Sky nowhere was visible night or day, and although the intensity of silver illumination varied, its dull, indirect quality didn’t. Through the window, across a chasm, a parallel inescapable brick wall, the parallax exposure of an endless grid of windows. In the opposing grid of windows reflected another brick wall and grid of windows, in those windows reflected other windows. The pleats of sheer curtains undulated across the chasm and fluted into them the undulations and pryings on your side. Surreptitious movements shivered the vista. Segments of scribbled bird flights traced umbrage on the air and reflections. A shallow embrasure relieved into the apartment wall captured the light brightly in its throat before creasing into dull void. The vent of a sheer curtain pried open to sharpen an acute spear of dim dark in the room beyond and other curtains undulated.
A motley image of your slight form was vague through sheer curtain pleats pacing back and forth in stiff movements. On the plaster walls where they creased from dim into the luminous embrasure were collected oily quoins of repeated rubbing. Your palm drew across the crease of plaster to the embrasure then cheek and temple hair followed by the seat of your pants. Dematerialized by sheers you sunk, shoes loose laced, fully dressed and appointed into the shadows of the vacant apartment. You fought the coriolis rotations of your layered clothing to burrow down through the loose cushions of the square club chair. You rubbed against the striated upholstery, cradling into dusty involution, the fabric textures impressing through your clothes.
You focus’d on the window most visible from the chair, level with and aligned with yours across the chasm, containing a face. The face, your small face of too large ears and fine comb’d hair, dissolved with distance and layers of reflect’d sheer fabric. Surreptitious movements shivered the vista. Segments of scribbled bird flights traced umbrage on the air and reflections. Cluttering shadows and fabric laps lent to mistaken movement, drawing figures of bolder opacity on the opposing sheers. If the parlayed reflections reproduced the illusory aggregate of your own face, why not the potential faces of impossible others. The monochrome gauze figures in other windows are more or less corporal as they approach or withdraw from the sheers. From amidst the thicket of pleats and reflections, three fingers from the middle knuckle hook about the seam of a curtain.
She returned to the apartment, this woman, your mother, and made an automatic housekeeping circuit through the three rooms. First, she cleared away wrappers, empty cans, and laundry from the parlor and the bedroom, terminating in the kitchenette. Second, she arranged and straightened pieces of furniture in relation to each other, nudging each deeper into its ruts. Third, she wiped down surfaces spraying disinfectant in your laundry and dragging through the dust with her fingernails. Fourth, she used the manual carpet sweeper to vacuum and inscribe tracks in the carpet nap, tilting furniture for continuity. Fifth, you standing in the windowless bedroom, she attended to your attire, righting alignments and pulling layers proud.
She methodically assembled your outfits from contradicting layers, making sure each was exposed at every possible vent or hem. Your pinstripe pant cuffs were highwater’d to showcase paisley socks, plaid sleeve cuffs pulled long to bloom from sweater cuffs. Houndstooth, ice blue, tropical flowers, lattice, argyle, rotating western repeats with rope and steer skull, vertical faux bois. The contradictions made each bit important. Two buttons undone on the plaid shirt reveal’d a confetti pattern’d undershirt. Polkadot, jacquard, checks, striped animal, vermicular, corduroy, circle link of raindrops on still water, damask, toile, twill. Each garment was in disrepair with stains, fray’d hems, cuff and collar worn to interfacing, and ill fitting on the large end. She laced your shoes loose and belted your pants loose. Lest she not return, you had room to grow against the restraints.
“You have seen this apartment straightened enough to know its true form.” She divests a litany of jobs for her absence to you. “First, clear away everything that doesn’t belong. Why did you eat in the parlor? You know what doesn’t belong where.” “Second, straighten the furniture. Why was the club chair nudged toward the window? Use the ruts to know where things go.” “Third, wipe down surfaces. What are these oily prints on the wall? Spray disinfectant on the rag first and wipe them away.” “Fourth, run the carpet sweeper. Why were there so many footprints and tracks in here? Bury them with the sweeper pattern.” She pull’d your plaid shirt cuffs proud, comb’d down your hair, slipped out, the door chain swaying and clicking on the jamb.
You leaned into the club chair and thrust your hips to nudge it from its ruts back across the sweeper tracks toward the window. In the view from your cushion burrow a curtain across the chasm teased, a hem billowed, but never did a full person appear. Only fragments of figures flashed. A temple and cheek traced down to a bare shoulder, a chalk arm vertical in a curtain vent. The dull fixation on seeing a full person at a distance, lacking detail, all at once, burrowed you in alignment with the window. Only fragments of figures flashed. The eroded coast of ribs, the held breath of a nude hip segment dawned in a curtain vent. Your layered garments were not tight, but the friction of conspiring weaves and wales pulled each in a different direction. You fought the coriolis rotations of your layered clothing to burrow down through the loose cushions of the square club chair.
You considered the cylindrical increment of your bare body beginning into the living world beyond frayed and cuffed wrists. You extracted yourself from the chair burrow, shrunk in the dim rubbing the window embrasure, and pulled wide the curtain. You considered the cylindrical increment of your bare body beginning into the living world between sock and highwater hem. You back’d, out of view, along the wall to shoulderblade peaks against the rear wall register’d with the four windows opposite. You considered the cylindrical increment of your bare body beginning into the living world above sweat knit shawl collar. Those sheer eyes whose gaze fell upon him lingered briefly, a connection longer than a sneeze, shorter than a long breath.
Three fingers settled the hem of a reflect’d curtain. A knock soft and alluring on your door. Three fingers tapped with their tips. You fastened the door chain. The latch let out smooth and silent. Glaucous fluorescence sagged in through the slot of open door. The moist face framed there, weak chin crop’d by stile and jamb, probed queasy from a loose pleated suit above the door chain. Above black pursed mustache, pupils struggled to maintain void geometry. He, this man, spoke timidly. “I needed to see you.” “I’m here. See me?” “You’re here.” “So you see me, then.” “Yes. I needed to see you. For your mother. She asked that I see you.” “See me?” “I do. Very Good.” He slid a heavy bag of rice through the slot and lean’d away as you push’d against the door. The wood jambs were swollen. The latch groaned, creaked, but didn’t click. You leaned into the door to click and unchained it.
You stood alone in the middle of the dim parlor, the door chain swaying and clicking on the jamb. The party wall blushed rose. The vista of the room, from the room, the contents of the room, the pathways in the carpet, were substrates for your shadow. The untouched bed in the dark bedroom, its nightstand, the upholstered bench squatting in the corner, and the club chair abode. The doubled over opacity of sheer pleats, the flat bright window embrasure, and the velvet oil skin prints on the plaster abode. The vistas, contents, and pathways, that over a ubiquitous existence simmer’d in umbrage, simmered still in the griseous room. The wrinkles and reveals of your twisted garments rolled in soft light from the window. A voice choked inside the plaster.
The reappearance of the woman, your mother, was arrhythmic, yet inevitable enough that she was certain to return any time. You enshrined her absence in half forms of silver terrain. You invested her form in the upholstered bench, some dusty molding. The plats of your solitary time, because their singular axis was not conditionally bound, furled over in endless coils of idleness. The ambiguity of unmeasured time escalated aimless actions, marshaling your moving and posing by the qualities of sunlight. The hidden passage of a dark cloud, a thick gout of birds, a cluster of abiding silhouettes, black weathering of silver brick. You arose before the open curtain. A harsh edge of illumination drew the embrasure, you dim but for sinews of reflected light. All of the languid, empty gazes sharpened through sheers and recomposed the dim of your body and its fabric involutions.
You back’d, out of view, along the wall to shoulderblade peaks against the rear wall register’d with the four windows opposite. Trailing the gaze upon him, the appearance of bodies in windows and reflections, downy silver skin teased and traced the hems. A leg follow’d a foot up to its window sill, the hand conjured calf to define its cylindrical diminishment, pinch’d flesh edges. Face hidden, a man, all nude, all gray in grain of fine hair was halved by the curtain dawning whole into center of the sash. After brief exposure the face of the body reappear’d and gazed across the chasm to transcribe a ribald riposte to its contribution. You stepped forward, the silhouette of a high buttoned double round collar opened partly past the niche crowning your sternum.
You observed and decoded furtive exposures in interminable solitude and took discreet steps to find yourself in states of undress. Still in the dim depths, released buttons on your shirt cuffs and front, slunk the vee breast of your cardigan down shoulders. Letting your belt lie unclasped, still in the shaded recesses beyond sight, you rolled up your sleeves, teased up your trouser legs. The apartment air was cool. You drop’d your waistband just to where the air on clammy skin caused an evaporative spasm. With each pose in your performance you took one shuffle step across the carpet toward the parted curtain and silver embrasure. Still vague, you shivered into the light, running your palm imprints across the diaphanous shirt hem, pants sagging to thighs. You froze at a knock on the window. You drop’d to your knees below the sill. A soft pebble of a bird lay dead on the brick.
On your knees in the embrasure many windows were visible, the dark rooms deeper, similar furniture arrangements stranded. Emboldened figures and faces press’d riveted in windows await’d the return of your body, the continuation of your unveiling. The hair on your neck rose with the warmth of their expectation in unfurling fiddleheads, magnetic prickling of dull senses. The senses in your blood ferry through eddies of pressure drawing new hidden postures, dark prickling of solitary pleasure. All eyes focused on your window and in the darkness of all the deep rooms the faces and reflections of faces are more lucid. In converging rays of gaze you return’d scrutiny and catalog’d face features. You found your own oily face reflected, staring.
She returned to the apartment, this woman, your mother, and made an automatic housekeeping circuit through the three rooms. You stumbled ahead of her a room at a time slowly dressing as she cleared, straightened, wiped, and swept lines in the carpet. The bricabrac was aligned, the baseboards wiped. The bed was made, tight. The carpet was swept with acceptable nap marks. When she finally encountered you, you sat up fully buttoned up in the lipid lamplight bedroom. The clothes were grown tighter. “Have you seen Mister Twill?” “Yes.” “Has Mister Twill brought food?” “Yes.” “Has Mister Twill spent time with you?” She gave in to breathing the air in the rooms, sitting on the little upholstered bench, scanning the checklist of your appearance. She flat smiled distant at nothing. Her eye sockets caved in brown set squinting eyes in the dried bruises of rotting face fruit.
Your layered garments in their tightening exacerbated the friction of conspiring weaves and wales pulled in different directions. You fought the coriolis rotations of your layered clothing to extrude sweat alabaster wrist cylinders from twill then toile cuffs. “I need new clothes.” “These are fine.” “These are tight. I’ve grown.” “I like these.” ”They don’t fit.” “You aren’t fitting them.” “I’m growing.” “Don’t change.” “I will.” “These suit you.” “It doesn’t matter.” “It matters.” “To who?” “It matters to us.” She inspected a pattern of freckles looped around your forearm and into the shirt cuff. “Pull your cuff down over your wrist.” She pull’d your toile shirt cuffs proud, comb’d down your hair, slipped out, the door chain swaying and clicking on the jamb.
You drew the sheer curtains leaving a sizeable vent that struck a dull band of silver light vertically over your fly and placket. You popped buttons, unzipped and contorted out of the small garments strown in dismembered piles leading from the window. Dashed blush and raw lines of seam ligature circumscribed your limbs. Mottled abrasions defined involutions of your joints. Gazes absorbed the oil sheen of your awkward movements but you couldn’t see their sheered faces from your depth in the room. Deep ruptured capillary shading, irritated vectors surfaced over long bones, bruised pores, bloomed over taut outside joints. Slick impressions cooled with nervous sweat and chafed deeper red. You sat nude facing backwards on the upholster’d bench. Your legs curled around the bench legs, groin press’d against the console rest, rocked back and forth hands on thighs sliding.
Reflect’d sunlit movement traced slithers up your thigh and wrist, your downy skin borrowing faint green luster from carpet. Only where sunlight and ambient reflection fell were you on view, only to the alignment of windows and reflections opposite. The coy poses of hands around your small face, the mouthed ohs, the tossed hair, were staged in fleeting privacy of parallax. The hoarse dragging of your skin on textured fabric, the sough of your skin on skin, were staged in fleeting privacy of parallax. You gyrated and rubbed against the upholstery such that the divestiture of your ass was rhythmically crescent in the sunlight. Rhythms of pressure against blood vessels, the sweat sheen, telegraphed indelible, indecipherable mottling across your bare skin.
You slithered from the bench across the floor inscribing two parallel knee, shin, and forearm streaks through the carpet nap. On your knees in the embrasure many windows were visible, the dark rooms deeper, similar furniture arrangements stranded. Emboldened curious movements shivered the vista. Segments of scribbled bird flights traced umbrage on the air and reflections. In converging rays of gaze you returned scrutiny and cataloged aspects of faces. You found your own oily face reflected, staring. You rose nude in the window, figures presented in curtain vents, innocent poses hollowed out the ornate language of seduction. The ubiquity of layered brick reflections dislocated black bobbing eye’d amorphous pupils in a window neighboring your figure. Reflect’d sunlit movement twisted slithers around your soft stiffness, your oily skin borrowing black stipples from the black gaze.
A note on Apparitions of the Living: The narrative takes place in the aftermath of a kidnapping. Just as centrally, however, the book is concerned with its literary family constellation. The prose indulges in the mechanisms of the Nouveau Roman while at the same time exorcising them in a form of ritual, a transposition of readerly consciousness in the lividity of penetrating detail. It is the anti-naturalism and book-consciousness of Robbe-Grillet with the involuted Rococo prose of Gautier and Huysmans. This excerpt belongs to one of two mnemonic rituals in the book. Each page (here paragraph) places the text in the figure of a square. Line lengths are crucial to maintain the precise figures on the page, hence the abundance of apostrophed words.