CHEMISTRY OF HAPPINESS
Now I recognize individual letters. I read the first line
". . . the
chemistry of happiness is as old as mankind . . . "
in a similar vein for the next few lines , the prose is historical and
but in fact is simply the author's unconscious expression of poetry that
he needs to divest himself of.
the powers of the senses are fabrications . . . whose nonlinearity of
them exquisitely sensitive to the slightest change in their chemistry ,
tampering with them the possibilities are endless ..."
then I could not read further,
for my vision seemed to wander over the page,
picking out a word here,
a word there, and spaces between the sentences that
seemed pertinent to me, significant as to what lay between the sentences
that remained unsaid no matter how smooth the transition between them
be to the eye, to the sound of them or to the measurements of them by
The punctuation effected by the author astonished me, for I wonder how
he could end a thought here
at this very point, kill it with the pin-prick
of a period, and then, without a pause in which he could breathe, for
the longed-for breath was in my mine, continue with a second whose connection
with the first seemed
to me to be an astonishing act of faith, a very presumptuous and arrogant
expenditure of belief ;
even a kind of camouflaging of the first sentence, a smoke screen
thrown up to distract me
from all that misled in it,
in fact wrong, in fact only the barest sketch of an idea he never had,
just as fine music and intricate decor distract the diner from the truthful
of an expensive meal, tasting instead a decibel
and the evocation of a maudlin memory,
tasting the fleur-de-lis of
the pretentious wallpaper,
the dusty lusters of the theatrical chandelier,
a bastard in glass, tasting all
and everything but the perished food, while his companion, or misty lover,
prattles on and on, with little words, little glances, a touch of the
made a fool of and then presented with a check which he must pay.
I studied the texture of the paper beneath the letters and the formulae,
the old man, off and on in my hearing, talked about the book I held and
perhaps about the others,
for in my peripheral vision I noticed him gesturing about.
At times he stopped and stared at me.
And who can tell what went on in his mind
as he continues with the discourse of his memory,
whether what he tells me is
what in fact happened between him and the woman
or whether the great tale is
about something that did not happen at all or did happen in parts,
some of which
he changed to suit the way he looked at things or the way that he wanted
to feel about her
or about himself.
Perhaps none of it happened and he never once saw
perhaps a hand only when she waved for him from the partially opened
of her moving limousine, in which the sky was reflected at the angle
of the glass.
THE ROOM OF WHITE
Now she sought privacy.
Though the dead of night held time in its power they
were aware, or cautious, of the eyes
which every person possessed and what those
eyes would insinuate
though of course they tried not to care a damn.
It was privacy
they wanted, she because she was lonely and this handsome man,
eccentric, seemed not dangerous to her, with his slender body
beneath the flattery
of his clothes, the soft pants, gold buckled belt, fine shirt and blazer;
and the masculine net of hairs at his open collar combined with his dark
to almost numb her with fantasy and, as it were, to lecture her on the
logical necessity of their exploration,
so she closed the door behind them, leading him
room of white,
with the bed and its chessboard pattern cover of black
All around was glass and mirrors and blown-up photographs of empty
streets (in thin silver frames) ,
of man and woman, and people in profile or
full-face against the sides of buildings or near trees in a park with
the white sky in a reflecting lake, all of the faces tightened with a
look of awe, looking into the room
or as if having quickly turned away because of what they saw.
was in black and white, even the carpet and rugs on the floor, like the
The man followed because she was his goddess.
Every touch he happened to
place on her, of course fortuitously, seemed to him unbelievable,
possible to have happened as the mansion he was in this moment to dissolve
the paste and feathers of oblivion.
So when she held out her hand behind her to lead him into the room he
and only managed to graze her fingertips, which she thought was a sexy
She took off her coat and let it drop in the closet, then in the bare-shouldered
creation that she wore
she walked to her dresser with deliberate steps and there
glanced at herself in the three-paneled mirror
that almost re-created her
whole body within its reflections, blurring defects of detail here and
and taking up one of the elaborate bottles on the field of her dresser,
perfumed with indivisible clouds
the crescents of her shoulders, her neck, and as a last
thought, the lobes of her ears
from which hung a pair of single diamonds.
All the while he seemed paralyzed in the spacious room,
the hide of the polar bear rug , unaware of his own arms or legs, like
a stuffed thing,
his neck rigid but the Adam's Apple moused up-and-down beneath the skin.
His eyes could not leave her.
He forgot to blink.
He would not for that split
second lose the sight of her.
She smiled at his reflection in the glass, with
her head tilted 5° to the left if seen in the mirror
directly before her
parallel to the vertical line of her body, or tilted at a more complex
as her reflection rotated into itself, a translation of the oval of her
head into itself, a self-absorption,
in the surface situated to her left or in the
other situated to her right.
Every movement she made, no matter how minute, was
occasioned at least three times
( for part of one surface was reflected in the
others due to the relationships of the angles
that pertained among them held
together by pairs of movable hinges )
before being succeeded by the pose now appearing,
and because of the lights that were brightly
illuminating the room, zones and
streaks of specular brilliance made corresponding gaps or erasures
in the integrity
of her reflection so that its geometricity was broken, with distorting
points and wedges
of light scattering her body.
The oval of her face was bisected with
flashes, an eye vanished, and part of her nose,
and the two fragments of her
ear seemed to have slid out of alignment, separated by a light-line,
diamond that hung from that earlobe created by itself an empty vortex
in her cheek,
where her dimple was.
Slowly, she turned to him, revolving through the
three parenthetical surfaces
whose depths seemed capable of indulging a universe
and galaxies of stars,
mountains and canyons, within is razor-line of laid silver.
She put her left hand on his shoulder and with her right hand bent down
his head to her parted lips.
For a long moment she would not let go, during which his
eyes, though wide-open, seemed to him
to be shut tight, because he saw nothing.
His head spun.
She bit him on the lip, then with a face that seemed expressionless
she walked to the bed in five equally spaced steps.
First she sat on the edge
of it, then she climbed and crawled to the center of it,
on the black and white
surface of the cover, and there sat on her heels,
the light matter of her skirt
settling in her thighs.
She sat erect, arms at their sides, her yellow hair blurring
He did not try to understand the expression on her face.
He stuck his hand in the pocket of his jacket and brought out something
at first hidden from her.
It was a small thing he held covered in his hand.
He knelt down,
bending one knee then the other, on the white fur.
PERFECT INCENSE INDISTINGUISHABLE DREAMS
He set the thing down, a small vase of stone and metal.
And kneeling on both
knees, he put sticks of incense into the vase and lit them one by one
5 steady streams of the smoke rose together and soon vanished into the
With deep concentration he arranged the sticks, positioning them round
and about, here and there,
pushing each stick with his finger, seeming to be
following the demands of a strict diagram
sequestered in his mind.
His eyes held
totally on his work.
He rearranged the sticks several times, until they appeared
to him to be aligned in perfect,
though seemingly random, sites.
Finally, he looked up, smoke wrapping his face, his two palms sealed
in a gesture of prayer as certain insects with instinctive automatism
The pupils dilated, his eyes refound the woman who was the cause of the
Her position was not changed.
But she was naked.
He did not stir from where he
He did not move towards her.
She stopped giggling then.
realized that he was serious indeed; even now, alone with her, when he
on the black-and-white surface in the glittering room what he wanted
of her as a woman.
In spite of the way she looked, he did not rise from his knees
nor did he unclasp the prayerful attitude
of his hands - nor did his eyes
wander from her, in fact were rapt upon her, but he did nothing.
She ground her teeth.
Finally, she hated him.
She threw him out in silence, at
last convinced he was not normal.
She was alone again.
And she stretched out
on her bed the length of her long legs and arms, twisting her body,
laughing and crying, until the parallel rays of the sun cranked through
and the scalloped curtains of her indistinguishable dreams.
THE INCANDESCENT WALL
Often the brilliance of the atmosphere is blinding, more than the solid
barrier of incandescent wall.
It may permanently injure the cones of perception, so the images of the
outside world become
an eternal past, and the random images of blindness become the permanent
the glimmering worms of feverish memories.
The overpowering light struck through the upper part of the cabin's
While reading I shielded my eyes, inclining my head.
With a certain rhythm I
turned one by one the pages of the book, not lingering long
anywhere, for usually one sentence there sufficed to explain the page, the rest
of its contents
being fabrications to support the author's preferences, the chemical
formulas being sketches
of abstract concerns meaningless to me though, as he
claimed, the compounds they signified
could influence the sensation of happiness
and in certain delicate, fragilely precise quantities
accelerate the approach
and momentum of death.
I stood with the book in the center of the room, while
the old man poured himself another round of tea. Talking all the while,
he paced around the room rearranging things, changing a volume's position
in the shelves,
fixing papers into a neat stack, aligning a small rug on the wood floor,
pushing the chairs around the table, screwing the cap on a bottle of
the shakers of salt-and-pepper, and moved them on the table like knights
on a chessboard.
Then he knelt on the floor in front of the incense-curtained
picture on the wall.
I heard his loud, deep breathing.
My head was bent to the
book, my arms angled at the elbows, but I knew what he was doing.
The whole room
seemed within the field of my peripheral vision,
although now and then my concentration
so centered on a page of The Chemistry of Happiness
that the desert light burning
the walls became a kind of incandescent flood behind which the old man
invisibly and muttered whatever in silence.
RASPING OF ATOMS & MORE TEA
On the page I held I noted my fingers, wedging into a formula and several sentences;
wrinkles and contours, the white moon at the top of my nails, my flesh,
sinking by its weight
into the yellow sandiness of the paper, like a great butte into
Every detail of my flesh, and pimple of the paper seemed remarkable,
chiseled in my vision with garish clarity.
And a silence invaded me, deepening
- as though I were in the center of the sun,
with only the rasping of atoms in
Frightened, I looked up from the book.
The old man was coming towards me with a spoon, open shirt flying in
the hairs on his chest bristling.
He looked grim, staring at me.
The next moment
his lips receded around his teeth, making a disastrous smile.
I waited for him to reach me in his rush.
His lips are moving, I hear his words
syllable by syllable.
Between the words the spaces are canyons in silence.
am certain that he is rushing at me.
There is great speed indicated in the turmoil
of his postures,
the flex of his knees, the flutter of his shirt tails, the fleck
of foam at the corner of his mouth.
. . . Would . . . . you . . . ."
Why is everything progressing so slowly?
As he nears me I make a movement to get out of his way, a swift step
. . . like . . . . . "
And I sway my body to get behind him, feeling in the muscles of my shoulders,
aerodynamic twist of my neck, a satisfying grace.
. . . more . . . . . "
But he follows me. He is bestial. He strikes the spoon at my elbow.
pain streams to my left temple like a whip of electricity.
Instantly, I spin
around, pivoted on my heels, my right arm flying, fist twisting in an
through the motes of dust buoyant in the air, dislodging them. It lands
in the center of his face.
. . . tea?"
He sprawls backwards, arms out, legs stiff, off the floor and soon dropping;
on his face, utter amazement.
But he makes no sound at all - because of surprise, perhaps.
A gob of blood chases
out of his nose. And he hits the floor on his buttocks.
I am moving in a bright pointillism of suspended dust.
At the same time, the
thought comes to me, as if out of the very brilliance of the air,
that the old
man was going to kill me or do something to me equivalent.
So I am defending myself in the best way I know.
He gets off the floor, his mouth
I am certain mouthing a curse.
He jumps at me, fist working, and there is a blackness
in my eyes before the light returns,
while my tongue degustates a dash of blood
in my mouth, the flesh ripped on the edge of my front teeth.
We are smashing
A chair collapses, the pepper shaker cracks to pieces.
The 4 corners
of the room fly around me.
The rectangle of the ceiling spins above me like a
rigid flag stuck on a pole.
In our tumble we are planets banging in uncalculated orbits through space,
each other and the turning suns of our system , that is, the windows
of the cabin
through which the desert light powders. Flickers of darkness and light
drape our clinches
and our pummeling of eyes.
Spots of blood squirt up-and-down, here
and there, or smear across the softness of our flesh,
the old man and I.
I dodge a fist, and a kick.
I stumble to the floor.
Then, propped on one elbow
and touching my cheek , I think I smile.
It is a stance that appears suddenly,
of tranquility conspicuously out of place.
I study the old man.
He is crouched over, elbows bent, both arms close to the sides
and fists clenched.
The sinews in his neck are clearly visible, pressing out
in cords at a skin wet with perspiration
and grime, and red.
His face is now
twisted in a different way.
It is almost grotesquely broken with fury, dislocated
-- anger, I suppose.
Again he runs for me.
I think, calmly, The bastard.
But I am trapped.
The floor against me is a flat cell opposing my freedom and
over me the air is too vast,
unfairly weighted with gravity. So I am kicked, the force of which, the
blow mostly ricocheting
from me, drags him to the floor.
I jump on him, choking
him as he chokes me.
Then he shoves his right hand into my face, with his fingers
I feel the edges of the nails in my disformed cheek and the line
of pain as, I am certain, the nails
begin to rip or tear crudely into my flesh.
And something trickles to my lips. It is salty, tasting of the sea, a
THE MAD DOG
The old man, the top of his head against the wood of the floor, in the
in which I see him, his jaws are clenched together, chin bruised,
lips open in a snarl, grinding his teeth
in a froth of
I think, The mad dog.
With uncanny strength he blows me away from him, how's a mystery.
All I know
is that I am flying back, then reeling in a corner between the shelf
and the framed picture on the wall before which the lifting incense cloud
shakes in our turbulence.
Through the 3 windows of the room I see the pale sky.
It gives me an impression of tremendous height and distance,
that can go on forever.
I am breathing hard as I turn back into the room, where the chairs are
packages and papers are
scattered on the floor with pieces of glass, the table with the kitchen
lies askew at an acute angle to the wall. On the kitchen stove the tea
kettle has been whistling,
and the old man - he pops into my vision as though created
in that very moment, that is, his form
condenses quickly before me - comes at
me, who am helpless and far away, with a fork in his hand.
He is raving.
all this time he has not stopped talking.
Off and on I hear the words.
Despite the fury that seems to be in his face his
monologue is a drone,
lugubrious approaching of words, abrupt phrases, and white punctured
But before he gets to me I rise out of the corner to confront him, crouched,
our eyes holding on each other tightly.
jabs the fork at me, not all the way, more of a test of his reach and
the quickness or agility
of my reaction.
I feign some attack with my bare hands, which holds him at the distance,
and we circle slowly |about each other. I step over the fallen chair.
The other lies in splinters.
With a movement he can not stop I pick up one of the legs, a slender
with a jagged end..
He backs away from it, tensing visibly.
His eyes flicker.
Danger and caution enter
his mind, and we continue to slide in the merry-go-round
of our poised movements,
turning in the strong solids of light that fill the room,
like white columns
out of the sky.
His hand with the fork vibrates, moves forward now and then, as
though searching for the fatal angle,
the right opening that will get me.
too beats like a metronome.
His lips are still moving, talking , but now I hear
If there are words they remain in his throat.
If there is meaning it
does not go beyond him.
For now his face seems pallored, white sliding into the
white of the sun.
The blue in his eyes washes away.
His face shines in a dozen
places in bits of perspiration.
He forgets to grind his teeth.
His cheeks sink.
THE CENTER OF A STAR
I notice something more disquieting than his inexplicable hate.
In the posture
that we assume, in our angular relations with respect to the light,
of his eyes become clear like glass.
It seems that there is a windowed through
which the light streams to the core of him.
It remains just a moment open during
during the series of our altering physical positions.
But time enough for me
to peer in.
And I see nothing.
It is a window into an abyss.
The broken leg of the chair fits snugly in my hand.
Splinters of the torn end
jut out, daggery and splayed in a variety of directions,
of a much lighter coloration
than the painted surface of the wood etched with cheap designs.
The rest of
the chair is also shattered, lying in pieces around the floor.
The fork of the old man, being composed of metal, gleams
out at me
when it is turned through certain angles reflecting the light
in my general
direction graphically indicated in the orientation of its 3 sharp prongs.
It is a flat meaningless fork used to pick up meat or to push grains
of rice or to roll peas
onto its curved surface, probably very cheap and not so
We turn again in our merry-go-round, crouched as usual, his shoulders
bunched about his neck,
silhouetted in the strong white light of the window by the
table behind him.
It seems to me that I move in a box in the center of some star
and home of
this obsessed configuration looking like a man
whose long reeling shadow is
grinding through the light, creating on the motes of dust
that drift into his
oscillating blackness the seasons of a world, of night and day.
Because of a sensation reminiscent of pain, I look down at my side
just beneath my left armpit.
I am astonished to see the fork.
The old man is holding it,
his mouth jittery in the midst of a giggle.
The room vanishes.
I see only this
man and his imbecilic grin.
My fist tightens on the chair leg which accelerates,
accelerate towards him but slower than my anger.
Of course, he has no time
to watch it,
to discover it's changing shapes as his perspective of it zooms
no chance to appreciate the almost florid disorientations of its torn,
TEA AND CHOCOLATES
The impact forces his body into a quarter rotation.
with the finger splayed open arc over his shoulders like leathern atavistic
It is his head that first hits the floor, then his back.
His feet pedal
In that contorted posture he tries to get away.
He seems to be
gasping for air, twisting his head this way and that way.
Then I am on the
him, with his torso between my legs.
I begin to crouch down with the chair
raised in my hand,
which widens his eyes, already round as circles.
his face blanches.
His mouth opens through frothy saliva.
The tongue is rigid, flat across like
I know he is screaming.
His eyes are on the torn leg of the chair
in my hand.
As I descend lower on him his words and phrases hasten up to me,
fast, like a helter-skelter bubbles.
Out of love.
I wanted to help her.
I'm a chemist.
Yes in a molecule.
In candy I sent her.
Sweet chocolate cumulative.
you can't deny. She took. Months and months every Friday I sent and
Harmless but happiness. I saw the change in her face. That's all.
My gift of
my work. My love. Happiness. It couldn't kill. It couldn't. I take
see me. Such joy.
I am at peace never before. My gift you understand.
O, my Penny.
She loved chocolates. Yes, it's true. Don't you know?
Didn't you feel it?
The tea. The tea.
And he points to the kettle that is boiling and hissing.
Frantic, he alternately
whispers or shouts, drawls his words or runs them quick lightning-wise,
crystal clear or impenetrable as an alien language of explosive accents
Mandarin or Arabic and some fanciful intonation of the dead Sanskrit
in unreasonable design, gibberish out of which English words pop to
draw my attention.
All the while, he stares at me.
His face is unbalanced,
almost shifted out of the category of human expressions.
Instead of the happiness he was promising me - or himself - the bliss
he claims to have cooked
into a molecule, out of whose architecture genuine smiles of
content in this life would blossom,
like flowers out of marble, a cold terror
was in his face.
And something else appeared - something unfathomable and meaningless,
frozen there forever -
that made the hairs on the back of my fist stand on
But what was he telling me?
Did his gift of the molecule-cathedral change the last years, the last
moments of Penny's life?
Or at the end did something concealed awaken?
Within the complexities of his gothic molecule did the labyrinths creak
under some unforeseen malignity, some profound offspring of the brilliant
that had squatted with unpredictable limbs on unseen pinnacles,
and becoming too ponderous for the delicate balance of the
perfect palace poised in the brain?
Did it force its way out, rotting the gleaming walls?
Did Penny's life evaporate through her smile?
NO DIVIDING STRIP
The kettle was hissing behind me.
Tears covered the old man's face, saliva
streamed from his mouth.
Then his eyes, rolling up, stayed on the sky in the
He was laughing.
I could not help but run out.
I want to
see the earth again against my feet, and nothing to confine me, nothing
to reduce me.
No old man with his obsessions.
No hissing kettle.
The sky is
gleaming above me.
I ran to escape the hairs standing on my skin
I am in my car.
The desert. There is sand in every direction.
To my left, to
my right, behind me, under me.
The road does not waver.
There is no preferred
passage. There is no dividing strip.
allowed to go both ways?
But there are no cars, not even a hint of another
no dust sent up by spinning wheels
or the turbulent rush of
Just the horizon.
I am calming down.
The perspiration on
my body is merely because of the heat.
I wipe my face and the back of my neck.
It is a relief to be alone.
My left elbow rests on the window sill, my right
hand is on the steering wheel
which does not move to the left or the right.
My breathing is calm, in and out.
A thought comes.
It is a request of my brain to remember something,
element in some incipient chain of association.
The request is repeated.
the first element is not followed by a second.
Then it vanishes - like froth.
The bubbles tickle the air.
I cannot think.
All I am is this body, this skin, these hands, these eyes;
the desert in the
sky in the light.
It is all too funny. I begin to laugh.
WRINKLED PAPER BALL
I wiped my hand over my eyes to alleviate the perspiration.
Across the street
to telephone pole blurs.
Above and below the wash of tears, however, the telephone
in what appears to be a precise copy of a geometric line.
the tear drop on the surface of my cornea it shows in a distorted state,
- undulated outwards.
The pole is limited at both ends by the top and bottom
of the window frame
that makes possible the view of the street, with people
walking left and right
and the occasional objects that wander for a moment into
the frame and then disappear,
objects carried by persons or objects propelled
by an unseen force,
such as the wrinkled paper ball that wafts out of the right
and bounces along the sidewalk, disappearing for a moment behind
of the telephone pole, and then sliding, or rolling, the rest of
the way until it disappears again
at the left side of the window.
This event captures my interest because other bits of paper lie in
devoid of any motion whatever, stuck on it like stone.
It is just this wrinkled
ball that flies and scurries along, seemingly so innocent of any wrong
or mutation of being, crumpled as though by the fist of a child.
A white ball rolled into his fist.
The handsome man bent over the pool table, in a room of plush leather
Several figures watched him, some sitting at the bar, other standing
away with cues
slanted through their hands.
A low chatter softened against the background
The man - a gigolo - settled the ball on the velvet cloth, sighted
it along his cue,
a pale ray in the luminous cone.
He calculated quietly.
a pneumatic stroke he sent the ivory ball spinning, then reflecting
off two sides of the solid table.
The last ball, which it glanced at as required, careened
then at an angle uniquely related to the first stroke.
It dropped black into the predetermined pocket, causing respectful
cheers from the onlookers.
And the gigolo smirked, feeling with the polished nail of his
finger the lean little scar in his cheek.
The woman, sitting in an elevated corner watched each move he accomplished.
Her hands rested, curled in front of her on the beige cloth of the
small oval table.
Just out of her fingers, whose nails glowed in the scatter black light,
the stem of a martini glass
remained left alone.
She had consumed only one
drink since they arrived,
but whenever the second - untouched - became more
harm it was replaced by a fresh, chilled order.
This before her was the third such replacement, the opaque frosts steaming
on the curvature of the glass.
During that time they were there, while he played,
he only glanced at her once
or twice and that so quickly and so generally
that it was impossible to conclude
if it was directed at her, who, in turn, being
a much older woman, and experienced
with fame, was likewise opaque
to the research of most any gaze, at least on
They had left the house, where he was sunk in boredom.
walls had irritated him.
The moment he stepped out, a grin ravished his face.
The sky was there.
His smile, somehow monumental, seemed unique in her long
and dense history.
He whooped, then turned on his heels towards the low, dazzling
And she loved too his energy.
In moments of great tenderness and carnal
she will murmur to him,
baby, My baby.
I look at her. The ugly old bitch. Look away.
Know those wrinkles, those sutures
under tons of paint.
O, man, never look at her in the morning or while you're doing it,
opens her mouth to moan, to scream, to mumble.
Stupid rich bitch. How do I
All those perfect dentures, never needs to brush 'em.
And a bushel of hair left on the pillow, pasted down with yellow paint
like an old horse put down its ass and flaky tail on it all night.
do do I do it?
My thing's a miracle. A miracle, really.
It just goes up. Close my eyes or stare up at the wall, to the luscious
pornographic fuckin' dream, boobs like rockets, shit.
My pinky ring
worth more than some make in a year.
Money makes me hard.
Still it's a miracle.
Give her a little smile.
be worth something.
And he wins the game.
No, he says, that's it.
Waves his hand across: definitely No it signifies.
My back' s hurtin' me, he
But the words come from his mouth indifferently.
A cigarette dangles from his
He goes to the bar. Some say it is processed of a dramatic history,
perhaps a voyage
around Cape Horn , and men have died in it. But it is impossible to
It is merely long, carved with commonplace intricacies.
The wood seems light.
The bar seems capable of floating, attached to the floor
only by the line where the two
seem to meet, several inches from where his
feet pause a moment.
Then one foot rises and balances on the rail along the bottom of the
His walk up to that point has been casually arrogant.
He orders a drink like
a spoilt prince, reduces the
bartender to slavery.
He never looks at him, but looks almost everywhere else.
He drums his fingers on the wood, and with a downward glance admires
his ring ( an old gift ).
He scratches his left wrist, then destroys his cigarette suddenly,
twisting it out in the ashtray.
He drums on the bar.
The beat is insistent.
His body, beneath the tailoring that
enhances every gesture, is tensed, like that of an animal
deep in the concentration
of a chase, about to spring, to gallop through the iron grass
of a range
after a grazing antelope.
He snaps up the glass and gulps the surface of the golden liqueur,
back to the older woman.
Later in the mansion, he will throw a glass.
The amber fluid flows down the white wall in parallel streaks, and
she goes to him to comfort him.
To embrace him, but he pushes her way
no, slips out of her arms with a tangential movement.
And she calls to him,
Sari . . . . ! (
Serafino is his name. )
Then the pause, and the silence, when he stands with his back to her.
What's wrong, Sari?
In front of him is the wall on which the whiskey detonated,
where the streaks
thinning downwards magnify the wall's texture,
the rippling as is found on
the bottom of a sea or on a windswept beach
or desert like the Sahara where
obsessed winds order the great dunes
into vast patterns that can be seen
only from far above, which Serafino stares at,
now grinding his teeth.
The fingers of his hands are splayed: he has learned that this divergent
dissipates his ungrounded energy, the unpleasant tension,
like a body smell
that irritates him
Sari . . . !
He hears her steps coming.
I'm bored, he says, moving away, so the steps stop.
He keeps his back towards her, but there is something in his eyes,
or in his face,
that provokes you to suppose he is imagining her behind him, reconstructing
the lank surrender of her arms, her worried look, and the moist
( he admits they are beautiful).
You suppose this, because he seems to be looking beyond the wall
the whiskey stain blurs, disappears) ,
and something smile-like thins his lips.
But his fingers remain splayed. As always, the room they are in is
a white room.
And now it seems vast. The ceiling is too high. The walls surround
them like a materialization
of infinite distances.
Is it me, Sari? the old woman says.
He does not move, lets the silence deepen.
But before it starts to hum with too much significance -
He turns round to face her, quickly with a dancer' s control, and he
He rolls his eyes up and raises his arms towards everything -
am bored at . . . !
and flings his fist at the darkness beyond the glass of the windows,
curtains hang like
. . At everything! It's always the same!
Out of the 15 paces between them, she takes just one step.
As she strokes the surface of her hair, she remarks,
am I, Baby.
Where shall we go?
One by one, he taps each finger on the head of his thumb; bites
and still there is that smile on the woman's face, brilliantly rendered
by the star
of a hundred silent films.
Africa , he says
she says, Of course.
On the piano near them, whose surface is oil-black, rests a photograph
of a young woman
in a wispy silver frame, tilted approximately 80°, so she looks
out on the room,
on the windows with a view of the estate's grounds, the trimmed
the designed hedges, part of the tulip garden, and the tops
of some thickly foliaged branches
of the acacia tree.
On a clear day mountains off in the distance become visible, paling
through the desert heat
in which they rise, and the surface of the photograph too seems
to borrow from this rare
transparency of space a certain depth that spreads
flatly around the girl' s head,
or perhaps it is just that the gray background
disappears in this abundance of light
and clarity and only the image, with
its finer detail, remains, in the various tones
of gray that make up the hair
and the face, the fine chin and the beautiful eyes
gleaming with two highlights,
two tiny stars the photographer has placed there
using a special lens.
Her hair, whose blond gently flowing curves complement the face's oval,
slightly along its outline, so the head seems to be gradually modeled
emerging with increasing density of definition )
out of the hallow background.