STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The organizers of the Games were stranded in a terrible position, between denying the pleasure that was their reason for being here and denying the pain that was now an insoluble fact. To continue with the Games in the shadow of death was to hold a party where everyone wore black. Yet to give up on the Centennial Olympics was to concede victory to the very forces that would darken us. The city was stuck like a runaway in a tunnel of fire. -- Pico Iyer Time 5 August 1996.
Stations of the Cross
A. sat on the bed and smoked a Dunhill that he had purchased in the duty-free zone. M. extracted belongings from the room and put them into a valise. A. marked the jut of her collarbone; it seemed to glow like a bridge cantilever in the dull light of the afternoon window.
"I don't think that this can be salvaged," M. said. Her fingers shuttled distractedly along the smooth plastic contours of her Orthonovum dispenser.
"One less foreign national," A. said. The situation resolved itself. M. called the concierge to arrange transportation to the airport.
The thud of tear gas canisters striking human flesh outside accompanied the transit of her hips across the room. It was a burlesque of violence.
Hastily scrawled signs indicated that the escalators were out of order. The city had experienced several brownouts in the past week and steps had been taken to restrict electric luxuries. A. paced slowly up the stairway in order to meet his next train.
The advertisement kiosk in the center of the station featured the serenely smiling face of a young girl advocating the use of a brand of skin cream. The representation had been defaced. Thick black X's blotted out her blue eyes; plague marks pocked her cheekbones. Her mouth had been crisscrossed with black lines meant to simulate thread: it had been sewn shut in effigy.
A. found his train on the Blue Line. The stricken image of the anti-ad had preceded him, he noticed. Reproductions were scattered about the interior of the passenger compartment like cultured cells, each neatly and savagely altered. A. sat down and lit up a Dunhill. Wind whistled through the broken windows of the train.
Verbum Caro Factum Est
The photograph of the young girl revealed a geometry of suffering. Her face was an index of values: 1) Mondrian's Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow; 2) Dali's Corpus Hypercubus; 3) the exhaust contrails of ground-attack aircraft over the Valkyrjedomen; 4) the shattered Fuller pavilion on the Ile-Sainte-Helene in a light rain; 5) Eno's "Heavenly Music Corporation" played at extreme volume.
"This is the one," said J. "I told you so. I am not fit to unlace her Doc Martens."
The young girl placed one booted foot upon the cemetery and the other upon the Parc Maisonneuve. Her clitoris, engorged with blood, eclipsed the sun as her mons veneris traversed the horizon. Her orgasm extinguished the sun as if it had been a candle at the doors of the Exposition metro station.
A.'s order of battle was drawn upon his interior topography. His emotional evolution was a series of military maneuvers recited to the chatter of Heckler & Koch MP-5 submachineguns in the Lionel-Groulx metro station. Recited to the unearthly beauty of the songs of Brautigan's tigers as they devour Longueuil. Recited to the thunder of flak above Mount Erebus. Recited to her.
Adjustment becomes self-debasement. Anxiety within, disappointment without are the result. The adolescent finds that he has relinquished his old self without gaining a new one in his adjustment to the conflicting demands of his environment. As he begins to mistrust them, he mistrusts the values which he has just begun to share with them....
He throws off his conscience. He closes up against the people he has loved and the values he has recognized. There is only one goal: To be himself, even if there is little he can call self.... -- "On Nazi Mentality," Report of the Committee on National Morale (for the Coordinator of Information), 1940.
The Genealogy of Anomie
Three days of solid evening. The never-changing sky loomed in monochrome over the city. Small showers were from time to time detached from this ominous canopy. These fell with the sound of armored treads creeping slowly and stealthily over asphalt, in harmony with the daily rounds of the enforcement squads.
A. lay prone on the bed. His penis was in M.'s mouth. She provided labial suction in an ongoing series of repetitious motions. M. approached oral sex as if it were stenography. The semen of A.'s ejaculation composed spermatozoid texts of indecipherable content over her tongue. A.'s semen and the rain outside merged, became indistinguishable.
M. went to the sink and spat. She rinsed her mouth twice. A. lit a Dunhill.
"How do you say 'thank you' in Turkish?" A. asked.
"Tesekkur ederim," M. said.
"Tesekkur ederim," A. repeated. "How do you say 'good night?'"
Time spun out like the filaments of an intestinal parasite.
"How do you say 'I love you?'" A. asked.
"Sinesevyorum," M. answered vacantly.
"Sinesevyorum," A. repeated.
Trains tilted by in a spiral of camera angles and pulverized fragments of artificial stone. Cracked pipes sprayed sewage. The dank air of the station was streaked with the odor of inhuman waste.
A. sprawled upon a splintered wooden bench on the deserted platform. Melted plastic fragments littered the tracks. The arrival/departure television screens had been blown out by small-arms fire. All of the advertisements had been torn down.
The nuisance of the trains ceased after eleven o'clock. A. lay there, unconcerned. The sweep teams would pick him up. The saboteurs would detonate their messages to the occupation forces, collapsing the roof. A. crossed his legs and looked up at the scarred ceiling.
Shapes queued up in A.'s memory and stalked across the platform. Shapes arrived. Shapes departed.
Ontogeny Recapitulating Phylogeny
A. walked along the rue Ballard near the hotel. He smoked as he studied a photograph. It was of himself and M. at the barricaded checkpoint near the old Insectarium. He thought he detected the false promise of 1960's architecture in her smile. The broken curve of the remains of the U.S. Pavilion traced the outer circumference of her left breast, taut against the artificial fibers of her blouse. All of these structures were artifacts of a future that would never occur. The hollow promise still inherent in the remnants of this obsolete future saddened A. He thought of the Columbus space station, the Hermes shuttle, last year's violations of the Antarctica Treaty. He longed in vain for the resurrection of the Cold War.
The young girl said, "There is no virgin this time. I strode forth from my own uterus. Truly immaculate. Alpha and omega. You have ears. Let yourself hear."
"I believe," J. said.
"They will not believe you," she said. Her thin frame mocked the sky. Her boots indented the pavement. Her breasts were observatories. "They will sing when the event occurs. The event horizon will embrace the media. My eyes will encompass the setup. My EMP will crash the networks. My harmonies will redeem the debased currency of their experiences. In my seamless unity I will betray myself.
"And they will drive the nails -- here." She indicated a location on the map of the Communaute urbaine de Montreal metro system.
"And here." She indicated again.
"And here." Again.
"And here." Again.
Vectors of Approach
Several years ago, in recognition of the fur and dress trade that defines the Manhattan thoroughfare, "Fashion Ave." vanity plaques were officially installed on a stretch of Seventh Avenue between Times Square and Penn Station. But it is hard to imagine Mayor Rudolph Giuliani taking time off from arresting cops in the Harlem precinct, rounding up all the homeless people, and tangling with street vendors in order to sanction "Compassion" street signs. Yet, there they are, white on official city green, on the west side of Seventh Avenue in the upper thirties. Perhaps this signals a new era of urban terrorism. Imagine it: New York under siege by the Lotus Guerrillas. -- Tricycle vol. III no.4, Summer 1994.
A. gazed across the rue Sainte-Catherine at the deserted Complexe Desjardins. He thought of M. and the club they had visited. It was somewhere around here, he decided -- in Centre-Ville. He thought of her dancing: abandoned, morose, and fantastic in sequence. He thought of the freckles on her shoulders. He thought of the texture and smell of her labia. He smiled with half of his mouth. His teeth tasted like aluminum foil.
He held two tablets of ephedrine hydrochloride in his right hand. Twenty-five milligrams apiece. The white crosses engraved upon their tiny circular surfaces made him think of the eyes of dead cartoon characters. He swallowed them, dry.
After an instant's indecision, he swallowed two more.
The station was a carpal tunnel in the wrist of the city. Swollen nerves clogged the exits. A. watched the disposal teams as he waited for a train. A chorus of ephedrine sang Austin's "Morton Subotnick Episode" in his twitching muscles. He scratched the back of his neck compulsively.
The bodies of the subversives were too numerous to remove with any degree of subtlety or self-effacement on the part of the disposal teams. The few civilian passengers on the platform avoided the faces of the remains.
A. examined the face of a young girl crumpled upon the tile. The angelic profile had been accented by an entry wound in the left temple. Grey matter and blood rewrote Escher's Regelmatike Vlakverdeling on the surface of the platform.
A. spotted a club. He went inside and paid the cover charge. The name Foufounes Electriques was picked out in colored lights strung on coils of razor wire over the entranceway.
Upstairs was sepulchral; the clientele perched on long-empty beer kegs painted matte black around a series of low tables. Jagged rhythms at spine-jarring decibels made conversation impossible.
Two young girls stood at the bar. Their clothing was dark-colored, equally suited to leisure or combat. Their boots kicked idly at the foot of the bar as they screamed inanities at each other, struggling to overcome the mindless pulse of ambient noise. They had swastikas tattooed on their right deltoids, exposed by their shoulder straps like pictures at an exhibition. They were caseless ammunition in the clip of midnight.
One young girl began to dance. Her geometries assumed the poses of statuary under the strobe. Her multicolored hair flew like the flag of a condemned aggressor nation.
The other young girl held a pool cue. With its rubber-capped end, she pounded the floor in synch with the music. The music was "Vietnow" by Rage Against the Machine.
A.'s brows contracted. He attempted to recognize a nascent familiarity.
"Spirit and truth," the young girl said.
"I think I understand," J. said.
"There is nothing wrong," she said. "In the course of this union the lines will converge. Picture a sphere composed of the endpoints of an infinitude of widthless rods all at ninety-degree angles to each other and all radiating from a common center."
Their movements were swift and sure. The world of elements began to contract. The causeways of her thighs buckled and fell into steaming fragments of reinforced concrete.
"What other destination is there?" she said. "All stations lead to the same place. I could not escape even if I desired to do so. You are the first in a progression of images. Please do not consider your position as one of solitude."
"I love you," J. said.
"And I love you," she said, rising. "There is no limit. I love those that pierce me."
"Please don't go," J. said. "It doesn't have to happen."
"Then you don't understand," she said. "The destruction of rooms makes it all a little easier for those who can appreciate it.
"You will never thirst again."
Highways of Air
To appeal to younger donors, UNICEF has tapped Vendela, the Swedish swimsuit model and actress, as its new international spokesperson. Known for her support of breast-cancer research and children's issues, she'll make some sub-Saharan appearances on behalf of UNICEF this fall -- after she gets married and finishes work on Batman and Robin. -- George, vol.1 no.6, August 1996.
A Tissue of Deformities
A wave of necrotizing angiitis rotted the arteries of the city. The glare of sodium-arc lights seeped into the evening sky like a vaginal discharge. The pedestrians were nodes in an interpersonal Fuller dome, held in inevitable formation by dymaxion tension.
The young girl in the impromptu infirmary under the street said, "She's not dead. Just sleeping."
The man said, "You have one sick sense of humor, bitch." Sucking chest wounds bloomed in his daughter's ribcage, a legacy of the failed insurgency. "Go away," he said. His voice broke.
The young girl touched her. Her wounds closed. Her eyes opened.
The man stood there.
Projectiles of miracle punctured the room.
The young girl said, "I apologize." She left the ward.
The man sat down slowly. His daughter put her hand out and touched his shoulder. He didn't feel it.
In her other hand his daughter held a misshapen fragment of lead. It had been lying on her left breast when she had been awakened. She looked at it for an indeterminate amount of time, her other hand resting on her father's bowed head.
A. vomited into the gaping hole in the floor where the toilet had been. He straightened his tie and walked back out into the main area of the terminal. He drew the back of his hand shakily across his mouth. His retinas registered patterns of light that had nothing to do with his surroundings.
A. stepped into the passenger compartment just before the train began to move. It was crowded; he barely had the physical leeway to grab the pole to keep from falling over. Next to him stood a family of four. There was a baby in a carriage. The carriage also held an eight-roll package of toilet paper. The baby hugged the package in lieu of a stuffed animal. The face of the young mother was a mirror which reflected nothing. Vague outlines of rectangular objects swam beneath the baby's blanket.
The train slowed. A. prepared to exit. As he shouldered his way to the doors, a black man gestured. A. looked him in the eye and understood, nodding thanks. He turned around and exited from the opposite set of doors, onto the correct platform.
The Passion of the Inanimate
A radioactive crater at the foot of the Executive Committee Range.
A defaced poster of a young girl swimming that had been part of an advertisement for Evian water.
A boot lying on its side in an abandoned parking lot.
A fire at the U.S. Pavilion in 1976.
A Caesarian scar splitting, spilling blood and water.
A battered copy of Freedom From Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi with notes scribbled in the margins.
A child laughing in the Biodome before the war.
An explosion in the Place Jacques Cartier.
A plastic packing-case in a field of tall grass.
A broken fingernail lodged in a crack in the pavement.
A photograph of a smiling woman floating on the surface of the river.
A spent shell casing.
A crowd on the Ile-Sainte-Helene in 1967.
A woman answering questions about projection technology.
A man crying in his sleep.
A soldier slinging his assault rifle.
A pair of slim golden-brown hands flung wide, sprouting nails like the dark stamens of a poisonous flower.
The Parthenogenesis of Meaning
Philip Pickett, director of the New London Consort, has produced an ingenious new theory about Bach's Brandenburg concertos, in which he claims they should be seen and not heard. "The Brandenburg volume was meant to be read rather than performed," suggests Pickett, whose new interpretation will be released by Decca and performed at the Southwark Festival this autumn. He believes that they were offered to the Margrave of Coethen as a 'procession of tableaux,' similar to the allegorical courtly pageants of the day. "As in Vanitas paintings, symbols and allegories were open to many interpretations," explains Pickett. He has bestowed names on each concerto, to tie in with such allegorical meanings, 'Caesar's Triumph' for example for the first, with its heraldic horns, and 'The Choice of Hercules' for the fifth, in which Hercules chooses between Vice (the flute) and Virtue (violin). He plans to perform them with projections of the relevant paintings up on the wall behind. The question remains: should the CD, complete with his copious sleeve notes, be looked at or listened to? -- BBC Music Magazine, vol.2 no.12, August 1994.
Cent Ans Après L'Exposition
A. stood on the balcony. Faint haze partially obscured the rotating fires over the autoroute interchange near Brossard. Distance telescoped into blanketing sadness. The elongated afternoon crept into night. He saw a vision of the gutted Parc Olympique, the charred stadium a ravaged variant of his own half-erect penis; the old velodrome was exposed to the sky, a civic chancre. The occupation rustled faintly in the underbrush of the dying city. Solitary figures stalked the anachronisms of the Yellow Line. The cracked carapace of the Fuller pavilion hovered above a cheval-de-frise of trees shattered by rocket blasts. Antarctica burned. Armored personnel carriers slid along the rue Notre-Dame. Eno's "Music for Airports" played. He sensed M., her face superimposed over a map of the Dorval runways. Her body shifted position as she put out her hand to dim the light. It was one hundred years after the Exposition.