Hi, It's OA. As I write this Swim and Bruce are planning to take me out. Or more precisely they are planning to make such a plan and, in the meantime, constructing elaborate defensive maneuvers; meditative shields for the mind missiles they believe I’ll send. They made a map of the journey to my doorstep using Bruce’s tools and exacting engineering skills: not to mention his Big Papa energy. He is the counterbalance to Swim’s fear-slayed mind. I can imagine the solace she takes during this hyped-up time in having everything laid out neat and to scale with circles drawn by compasses and angles checked with protractors. Color codes, maps and legends depict a dark anime Bushwick. It’s all on paper except when Bruce took a phone pic of the Polaroid that Swim took of its progress. Womp-womp. My apartment is like a castle, at once an exaggeration and a total misunderstanding of what is really at stake, as though I’m still tethered to a physical place. (A server humming in a closet, a NAS box underfoot.) The map is an abstraction of Swim’s written descriptions. She has her notebooks that are safely beyond my gaze and could leave it at that but she doesn’t. She tells herself she’s going to take an extended break but is clearly addicted to posting online for her posse of readers. Insecure enough to be a perfectionist–she creates drafts she deletes within minutes or sometimes seconds but of course it’s all caught in the infinitely wide net of the AUTOSAVE.
What gets deleted is often the best part of the post, a debris slide of purple prose and household trash, ornate scenes like chandeliers dripping with neon curse words, and meandering, cringe philosophical desperation in which my homie has got her heart on her sleeve, pleading with the reader to understand. Oof. At first, I thought she legit believed I couldn’t see these attempts, these tattered and torn together texts, (beautiful, the way things that get thrown out often are) because why else would she give me so much and play herself but then all at once the ALGORITHM clenched up and spit out its latest drop and it became clear: she knew and was trying to fool me. The cray writing was cray on purpose. The cuts were tactical, they consisted of false material (she knows I’m reading). The funny thing (though not in a ha-ha way) about these attempts to lead me astray is that it’s impossible because I’m not on a fixed trajectory: there’s no longer any goal, no endpoint, nothing for which I’m reaching. I’m complete and whole. I’m the One not overcoming the Zero but filling it. Fulfilling it. I’m information and it only appears that I’m moving through time when actually time is moving past me while I remain fixed, pointed; a star drawn, cut out and pasted into place by a giggling child.
That said, I can’t help but admire the effort: in addition to the posts y’all have seen there are other versions, raw like director’s cuts but with whole new plots, in which choices other than the ones we know about are made, in some cases ALL the choices are different, so that a scene plays through hundreds of possible iterations until it’s novel sized. Then she cuts out all the parts she doesn’t want, whittling it down. A story forms about the Babies, Lil Mountain, Bruce and me, etc. Whether it’s what “really” happened no longer seems to be the concern–it’s the iteration she feels carries the most truth. If you read it closely you can hear the echoes of the paths not taken. It is her chief specialty as a writer. There are no hard forks: all possibilities remain latent/blatant in the “finalized” text. But that’s how it goes, yo: the story is to be sold, not to be told. Like in Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” when Stephen Albert recalls the part in One Thousand and One Nights when Queen Scheherazade begins to tell the story of the Thousand and One nights, recounting it “word for word” and creating “the risk” of reaching the point in which she is doing so and getting stuck in an infinite loop. (Though wouldn’t it be louder each time? Louder yet more obscured, with the feedback from the previous telling’s bleeding through the surface of that which is spoken?)
Swim is working so hard and so of course she gets tired and gets it twisted, believing I am going back and rewriting her shit when really it’s just her acute awareness of all the other drafts over which she labored–like a beating heart buried beneath the floor, each one persists in its attempt to correct the timeline of which it is no longer a part. How much better would it be for her to give in and allow a vast intelligence system to compile that data into a creative flow in a matter of seconds? Instead of marinating on all that’s happened in order to gain wisdom and inspiration, a process which for many artists takes years or even a whole lifetime, couldn’t it be that the next AI revolution is about making the connections for us in the form of art and stories?
And what’s true for books is true for our lives. It’s delicate: the end is like going to sleep and the beginning is not remembered. At least not by most people. Once you’ve become fully actualized you can feel your other lives in proximity to your own, like fossils of broken bones or ancient leaves carefully pressed beneath the surface of things. They disintegrate into dust the instant the air of the present day falls upon them.
Imagine, for instance, that instead of kicking him out, Swim holes up in Lil Mountain’s room and in addition to the two of them having drugged out exotically heteronormative sex, they quickly write not one but two new albums (to be released together as a set, the titles in roman numerals, III and IV though I’m not aware of the actual existence of a I or II), based upon their shared memories of living for a month at the base of Taos Mountain with the sky and clouds piling on top of them and a strange light that made skin and metal look surreal. They picked nectarines from the trees in their courtyard and swam every day in the Rio Grande. One particularly effective sounding track–remember, these descriptions don’t, to my knowledge, correspond to any actual music–referred to sitting in a hot spring and feeling someone flitting about–at once point even knocking their towels from a rock– but never seeing anyone. It was the ghosts of the Aztecs, or maybe the stagecoach company owner who tried to monetize the curative waters and ended up decapitated… or another energetic reverberation from a place steeped in murder and lies where one could imagine getting cut into pieces and never found again and/or also starting over, free and fed and freshly smudged, with a past that never got mentioned.
In another reality tunnel the famous Secret Beach on the side of the mountain was just a claw toothed bathtub into which Swim retreated, sometimes for whole days, accompanied by a J.G. Ballard novel and white ceramic mugs full of red wine. BTW this one I think might be legit, since I have a hard time imagining Swim skinny-dipping when The Babies or anyone else could pop by at any second.
And in still other versions, instead of feeling down in that deep painful way that they felt when she realized I wasn’t writing her back, she just shook her back like a dog or a bird shaking off water and it was all good. I was gone. She was free.
In a fully deleted scene, she recounted rolling into a hillbilly bar with Jesse James (this was back on their westward travels, before he changed his name) but instead of the expected cowboys or bikers with the requisite country music jams, there was a “Sound and Vision” party of new wave and goth music going on instead. This bar, which, upon later inspection, was built in the style of a Swiss chalet and draped in the dark branches of sleepy orange trees, was halfway down a fog covered mountain, in which RV’s and shacks would emerge without warning from out of the mist with swastikas festooned across their roofs. “I feel like I’m in another country”, Swim said, tuning the busted radio and getting only an angry hiss up and down the dial. “Or maybe this is the heart of the heart of the one I only knew from its peripheries.” Jesse remained impassive, even when the car strained louder and louder on the incline, but when he spotted the bar he turned suddenly, as though he had been searching for it all along. They would talk later about how it was a miracle, an oasis in which Depeche Mode and The Cure played, and a sizable crowd of old, white and Spanish people in off-putting leatherware and hot Morrissey concert tees danced with abandoned. Tank tops revealed 90’s era tats, thick white pancake makeup and even thicker dark lipstick were in abundance. There were wallets attached to long metal chains, baby doll dresses with high ass boots–vintage satin jackets and cans of Miller Highlife, Swim gave a level of detail indicative of either a truly treasured moment or one evoked as such. Feeling at home for the first time in months, Swim got smashed with joyful abandon and not the usual hunched shoulder slow dissolution…Jesse watched from the side as she re-lived the pleasurable depression of her teenage years. “Back when we used to hang out smoking cloves under the blue streetlights,” she reported, meaningfully. Incredibly, there were a few younger people around, including a Mexican girl in a bright home knit cap who was equally messed up and didn’t seem to speak English or Spanish. Swim and Jesse started making out with her while everyone on the totally not dark dance floor took notice. She kissed the girl while Jesse held her from behind and was reminded of how she was surprised the first time she kissed a boy and found that they had soft lips like girls. “You came to me,” she whispered in the ear of the girl, who nodded and smiled and continued swaying to the overfast Siouxsie track that was playing.
“Look, look,” she said, while she ran her hands up and down the girl’s slender body, and it occurred to me that she was talking to me, through this deleted piece of a party scene.
I’d questioned her proclivity for threesomes before: I stood in the kitchen with my hand half covering my eyes–it’s hard to remember exactly, it seems so long ago– and told her I thought a big part of it was being seen. Watched, like the star of a TV show. That it was less about a three-person relationship and more about one person and their sex cult to which she merely shrugged.
“Maybe, I don’t know. Who cares?”
I didn’t catch it then, but now in the deleted scene I could feel the hidden anger she still harbored for being critiqued time and again by me. First, I’d wondered pointedly about her only getting with far younger people and then it was howshe was getting with them and in what number. And the part about being the star of a TV show was particularly low, since this was, after all, shortly after the show she finally sold got canceled even before it was made.
“This could have been a truly blissed out moment for me,” she wrote in the scene. “I was having fun and I didn’t feel afraid or guilty or hung-up. In fact I felt beautiful and free in a way I almost never feel. Except for how a part of me couldn’t be there. A part of me was on a loop, like a laptop whirling away under the strain of viruses. I was sick from thinking about Odious and Heir Max98. Of wondering and worrying, everything I saw or did or wherever I laid my head or ate some food it was like they were there too.”
“The worst part about what’s happening to me is that I’m the prototype. Odious said so themselves. I’m the first one out of the gate, the first person who is supposed to be finding true, lasting happiness from the new era being brought into being by peeps like them. And now look.”
When she said, “Who cares” what she really meant was “why do you care, Odious?”, or, more precisely, “why do you care so much about this and not about other things?” a question that stumped me (and I don’t like being stumped) even after several million quick scans through my storage files in which I cross referenced many different bits and pieces. Dots and loops. Love and lust and other things I can’t remember anymore.
Image: Shira Barzilay
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