Chapter 7: Which Is All Reflections on the Embodied drill
Call me Claudette.
Claudette sensed something had happened. She hurried down to the shore. There was already an ambulance and a couple of police cars. The beach had been cordoned off. A few individuals wandered about. There was something being pulled across the grey sands. A yellow boat bobbed insanely at the water’s edge, and the old grey tractor used to tow the holiday-makers boats in and out of the water during the summer season was parked just a way off.
All eyes were frenzied and scared. It seemed a hunted numbness hung over everything. But Claudette didn’t bother looking at the beach scene down below.
She turned and went into the café, ordered a milky coffee and then sat at the large window that overlooked the bay. But she didn't look out but rather was looking back to the counter to where old Mrs Watson was standing with her back to her, seemingly busy with a white loaf of bread, chopping tomatoes but all the while seemingly embodying a worked-out yet mysterious drill of some kind.
The woman chops bread and tomatoes and then sausage meat and yams and then more meat like there’s something mentally deranged in the action and we think there’s something permanently sick about her with all her chopping and the meat being cut into pieces. It's as if she's gone below a required height for proceduralisation.
We feel there’s a person here too at home with self-deception and in a natural state of sick, which is disturbing and off. Her whole life is a washy atmospheric smear, like an abstract Freudian slip her dad used to make her wear… She looked like an immensely long shabby structure inside an opportunity to scheme.
She could have been a sandy coloured lyric abstract. Her style was no different from being natural. She seemed to isolate a very small thing like an empty mannerism turning into a husk of reality impact.
There were always lapses that would need to be punished, which is how we all are on the sly.
She was a bit tawdry.
She was of an age where irony and flatness was what the culture was about.
So she could tolerate sexism more than the people now could. Her head was filled with ice creams, cakes, spaghetti, comic strips, toasters, hoovers, light bulbs, ironies and lipstick and very little from higher up things.
What was her attitude to anything was a mystery. But not for anyone really because no one thought much about her.
On the other hand Claudette had been since the very start a strange little girl.
She had been able to stare back at the cosmic gulfs of existence that stun most others.
She seemed to be able to bear realms of infinity and unknown spheres and powers.
She could hear the beating of terrifying black wings and the carcass scratching of some outside thing and not become delirious or confused.
This meant that death and madness were held at bay somehow, as if she had been granted one kind of mercy.
She was charmed by the high pitched cheep of oyster catchers and the mournful silence of buzzards. The rollicking fun of the red kites made her laugh.
She loved nothing better than to read novels in the long grass way above the small grey cliffs and listen to the dense, strange, inaccessible world of the air and the sea whilst she did so.
She knew that there were terrible realms too, refuges of the demented, which were everywhere, and forever emerging into the light, containing creatures of random and ferocious cruelty.
She had the way of a slacker, a moody anarchical cynical vent of silent grunge. She had been known to be rude about sacred cows , which we’re bound to feel amused by and a little pleased.
But there’s always ambiguity in how we respond.
She was never rude about actual cows though. Especially friesan cows which she liked because they seemed maundering and juvenile like men in sandals.
And what you’d notice straight away was how she was sweetly romanticized and playing down any notion of a throbbing explicit sexuality or anything like that.
But there’s always something perverse and obvious about her, a bit believably touchy and unpleasant and frightening and illustrational. It was as if she had redefined the repressions of her stuff, turned her insides lurid purple, lemon and turquoise but looming out of black voids.
But she’s also got a handle on geometric rigour and associations of purity too. So she doesn’t look askew but feels a bit, with all that overlapping conceptual stuff, and multiple perspectives that just come and make her feel relaxed and psychedelic in her guts.
She’s an atmosphere, which is a bit true of everyone.
So her atmosphere’s swathed , lineny, primed, dense, confident and believable. Now we can’t all say that’s our atmosphere can we?
Oh but she’s still able to throw in a little of the daft adolescent decadent robustness too, under a shell of shock and impact.
What does she look like?
Glossy, velvety, slight, silky, dingy, foetal, dirty, glinting, faunish and light glissadish. Like a sketch not a painting.
She read books and liked history. She could read signs from a variety of sources. What she could see clearly from a very early age were sinister and cruel and objectifying things.
She was tuned to whether things were finished or not. What she also understood before everyone else really was how many things started from a situation of adversary. Friends and enemies sort of thing.
She was puzzled by the way so many people wanted to start from there. It was an odd way to be trendy or perverse which seems to be what a lot of people are trying to be. But she rightly thought this not true really, but was more a deranged way of getting to something higher, which is something that’s better, even if delusional.
So what she was able to detect from the get-go was not just what was happening on the fatuous surface.
What had driven Mr Masterton, the man we hadn't named until now, to drown himself?
The deep waters of the sea are more ancient than the mountains, and collect time in different ways than either sky or land.
Mrs Watson (the woman in the cafe who also we hadn't named until now) had been afraid.
Claudette had seen this straight away, but it wasn’t clear whether she was afraid because she didn’t know what had happened or because she did. Claudette wondered if she had glimpsed whatever had made Masterton perish.
When she closed her eyes Claudette dreamed a horrified, screaming face. It was how she knew Masterton had met his hideous fate unwillingly.
As across the bay wavering garlands of filthy charred seaweed swept back on the incoming tide among the mud flats she waited for a different kind of darkness and listened to the moon. Well her head was always filled with macabre objects that stuck out as if deforming, kinky and serenly evil.
It seemed that inside her head there was a performance happening, like stand-up that had gone very wrong and someone had shot themselves.
And shot in the style of a wobbly hand-held camera , sensitive and squalid and very strange, like that Mekas film of Allen Ginsberg’s deathbed scenes. Which goes beyond theories and concepts and is about being touching.
So what Claudette was deep down was very sensitive to just some sentimental romantic floating responsiveness to the emptiness of the empty thoughts that try and possess us.
It’s this that makes her very tuned in to what is happening around her. And why she can see how boring most things can be, and then see them again in a better way, circulating and editing versions of everything until they worked out.
She spent her early teens reading Artaud and remained angular and animated whilst giving the impression of reactivating.
The week before she had felt uncomfortable. She had taken her usual daily route from her house down to the bay of two beaches before eight. She had slowly walked along the shoreline and thrown a gnarled stick into the vast swell at one point, keen to raise memories in her emerging neuronic psyche. It had been whilst there that she had seen something moving below the surface of the waves, a subtle inwardness like a terrible shape of fathomless dreaming.
She had retreated to her room and noted in her little book how sinister the atmosphere had become, and in an urgent and ruthless way.
Her bones ached. Her head hurt.
The world was an underlit realm here.
Elsewhere it glared with lights of dubious motives. In the past Claudette had often compared her twilight, spinal world to her twenty-first century one.
Her deranged, ancient, atrocity forces were just as ruthless as those of modern life. Both heartlessly and endlessly exploited everyone isolating everything from contexts of time and space and reducing them to mere functional perfection.
Science and technology had rounded it all up, and created our oblivion of rapidly turned-over relationships, jobs, gadgets, entertainments, weapons, news , shopping, Disney, territories, images, chats, celebrities, glamour, fashions, meanings, suburbanizations, psychosis, arts, criminalities, zonings, wounds, wars, revolutions, fictions, perversions, assignments and coffees.
The worlds she survived held an equivalent malevolence in its immense stirring of genetic, abstract horror, as if uterine memories of an entire evolutionary past were rolling and unfolding through a nervous system of pure coded time right here and now.
What Claudette sensed was a growing fetal monstrousness recapitulating the memory of a whole universe, a memory that belonged to the infinite but which emerged as a huge, brooding, animate presence, bursting life like incitements of a deranged psychotic imagination at the side of her remote seaside village.
It’s probably the case that women don’t feel quite right.
She seemed to agree that she wasn’t natural.
She was wigged up and squeezed into dresses and faces that she made up.
She had a darker mood than before.
There was a lurid sheen to her generalized décolletage.
She looked vague and hard to distinguish, like discontinuous gestures in a cellar where atrocities were carried out.
Well, we’re all saying that nothing is real and pretend to have read Baudrillard so we seem brainy and nihilistic but it’s hard to carry it off with style. I think Lennon, Warhol and Dylan are the best at this sort of humour, which is what you need.
Because when the tension is rising and everyone’s getting to a higher pitch of cool we’re dying to laugh.
Claudette returned to the café later that day. The mortal remains of Mr Masterton had been taken away. The talk was spreading of other strange things.
Claudette had often noticed how fictions didn’t need to be invented here because they already lay around everywhere just waiting to be picked up.
The village took the form of a primitive illustration, or the printed encephalograph of a crippling mental crisis.
Some of the houses should have been knocked down years ago, thought Claudette. They are consumed by their nervous breakdowns and hideously distorted psychopathological corners. Everyone, she noticed, had become accustomed to endlessly checking the time for fear of forgetting themselves and losing track of their enemies.
‘It’s a strange world,’ she mused.
When she mused her voice was more metallic, day-glo, artificial and poisonous but also more standardized.
As if busy.
She’s feeling a bit spacey. She likes listening to music because of all the grief and joy and ecstatic love in so much of it.
Staged of course, we’d mutter knowingly. But then it gives us a chance to examine it. But we’d be muted in this. Tasteful.
Which is a code word like sublime. What is the sublime anyway if it keeps going away? And tasteful always seems sinister to us because of its elitist connotations and some idea that we’ll be on the slippery slope to Downton Abbey if we’re not careful.
But nevertheless there’s a leaning feeling that isn’t unpleasant all the way through. It’s more like floating in a void.
Being by the sea and in the countryside meant that there were many things that weren’t interesting to the media, like sea forms, bird forms, sky forms, lizards and snakes, sheep, cattle, villages and so she cared about things most of us don’t.
But when they are brought to our attention we are all relieved to find they’re still there. And that someone is paying attention.
They seem so strange, and their agonies so old and different. What came after we know, but this is about origins we find exhausting.
We’re always worried about being fooled.
And what if we haven’t got any important ideas?
But then we can reassure ourselves by staying quiet or laughing as if it’s all like inept pickups in bars.
‘Of course this unhappy event is shocking,’ muttered Mrs Watson.
But she didn’t seem shocked. It was like she was just taking it for granted that somewhere in all this was a shock but it was hidden.
Or just needed to be acknowledged without actually going into shock.
Or maybe she was used to shocks. Perhaps she was fooling herself about this. Or wanting to fool others. Maybe her feelings were a bit of a circus, and therefore a bit empty and disturbing at the same time.
Perhaps we’d have all been a bit more comfortanble if she’d stayed silent. There’s something a bit autistic about her ways. Her not looking at anything straight on.
Maybe it’s a regurgitated nature we have with her. Illness, mutation, the body and fragmentation seem to come easily into her purview. She seems as eerie as mass media icons do. But she isn’t one of those obviously.
She’s tucked away in this backwater, is how we might explain her.
But maybe there’s a deep seam of spirituality in her too. The way she cuts her tomatoes and makes her sandwiches for instance. Perhaps it’s the way whatever this is it’s never really here at all but more an after image of its absence that triggers this.
It might all be hocus pocus though.
It was that time when you can’t be certain if you’re awake or not. You think maybe this is just the continuation of sleep. But then the usual impressions come flooding in and you know you’re awake.
There’s the colour of the walls and the sea – green, sooty and dusty through and through. Which is a weird thing to think about the sea but that’s how it was with her and why she’s always leaving us with a bad taste in the mouth.
The day was so sour around her there was no doubt she was regretting some better days and wishing to bring them back.
But no matter how ripe and ready she was for that, it wasn’t going to happen. She seemed to shiver, as if a microdose of tree foliage and leaf shutter afflicted her narcotic domesticity.
It seemed to Claudette that running a café was an open door to anyone holding a grudge against the rest of the human race.
This struck her as little more than an amusing aside, but she was cautious with her coffee nevertheless.
And the story drove along with the bus through the dark streets and the rain like a hexing. And this story seemed now to pick up snippets from the stories of the newspaper he'd folded across his knees.
Why? Perhaps it was envious of Claudette and her story and so was trying to abolish every distinction.
How? By dying the slow death of envy which as every Kierkegaardian knows is like the slow death of being trampled to death by geese.
So the news stories recall themselves in her honour, so to speak.
He remembers reading this one: A woman suddenly begins to wake up in somebody else’s body every morning — each day ends with her being killed by the same murderer in black.
Claudette immersed herself in the sickness of such atrocities, its crystalised tension and hostility reminiscent of how time works in a dental surgery.
She deliberately wore a black turtle-neck and dark pipe jeans and tried to catch the sound that would wake her before the murder.
But it was too difficult and she found herself experimenting with all the possibilities she could and the images grew more and more lurid, like enameled codes of insoluble dreams.
What did the intense transactional presence bring?
The lens of a grey flat sky over a grey spinal terrain of seawash and paranoid naturalness.
A glacial density held the world frozen in its dependency.
Claudette returned home later that day exhausted and with her sense of balance dislodged.
She slept deeply.
She dreamt the Richard Prince one-and-only original joke: ‘Why did the Nazi cross the road?’
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