Regarder

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Rogier_van_der_Weyden-_Braque_Family_Triptych_-_closed

REGARDE, toi qui est si fier et avare, mon corps était jadis beau et maintenant il n’est que nourriture pour les vers.” (“See, you who are so proud and avaricious, my body was once beautiful, but now is food for worms.”) [The Triptych of the Braque Family, Rogier van der Weyden.]

I thought of death, which I imagined to be similar to that walk without an object (but the walk, in death, takes this path without reason—‘forever’)” [Georges Bataille Oeuvres Completes, III 286].

He stumbled out of the elevator, the proximity-sensitive light lit after he opened the door. The bright light disturbed him. His keys shook as he took them out of his pocket, his tight jeans becoming tighter as spilt champagne made it shrivel with sparkling wetness. The key shackled through the keyhole, almost majestically, at the first attempt. He opened the door and managed to close it without the slightest noise, only the ordinary rub of metal upon metal, and the latch bolt resting in place.

A bright blue light came from the television screen in the living room, some sounds of inarticulate dialogue greeted him, and unusually, his father’s snoring fled him. He approached the living room and saw his father resting upright on the velvet red couch wearing his boxers and his undershirt. He made his way to the kitchen and drank water which seemed to cleanse his throat after a long night of mixed cocktails and sweet shots. He had to drink the glass of water in sporadic sips, his breath failing him every other second.

He sighed at the site of a bed topped with a mountain of things, clothes, and books and marvelled at the prospect of not having to live throughout work-filled days when people aimed to live with no will to hate nor to love nor to laugh, but to understand the random crash of particles around them. He always yearned for the sacred nature of night when people in dark alleys are faceless and nameless, having no past and no future, their outer covering no longer serving as a pathetic sheath hiding death in macabre irony, but simply to contain a flux of energy; a naked dance of death welcoming the process of a being-corpse.

He undressed, and looking like a miniature image of his father, he went to wake him up and lead him to bed. He stepped heavily on his ankle, so heavily every step made a low beat on the ground. The TV light was still flickering as he walked to the living room; a recycled game show was being broadcasted, with commercials interrupting every six or eight minutes. His father was still in the same position, sitting upright on a velvet red couch, his neck tilted towards the left, loose; a bag of raisins placed between his palm and his thigh. His old man’s leg, white as new A4 paper and unhairy; his old man’s chest shown from his undershirt, bumpy like ridges of sand on the seafloor.

“Baba,” he said feeling self-conscious about smelling of an array of alcohol; smelling of intoxication and, to his father, of utter and outright blasphemy. He had passed by three pubs before settling on a fourth, alcoholic indulgence reaching its apogee. And on that ride which connected bodies with a halo of joy, the will of chance took him to high plenitudes of ecstasy and unearthly plateaus, a taste of real pleasure which overrides the quotidian delights of everyday life, reaching a state where no beyond is asked for, where no beyond is imagined, becoming part of the torrent of nature, happily losing conscious self and expending uselessly like sultans, kings and caliphs. In shameless and painful expenditure, he hopped from pub to pub, and on the fourth, his eyes steadied on a person he knew who flaunted thin black dreadlocks, dark Mediterranean skin; eyes weighed heavy by dark circles, mascara and burgundy eyeliner, collar and cheek bones protruding in waifish manner from gaunt skin. Braidy was her given name and she brought him back to ground zero after an intoxicated flight to the ether.

“Baba,” he said again, poking him on his right shoulder, but his father did not move, the truth was emerging like a snail out of its shell. He had approached Braidy holding two coronas, a lemon slice trapped in each long neck.

“Here you go,” he had told her. She took the bottle from him in memory of their history and a return to the past.

“Regaghdé,” she’d said in a phony, sarcastic French accent. He smiled and, vaguely, drunkenly remembered a night in bed with Braidy, sex and her habit of having an intellectual conversation after it.

“Baba,” his tone became alert, as if it was going to wake his father up. He touched his chin, but his neck just limped to the other direction like the head of a broken stick-figure. He backed up, frightened, grappled by a moment of forced ignorance and denial; the grapes on the table fell on the ground, joined by the raisins on his father’s thigh. In that forced attempt to disconnect from the stone figure of his father in front of him, he closed his eyes and could only remembered himself and Braidy in bed together, her telling him about the irony of regaghdé.

“Regaghdé, it’s a really cool French word, a word which is a metaphor of our mortal coil. There’s a lesson in that word, regaghdé,” she stressed the ending of the word, the slanted de, as if it were an imperative order. “See, in French, if we break regarder,” she broke off the sarcasm, “we are forced to break it into re-garder, which gives us the prefix re­ and the base word garder, meaning keep. But, garder may also mean to guard, to watch over, a warning. So we have re,” she pauses, raising her eyebrows as if she’d been walking along a treasure path and is about to finally expose a treasure, “garder: the prefix re is followed by the base word garde which means guard, as if it’s a warning. And herein lies the paradox which regarder exposes in language. The prefix re which temporally signals to the past in its indication of anteriority, while also insinuating to a future in the sense of a warning. The past and the future in one word, just as we are trying to wrestle our past with our future in every present moment. Amazing isn’t it.”

And the treasure she revealed, as all treasures are, was hidden in a manifest hostile environment, violent to the whimsical currents which steer one’s life with random precision. He had marvelled at her intricate loosening of words and logic just as he cerebrated in front of his father’s corpse. He uttered the same words he had told her that night, “Yes, it is awful. But what about death? Death puts an end to the paradox, don’t you think?”

For a few seconds, he contemplated his faceless and nameless father having no future, his outer covering no longer serving as a pathetic sheath hiding death in macabre irony; a naked death welcoming the event of a being a corpse, and he waited for the worms.

Applied to death, regarder would not contain a paradox, for looking at a dead person, a body in a coffin, is never exactly looking at something that exists in the present, but…at a present in the past.” [Francois-Xavier Gleyzon. Shakespeare’s Spiral. P,14]

Ideas inspired by the Shakespeare’s Spiral by Francois-Xavier Gleyzon.

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