complies with a north-south head shake and opens the passenger door for Essence from the driver’s side, as the outside passenger handle is broken, and starts the car.
Walt is now driving towards the beach and Essence looks out the window occasionally talking with Walt, answering questions about her daily routine in jail and the various friends that she made.
“Six months isn’t really that long at all, people in there were about to go to trial for cases that could easily give them 25-to-life. It was really sad; they hate seeing people go. No one posts bail for them…they just wait and hope they get 10 years and not 20.”
Walt despondently stares at the road in front of him, implacably being enveloped beneath his car, brooding on the inorganic idea of being deprived of his freedom.
“Man, I couldn’t ever let ‘em swine take my life from me, I’d kill myself! Straight out cyanide, I should start keeping some poison on me just in case…”
They pass over a bridge that is indicative of arriving, or at minimum being close to, the beach. Essence looks at the cusps of waves collapsing back into themselves, the sunlight shimmering in patches on the thin veneer of eye-visible water, birds cawing and gliding through tenuous clouds. Her hand is on the open window-pane, her thumb and palm inside of the vehicle but her index, middle, ring and pinky fingers are halfway extended out the window, the sunlight indiscriminately touching her fingertips as it does the bridge and the hoods of the cars traveling on said bridge and the cawing birds and the outermost layer of ocean water.
A breeze passes through the car in shutters; neck hairs involuntarily trembling.
Walt parks the car between two beach-houses and they walk through the dense foliage that separates the homes to the water, night-time is approaching and a darker gradient is imposing itself on the sky. They are sitting in the damp sand close enough to where the water extends so that it can roll over their toes and create frothy-bubbles like a rock impeding a stream. He tells Essence that the residential beach is the best, no cops patrolling or beach bums bothering you.
After a brief (textually and descriptively omitted) swim Walt says:
“I want to become the water. Sometimes when I submerge myself with my eyes open, I forget about the sting and the pressure of water, and the miniature ocean-debris of shells and dirt-sand and I have a full spatial forgetfulness, I forget where I stop and where the water begins. The distinction between myself and the water fades.”
Essence doesn’t immediately reply, digging her toes into the sand and rubbing her neck and upper back, as if she’s diverting some question that was asked of her.
Walt: “The water man, me and the water.”
A notable pause passes and
Essence: “I don’t know why, or how, I missed this, sometimes I can’t even tell the difference between my cell and the beach, between the ceiling and the sun-full or moon-full sky.”
Walt: “The openness of it! The freedom my friend!”
Essence: “I’m not denying the actual difference, I know my cell was smaller and I couldn’t jog in my cell without hitting a wall, but the significance of it, does this mean anything more than my cell? Is sand more valuable than concrete?”
Walt: “I don’t down any position, you know that, but you sound like you’re in a bout of nihilism. You don’t believe that these sounds and waves and moon-light and particles of sand mean something? They don’t mean anything, they mean nothing. But freedom is nothingness, a free-floating attachment to nothing. All I know is that the concrete was cold and produced to keep you inna cell, ain’t nothing out here made with human intervention. This is it.”
They sit in silence on the damp sand contemplating the meaningless dark night-time waves, and Walt proposes that they go to his favorite late-night spot, In-Itself Café, which Essence agrees to since it’s “better than mystery meat tacos and burgers”. Essence gets up first and puts out her arm for Walt to grasp and they go towards the car and begin driving to the In-Itself Café.
I’ll provide a brief sketch of Essence at this time in order for the reader to have a proper mind-depiction of her:
Sharp, supple, pale shoulders with skinny arms attached, a thin and form-fitting sun-dress with paisley running down each side of her hips in notable strips. (She is warm, warmth secretes from her skin like an invisible heat-sweat, minus the sweat.) She never wears hats or sunglasses or she feels like a parading peacock grasping at an audience for glances; a spectacle. Essence’s toes are painted with black pen-ink from jail; she isn’t wearing shoes. Essence frequently invokes images of flowers in people’s minds, she doesn’t know why and doesn’t intend to do so.
A priest once gave a sermon (in which a young Essence was in attendance) that everyone had the god given capacity to be a Saint, that no-one was barred from Saint-hood. She allowed the idea to settle into her mind, and it felt pleasant: Saint Essence. And when she conceived of herself as Saint Essence, she thought of a girl, or rather (because it was an older version of herself) a woman.
When asked, in the few job interviews that she has had, (or any similar instance that such an inquiry is necessary): What could you provide for us/our company/the world? She has been incapable of responding and gone momentarily catatonic (cerebrally).
Essence did not go to jail due to adolescent socio-economic circumstance; her mother was a registered nurse and although her father was voluntarily absent, she was never, at any point in her life, in need of anything material.
Her mother would sing to her, “You are my sunshine, you make me happppy when times are grey” her mother loved her (as I stated earlier). She’d think to herself—I want Essence to become exactly what he is, what he was born to do, I have to do everything I can, there’s a hierarchy of needs and I must fulfill every tier of it for him, feed and shelter of course, but love, I must love him, show him that I love him how a mother should love their child, there is something he is destined for something that he must do to become irrevocably who he is meant to become and to —.
Essence is thinking about jail and the difference between a ceiling fan and the wind suggestively tossing her hair onto her forehead, hair and forehead, car and ground. Streetlights illuminating and dissipating as they are passed; light momentarily dark light momentarily dark light momentarily dark.
Chapter III: Just Being at the Café / The Pursuit of Money is Implicit in the Pursuit of Happiness
Walt: “This is my favorite Café. The ambience is great, it just generates such a feeling when you walk in, fucking electric man! Then sometimes it’s nothing, not an A/C unit rumbling or a fork grazing a plate.”
Walt proceeds to pull out a ¼ ounce of marijuana and meticulously break down a nugget and place it into the bowl of his pipe, lighting said pipe and ingesting the psycho-active content of the marijuana via the smoke. Essence is emitting a non-verbal air of anxiousness, looking into the rearview mirror as the opaque smoke replaces the ordinary transparency of the car. Walt advances the pipe towards Essence, which she declines with a gestural east-west head-shake.
In the Café the host stand is vacant (a blue stage light illuminates it). Walt says that it’s a sit-yourself type of restaurant, so they self-seat themselves. The restaurant is humming, a sort of ceaseless vibrating hum that goes unnoticed after several minutes, it already seems imperceptible to Walt, but in Essence it is producing a nausea that she’s never hitherto experienced. She looks around and the booths are menacingly blue, an illustrious and luminous, gleaming, blue, but the blue itself isn’t what seems so bold, its whatever is beneath the blue. The perceivable attributes of the booth don’t seem attached to it; it is a thing that is inseverable from the rest of the café. Booth, table, wall, salt and pepper shakers, utensils, all harmoniously united in their self-emitting hums. (The booth is only isolated and divided In-Itself by its booth-form) Essence thinks to herself: “Where is the server and why is this restaurant humming? What is the origin of this stupid fucking noise? Walt evidently has a terrible taste in restaurant, no service yet, not even a tap-water… and this booth, why does it seem composed of the same thing as the wall and pepper? Doesn’t the plastic material of the booth make it distinct from the wall?” Walt is sitting across from Essence. Walt’s eyes are closed, absorbed in the booth-wall-pepper-fork-café totality.
The lines of the table become pronounced, multi-shades of brown staggering down the table; containing each other in futile triangles reaching for the end, the end being the precipice of the table. Smoothed corners to prevent knee or infant-head related injuries; liabilities already taken into account. Wood condensed into table-form, laminated and polished. Essence wonders to herself: (thoughts struggling against the sound-stimuli of the endless hum) “Before this table was a table and was a tree, or even when it was the disparate pieces of flattened wood or logs, was it still a table? Did this table only become a table when it assumed the appearance of a table?”
The table between them has extended itself in a peculiar manner, it has stretched and become an indecipherable floor-table (the floor and the table have become inextricable from one another, the table is no longer above the floor, and the floor is no longer below the table); communication has become impossible, their voices cannot audibly traverse the hum of everything around them. Essence is trying to maintain her delicate composure and calm countenance while shouting “Walt, Walt! Let’s go to ihop we can’t even get some water in this bitch, even in jail I got water whenever I asked they were legally obligated to and now I’m getting treated worse in here there are no customers in here why did you take me here?” Walt is inadvertently ignoring her, metaphysically ascending into the wall-paper.
Essence flails her arms to catch Walt’s attention and knocks over the pepper shaker, showering the table and the floor (once the shaker rolls off the table) with minute flakes of pepper. Essence looks at the pepper and internally-recognizes that, regardless of its table-absence, the pepper shaker still is. The pepper shaker is present via its absence.
They are surrounded by everything-that-is in the café, by irrevocable isness.
Walt thinks to himself: “The absolute sublimity of it”. (He thinks about this not in words, but rather in some sort of fragmented flash of internal cognition, which I translated into the words “The absolute sublimity of it.”)
Essence tries to get up and shake Walt, but the space between her, the booth, and the floor has become seemingly infinite; she lifted her foot up for what she thought would be a momentary sit-forward-calf-clench-plant-foot-slide-out-of-booth-walk gesture but instead her foot can’t find the floor and the bench of the booth has extended onto what was ostensibly the floor. She is sliding and sliding and sliding herself to get out of the booth to walk to Walt’s side of the table but the distinction between her arms and the booth has faded (she is now effectively sliding her butt against her own arms placing her torso in front of her shoulders that she left behind with her arms in the booth-bench-that-is-her-arms).
A speckle of dust lingers in the artificial light streaming heavily down on the restaurant from the over-head lights, dispersing into smaller specks of dust-particles and languidly easing itself (considering all parts of the initial, original speck a unit) through the opaque fog of sound and sight (this sound and sight secreting from everything in the café; discerning anything’s particular sound and sight has officially become impossible).
Essence is now vomiting.
Walt is smiling as he fuses into the booth, comforted by the all-pervasiveness of its hug.
Essence’s pale-green vomit crawls off the booth-bench-arms and ends in a runny pool on the floor. This pool of vomit is no different from the floor except in its pool-of-vomit form (which is slowly dissolving into the floor).
The rest cannot be textually depicted, maybe a flash of light—the overhead lights burst and the glass dissipates into the poorly circulated air of the café, or a gun shot, some brilliant burst of abrasive, indiscriminate visibility—accompanied by an unprecedented quietness, an internal-external solitude.
The café is operational, cups of coffee are placed on the table in front of them. Everything is distinct from everything else in the café, occupying its own space and Being exactly where it is. Essence has large chunks of prison-food throw-up in her hair, she has vomit induced tears in her eyes and her throat stings from the acidity of her stomach fluid. Walt is adding cream to his coffee; a lethargic marijuana smile on his face.
“What the fuck are you doing? We are getting out of this stupid fucking place right now and going to ihop”- Essence
“Alright that’s fine, let me just pay the waiter and we can go” – Walt. W (I really actually like this place though and I’d like to stay, the ambience is spectacular)
“What waiter? I haven’t seen another person since we walked in here, there’s not even staff here. Is it even open?” -Essence (I should have called my aunt to pick me up and went to ihop and I’d be enjoying delicious pancakes right now with whip cream on top and an iced coffee on the side)
“Well evidently there must have been a waiter, every action necessitates an agent, so consequently… there was a waiter that poured this coffee and served it to us. I’ll just leave 7 dollars on the table since each cup is 2 dollars”-Walt. W (I’d already said the consequence of the statement in the beginning of my sentence, I need to learn how to speak properly)
(Walt places 7 dollars and fifty cents on the table and leaves the café alongside Essence, exiting from the same door that they came in through)
The dollar bill, and consequently money itself, is imbued with an entirely new meaning in the hands of the starving—or in the case of Walt, in the hands of the irreverent to the divinity of the dollar and to money itself… money to the starving is transformed into food, into temporal sustenance. Essence was never starving, she viewed money in a more conventional sense, an accumulation of wealth (or the ability to eat for a long period of time); a relation between people; and lastly she viewed money (at least at the pre-jail point in her life) as a reference point for the valuation of herself.
Essence went to jail for getting people on the internet to deposit fake checks then draining their account (she’d do this by posing as a well-paying but busy person, on a website that solicited temporary employment, who needed a babysitter/home repairman/plumber/dog walker who didn’t have the time to meet in person but could pay by direct deposit and would convince them that all she needed was their bank information, then she’d promptly mail them a fraudulent check for 5,000 dollars as a sort of down deposit on their services before their first day so they never had to interact in-person and then she’d withdraw the 1,000 dollars from said account that goes through before the check is completely verified ((this amount varies from bank to bank, sometimes if someone sent her bank information that only allowed 100 to be withdrew prior to verification she’d cease contact with them all together))).
When asked about this, for instance when a fellow jail-mate would inquire into why Essence was locked up after explaining the whole online-scam she would add: “It never actually financially affected anyone and I was the only one put at risk. The person’s account would go negative for however much the bank allowed for me to withdraw, then they would see it was a personal check and as long as the person pursued it they could be reimbursed by the bank. They just have to show the email and that someone else had access to the account and that it was a reasonable scam.” (She has told herself and multiple people in jail this, but because the person-victim voluntarily authorized access to someone ((even under false pretenses)) they normally didn’t receive the money back and remained in the negatives until the victim-person paid back the larcened money).
With this money, Essence was free. Albeit, it was a specific strain of freedom, but it was a form of freedom nonetheless. Essence delved into the excesses that she could now afford; she ate where and what she wanted without restraint; she paid her bills without worry; if there was something she thought would add a gleam, another facet of beauty or enjoyment into her life, she bought it; she defined herself by her money and reconstructed herself around her wealth.