Time Before, Time after,
“The great things of life are what they seem to be, and for that reason… are often difficult to interpret. But the little things of life are symbols. We receive our bitter lessons most easily through them.”
-Oscar Wilde, De Profundis
"Our lives take place in dreams and ether."
The Aquarian transsexual is already bored with the age of technological reproduction. It should suit her but alas, it is utterly bereft of the romance her personality requires. Shouldn't a Cyborg feel at home in such a landscape? Or does her hybridity ensure not perennial at-homeness but permanent alienation? Wistful and impractical, she ruminates on the unnamable, and this gets her nowhere as she can hardly define what it is she has on her mind. She becomes stuck fast within her own thoughts, which are intrinsically convoluted and additionally permeated by the loudness life generally takes on. What is her name, even? In the beta version of her flawed design -deadname- became fully obsolete just a while ago. This hiccup adds to her lack of spirit but she presses on regardless. After all, she is the only one not showing up for her own life, and there are paintings to be made.
In a break from decoding flowers and the search to know, she finds a pair of Kardashian Kollection pumps in black suede at the thrift store. And she puts them to canvas. Aha! a moment of perfect equilateral incongruity: the pump is the penis and the vagina, the stigma and the stamen, this is one genesis of many, and one that lets her continue.
She quickly writes down a list of the true romantics: the coffin kissers, the conjurers, the hair half-up falling down, the perpetual pencil duller and the naked scrawl, those that steal from corporations, an ascendant whimsy, the delicate now, horny layabouts, the spaghetti Sundayers, the failures under pressure, the thought unthinkers, those between two or more names, and so on.
There is so much more to be said but her thoughtlanguage program malfunctioned long ago after a dream at the time of her gestation involving the Marquis de Sade and Jane Austen meeting in a grotto. Although that may sound like the set up for a joke, the banality of what transpired left our heroine in shock at her own horrid lack of originality -this was a dream after all and not a vision. The ensuing vow of silence, which lasted twenty seven and three quarter years, had the opposite effect of its intended coming-to-terms-with-herself, and led her even further down into the catacombs of her own intolerable entrails; leaving her basically fucking expressionless. Impossibility reigned in her mind, and what form can expression take when it serves a life already so falsely embodied on its own? For she could not even comprehend what had been lost by positing that predictability be the foundation for her life. This lousy assumption was based on the misinterpretation of a dream, and although the dream may have been incongruous with reality, it was not so completely impossible. This was a cruel beginning indeed! For no one told the dear cyborg that dreams are real only when felt, and those dreams that are real will live as truth inside of her machinery... whether she likes it or not.
Back to the present moment. It is at this point in time that she is beginning to feel she would be better off in Edwardian England with metal arms and vibrator fingers than here today with a long commute and steady income, or even worse- a paintbrush and a tender heart! The Society for The Technological Advancement of Painting has every place for vibrator finger-tips and no place for a tender heart.
Her nature is thus: wake up to make eggs and coffee, stay awake to be clocked at stoplights. When she began writing about herself in the third person she began to understand that she can make things and those things can reverberate in the world. Once these things take hold they become removed from the subject of their creation and they then become something else entirely, with meaning all their own. It became apparent to her from the start that words alone, so often failing her, are not enough. Words are one thing but what of them when they lose their attachment to a subject? And no one really understands her to begin with. The here-gone, a long denial, the ring of light on eyelids nightfall, she would say. Shear-slip-dirt-bike-bad-bitch. The wheelie devil and the dusty madam. Lord of time before lady of time after with the now of time sandwiched between them. What alien language conveys meaning without signaling sound? There were a thousand similar questions.
In the grotto mist roils ivy, shale and limestone. Mist that seems to emanate from Ms. Austen herself. Her bun is divinely tight as she crouches, poised over a pool of cool water gleaming the fog of the mind with unnatural light. Listen closely, for she speaks in a whisper:
JA: "What about all the things that cannot be seen? The things imagined in the near-sleep or the fever mind? The dreams that evaporate as soon as you attempt to recall what only a few seconds ago was felt so completely... these dreams are.... what? A soft now? A former present? Time before or time after?
Over her shoulder... a libertine speaks:
S: "Ugh! Podunk poetic scaffolding can chameleon a soul!"
JA, without turning to face the Marquis: "But this is brain edging mindfulness; the crumbling Chakra; a cataclysm of awareness-"
S: "Nay, hypersensitivity..."
JA: "A cataclysm of embodiment then!"
S: "Mere irreducibility..."
JA, finally turning, fully acknowledging the presence of the Marquis de Sade: "Enlighten me then, and I shall rejoice in blasphemy!"
S shifting slightly in place, looking somewhere well above JA's left shoulder says some vague shit that could be misconstrued as logic or objective knowledge and renders reproach useless.
JA: "Do you remember dying in the beginning of life and never getting over it? A haunted spaghetti Sunday snaking funeral procession and dry mouth?"
S indignantly: "Do you know nothing of The True Romantics!? Ed Rushca, Odilon Redon, Jack Goldstein, Oscar Wilde, Magritte, Botticelli, Bruegel-"
JA: "What could Ed Ruscha or Odilon Redon teach her about being a woman? Or Jack Goldstein, Oscar Wilde, Magritte, Botticelli, or Bruegel for that matter? Know you nothing of Berthe Morisot, Orlando, Mrs. Benway, Clarice Lispector, Elizabeth, or Elinor?
S: "Even Orlando, who lived hundreds of years, became a woman overnight and was thusly always so."
JA: "Can we at least agree that Mrs. Benway became Mrs. Benway through lipstick, buttons, a fountain pen, and that the words she wrote through becoming led her to painting...?"
JA offers up objects of affiliation to the dreaming cyborg. They are a pair of pumps, a pile of bones, a pearl necklace, and a note written on a shard of parchment.
JA: "This pen is the quill of a vulture found dead on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike, and the ink is the ashes of all the time burned trying to find ourselves.”
The note is thus:
What differentiates time before from time after? A fear large enough to joggle the entire frame, the thing that makes the obscure obvious by overturning overturns.
S: “Is our heroine just an illustrator depicting the images of her dreams then?
JA: “NO! These things only tell her about her dreams but dreams are a red herring. These things provide a framework, but in and of themselves illustrate nothing; placed in the field of a painting they aren't what they are, they are what they reveal themselves to be. They are flux, they are shifting perspectives.”
S: “This is what dead means. Apart from the reassurance of seeing, feeling, smelling. Silence is a large irregular bone, constricted in the center and expanded above and below. By 25 the bone will have ossified. If dreams are a red herring, so is life a fish.”
JA places the parchment, the pumps, the necklace, and the bones into the glowing pool of water.
JA: “Did you know the hip bone first appeared in fish? The hip bones on each side usually connect with each other at the forward end. The pelvis already forms the complete ring found in most subsequent forms. The hip bone is the pivot halfway between the ground and the rest of the world. This is where the story arc becomes undone for a moment.”