Autor: Luiza Lobo
Título: The bitten apple
Tradutor: Luiza Lobo(eng)
THE BITTEN APPLE
It is hard to describe the beauty of this person who walks amongst men but who belongs to the world of gods. When his blue and innocent eyes first met mine. I felt greatly moved. It is as if I had always known him through the lines of his face, framed by his blond hair, the minute riddles which barely formed an angelical whole. Lucifer or Gabriel, we met in a church at a rock concert. I immediately wanted to know who was that character who had just come out the long verses of Milton, already wishing to pull him from Paradise Lost to meet him again in Paradise Regained. I was informed that he dedicated himself to strange experiences with matter and that he was a person of great mystery and discretion.
Our first lunch, at Magoo’s, was an exchange of dreams and expectations. Both gave one another the impression of being deeply busy, and none of us not for one moment gave one step towards approaching the other. So many phone calls just to end up in a sandwich! Well, an elaborated sandwich, for we spent more than four hours, until sunset, discussing art, cities, personal tastes and life. I came out with the sensation that everything was quite correct, and that a great number of phone calls would follow aimlessly.
Really, a long time afterwards, on a Sunday, quite late at night, I got a phone call from him which really surprised me. He came from a trip and invited me for a beer at East Village. As a coincidence, at the same bar where I had heard proposals of disgusting love, of very bad recollection; but coincidences exist so that we can link the knots of the chain, and to prove that love is reborn from the Phoenix.
I met him at the bar which was crowded with big boys – always a very constraining situation for a woman who left her a book behind, jumped out of bed, took a shower and threw herself at the street, towards a bar in which she arrives alone and puffing, and feels that she is examined from head to feet by her rivals. I fiercely returned their stare, and thanked for the bench that was offered to me at the counter, as a prize for my triumphal victory. There we began to discuss the world’s fate, revolution versus education and culture, atomic war and militarism, individual dreams and the capitalist system. I did not cease to observe that face of a gothic angel, chiseled without the exaggeration and the fats of the Baroque, with absolutely correct lines – thinking that he had them so perfect because as a child he had eaten corn flakes and vitamin-D reinforced milk. A feminine look in a masculine whole, sensibility associated with the lightness of movements which made everything spin as if driven by the beauty of his voice.
From there we crossed the city, from Chinatown to the Meat Market at West 14th, as far as Washington Square, without feeling a bit tired, in spite of the lateness of being so late at night. His voice was an oasis in the noisy city, and when he laughed his eyes dropped small sapphire bids on the filthy sidewalks, where beggars, foreseers and addicted sat. Each minute at his side was the discovery of a new boreal dawn.
When I tried to find out where his faults lay, I thought that he had none. He explained to me that he had flat feet, which explained why he did not go to Vietnam War – and therefore, this was no fault, but a virtue! Besides, his knees were slightly turned inside. I could not help but smiling before such a narcissistic innocence that made him truly believe that these were his only faults. This dialogue inspired me a drawing that I began to do hour after hour, until I gathered courage enough to show it to him. It was the drawing of Christ at the cross. He had a crown of thorns and his knees were turned inside, due to the weight and the pain of the nails – but his face and his cock were stiff. He was red to the roots of all his hairs. He said that in a country with such a Presbiterian tradition this drawing could drive me into jail. I asked how a drawing that represents love in its purest dimension and in its most infinite spirituality could lead anyone to prison. Would it not be better to arrest the generals of the Vietnam or the Gulf Wars or the CIA agents? His eyes looked as if he was still in the Luray Caves, in North Virginia, which he had recently visited.
When he took me to his house, I was enchanted with its location, which looked to me a mystic sign: it was on East Second Street with Second Avenue. Beside it, a sober neo-Gothic Presbiterean church, covered with the black smoke of the city, mysteriously hid amongst the trees, as if it was and at the same time was not there. The land before it was a delicious cemetery, tiny and abandoned, still tidy in its white stones amongst the high and smooth grass, and without the exaggerated ornaments of the Roman and Florentine tradition. Not one cross. Some sparse saints, figures that were more human than celestial, which were barely above the ground, as if to show a humble and pragmatic religion. Other statues reminded one of angels looking from behind the fences, as if in prison. Little countryside flowers spread on the grass, so that it would be difficult to penetrate in those thumbs without stepping on the flowers and smashing them completely. The cemetery was lively. The sun fell directly on a tree that knit nets of black branches on the bright marble. The sound of a flute in the street lent it an atmosphere of the Garden of Delights.
To reach his apartment it was necessary to beat six gigantic flights of stairs, high enough for an athlete. “This is good, it keeps me in shape”- he commented, while I puffed behind him. To come in it was necessary to wait for a voice sunk into a bathtub to give us permission to get in the room. When I saw a room that could be barely called an apartment, my heart sunk and fell sorry for him. Poor one! To live in a sofa all in rags, in the middle of the room! Everywhere men’s underwear, tennis shoes, socks and pictures mixed up to paint and photographs at normal size. Fortunately there was no cat to mix up its smell to that visual chaos. I imagined mice and cockroaches inhabiting the same space as him, but I did not want to think very deeply on that. The television, always on, showed a phlegmatic tennis set. A nice breeze came from the window, where a fire escape staircase projected above New York City. From there one could see my two immense favorite trees: the two metal towers that changed color and aspect depending on the weather and season. Their tree-tops faded in the smoke of their more than hundred stores and received the earth-juice through their powerful elevators. Sometimes they were radiant with sunshine, sometimes they were unhappy, depending on the result of the Stock Exchange.
He changed his clothes, throwing the dirty ones below the table. Seeing my gaze of amazement, he commented: “Now you know it all.” He also changed his sunglasses. At every corner he bought new sunglasses, each time darker and more insane, cheaper and “made in Taiwan.” That day the sky was blue and had crystalline limpidity, which at least justified his sunglasses. But why wear them at night?
From underneath the sofa he took out a white poster, covered with glass. There, letters in nankeen announced his exhibition the previous year, providing titles to several surfaces of yellowish color, which were very hard to define.
“What is this?”- I asked him.
“ This is a poster announcing my exhibition.”
“This I know. But what kind of exhibition?”
“Skins. Human skins. It was a very tough work. I lay down for hours in the sunshine until my skin got loose, so that I could use it in one of my works. I also ran after people, when they left the beach on a very sunny day, begging them to let me pull at least one little layer of skin from their back, until I could complete 40 pictures made of human skin. Real maps of life.”
“And did you sell a lot?”
“No! Not one picture was sold! People left horrified, with their hands to their heads!”
“Which shows how difficult it is the conviviality of humanity with human nature.”
For a moment, thinking where he had left something, maybe a checkbook or a pack of cigarettes, he stopped by the table against the light. I felt a thrill. It is as if the beautiful figure of Prince Charming had materialized, the mysterious Dorian Gray, appeared before me. Or would it be the Happy Prince, from the height of his socket, deprived of his sapphire eyes, taken away by a sparrow? I had the impression that he, while stepping towards the window, where he stopped and turned to me, would continue to look at me forever, even when blind, even if through his heavy sunglasses.
Little by little I noticed that I did not need to talk for him to guess my wishes. It was comfortable and amazed. One day he exclaimed: “What should we do this morning is to spend the day out, in a park!”- and this was exactly what I would love to do and had been thinking for the whole week. After getting to a bench in the park, he asked me if I would not like to place my head on his lad, and “Wow!” how could he guess? Before all this he only smiled, as if he knew what I did not know: the mystery hanging in the air.
My contacts with my Blond Apollo became more and more amalgamated. We lived one reality inside the other. One always openly sunny, the other only hinted at. His femininity, for example. Such a constant theme when men unmask their repressed sensibility sometimes seemed to me excessive. The syndrome of the century: a narcissistic hedonistic sex in which all tried to find only the image that would not hurt or deviate from the same in the other. Sex had neither frontiers nor divisions. His kisses burned me and froze my face, covering me with fright and passion. As if he tried to suck me to his inside – an experience that one only feels with his primitive mother and which we thought we had forgotten and which she malevolently reenlivens in the baby-feeding act. And, according to him, we walked at the brim of an abyss, suffering from the “extremes of life and emotions.”
I commented that his beauty was perhaps excessive for daily life, feeling me much incapable to any kind of reciprocation, but he contested: “Don’t worry, your beauty is all in your soul, and it is your soul that interests me in you. It comes out from all your pores, and from your eyes, and from your mouth, when you smile. Then you transform yourself completely and become ageless, and only then become and is forever.” – I confess that I felt flattered, but at the same time worried; was my body then decrepit and horrible? I was only tranquilized when I recollected, with my sparse arithmetical knowledge, that the “reciprocate is not always true,” and tried not to think on the subject anymore. What is love, afterwards, if not a brief passing moment, transient as life itself and is undone as soon as it is touched? Women, as Lord Henry used to say, with their mania to plan and worry about the future, destroy the germ of love in its source. An act of self-immolation, of masochism, I would add.
In spite of my attempt at self-control, each day I felt nearer my Enchanted Prince, or maybe the image that he projected on me, at light speed. I walked at his side with a jumpy step, while he had big footsteps, indifferent to his flat feet, and I felt lifted above the noise and the confusion of pizzas, tequilas, milk-shakes and sushi-bars, stifling subways, all kinds of cheap trifles sold on the sidewalk. I hovered above it all in the clouds, among pairs of seagulls, there where the armadillos and turtles lived, in a far-away Sky Party.
I spent more and more time at his laboratory of holography, those strange bright three-dimensional photographs made with laser beam. He began to visit me at dawn, and many times before dawn he left running so that his holograms could have a correct exposure time to certain chemical substances. The plates captured the reflected dimension of energy in the balance existing in every body and reproduced the objects in their form of light. Thus he explained to me in the laboratory and chose the substances that he would employ in his next development, always tending to purple, orange and yellowish tones: gold, blood, light. The other side of image – for thus were the objects pictured. When they were ready, they lay in the space, defying Newtonean physics, animated by a light beam. Without this, the photo would disappear forever. But in a dark environment, with light coming from behind, images glittered as in the haunted light of an amusement park.
I felt embarassed to admit that those lessons on the process of holography tired me as much as my classes of Organic Chemistry at school. I only understood the general philosophical meaning of it, and even amused myself in finding sentences of Cabalists who had already foreseen that process of transforming matter, antimatter and atoms. He gathered the small pieces of paper with the quotations that I gave him, put them inside a briefcase and said that one day he would write an article about all that.
A nightly being in a modernized medieval laboratory, he spoke to me, in ernst: “From darkness there came light – as states the Bible. – This is what we are, light, not matter; light, loose energy floating in the air. Unstable as light beams, but in a much higher density than these holograms. – And as if to prove his theory, he crossed these floating images with his hands, fantastic photos that disappeared with light.”
Listening to all these theories on light reflection and incidence, I asked myself why he only photographed solid objects, which had no interest whatsoever.
“Well,” – he commented, with a doctoral air – “this is due to the present stage of the development of holography… It is a question related to atoms, molecules, loose cathodes…”
“But I don’t see how grapes can be less unmoving than a steel box.”
It was useless. I insisted. I bought one pound of red and green grapes and gave them to him. Dawn was barely approached. It was a Sunday. He became happy with the idea of making this experience and threw himself out towards the Sunday antiquity fairs that spread on the streets of Tribeca (Triangle below Canal Street). He explored them buying all kinds of trifles: sunglasses (particularly), silver food-pushers (for children), 78-rotation records (in the era of laser), nostalgic tapes. From there he brought quite a kitsch glass plate from the 1950s and, very excited, he locked himself in the laboratory to do another experience with the grapes holography.
(I finished by thinking that my idea was not that good, after all).
He locked himself in his lab for days, a dark cubicle, and afterwards he told me that the photo was a success. But the truth was that I never managed to see that hologram of the grapes – which did not hinder us from discussing it for hours on end in yuppie Chinese restaurants, tasting a Peking duck or in Italian cafés, drinking coffee late in the morning.
He also showed three-dimensional photos of the Luray Caves taken with a Russian light hand camera to me. Very interesting. And there was that three-dimensional photo in which he photographed me on the mirror while photographing his image on the mirror photographing me. It was in Chinatown, very near the metal towers, my favorite trees in New York City. And near the street where, in a perhaps unusual gesture, he, paler than ever, pulled me by the hand to cross the street among the cars. How romantic I found that! (It is true that it was only to reach a bank open).
I was once horrified to see the body of one of his faithful helpers reproduced in a shiny green and red hologram, all cut by muscles, tissues and excessively tense ligaments. The devoted woman had exposed herself directly to the effects of the laser beam only to allow him to obtain that horrible experience! A hologram of the inside of the human body!
“Never mind”- he explained in a tone that seemed to be unbearably controlled. – “This is done in a harmless intensity for the human body. As if to contradict him, a black cat he used to feed suddenly jumped out from a corner in the lab, in a sad omen.
In a certain way it was strange that to live his modern Monetian theory he had to lock himself every night in a dark cubicle. When I asked him if he was not working too hard, he justified himself:
“Well, at least it is better, as a job, than to be paid by the hour selling on the telephone deodorizing crystals to put inside the thoraxic chest of the deceased, inside the coffin.”
“What? Did you do that?”
“Yes, I did! You sell it on the telephone! They make an incision inside the deceased’s chest and insert the deodorant.”
We were then approaching Madison Square Park, on East 23rd, between the Fifth and Madison Avenues. In truth we had planned to go for a nice walk as far as Central Park, but, to my frustration, due to his tiredness, after we lunched octopus at a chicano restaurant on West Eight Street we emerged in that noisy park surrounded by buses and pollution. He smiled with a specially pale face and deep shadows under his eyes, and I suspected that he did not always spend his evenings at the lab. On that afternoon he confessed to me, before the Church of Transfiguration, that my suspicions were not without a motive.
All that took place on that afternoon when I photographed him with my prosaic Nikkon F-2.
One evening we were walking past his house, and a very beautiful full moon, outlined the metal and brick trees with windows, where vases of flowers lay. Shadows appeared behind the closed window-panes, lit from behind, by the television light, looking like puppets gesticulating towards the air. We talked about a music that was in fad. I suggested that we should go up the stairs to pick up a tape to listen to it immediately in his walkman. He became intensely restless. “No, no” – he reacted, vehemently. I was immediately intrigued. “Why not?” – I asked. “Because there may be too many people up there at home.” I looked up to the last floor where only one little window in the attic filtered an emaciated light. “Your friends must be listening to music right now.” He changed the subject, showing a growing restlessness. He either proposed that we should walk to the bars at Saint Mark’s Place, or, giving up drinking, he suggested going for a walk, showing an unusually nervous behavior for him. He lit up several cigarettes that he extinguished half smoked. And, looking at his hands, he repeated: “I need to stop smoking, I need to stop smoking” – as if he were a convict. All the while, his voice seemed perfectly calm. He seemed to live at the same time two contradictory feelings – as if his body did not obey to his will or to an inner drive.
Seeing that he was exceedingly restless, I blamed it at the full moon. I was always told that it influences the sensitive souls, taking out their sleep and endowing them with a strange power of communication with unknown dimensions. When I finally proposed that we should go to my place, I noticed that he felt great solace then. I do not deny that it pleased me to acknowledge this, that even having the largest flower-bed city at hand, he preferred to cultivate my little small garden.
It was already two in the morning when we arrived at my place. As usually, we would certainly wake up very late, when he would lock himself in the lab (our record was a Sunday on which we slept until four thirty in the afternoon). It was an underground life of guerilla and bandit hiding-places, but I confess that I did not like it, and I finished my upbringing as a nocturnal but happy being.
I offered him tea. He accepted it, but in truth he was much more interested in the candles that he carefully lit as if for a ceremony. I feared a fire in the centenary apartment, as it had occurred in the previous week, on the other side of the street, a frightening experience of being a mouse trapped behind fenced windows. I commented on the danger, but he only said pssst with a finger on his lips, and added: “Take it easy, nothing will happen.” I limited myself to observing him without any comment, waiting for the sad whistle from the kettle that announced the boiling water. (“When the whistle of the factory of fabric come hurt my ears…”) Ah! Noel Rosa’s samba, so shiny. Who knows if life would not be simpler if I were a worker with her manager, while that popular samba composer played these notes for me on the piano? No, the bourgeoisie always has these dreams of sophisticated fantasies, as if the poor did not also face problems, immersed in the stupidity to which rich has relegated them.
Stark naked, he went on lightening candles all over the house, especially in my bedroom, and he radiated as if in a dream: a saint coming out of a shrine. He pulled me to bed, which was surrounded by candles, and under the oscillating light I thought that I saw in him more than one person. He always presented more than one face: a face from a dead or lost in time past, someone who had remained in the recollection but retired from this world, sometimes a mischievous face with a half-face of Lucifer, a half-face of an angel of light: before and after fall. When he lowered his eyes or raised up my face, his profile went through a metamorphosis of one thousand personalities and effects. Or would it be the result of my imagination? In truth I did not know who I had in my arms. Besides the fact that no one ever gets to know anyone, that was a person whom I had run into by chance, on a casual encounter, introduced by superficial acquaintances.
I could not imagine what his intention was that night, or the reason for that ritual, while I, in bed, smoothed his silken skin, soft as plush, made rose-pink in the candlelight. Did he prepare some surprise in contrast with our sweet and deep practices? (I confess that a second reading of the Kama-Sutra ten years later provoked a great disillusion on me – except for a few athletic positions impossible to perform).
No, it was no Kama-Sutran dream of holding me upside down or in a sea-saw position against the wall; he began to caress me slowly, and I corresponded to it, smoothing his skin from the feet soles to his man’s nipples, which were more fascinating than women’s, because they were more discreet and subtle. We treated each other as equal, except in one detail that completed us.
While he put his hands forward to my hair, holding them up, I thought that I had seen my face surrounded by an aura of shadow and light – probably only the consequence of the candlelight. His eyes presented a glassy coloring, and the crystal-blue had changed into violet – as his holograms always did. I do not know why, this made me recollect of gypsies in an open air scene on a lawn.
His eyes shone as if in the Dream Lake of the Luray Caves. I began to walk amongst the red stalactites, and approached flying, in a low flight, the blue waters of the inner lakes. I felt immerging slowly, but this did not affect the immovable surface of the waters, engulfed by their deep and dangerous infinitude that contained all the epochs.
I began to think that he was a product of my imagination, or worse, of my nightmares, in which shadows invaded my bedroom and pulled me violently out of bed, pushing me inside a coffin. Perhaps I had read too many Celtic tales or tales of horror. Who was that man? Where did he come from and how did I meet him? He was not an ever-brother, from the same tribe, by whom we are born already marked by a family-half, but rather a product of chance. Perhaps my own idealization? He one whom I would like to be? A continuous projection of holograms changing at my will?
Little by little while these questions formed in my mind, barely bubbling at the conscious surface, it seemed to me to distinguish a long road that departed from a scenery of a gypsy camp and went down an abyss over on the sea. I felt that I was going to utter a shriek of horror when a sudden lightness, the fluctuation of flying elevated me in space, and, clinging to him I crossed the continents as if I saw the Earth from above, from the Moon, in the most absolute silence, eternally.
He held my hair upwards, having a strange scintillation in his eyes. In the mutual immobility I felt him as part of myself, inside me, as if he was I. My heart beat strongly, throbbing in the veins of my neck. My hands tightened in his arms and the initial tenderness had gone, replaced by trembling and an intensity that was almost painful. Little by little drops of sweat formed in my hands, and our temperatures went up. My hands reached to him as if there was a danger of his suddenly projecting us in the infinite abyss, where sharp stones waited for us at the bottom of the sea. I thought that I could never get loose from his arms, and I also did not want that. Immobile, glued one to the other, we became a statue above which eternity seemed to be hanging. There was a luminous intensity spread all over the bedroom. We did not know anymore whether it came from the candlelight that oscillated or if reality failed around us. Now he held my hair more strongly, almost hurting it in the roots, but I did not have sufficient courage to scream or complain. Then I perceived, although he did not say anything, the image of his voice that came to me I did not know how: “Let me,” he said, but without opening his mouth. I trembled. But with the calm of a wave that prepares to break, attracted by that moment of fluctuating eternity that would never cease, or, if it ceased, would had been worth it, I felt that all my inside went out of my head. And, although I did not open my mouth as well, and said nothing, but making sure that he had heard my “yes,” in a secret and mysterious marriage, our heads approached and at the same time we gave ourselves to a pleasure without any movement or effort, in a painful jet of immense pleasure, his teeth thrust in my jugular, as if my neck was made of butter. Slowly we flanked the abyss, towards an island on the other side of the ocean, in an exotic mirage filled with forests and canoes, rivers and hissing sugar-canes. There we glimpsed the cave where he had prepared an already open coffin, the same coffin with which I had been dreaming for all those years in which I had already waited for him without knowing it.
Translated by the Author