Sunday, February 9

Girl in a Chemise, 1905

WHERE DOES THE chemise end, and where does it begin? An old friend of mine had a Picasso print hanging on his wall, none too conspicuous either, for the man in the painting embraced a guitar, and the print was suspended just so above where he rested his own guitar. In the room, with its thin, worn carpet, were strangled other prints of art and his favourite musicians, and the stalagmites of half-empty, abandoned glasses of gin.
But, this, she, is of a different breed.
She is either looking southeast or facing camera-right.
Venturing into Saturday central London ruins my nerves and drives me to rush home for a bowl of chicken soup, ready to keel over at any moment.
The nutters are abound.
I visited a shop down Denmark St. I was pointed there by one and many. ‘Just ring. They’re on the first floor.’ The door was open, but I rang anyway. The hallways hadn’t been cleaned in years. I walked along, up a staircase that wonderful snaked around a dusty lift—passing a downward gazing stranger—and to the front.
The lines of her nose and lips are the most certain; all others pale and fade into one’s consciousness. During the sitting—‘Would you like me to be aroused or warm?’ and gladly a nipple was shot forth for the artist to hang his coat upon. The ear is but the howling face of a howling man. Her adjacent cheek is immaculate.
‘Do you guys sell valves?’
‘Next door.’
They pointed to a room I had skirted around. The inside of the room was the inner-workings of its tenant’s brain; a mess, if ever there was one, to the outsider, of course, but to the tenant everything was in its right place. He was fixed in his position, unable to move anywhere, but sharing his attention between a small telly showing the rugby, the amplifier he was working on, and me. He told me which valves I needed for my amplifier and wrote me out a receipt.
A madman was staring at me on the tube. He looked through me as though sizing up my bones and organs. Not so long ago, I would have been seized by fear, but already—ah, four and one half months—I am numb to this city and its fellows. Am I to become completely numb? What will leave me next? I turn away from him and lean my head on the glass, I sigh, and try to think that I am somewhere else.
Waves are breaking on the tips of the folds of her chemise.
When I got off the train I almost fell over. All my strength had left me. My t-shirt was soaked through with sweat. I have come to occupy an almost incessant state of despair so that I find everything is meaningless and I am not the least bit afraid of death. In fact, I should quite welcome death from time to time, but I could not leave my mother. Every morning, before work, I watch the news and am horrified by every article. Even when they show the 800,000 year-old footprints near where I used to live, I think of how little I have become. There is simply nothing left for me to be interested in.
The most exquisite bit of the entire painting, for me, is the folds of the chemise around her neck. They are painted wonderfully so that it fixates me there. Just there, at their crests, is the ghost of green of blue of ghosts that are apparent and distant. Her face cuts the darkest lines. What is that orange flame consuming her arm? Will it get us all?
For a day I was very ill. I had just masturbated because I could not think of a single thing to do, when I was walking down my stairs and felt sick. I ran to the toilet and filled the bowl with a crude brown liquid. It did not stop, but ran on for hours. I got into bed, yet every time I drifted to sleep, a sickness awoke me and I ran to the toilet again to vomit and to shit revolting liquids. I lay quivering in bed. I put a red bucket next to my bed; half as a safety measure, half because it was what my mother used to do when she left me alone.
At work, I listen to old radio programmes about the lives of great composers, and attempt to draw parallels between my life and theirs. Sibelius—shining light that he is—loved to drink and was full of self-doubt. I like him the most, no longer just for his violin concertos. It is something to be listening to Mahler, too, in an office where people are dying all the time and others come into work wearing black in remembrance. So I took Mahler out on my lunchbreak, where I visited the bookshop. I could not afford anything in there; I have been so poor of late that I can no longer afford books and am forced to reread old ones. So, I just stand there and admire all the books I cannot read. It is a kind of pleasure for me. Then, back out, into that interminable rain!
So pin the girl in a chemise against the washing rain, blue and turquoise, failing to let up. Allow the tendons of her neck to fragrance your view. Let the chemise ruffle around her neck. Picasso caught her as best he could, for her to fall now fragile upon my wall in the projection of a postcard.
I walk headlong into the raincloud. I know it is a raincloud because even the wind runs away from it. Raindrops start to fall on my face. Their numbers increase, and then, tired, I turn into the tube station.
And, always, on my living room wall: the girl in a chemise, 1905.

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