Image Credit: Magritte’s Atelier, Kyung Min Nam, 2004.
Some days I can love you and see you. Everything is clear: you can see me too. Some days I want you to hold me down against the bed and choke me. Press my throat and constrict it: the only way to see me is to cut off my speech. To care enough to get me to stop saying the inane particulars of everyday life. To see me, really see me, is to cut me off from all reality. My love song is to return the favor.
In Species of Spaces and Other Places Georges Perec writes,
“I put a picture up on a wall. Then I forget there is a wall. I no longer know what there is behind this wall, I no longer know this wall is a wall, I no longer know what a wall is…But I also forget the picture, I no longer look at it, I no longer know how to look at it. I have put the picture on the wall so as to forget there was a wall, but in forgetting the wall, I forget the picture, too…Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures. So we need continually to be changing, either the wall or the picture, to be forever putting other pictures up on the walls, or else constantly moving the picture from one wall to another.”
I don’t ever want you to forget me: my body, my laughter. But I know as soon as you stop looking at me in the dark, I have lost you. And yet it is precisely this gaze that will get you to lose me. You will know every errant hair on my body, and feel no qualms about plucking them. You will see every new tan line, every crooked smudge of eyeliner that you will wipe away. And yet it is the clarity with which you will see me that will make you lose all sight of me. I will become your favorite picture to look at, I will make you forget all the ugliness of your past. And then you will know you can stop looking. You will know how to cup my body against yours in the dark like a blind man. You will forget the walls, and then forget the picture.
To stop this, I try to disappear. When you hold me, I shift positions. I stare at you when you sleep and try to forget you, too. Why don’t I ever forget the pictures? Or maybe it is precisely the way I pick at your skin haphazardly that shows me: I already have. The way I lay with my legs spliced between yours, as if we are not frightened of melting into eachother’s flesh. The way I let my words fall between us like pennies, as if I am no longer taking care to cushion them.
Yet there must be a cure.
“I have nothing against the act of moving, quite the reverse. Why not set a higher value on dispersal? Instead of living in just one place, and trying in vain to gather yourself there, why not have five or six rooms dotted about Paris?”
I try to remember that I don’t live in you, and you don’t live in me.
I want you to want to coagulate in me thickly, like blood. Like family. I want you to own me, and me to own you, because you are the only possession I have ever cared about. Capitalism only makes sense for me in terms of bodies. To become your only collection is my ultimate success.
But because I want to be able to live without you, I change the pictures on my wall. I dream about moving suddenly to New York and not saying a word. This is my shift: leaving without warning. Either I am your total goal or I become nothing to you. If you do not see me fully I will make myself lose sight of you first. I am winning at the game I was born into. Wealthier than anyone could know.
Your bones and your past: these are what hold up walls. My bones and my past: these are what make me put up pictures. To live in dispersal is to throw possessions everywhere, to scream, to shout. So I ask you not to call me. I pray that you will disappear. I hope only that you will hurt me in a way that is so visible that I cannot help but disjoining the parts of me, becoming a centipede with so many legs that all run away from you.
Sociologist Paul Connerton says there are seven types of forgetting. Repressive erasure. Prescriptive forgetting. Forgetting that is constitutive in the formation of a new identity. Structural amnesia. Forgetting as annulment. Forgetting as planned obsolescence. Forgetting as humiliated silence.
All of these are a state, or an act, or possibly a phase. All lead to an erasure at one time or another. The same finality: forgetting. Your hand on my throat creates a bruise. Your hand not on my throat creates a scar. The same finality: determination to forget you. But sometimes failing in the dead of night, when my heart speeds up to the soundtrack of your absence. Sometimes succeeding in the dead of night, when you wrap around me lovingly, and I can touch your face.
But we cannot think of things to say. Or what color eachother’s eyes are.
In the Book of Exodus there are ten plagues. Blood. Frogs. Lice. Wild beasts. Diseased Livestock. Boils. Fire. Locusts. Darkness. Death of the firstborn.
In Catholicism there are seven deadly sins. Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath. Envy. Pride.
We make lists to forget the spaces in between. We hang pictures to forget the walls. We make love to forget the walls.
I will leave you. I just ask that you don’t forget to look at me.