Chapter 14: Where How You Move Is What You Become
A hospital is the one place where nakedness doesn’t bring the party to you.
He stripped off and put on a hospital gown which had to be tied behind his back in a small changing booth. He went back outside to sit on another chair feeling a bit uncomfortable and exposed.
Nakedness always made him suspicious: it seemed to harbour claims of being the discovered land but there was never any proof that this was so, and so many things that belied the claim. To his way of thinking, nakedness was just another con, another way of going missing.
Another thought came.
Like money, hospitals keeps the body and soul apart, but unlike money, it keeps body and friends apart too.
Was that one or two thoughts, he then wondered?
And did he think anyone’d come visit?
He sat in semi nakedness, as if some amniotic Alyosha, as if he was starting over because first time round nothing had been learned.
He had been warned: look out - they'll do unto you and all that. Broad talk dissolves to subtle, too much mouth and beneath the flaunt a grab for everything missing in your life. He remembered. He remembered. But not enough to light him up or anything.
There seemed to be an ancient correlation in the moment, where time shed its speed to his nakedness and ensured that he could only begin to understand himself slowly.
Only an idiot thinks nakedness reveals. Nakedness coceals by misdirection and evading the true causes of blindness - envy, cowardice and evil amongst other things.
Well, that sounds a bit desperate but he thought it was ambiguous what he was truly feeling and because it was an ambiguous feeling and we like ambiguity being expressed on its own terms sometimes he didn’t feel it was wrong to quake a little, and look for alibis.
But he felt more desperate than he had wanted to, or expected.
Fear of cowardice is unhuman and strange and invites ridicule. Something about it hints at a riddle that can't even be identified.
One way of looking at everything, he considered, was to suppose that fate depended on what he did next, and what he didn't do, never mind whatever he thought. But fate was just an abstraction, he considered, and like a bad lodger.
Life breathes on everything, and like a candle must, he supposed, inevitably, I guess, blow it out, he concluded.
In his thin hospital gown he felt he was showing all his distortions, the result of what everyone does, he supposed, twisting and turning himself about to become what he wished he could have turned into but had failed - and surely, he thought, all that contorting and adjusting hadn't helped, maybe even caused it, the failing.
Everything I've done proves my dispensability, maybe even caused it, was a grim aside.
His head leaned against the wall.
The relationship between torture and optimism is difficult to calculate. At this he shifted on his arse and leaned forward as if to look straight ahead but he kept his eyes shut.
I should have concentrated on my life. At that his eyes popped open.
Being sad because alone is the law of mimicry working overtime. It's as fatal a law as there is. More so than even gravity. Memory is involved in this law, as is fatigue, idolatry, clubbability, fashion, menus and longing.
No masterpieces are repeated, so why ask ourselves to be someone else's?
This illness is never going to pass. It's me proving once again that I'm too weak to die, and that adventure is less a matter of events than the ordering of chronologies .
But nevertheless here he was, in a weird hospital gown, sitting around like a baffled freak, waiting for something to happen next, and he really did feel too alone, as if 'the alone' part was coming into him very intensely whereas before it was just a muted feeling mixed in with everything else and so easily overlooked or discounted or taken down a level to fury and some wild, grief-stricken endeavour towards existence. But now it did seem important as well as being too late to be able to do much about it beyond damning complicity.
He reflected on how going past the reception had brought about a change, at a stroke had brought down all his fabrications and left him in his present state, against a wall in a cotton gown feeling that the flow of time was what he knew best of all, and here it was, without remorse, useless and holding to a furious inertia that seemed, in its best light, to take on the appearence of a radical mode of scuttling.
'This is what passion must look like,' he ruminated, 'Or else a devotional type of suicide,' he added glumly.
The colour of the walls struck him as being the pale washed out colour of the Dead Sea, overflowing with salt and bouquet's of white paper, or the last bubble of champagne, or the gestures from wherever you stand where every veil has been stripped away.
The colours of the walls were teasing and doubly transient, fluctuating and fluid like Fred Astaire and other spirits of nothingness being born in sprained joints and between bones, mishandling eloquence and in perpetual withdrawal.
The spaces around him swung from appearing as the mirage or detached perspective of passivity, to something closer to blind aquiescence. Either way, it had the ruins of poetry in it, and his experience of sickness seemed part of that kind of ruin. It's the kind of deranged ruin that comes from the inside, eloquent despite the falling timbre, perhaps more like the fruit just before the fall.
'I could have been a diamond,' he thought, and this inspired him to twitch a little , as if at all costs there had to be some thing registering across his gnawed out face.
This hospital belongs to the form you carry over to the content. You talk a lot about this amazing flow of suffering and swing, but you hardly see it. Like sin, this place obscures the soul.
And its atmosphere lent an ultramarine and rosy pink glow to what appeared to be random episodes of the light, finely stippled in mauve and azure, shifting, always shifting, he noticed as he leaned a little forward, pushing out his snout a way as if sniffing the air, through a series of imperceptible changes down to his bare feet with his knotty toes still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world seeding itself to his moment.
Good communication requires good vocabularies permitting questions and statements from supervisors such as:
'what diagnoses are presently suspected? ... why is such and such implausible? ... damage to the heart is possible... treatment of breathlessness is urgent...' and so forth, he seemed to half recall, as if somewhere, at some time, perhaps once upon a time, he had been there and heard this.
It is always practical to design such a language where one doesn't already exist. A base proposition such as 'diagnosis of patient is cancer,' can have distinct modalities as in possible, necessarily and so forth. Such as :
It's possible, or unlikely, or suspected, computing wherever possible certain modalities from the pattern of support for the option, recorded somewhere in the data base.
So much for those who want to debunk modal arguments, he thought with the strange bitterness of the logician.
If arguments can be identified which support an assertion, then the assertion is supported. The arguments for the diagnosis include the proposition that there are arguments supporting the assertion.
So, the proposition about him, say, having the disease is possible if there is at least one supporting argument and the proposition regarding him having the disease cannot be eliminated. This is an a fortiori definition. But we may want to relax the requirement that there be a supporting argument : in these cases the proposition that the disease is possible becomes now an a priori possibility.
What would he say about the status of all this? He'd shrug his thin bony shoulders, ruffle his apron, look forlorn but nevertheless be quite prepared to say that arguments are arbitrary proofs over a body of knowledge and leave it at that for starters.
But then, aroused, he'd come back to it with eyes clamped shut again, as if the dazzle of daylight, or in this case, the dazzle of the electric lights , might be offputting to any schemata.
We may argue that disease is a possible explanation of an observation by reasoning from physiology or other theories. Similarly, he continued, perhaps now biting his nails on his left hand, the little finger, although maybe not, perhaps the nail biting came a little later, or in fact had happened just a little time before - the whole event now murky at best, truth be told, and certainly less than certain, however, he continued, an assertion regarding the disease may be deemed impossible because it implies that an established theory is violated.
And this caused him to pause, and shiver a little at the grey implacability of this, levened by an aside that he suspected that logical interpretation of the use of modalities is closer to linguistic use than numerical interpretations.
He opened his eyes with the distinct and single obective to roll them right over, to show how aghast he was, or recoiling or whatever he actually felt apt. Then he shut them tight again, the world and its braces proving as yet unbearable.
And started again the ruminations. He began with the supposition that there are, as it were, folk beliefs about diseases and their causes and types and all their pariphinalea and stink.
It seemed, looked at it from all angles, this was a watertight supposition. Even iron clad peasant thinkers, cranks and dolts had their views, he thought, no matter how far off the mark. They have their views and they will have their day, inevitably, he continued.
After subsiding for a while he began again, this time putting more into the effort, because after all, this next bit took a little more out of him as, alas, to be frank, none of this came easy. As many a teacher - and others too - had commented about him, and to his face too, he was always one who lacked fluency. It was a sharp judgment, and threw him not merely once or twice but many a time into gloom and despondency because he reckoned this lack of fluency was what kept him from really taking his show on the road and making a proper go of it.
He sighed at the thought of all those anonymous roads not taken and left it at that.
Folk beliefs get sharpened up, made hygienic, made available for tests, refuted or refined. Maybe the same language is used but what we now have is far removed from the folk, even if the language remains entwined. This new version is now available for constant revision. New experiments. New data. New theories about what it all means and what it all actually is. Sometimes the revisions become so refined we can do the required math and calculate utilities, make the revisions, Bayesian or otherwise, but nevertheless not understand the reality allowing for such calculations because the folk origins have to be too distorted to make sense of them, and then we lose all bearings. When we face that choice we go with the blind calculations over the folksy when we have calculating to do, but often stay with the folk roof over our cognitive heads, so to speak. After all, we have to wine and dine.
He stopped and felt that none of this was helping and that anyway he had somehow overshot his mark. There is just an endless parade, he thought.
Go away, he implored.
I ought to decieve everyone, maybe even myself. Then all this will disappear.
And yet he felt in the very next breath that this never ends, all these curling, snapping, fluttering, squirming, crawling, running attempts at clarity.
'It never ends,' he gasped.
'I can't be the only point to reckon by,' he added.
'How can you adopt the facility to adopt if to do so you must already have the necessary requirement?'
'Universal applicability can't be a logical theory we can revise. Rather, it's a presupposition of everything we do.'
He knew quite a few who were good at making up verses. He had this thing about wondering whether what they did was gives names to things, or give things. His youth was filled with readings. His later years imagined random trajectories and took too much drink, according to some. But he rather liked to dismiss these as superficial thoughts and shrapnel.
'Here in the semi nude it's as if I'm producing a mini-machine of myself, something that would be good to photograph and watch the various parts clicking and clearing their throats, all angles and names, a strange will-power nettled by the fabrics of an undressed existence.'
He grinned at the thought.
From a certain angle he looked like a discarded long glove.
This corridor is a short but shining last world, he thought, and this was tinged by a sense of wonder, gnat-sized and green.
Foreign parts, foreign bodies, they don't exist here. There is nothing new under the sun. He didn't care. There are theatres, of course, in the hospital. He was on his way to the theatre, savouring every last minute, he relished.
There is a need for the literal as well as the other kind, he remarked, again taking time to adjust what might seem to be, to the cooler eye, one of his many heads.
There are slippery rides and dry ones. Some like their music loud, and repeated over and over.
What might be played here in this corridor? He wondered. Perhaps he would give a list at some point, but he didn't feel he would right there and then.
Besides, he always felt that people gave their lists when they had something to prove, or someone to impress.
Those tides had long gone, he muttered a bit, though again, this was an inner mutter, the sort that never crossed a room no matter how tight.
Some have tattoos as a glassy apocryphal confession, an anonymous note that can hardly remain so given the intimacy of the skin, the hidden inners, the bestowed though blurred confession that seemed to have affinities with a storefront name.
He recalled biro ink and the way his skin bruised when he tried to fabricate a little such note on his thigh when his moments were all defined, hilariously, as errata.
He recalled the painting of his toe nails and walks after midnight in the wake of geometries, dishevelled trees and the rapid vowels of a staircase gasping under foot. These were the magical nights stacking up in his lobby. It was the way he prayed in public without anyone knowing.
He blinked an eye for an eye.
An entire literature could be in itself a kind of understanding that didn't save anyone, no matter its truth and intonation.
He boldly asked, and as if in triumph lifted his oblate head.
'The letter kills. Something else gives life. breathes life, Gives you a fighting chance...' he petered out once more and the situation reeked of farce and a lethal ignorance of whatever sport was required in these parts.
He prefered blizzards to exotic sunshine islands but choose island over blizzard and lay in the dark cabin near the beach fretting in sweats, crying for snow.
'Half my problem is right there,' he commented ruefully at the image.
'Bollocks,' he exclaimed.
Down from the far end of the corridor something seemed to be waking up, like a request to read back a passage.
'Perhaps someone is coming to find me. Perhaps this is it,' and he felt a modicum of excitement and perked up a bit. At least now was the promise of something, whatever that something turned out to be, which most likely belonged to him once, and had no sex, no name, maybe was little more than a budget or what he had imagined in a day, a time ago, disconsolate , hopeless and unsummonsed.
There were all the places - Venice, Verona, Munich, Mittersil, Paris, New York, Dubai, Egypt's tombs and flautists, odd and inpure cities, musics, cries by the vegetable stalls in Cairo station, a drink with oysters once, drips and drops, longings and the incomplete drives that spin round and dead like clouds coming down too fast from the Alps and burying us all in winter... He loved that.
My wrists have a sort of grace, he thought as he fiercely stared at them. Then he turned his head to look down the corridor to where he supposed for a moment the next thing was coming.
He clutched his own arm as if someone else's suit and felt that he had been stolen. It had been ever thus, was his next comic summary.
Should I have spoken some words of comfort to the old couple? He wondered.
He felt the tinge of guilt, and was immediately relieved that he hadn't lost this facility, even in this most pressured of times. It seemed to be possible for him to still know whose side he was on, where to apply the butter as they say, despite being stripped and ill and more contemptible than afeared.
He liked that last one, the 'afeared', because it held for him the bulge of a snagged past, and also the memory of an important dream. But he shrugged away this with annoyance, reckoning that here and now was no time for dreams, no matter whether prophetic or banal.
'Dreams can be a sort of perjury.'
He consoled himself and stopped looking for anything in the far distance. The corridor held itself to his throat like a razor.
All this before he thought that maybe everything that had once seemed important to him, and valuable - as whatever is stolen always seems to be - had always been in terms of what others would think, whereas now it was not what others thought that was important but rather the things that were coming to him from inside, in midsream so to speak, the main thing being the presence of death, or the probability or threat of it, which seemed far more tangible and real than it had ever been before, because it wasn’t a pose or a thing to discuss or express or have a stance about, but was just a brute reality that went on before all that, and after all that too, and made opinions redundant as all searchlights do .
'I want you to love me.'
But the people he'd inclined towards weren’t going to come anywhere near him anymore and it was too late to change that.
If only there were thunderstorms to make an announcemt of this, he thought, and he felt tired and abstract.
Perhaps I am always abstract, he wondered. Perhaps I am too abstract to seduce for long. Perhaps I always was.
If only they could see me now, in this skimpy gown and this greenhouse body, then they'd see something.
It was a fierce thought but seemed immediatey too wrapped and coiled in the melodramatic noiry life of 'had we but world enough and time', the poet smirking over destiny and loss with the scowling drool of Bogart and his peach-coloured heart on his sleeve, and all of it a pose, a smooth pilfering designed to win the beloved with what would turn out to be nothing more, in the cool light of day, than a promise of better peanuts.
Which seemed to be the opposite of not thinking .
Why did he want others to be around now, if not to hear what they had to say and what they thought about this situation?
But he wondered whether that was really the reason he was thinking about any of them.
Perhaps it wasn’t that at all but was just a feeling of pity, and self pity at that, which was an inrushing fix of sentimentality that he’d held back, he supposed, for a long time, perhaps for all the time, until now.
Perhaps all he wanted was to have some people crowding in saying how they would miss him , that kind of odd and delicate dream, but as soon as he thought that he began to doubt if anything like that was really the whole story.
He began to think how good it was that he could have his own thoughts at this time and not have to listen to other people’s, or try and make sure everyone around him was ok, or have them try too, or have to validate their silences about him and themselves, which was the way , as if they were just there to give you their perfect masks and nothing more.
And he began to rage against himself and this need for little more than gold watches and trinkets marking his passing, as if at some pathetic retirement shin-dig, which was small, resentful and narcissistic yet less the complete opposite of jazzy, cool and swaggery than might be supposed.
In the old days they loved wisdom but now everyone is an artist, philosopher or Pharisee.
Maybe if his clothes had always been more pressed he'd have pulled off the trick of pretending that everything really was nothing to him. Better he let himself drift away, be left to his own devices, and let everyone off the hook, he supposed.
Whichever hook that was.
And he didn’t feel that this was being selfish but more that he just thought this was a time when he needed to be on his own so that his thoughts became more than just responses to people.
Maybe in a way he thought it added to the dignity and depth of the situation, something that before he had always felt was a bit compromised and difficult to grasp, or even something that was frowned upon because of the prevailing sense of irony that had covered everything before like a thin dust.
Somehow he doubted this though.
It was strange how this part of the hospital seemed a little off. Like, it had a different kind of light glow. It seemed to have become much less bright, and rather sickly, a light highlighting dark patches and shadows rather than making everything brighter.
Now he saw that the paint on the walls was peeling off in places and some of the floor tiles had curled up and had a grotesque browny roughness coming up from underneath.
There was a peculiar smell of pea soup or turnips in the air and he thought this was all odd and not expected because elsewhere the place had seemed a cool, hyper-smooth photo-slick glistening.
He couldn’t help thinking that this was the kind of zone where he’d be meeting mutants, ghosts, nuclear holocaust victims and the end of the world if it were a movie, and he knew what he was thinking here because he’d watched so many wonky movies on the Horror Channel, especially those shown just after lunch - before Mutant X, which he hated - but before the more expensive stuff like 'Killer Mermaids' and flops that sometimes had recognizable stars in them from time to time, which were shown from nine in the evening onwards and were always pretty good, films like ‘Six Headed Shark Attack,’ for example, a pretty entertaining douche event he’d seen at least seven times and which never failed to make him laugh.
He looked at his feeble limbs down below his eye sight and he felt like a floating asteroid in a creepy horror story.
So when a nurse came along she seemed shrouded with all this dread and made him feel insecure.
She spoke to him but really he wasn’t listening to what it was she said, but was just watching her and hearing some noise. All he could think was about her creased uniform and unusually large feet and how strangely weightless she seemed, as if she might slowly get sucked up into the atmosphere and float towards the steel-welded shapes up in the ceiling overhead, which seemed too close to the ground for comfort, now he came to think about it.
This place could definitely have done with a couple more feet above, he thought.
But when the nurse had gone, bustling and actually carrying a tray which he had missed upon the first inspection, he was left like an illustrative version of a Bacon masterpiece, a striving isolation whose pathos was the striving, a contradiction because infinite, everything now about his inward screaming and writhing but without the original impetus of being expensively purple or cadmium or close to Valazquez.
He felt the whole scene had taken on the appearence of being enclosed in a vitrine, some boxed-up system of existence. But now it was beyond comparison with the annulled look it had had before he had gone past the receptionist.
There was room for sincerity now, and no need to play to the gallery, which everyone does before going past the receptionist, even if there are no actual crowds, or even anyone else at all.
The mood has shifted and intensity and emotional engagement of all kinds seems ok and one of the things that happens when beyond the reception is a sense of relief.
' Being disengaged and ironical all the time is exhausting, drains far too much away, and leaves you with too little to live off except fame, extremism, notoriety, drugs, madness, iconoclasm, perversion, bohemianism, and a parodied inability to escape from the egg-laying sex maniacal Romantic ventings done in a gruesome stupor attached to detachment, embraced impotence or grooved fecundity , the only poetry available.'
He sighed as he finished this last gobful of squal.
It was like sending your daughter to a brothel for safety from ill advised suitors.
What century is this? he laughed, nearly outloud, but instead made like an idea of rain.
Sophistry has limits and comes when personality is annihilated and when the news is about things that aren’t there.
He shook his head and refused to believe that this was anything but perfume.
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