Marcos Mataratas


We were tired to death,
but death was waiting for us elsewhere

-Ivan Wernisch


It is clear that X has run out of memories and in no dark underpass or train tunnel will there be the right kind of dealer that can offer him some new ones. What would I have to pay him, thinks X, I don’t know.

X has run out of memories but because X is human and ended up on the world, like all of us, to suffer, he has not lost the nostalgia. A word he discovered writing letters in the 90s, the late 90s, when as far as X knew there was nothing to be nostalgic about. And this word was absolutely meaningless aside from the fact that it provoked the mental image of a long carpet covered with specks of silver that rolled out endlessly into nothing.

Every morning X wakes up and recollects stories of books he is reading (shouldn’t there be a different pronoun for X? x?) If the stories are exciting he runs out of the apartment naked but forgets to take off his clothes.

Something has happened and X knows that for the rest of the day he will be stranded without a working car, without the vaguest understanding of the bus routes, and lastly X is told that his only (and occasionally suicidal) friend Klaus Kinski has disappeared, leaving behind the typical circular mystery of a dead man.

Klaus Kinski, who was a linguist, a bad linguist, with a generally pessimistic outlook on meaning only left behind this message for X: “a word is like a marionette strung to a billion unintentions (and one or two conscious intentions). Language is dangerous, how dangerous?”

The rest of the message is unintelligible. There are bar graphs of inspiration regarding Frege, Bertrand Russell, Quine, little broken hearts around the word DOOMSDAY, incoherent wagers where one always comes out losing, a well-informed description of Neptune’s atmosphere, and sketches of masts ripping in the distance. At the bottom of the page is the name Richard Montague.

The semanticist Richard Montague whose mind carried the heavy torch of early semantics in the era of categorial grammar, got murdered either with an axe or strangulation, or both, by a stranger he was trying to fuck. That’s how dangerous language is.

X’s girlfriend and son are in another city but he doesn’t think of his girlfriend because when he thinks of her he imagines a giant titanium bear-trap looking back at him, at X, who quite unfairly has turned into a bear-trap too, without really meaning to, or like that character in B. Traven’s story who shovels coal into the engine of a train “headed for nowhere"; X wonders why they blow the train whistle. But this is not the bottom line, the bottom line is that X knows his nights are numbered.

At least there’s a park, at least there's some clouds forming over the city that is covered with uninspired graffiti. It takes X some strange thoughts to convince himself to sit on the grass. He would smoke to think it over but the tobacco is inside his unfixable car where his keys are locked in and there are no spare keys; the whole thing is all very symbolic, thinks X, but even prisoners get to have some tobacco.

X thinks to himself (or somewhere in that direction): I will have to write my own story about my old, and possibly only, friend Scott and declare his painting ugly.

It was ugly.

And I will talk about his boot-camp experience and maybe end it with the line: and then Scott disappeared, most likely to Iraq, which to us, back then, was nothing more than a bad joke, or at least a joke that was getting old, and that had nothing to do with us.

X thinks about Scott and imagines him shooting little Iraqi kids and crying. X remembers the first time he saw Scott because Scott was sitting in the kids section of a book-store smiling like the idiot. That day X had been with Y [female] and somewhere along the way, someone who yelled quotes from the bible at them, got them drunk and then kicked them out. But X hates thinking of himself drunk, instead, he drops back on the grass and puts down his book. Thinks about a line in it:

“That bald, massive, individual, Pierre Guyotat, ready to take on all comers and eat them alive in the darkness of an attic room” (Bolaño)

At first X read this: “ready to take on all comets and eat them alive in the darkness of an attic room”

X is amazed by his misunderstanding but then he remembers that post-modernism is dead, and also that he is poor and sitting on astro-turf, where it’d be best not to worry about post-modernist mind-fucks anymore or about people who retreated and disappeared into the fog trying to see the ‘big picture.’

X is finally on his back. Out of the blue, or green, or orange with white spots, he notices it’s been more than ten years since he took a nap on the grass, or tried to take a nap on the grass, and all of a sudden all the faces of his past reappear. And without much effort, X gently forgets them again. The sure thing is that this feels natural: stuck to the world without anything to say, and staring at the clouds through his eyelids.

One night X met a girl from Kuwait with really long eyelashes named Dalal. He asked her for a light outside Time Market, and she took out some sort of improvised lighter, bright enough to kill a vampire, but he was wrong to assume that she was lonely. Actually, she had been persistently courted by a whole spectrum of finely educated young boys with unquestionably original and innovative ideas and swimming distance records. And she proved it.

After a quick overview of her self-portrait storage room, which also had portraits of earthenware through the lens of Escher geometry, she stopped to point out a small black and white picture of her and a famous piccolo player standing on the Alps. Then she hauled out the hard evidence of her beauty.

Crate-fuls of love letters from the closet, envelopes covered with stamps in foreign languages, stamped with the overlapping words FRAGIL and URGENT so many times that they looked like ink-blots depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Hints of bloodied fingertips, if X looked closely, could be detected at the edges of the envelopes, and all of them had been sent from the obscurest of jungles.

Suddenly spread upon the little coffee table in front of X were these letters that had been smuggled across red-flashing war zones, on them tiny particles of pulverized shrapnel were shining, like a primitive glitter. X opened them slowly, careful to not rip the lavender pages, parchments, scrolls, excerpts of a vellum, papyrus, toilet paper rolls, some of them carefully rolled inside corked mescal bottles, folded inside leather tobacco pouches, while in some cases the note was written in between psalms of a bible, and in others the message was scribbled on the back of scraps of wallpaper torn off the walls of condemned nurseries. X noticed that in the return address line of one of them was written ‘THE DARKNESS,’ for the others a plain question mark was drawn in the shaky handwriting of a nervous stranger. These were no doubt letters sent from the very trenches of innermost man-being, and there were four poems for every letter; sketchy attempts at hexameters, haikus that had been inspected by the nostrils of countless customs agents, sonnets smuggled in caskets across bombed borders.

After skimming through some of them, X came across a writer he really liked. This letter-writer described himself extensively for X’s Arab friend in a kind of alliterative stream-of-consciousness prose saying that he was a true natural born balcony-robber, he who they (the ones who remained alive) called seven-hearts, or furnace breath, with big lion-taming eyes (eyes so lively, he clarified, that any man who encountered them ended up walking away feeling as though he had undergone a hasty autopsy) whereas the rest of him was soft-spoken and thoughtful and Italian, and his very footsteps invoked stories that involved muskets, mysterious scalpings, and at the same time fully lit ballrooms, white ladders…

This man of letters was without a doubt some sort of constellation cataloguer when he wrote. He navigated his scantly covered (but deceptively legible) metaphors according to celestial alignments only he could feel, only he could interpret and descend from. He claimed that Dalal’s eyelashes held within them the ‘inner end of the mirage,’ and it only kept getting better with each letter.

With the pen in his hand, he felt that he was some kind of direct scribe of the true purpose God intended for the heart of men. Seven-Hearts explained that his enemies, enemies of life, had cornered him into the best of all lucks: to have to retrieve his fate out of woman’s body. That his life began at Dalal’s doorstep was all that was certain in life, besides the inevitably of death, of course. Being somewhat of a drifter (he joined a circus at an early age in which he had stopped keeping track of his age, claiming his self was not cumulative, and consequently he studied Mimicry with a famous French Mime) he was eager to emigrate from the shapeless provinces of moving cities into a sitting city, or at least one still enough to have a name, a flag.

But in the meantime, until that moment came (the one in which he felt prepared to settle), Furnace-breath had no other choice than to remain on the same old path, to retreat into his tragic inner world of receding faces, nomadic shrines, like he had done all his life in nameless lands (or lands whose names were disputed to the point of gunfire).

He described how in retaliation to the hopelessness all around him he’d had wiped the tears from the eyes of Virgin Mary statues, and there was even an account of him convincing a beached whale to go back in with the hum of a lullaby.

He lived in abandoned confessionals, writing treatises on the soul with enviable diction, brutal honesty, treatises on the soul of the universe where never again another puppy was kicked, another kitten discarded, another Arab water-boarded, another baby shaken. Reaffirmations erupted out of him at every hour of the night. He cried when he saw butterflies.

The last letter from furnace-breath had a return address line that simply said: THERE. Where? X asked. Not here, answered Dalal. And then another vampire died.

Now, I know X will not admit to me that he is losing his mind because I knew him back in those days when he pretended he was losing his mind. He sinks deeper into himself, checks his inbox, but no one has written, God has not written and they blow the train whistle.

Neither of us mention that his days, on all levels you can imagine, are numbered. Even when he is optimistic X calls himself a secret, a puzzle, he will tell no intimate details and will share no sadnesses, and I know there are moments of lucidity in which he can move through a text like those dogs that sniff out fugitive murderers. And these murderers are in the end always dead. And this dog disappears when its job is done. What is left is pure old-fashioned horror. And I find X yelling at the librarians for losing a copy of Mishima’s The Sound of Waves, and I find X knocking over all kinds of valuable things that are set along the hallways of a conversation, a casual conversation is full of expensive things, most of which X can no longer afford to pay for.