I’ve got a note book, covered with stars, from my first trip to Paris 8 years ago. In it I’ve got pages of illegible biro screeds interspersed by a series of poorly drawn biro scrawls. Scribbling circles denoting buttocks, breasts, heads – with ovoid limbs spanned by slashes – probably ‘inspired’ by pool queues.
In the sketches from ‘le club privee pour les femmes’ done in July 1998, no one is really identifiable. I was drawing in the dark and it was the year I failed life drawing at art school. But the act of drawing inspired Abel to head towards my table and try to peer at the sketches – which she feared were a documentation of her humiliation at pool. …. And so the rest is history.
I’ve got another note book from January this year. It looks like some picture perfect artists sketch book from Paris. Pages of expressive, skilled graphite sketches of Paris street scapes are interspersed by my notes in biro – some academic – many just my inanely boring travel reflections (“poor sleep, checked email in Puteaux, spent 5 euros on kebab” etc.) and a few notes form the biblioteque nationale. Many sketches feature the sculpture of Carpaux’s dance outside of the Opera Garnier – flanked by scarfed and beanied buskers, banging out java in the sleet as I drew. There are multiple sketches in metros, cafes, people’s houses, views from platforms of various ‘gares de la banleiu’. (frog for suburban train stations). Almost all feature the fluffy hair, dark almond eyes and half moon face of Abel. These were probably the nicest parts of our last Paris sojourn. When we could splurge on a weekly carte d’orange – we could spend days just flanning around. Standing in the cold, drawing buildings until our hands and bodies grew numb, and then heading into a café for a ‘vin chaud’ and sketching while we thawed, and then if it was too cold or too dark to face the streets again – we’d do a ‘derive au cul’ – jumping on the nearest metro and playing random games of hopping on and off – sketching in between. Line 2 is still my favourite – I love the overhead route from Abesses – past Stalingrad over to Belleville – and in reverse – we could take it to Rome and then stride down to Gare St. Lazare for the Banlieu line home.
So there’s a few pages featuring serpentine lines and triangulated axes of women playing pool. I think I had the skill and the sense – to stick in more details like the pool tables, overhead lamps, posts, walls and floor. Some have foreground details of heads and arms nearby, and in the background you can see women chatting, smoking (les gouines chiantes!), sipping or staring into space. Some are sitting around tables, some are huddles together, standing and talking or dancing madly to tacky ‘80’s eurotrash.
Quite a few feature Abel and Slut – huddled together, chatting, smoking dancing. Hell! the hand captures what the heart refuses to admit. I’d like to believe Abel when she says that they didn’t sleep together before last week – but their body language in these sketches certainly suggest otherwise. I thought it was Slut just playing butch. I did my stone-ish act in return. Danced with both of them, shared drinks, and when their smoking got too much – headed to the other side of the room and sketched and chatted to a couple of older dykes – who Slut insisted were ‘drageurs’. Her view of human relations is a bit limiting sometimes. I’ve got an attempted half portrait off Slut – thin hair, glasses, square face – sitting net to Abel who I’ve drawn looking not entirely unlike Alexis Carrington from dynasty. Maybe I was just pissed by that stage.
This revisitation of the place where I met Abel 8 years ago this month - sounds quite painful – when recounted through the prism of these sketches – so I’ll let words – those elusive tangental things – try to capture more of the nuances of the evening.
Last month, I told Abel that if I ever saw Slut again that I’d kick her in the teeth. That I couldn’t be angry at Abel – but that anger had to go somewhere – and she shouldn’t even think of bringing Slut here, to our home or to the coop. I wouldn’t even want to be in Sydney – if she was here. Sound melodramatic? Possessive, domineering, malevolent? How frigging un politically correct. Yeah. And whoever said you could legislate for peoples emotions? Vladimir Illyich lenin maybe? And look what happened to Russia. I’ve spent four months feeling like I’ve been kicked in the guts. I’ve lost a chapter I would have had finished tomorrow, I’ve lost two stone and I am probably going to lose my home, and I’ll count mysef lucky if I don’t lose my sanity in the process. I have good reason to be angry. And then Abel tries to tell me that she’s not even happy! This situation is fucked.
But the nuances, the layers of ambiguity – are that half the music on my computer is thanks to Slut – and I can’t help but thanks her for it. she introduced Abel to so much music which Abel introduced to me in turn – and I have to say I’m glad to know Java, and their lyrics probably did more for my French than anything else. (except nino ferrer perhaps). Last winter, Slut got us hooked onto Anais (whose song; mon amore; mon Coeur! Mon amour; mon Coeur! Je n’aime pas les couples, parce que quand je les voir, je resouviens que je suis seul… etc.” is probably the siren song that wooed Abel away from me and is certainly our swansong in French– but hell – I digress) , and to bitch and animal (whose ‘best cock on the block’ kind of describes my weekend – but I digress again). And I’ve got a random song by Erin McKeon “my hips” who I also think came from the same frightful woman. So I can’t hate her completely.
And that night in the unity bar – was mostly pleasant thanks to the presence of slut. When I strode in to the unity bar – in that awkward anxious way that butch dykes (even ones wearing pink) have of unconsciously imitating John Wayne (Maybe the bow legs are a way of hinting at a good fisting recently but I dunno, I just do it). I was standing there, meeting friendly hungry eyes all around me, feeling my pelvis realign as I ordered a beer, I saw her at the back of the room at a table of dykes – and called out. That familiarity of our exchange – mad bad banter in argot made me feel so at home. It was one of the first times that I really felt ‘yeah, I could live in Paris, this isn’t too bad’. I’ve written elsewhere of the delight of this exchange – of the experience of social interpelation as a need – something really essential to feeling… well, like, not so much like a dyke even –but like a woman. I feel like a woman (or two) – I feel sexual, strong, human, female, alive. I’m not posing and playing some little role for the amusement of others, I walk and stand with my desire naked around me. It’s a fine, fine thing. It happens everywhere in Newtown – and lots of places in the Sapphic halls of sandstone – but almost no where in Paris. So, despite the smoke – I, and we, danced, chatted, drank, flirted and sang with slut –and the others - a series of incredibly cheesy Eurotrash songs. There’s something incredibly delightful about seeing a room full of stone butches singing like schoolgirls at the top of their voices – they said that they were trying to outdo the gaybar 3 doors down. Abel refused to screech along to ‘Roxanne’ – so I leapt around with Slut – singing the words and mouthing the rest, as Abel ordered drinks and laughed. Then Abel and I had our turn at an insane rendition of – god! Who did that song? The pointer sisters? Abel and I – had done so many mad performance stunts, posing together and playing imaginary worlds that we were happy to take over all the floor space we could find. Running up stairs, swooning, racing around the pool table, inventing more and more baroque gestures that would make Madonna concert look like Kraftwerk – as well mimed to the lyrics. And the song…. “allleleluliah! it’s raining men!” . Butler could go to town on this one. Sweet mad irony…..
…Which has effectively morphed into a paradox six months later. I was sleep deprived and collapsed into bed at midnight after meeting my brother’s ex at the airport and chatting and hugging and laughing over dinner. Woke up at 4am to attempt to rewrite a paper for next week. These are all good excuses for having missed the highlight of the lady-loving eye candy calender of the year….. THE PERFECT SNATCH contest at the Sly. I’m lucky enough to have been on intimate terms with some of the pink bits on display (yeah yeah, me and half of Newtown) – and would have been delighted to have a reviewing. Even braving a chilly 20 minutes stride across the suburb. Even braving beer and cigarette smoke with lack of sleep and ladypain. OK the cigarette smoke was a deterrent. And the thought of having to decide between a Carlton Black hangover or cramping sober in a room full of drunken wenches.
But it’s also that I’m probably incredibly lazy about sex. As soon as I know where the next bout is coming from – I lose interest in leaving the house and trawling the streets for interpellative possibilities. And also, at the moment – I’m not sure how to walk, sit or stand. How to look, when a smile constantly shimmers at the corners of my mouth, and my eyes keep involuntarily glazing. I guess I’ll be able to sit normally by the weekend – but my flesh keeps tingling and I nearly come from feeling my thighs rub against each other. So I involuntarily blush, and try to ignore the open roaring yowls from my nether regions. This feels extremely queer and not in the usual sense of the word. It’s very strange, very intense, very pleasant –but completely unnerving. Maybe it’s just my biological clock screaming out an alarm, but … other pole-ish encounters haven’t produced anything like this. Maybe I just need something, and someone completely different from Abel. Something to efface all of the traces, the inner maps of our movements together, the touches, scents, caresses. Nothing will efface those, but my flesh aches to be drawn over by a skein of new sensations. Every singly cell. My hands, lips, thighs want to move differently, to shapes themselves in other ways, my back, torsoe and breasts to feel different possibilities of being. My ears ache to be filled with other honeyed tones. This longing is unbearable, and I’m only letting myself feel it in the cracks between short term memory and brief anticipation. I’ve got 12 hours of waiting today. My mind hums distractedly.
If Abel read this, I’m sure she’d argue that this is what she has felt for Slut. Because she’s a freak –she’s prolonged the anticipation for 4 months. Calling, emailing and texting obsessively, seeking a strange comfort in feeding longing. She used to do it with me. 10 pages each week for 4 months in 1998, then 9 months before June 2000. I’m still amazed, even while dying on the inside, and part of me sees this state as the source of her creativity. Maybe that’s what she thinks? Maybe that’s why she, insanely wants to return here, alone, to an expensive art course in a city far from her lover, with a hostile ex looming in the background. And I thought I was the recovering catholic.
All of the above is my invention or course. Or my interpretation on events and situations that I can’t understand. I’m scared that if this is what I believe about her, then all I’m doing at the moment is a type of mimicry. Than what I’m feeling isn’t about now, it isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the rather delightful object of my affections. Maybe I’m just jealous of her – so much so that I want to feel what she feels, feel it better, harder, bigger, longer, louder, closer. Here, in our home, between the sheets where we slept. In this body, where I’ve felt and shared so much with her.
I think I write, when the lines of communication go down – when I can no longer tell someone what I feel about them. I have to have some stream outwards. I could write anecdotes about who I’m seeing now, but enclosing someone in a story…taking a fragment, one facet and drawing it out into a line…. I’m scared it closes off the possibilities of what might happen. I started to blog about Abel – converting our relationship into literary nostalgia as it wilted between us. The parts within me, the parts I’ve shared with, that were nurtured by Abel, are withering and dying. The only way to describe what I feel physically – is as analogy with a dying plant – its roots in my belly, branches and leaves though my frame. (hell, this is so arboreal and not Deleuzian at all). I spent all last week, prostrate with this sense of dying, withering ending. It was hell. So I’m patting it down with words, nice stories, sealing it off and sending it away. Here now, as the sun has risen on this continent and Abel no doubt has just farewelled a midsummer sunset in the caresses of…. Someone I can’t bear to think about it. She’s gone. It’s over. End the possibilities, wrap it up, finish the story.
So the new thing, is outside words, and hopefully shall remain that way. Dancing, eluding a niice neat tale, a category. I sent a text to some friends last night – and they immediately wanted names, details, statistics. Wanted to pin this down, and I understand theem – even as I’m eticent to do so. Part of me is. Part of me is terrified by this openness, by the ambiguity, by the intricate negotiations of identity formation that lie ahead of me if this thing continues. Which I hope it does. Yes its fulfilling now, I have been filled, fully thankyou….. but these new circuits of touch, my touch softening even my own skin after such tender strokes across other flesh, feeling not just as a comfort but as a discovery, and finding space for a possibility I can’t even imagine…. Well, it’s nice. As the salsa about pedro Navajo goes “La vida tenga sopresas; sorpresas tienen la vida”. Where there is room for surprise, there is life.
Drawing in Palliative Care
4 days ago