The Sarcophagus of Broken Clocks (3/5/1)
Life is an unending double blind study, and seeing as Halloween approaches, it seems fitting I share a horror story which resurfaced from the chthonic depths of my hypnotherapy.
I’ve been told not to dig up the past but focus on the present to strengthen the future.
Yeah, well why do we have libraries and museums?
There’s a past, and in my case, I must gather everything I have lived through so that I can better know who I am, or what I am, and unfortunately memories aren’t like YouTube videos you can click and rewatch. Unless you’ve filmed all sorts of videos like me, but even then, they’ve been edited, carefully constructed.
Remembering needs all the parts of the brain to work together to recall as much detail as possible about a moment in time, and assembly is required.
How much of yesterday do you remember?
It requires a degree of imagination to bring forth the past, and it gets changed slightly every time the memory gets recalled, which means repetition will eventually fabricate a fiction.
Your life is a lie.
As Oliver Sacks said, “memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds”.
Today is still the 16th May 2019.
This is part three of this entry.
He watches with morbid curiosity as his hoary Great-grandmother melts onto the mattress, her 101 year-old body experiencing entropy at an accelerated rate, as if her death was directed by Salvador Dali. Her thin, pigmented skin barely gripping to her bones, mouth ajar to ease her lungs as they clutch on the denouement of her life. An homage to the victims of Samara who creeps out of her well and breaks the fourth wall to kill you.
His Mémé’s bedroom now minimally designed for assisted care, mostly empty but family pictures and a crucifix hanging on the wall above her.
She is still breathing, but this is the closest he’s been to a dead body, and strangely that troubles him, in his early thirties, to be sheltered this whole time from the sight of corpses.
His hand cups hers delicately in the hopes she feels his presence. Her body is there, functioning in a slumberous state, but without signals that suggests she knows he is there with her, wether or not she can even hear him.
At least, he has the opportunity to say goodbye, which so many people aren’t given when the reaper collects.
“La dernière fois que je t’ai vu”, he says, “the last time I saw you”, he repeats in English so the Reader can understand, “you told me we’d next see each other in the afterlife. That was two years ago, and you’re still here. What’s taking you so long huh?” he asks her with a chuckle.
It’s a little easier to not be taken aback by the mortal coil when the time for someone to leave is glaringly obvious.
And she was comfortable with death by the time he was in her care.
A century of life, beginning in the First World War, an additional, Second World War, and all the trials and tribulations added to a life long-lived.
I was 33 years old that day I got to say goodbye. Triple the age and I would still be younger than her. I literally cannot comprehend what existence must be like at this stage.
I am in awe of time’s ambivalence to humans, a true undefeated antagonist in our lives, separating us across land, sea and mind.
I remember asking her for any juicy gossip she might have from her past, imagining her to be part of the resistance against the Axis.
“What did you do during the Second World War?” I ask her, knowing she lived-in Paris at the time; a hotspot for clandestine groups against the Nazi regime.
“Oh you know, we had to get on with it, I was a hairdresser,” she replies.
“Yeah, but, what else did you do?” I ask again, in an encouraging tone, hinting for further and more secretive information.
“I cut hair,” she repeats.
Is that code for something guerrilla?
“That’s about it,” she continues.
I reluctantly accept the answer…
Now, we observe a version of me that only exists in memory, distant enough that I speak of him as if he were another.
He holds onto her fragile hand, happily reminiscing on moments shared with the Matriarch seven decades his senior.
The oddest details make her character, details that are likely not the same to other family members, details that he saw which they may not have noticed.
The dash of alcohol she would add to her coffee and let him sip as a child, which she assured everyone was key to reach old age.
La tarte au sucre she would make when he came to visit, which was just that, a pastry disc with sugar as its topping. Nothing else. And obviously, he loved these as a child, but his dentist not so much.
Fun fact, later, this dentist will get chased out of the country for the reckless jobs he did on children’s teeth. And even later, in my future, I will be purchasing new teeth.
The extendable indoor pendant light in her kitchen, which could manually change height depending on who was using the room. For some reason, that technology blew him away.
That one time he slept over as a child and had an erection.
“What’s that?” She asks when entering the bedroom to wish him goodnight.
I think she knew what that was, but I will eternally be grateful for her tone, caring, promoting curiosity rather than shaming, or a number of horror stories I’ve heard religious family members thrust on their young.
Who knows what kind of damage this moment in spacetime could’ve created if things were handled differently, if she had asked “what’s that?” with accusation, or even worse, flirtation, who would I have become?
Chaos, a complex system with behaviours so unpredictable as to appear random, with immense sensitivity to the smallest change in conditions, giving rise to strikingly great consequences.
The tone of how something is said, the speed and volume, variables splitting the multiverses, like those times you receive a text message and read in a completely different voice to how the sender intends it.
I wonder how many couples have argued because they misinterpreted their partner’s shorthand sms.
“What’s that?” she asks, in reference to his erection.
“It’s saluting you”, he says, clearly oblivious to how this sponge-like tissue can fill with blood.
Saluting? An acknowledgment of her rank I suppose, but still, a bit weird. I’ll allow it though. I think I was six years old.
Strange what memories stay with us.
What is someone supposed to remember and what must the brain forget to make space for new?
Do we even have a choice as to which we keep and discard as non-necessary for survival, or does a part unknown to the conscious self organise and re-organise the interchangeable lego pieces to form different structures?
Why would anyone want to choose to keep bad memories?
Thankfully, I have none with this delightful specimen of a human being. If angels exist, she was in charge of them.
Although, I do have one regret.
Just before her hundredth birthday, I asked her what she might want as a gift.
“I want to smoke marijuana with you”, she requested.
I was surprised, not just because she had typecast me as so many casting directors had done in the past, but because she was correct about my enjoyment of the Devil’s Lettuce.
I casually mentioned it to my Mum, but she forbade me to get her one last jazz cigarette, and for some reason, I obeyed, like a fucking nerd.
My Mum’s decision was based on her negative experience with the drug, and I suppose, I agreed to not be my Mémé’s drug dealer for the night, on the off chance that it killed the head of the family. Unlikely. But my anxiety imagined her lighting up a fat spliff and with one toke, she would dry up and shrivel like a raisin.
“She died of old age did she?” asks a family friend at the funeral.
“Yeah sort of” they reply, while staring at me suspiciously.
It could’ve been great, sharing some sour diesel or super silver haze with my eldest ancestor. Getting high together would’ve certainly opened up some intriguing stories and beguiling doors to our past; a centennial and her great-grandson experiencing an altered state on a common plane, as two astral beings bridging gaps across years.
The masks to the roles we play in the family hierarchy could’ve come off, something I often long for between those I am related to, especially as geographical and chronological distance alienates us further away, eventually participating in charades out of a sense of obligation rather than that of a deeper sense of love and belonging.
Anyone else look at the Mandelbrot Set and just see a family portrait?
I find myself melancholic with the disconnect and faux conversations, dialogue often furtive, between people divided by time, as though we were a different species.
One would think family, blood related beings could be open to each other’s storylines with a sense of trust and freedom, but it becomes more and more evident that until some rites of passages are crossed, individuals might lack certain language and knowledge.
It’s understandable though, I’ve often woken up one person and gone to bed as another, the me of that morning wouldn’t believe what the me of that evening could experience that afternoon.
He wishes her a safe journey, clutching onto what little memories he has of her, just a slither.
He exits that room, sensing it to be the last time, and ambles through the rest of the apartment to say goodbye to the spaces which will become home for someone else.
Her living room like the catalogue for a sepia-colored era, items that belong in the 1980’s to style somebody who longed for the 60’s; the ancient television with its curved screen, the grainy family portraits, the triplex serving tongs used to grab sugar cubes which I played with and pretended was the mouth of a Hydra, as the rest of my arm slithered across the tabletop.
Mamie, her daughter, his grandmother, is in here mixing her Mother’s medicine. She’s been relegated as her carer, even through her own multiple cancer battles, and seeing as they both lived on the same street for as long as I’ve been alive, it wasn’t a position possible to ignore.
I observe him observing her.
He want to break through her Grandmother role, and get to know her as the multi-layered and complex individual she is. He wants desperately to connect with her in the way he did as a child, which seemed so easy back then.
You give unconditional love, and that’s what gets reflected back.
Is that true, or just wishful thinking?
There’s so many things in the World that could be discussed yet he is mute. It could be the abundance of choice keeping him stuck, like those times you flick through streaming services to find something to watch and after 20 minutes you still haven’t decided.
There is a wealth of memories that could be analyzed, that have come flooding back being near his family and in his hometown, yet he can’t help but feel like a stranger.
Somebody sneaked into his skin when he lost all his memories, and he doesn’t know if they know, that this body looks like his, and even sounds like him, but it isn’t him anymore.
Perhaps camouflage for this new thing that creeped in, and this dread that’s felt is its guilt for slowly killing him.
He wants to resurface memories and discus those times, but he feels complicit in his own identity theft. Raiding the tomb of this little boy doesn’t feel right.
He remembers the little kid that would come to visit over the holidays, prancing about in his TGV pajamas looking for Easter eggs which she’d hide, the Christmases she’d dress up as Santa Claus and the Summer vacations they’d spend caravanning along the Southern coastlines, stopping at antique shops together to find a bargain, and picking lavender to make scented sachets as souvenirs.
She was the epicenter from which he would yo-yo back to and give his Mum and Dad a break from being parents. Oddly enough, that swinging motion, to and fro, was the only constant in his nomadic childhood.
Now, I can’t help that they just needed a break from being bad at their job. I’ve often joked with my parents that I was their trial kid, the one they could make mistakes with, so that they could do a better job with the next batch.
They return to Mamie’s home in comfortable silence.
If not his past, discuss hers. but how does one explore another’s past without the possibility of causing pain, the accidental question that scalpels and burrows its way for an answer.
New pieces of information about a loved one’s history that now reflect back a vulnerability which he feels urged to resolve, as if it were his responsibility, because all of a sudden his lightness of being is too powerful to not be shared, like the first time you try ecstasy and unknowingly become a pusher. Maybe they are trapped in a vortex of their own torments and don’t know how to ask for assistance.
Maybe they don’t need help.
So he stays silent.
He strides through her living room with family pictures of her daughters and their children, one portrait in particular, of his Mother striking a ballerina pose. She’s less than ten years old, dreaming to dance professionally.
He continues upstairs, through corridors of hoarded boxes and walls of VHS tapes, to venture into the attic so that he may gather more evidence of his previous life.
This dark and dusty garret acts as the family’s collective brain in which they store items they daren’t throw away, as though each piece, each object, brought value to their museum, this sarcophagus of broken clocks.
“Is me being here a form of emotional regression?” he ponders.
He would often go in the attic during his adolescence, a welcome stroll down Memory Lane, uncovering nostalgic artifacts to flashback me to happier times; his Tintin figurine along with a collection of Belgian & French comic books, the box of assorted Lego pieces, remnants of his Pog collection which brought out the con-man in him as he’d trick kids on the playground with rules he invented so he could collect a mighty bounty, dozens of knick knacks with time traveling abilities, which were once adored but now appear to him as possible merchandise for Ebay to pay off some debts.
He explores his family’s personal Hangar 51 to find the missing pieces go his jigsaw. If this were a movie, maybe he’d wear a trench coat and a Panama hat with Film Noir music accompanying the scene.
Instead, he wears the same clothes as yesterday, same hole in his sock. At least the lighting is fitting for the uncanny atmosphere in detective films of the black and white era. The Sun is pushing through the small window in the ceiling, shining a girder of light through the dusty soup he wades in, as if he were deepwater diving into the murky depths of a sunken ship, looking for treasure.
The benefit of birthing a new atemporal identity is the aloofness of it all. Everything appears as new. During this transition, I spent an entire afternoon watching the wind blow through trees. It was beautiful, and it left me confused as to why I had left it this long to watch this happen; the tree was in a square in the middle of Soho, which had been a playground for a decade, and yet, I’d always be bulldozing my way forward without a moment of repose.
This buffoon in the attic plays with the ray of light, sliding his fingers within, creating shadows of Morse code melodies, gliding his hand through the air, paying close attention to the perturbation of the chalky particles flooding the vacuum left in its trail, whirlpools of pale dots finding balance in this suspended sunbeam.
“Is this what is meant by being present?”
At this moment, he could spend eons admiring the cosmic clusters of dust hovering about him, as if nothing else mattered outside this room. But he can feel his eyes shifting to other locations and change focus without his permission, like it’s looking for something, hunting.
“Will it never end? The constant quest for more?”
It isn’t just the external which he can see.
This man has bits in his eyes.
I am often distracted by visible innards, sometimes hypnotized by the debris of broken microscopic fibers drifting in the vitreous jelly of my eyes, which appear in my field of vision, casting tiny shadows that look like dozens of translucent wormholes lingering in view, hovering between my cornea and retina.
I like to play with them by trying to get a good view of those strings, but they dart away as fast as humming birds every time the eye moves to look at them.
My very own Quantum decay.
If you ever see me gormlessly looking at what appears to be nothing, I may just be making my eye floaters dance.
And on rare occasions, with a bright background, my eyes pick up these orbs of light traveling in unison across a grid-like pattern, punctual zigzags of some wavelength that I can somehow see.
I’d love for you to see what I see, but unless you are me, it cannot be, and neither I of you, can share this view.
I hope this shifting between first and third person doesn’t disturb you to often dear Reader. I suppose it’s my attempt at making you understand the complex nature of having more than one I inside of me.
His eyes flicker to the towers of boxes upon boxes stacked and looming overhead, growing from the floor of books and photo albums. One of the cardboard crates captures his attention marked ‘École’; School.
He pulls this box from underneath a mountain of other boxes, letting them drop in its place like a Tetris line. He opens the lid, revealing a series of notebooks from across ages, many in dialect he no longer uses.
He picks one of them up and out slides a child’s drawing of his family, three two-dimensional humans and their dog.
Their limbs, lines sticking out of a main potato-esque body with grotesque, bright pink heads, smiling,
Atop the picture, the Flemish words “Dat is mijn familie” and his name.
He doesn’t remember drawing that, and he no longer remembers speaking that language. But that is definitely his family, with the Father in vivid checkered clothing and helmet / whip combo, which is how the child once knew his Dad, from his occasional return from being a jockey.
This happened to be a comedy gold mine for his son’s future stand up career, what with his lanky height soaring over his lilliputian Father, and his gargantuan gums mimicking the animals he’d take out for a ride.
These gums are so big somebody once heckled “Go on Seabiscuit!”
And that was before he told them of his Dad’s job.
The Comedy Gods made this set-up very easy for him to gather punchlines, granting him a Dad who slaps horse butts for money like some equestrian pimp with his quadruped sluts.
The sound of laughter echoes in his mind, and the Comedian is on stage, back in the spotlight.
“Nobody believes me when I say my Dad is a jockey.
“But you’re so tall,” yeah I know. You can’t imagine the embarrassment of looking down at the person you’re supposed to look up to. I was taller than him by the age of eight”, he exaggerated with microphone in hand.
Free therapy disguised as performance. I could say the same for this literature.
“No Dad, you clean your room”, he declares, hunching over an imaginary character below him, using the whole stage to tell the story, embodying location, manipulating the body to ensure each character gets their own skin, own walk, talk, backstory.
“The reason I’m so tall is I’ve got my Mother’s body”, he says, then adds in a gruffer voice, “in the basement”.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t supposed to say that”, he pats himself on the chest as though relieving himself from a bad cough.
He then lifts his left arm effortlessly above his head.
“I genetically inherited this perfectly fluid figure from my Mother, for you see, when she was a little girl, she trained to be a ballerina.”
He extends his right leg up in the air, parallel to the floor, pausing briefly in this arabesque position.
“But alas, that dream was ripped away from her when she did a plié on my Papa’s penis, and got pregnant with me. I am destroyed of dreams! Fear me as I fill your bellies with parasite!”
Low on stage in the aforementioned position, he suddenly thrusts upwards back to his highest height for contrast.
“When my Mum and I stand side by side, we look like we’re the couple, and Father is our son, who suffers from that aging disease.”
The crowd’s laughter gathers momentum, but he doesn’t allow it to die down too much before continuing.
“People would approach us in the streets, feeling sorry for the short wrinkly man.”
“Oh my God.” “He’s so brave.” “What’s his name?”
“Dad,” he replies like a sullen teenager, who hunches over his invisible Dad, “Now go play with the other kids. Jockeys, whatever, your job is being a living carousel.”
The laughter picks up with every punchline, but dissipates as he returns to the attic.
Find the clip on my album: https://www.ericlampaert.com/shop/
It’s odd, to think my Dad had a career in sports. I always saw it as a piece of theatre; a well dressed audience in oversized hats heckling the dozens of players going around the story circle. The jockeys, in their silly colorful costumes, get weighed before the show to make sure they’re not too fat for the catwalk, before slapping meat between their thighs for the enjoyment of paying customers.
Perhaps my disinterest came from jealousy that his job took him away from us.
Maybe I was too young to see the attraction of witnessing human beings, actual people, riding at bone breaking speeds among a herd of powerful beasts, connecting with the river of nostril flaring and metallic hooves, too young to appreciate the bond between rider and their horse counterpart. Man at one with nature.
I suppose it was all too perplexing from a child’s perspective.
The confusion went as far as pointing to horses in the fields as we drove by and calling them “Papa”, and what with being born in France, I did participate in a cuisine that sometimes fed me my Dad’s mode of transport. If your Dad drives for Uber, you wouldn’t eat the wheel of his Prius.
His absence was offset with the feeling that he would defend me at all costs.
After a detention for not being able to solve an algebraic equation, a teacher who failed to make me understand slapped the answer into me, with one swift strike to the face. All I learned that day was being stupid was a bad thing, yet I was never able to resolve the equation.
To this day, my mathematic skills are less than desirable.
1 + 1 = 2, but it also equals 1, because 2 is its own thing, it is one whole, 2 is 1, so is 3, and so on.
I have someone else do my taxes.
I ran home with tears streaming down my face and told my parents.
“I’ll drive you to school tomorrow”, my Dad calmly replied.
He never usually drove me, I assume because he struggled to reach the pedals.
We arrive at school and he walks out with me, for the first time, taking me to the playground.
“Who’s the teacher that hit you?” He asks.
My Dad confidently walks over to my teacher and grabs him by the throat, raising him off the ground. All the kids gather around, in awe of my Father.
“If you hit my kid or any other kid again, I’ll come back and kill you. Understand?”
Bit much Dad, bit too Shakespearean, especially as you grabbed the wrong teacher.
“If it’d be true thee hiteth my own issue again, lying thy hands on his fleshy crust, I shall trample thee with a thousands h’rses!”
The act of bravery made up for how distant he was, away, chasing his dream, on the back of a racehorse.
It was hard for Mum and I to keep up, but luckily we had long legs.
You can’t get rid of us that easily.
We return to the child’s drawing, to the pile of school scribblings, and continue to look around for anything that might jog his memories and return him to a life in which amnesia isn’t the baseline. This feeling of peering over the edge of an infinite void where thoughts of suicide isn’t an escape, but an entrance.
To exit a World in which the faces of loved ones can no longer be trusted, for they are strangers.
The strangest sensation that to return home is to die.
He looks at one of the wardrobes in the attic, the one that holds his Grandfather’s pistol, stashed in a crate of ammo, hidden among stockpiles of ancient belongings, and a new memory come flooding back, as he hears his Theatre professor explaining ‘Chekhov’s gun’ to the class.
“It’s foreshadowing”, she explains, “if the audience is introduced to a gun in the first act, it should get fired in the next or final act. Every element in a story must be necessary, and anything irrelevant, all the deadwood, must be removed.”
He stays fixed on the wardrobe with the hidden gun and wonder if it’s a harbinger of things to come. He’s in a story after all, but has no idea what is and isn’t of relevance anymore.
Maybe all my work is one long, indulgent, suicide letter, lol.
He turns away, closes his eyes and inhales deep to brush away internal distractions, and when he re-opens his eyes, he sees an item which he had long forgotten, a prop which brought him much fear as a child, and paralyzed him form going upstairs in this house; the porcelain doll in the red Victorian dress.
It’s curious how little about the World we know when we’re children. We don’t have much of a frame of reference to make an informed point of view on what is and isn’t truth, or question wether or not the guardianship we receive is applying the best method. We’re these little hard drives with legs, collecting as much data as possible in order to survive our environments, learning from all the senses and storing the lessons as memories across multiple territories of your brain, with some events having such impact that it generates a type of human with its own version of all things.
“Memory works a little like a Wikipedia page” says Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology and expert of malleability of memory, “you can go in there and change it, but so can other people… When you feed people misinformation about the experience that they may have had, you can distort, contaminate or change their memory.”
Is this what I am doing to myself?
He stares at her, the porcelain doll in the red Victorian dress, who stares right back at him with her cold, lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a shark’s eyes.
He used to hate the upper floor of his Grandma’s house where the three sisters’ bedrooms were. They actually belonged to his Mother and her two younger siblings, but the proximity in age confused things a little.
The laughter from the audience re-emerges, and the Comedian continues his stand up routine, clutching the microphone like an audible sword.
“There was seven years difference between my parents, which isn’t a lot, seven years isn’t a vast age gap, is it?’ He beckons an answer out of the front row who shake their heads, “but it’s a little tricky when you consider my Mum was pregnant with me at the age of fifteen”.
An accidental gasp is heard from the darkness.
“Yeah, seven years is a lot now, because that makes my Dad… eight years old.”
The Comedian gags as if disgusted by this revelation, enjoying the roars from the crowd which is distinctly louder because of the beat the briefest of pauses in the rhythm of the punchline, an almost indistinguishable ellipsis to give the audience the chance to do the calculations themselves, to hear the number twenty-two in their heads, before getting the carpet pulled from underneath them with the ridiculous gag, that his Dad was a child.
“Just joking, he was in fact 22 years old, which technically makes him a paedophile. In some countries. In other countries, he could’ve been the Chief Justice of the supreme court of Alabama or something, Elvis Presley maybe.”
He observes the audience to see who begins to squirm at the troublesome topic.
“But my Dad was a smart sexual predator, he seduced my Mother in France, where it’s legal. Smart,” he continues, tapping the side of his head to show where a brain lives.
The little micro-expressions of uneasiness among the grinning faces, to see who thinks I’m being serious. Sure, it stems from a source of truth, but painting beautiful pictures requires a touch of illusion, and the job of a Joker is to harness laughter from wells sometimes deep.
“I can see some of you uncomfortable with the subject matter”, he acknowledges, “but remember, I’m allowed to talk about it because I’m technically half-paedophile.”
One of my favorite jokes.
“It’s in my family tree, so I’m allowed to talk about it.”
My young Mother.
His beautiful brilliant Mum.
She pushed this thing out of her and asked her Mum if she could play with that.
“You can play with your Son once you’ve done your homework”.
That’s why he thought of them as The Three Sisters.
They played; dressing him in costumes, make-up and wigs, creating, manipulating, performing…
And there were the pranks too.
Jokes come in all forms, and not everybody laughs, because a jump scare uses the same technique as a set-up/punchline, and when you’re on the receiving end, both sides may not agree on what is and isn’t funny.
His Mother knew he was scared of dolls.
He once saw a horror movie, or maybe just a trailer. It might’ve been Child’s Play, he doesn’t remember, but the idea of dolls coming to life and killing him became a possibility.
It doesn’t matter what Seneca said about how ‘we suffer more in imagination that in reality’, from his perspective, and certainly a child’s, imagination is reality.
Needless to say, with this fear and the availability to dolls in this house full of women, she saw the opportunity for a good chuckle.
She hid under his bed one night with the porcelain doll in the red Victorian dress and a kitchen knife, and waited…
Like a crocodile hovering near the ankle of an approaching meal.
He arrives at the foot of his bed when she thrusts the killer doll and the murderous weapon in his direction with a piercing shriek.
The knife wasn’t needed.
A screeching doll who can suddenly move was plenty to unsettle me.
He cries and pees in his pajamas as she rolls from underneath the bed cackling.
Oh, you should’ve been there…
A memory was being seared into the very flesh of his medial temporal lobe.
“Will this give him psychosexual problems when puberty hits?”
“I don’t know, let’s find out.”
He looked around his bedroom as if to say “Sorry, who’s looking after me? Is someone is going to yell ‘cut’ soon?”
I was too young to realize she was herself a child wanting to play.
But analysis of the event will come later.
For now, this little boy suddenly had his fears become a reality, and phobia came creeping in.
The real meaning behind the word ‘phobia’, as opposed to how it’s used today to describe someone you’ve misunderstood because they misunderstand you.
The kind of phobia which petrified, and made him see things that weren’t there, hallucinations, claws in the subconscious now hardwired to look for threat in anything non-human with a face, that might all of a sudden spring to life and seek sweat, blood and tears.
As the Sisters got older so did their taste, relegating their dolls to the spare room, the Blue Room, on account of the blue wallpaper, which was where he would sleep during visits, but was now too afraid to approach.
So he’d sleep downstairs on the sofa, watching cassette after cassette of movies recorded from TV, or the odd rental from Blockbuster.
I was the epitome of a third-culture latchkey kid.
One stormy night, a trite thunderbolt takes out the power in the house.
Mamie emerges out of her downstairs room with a candle to find and send him upstairs, to fetch some batteries from the Blue Room. He protests, but with little result. She hands him the candlestick and he makes his way upstairs. The flickering flame, forming and convulsing shadows all around him, as he edges closer to the forbidden zone at the end of the corridor, trying to avoid parts of the wooden floor that creak, terrified to look behind him.
Step by step, bit by bit, wanting to run, but bound to a slow pace for fear of extinguishing the only light in the house.
He grabs the cold metal handle and twists it, letting the door swing open as he remains safe in the corridor.
“When we film this, we’ll place the camera inside the room, so the door frame cages him, and the brighter corridor will stand out in stark contrast to the darkness of the room. His silhouette trapped in a frame within a frame. That’ll be some nice composition.”
A wall of cool air drops on him from inside, the fire quivers and his breath stops, goosebumps cascade down his body and his heartbeat quickens reminding him that time is of the essence.
He bravely enters, reluctantly step in, popping a chair in front of the door, so the demonic dolls lined along the shelves couldn’t shut it with their minds. He’d seen enough horror movies at this point to know the rules; he’s not an idiot.
He treads deeper in, nearing the cabinets, peeks under the bed. This was a lesson he learned the hard way, and opens the drawer, rustling through the contents to find the batteries.
Lightning bolts occasionally thundering through the cut-up windows and reflecting in all their eyes.
All those dolls, towered above, looking at him.
Thankfully, he promptly finds the batteries, slams the drawer shut, kicks the chair out of the way and with one fell swoop pulls the door behind him, making sure the bulking mechanism clicks into the strike plate, audibly confirming it is fully closed.
He takes a deep inhale in, and it reinvigorates him as if he was holding his breath this whole time. He makes his way to the staircase, and just as he takes a step down, he hears a voice, coming from behind him, a voice that didn’t sound like his own, gruff and deliberately.
“There’s one behind you.”
Fear doesn’t make logic an ally.
Perhaps while looking for batteries, one of them slithered out of the opened door of their blue jail and waited in the obscurity for their human host to come out.
I remember… I think I remember… the sound of little footsteps running on the floorboards, but he just can’t be sure if it was an external or internal sound… and now, knowing what I know of memory, maybe it’s non-diegetic sound to compliment the horror of this evening.
He turns to check and see what it is, and there she was, la poupée en rouge, the porcelain doll in the red Victorian dress, swaying in the dim remnants of the candlelight from my end of the corridor.
It had to be a hallucination, a figment of his imagination, but it was a delusion that he could so clearly see breathing, one that had taken shape in the space he existed in.
He could see her even more clearly when the lightning crashed through the window, her shadow lengthening from her feet to his.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?” asks Anxiety.
The doll charges towards him, sprinting and screeching an unearthly sound.
He turns to run, trips down the stairs, the light extinguishing as he falls. The tumbling calls out for my Grandmother who finds me covered in nosebleeds and candlewax.
“I got the batteries.”
Canned laughter of a studio sitcom merges with the memory.
She pulls me out, away from the silhouette standing at the top of the staircase.
He vowed never to go in that room again.
The laughter fades to transition the Reader to the next scene.
A useful editing technique to blur and curtain chapters together.
The Comedian is on stage and blue light used for the previous section fades and returns to the fresnel lighting.
“I eventually forgot my fears because my parents and I would move around so much that I was overloaded with new experiences, new cultures, languages, smells, music, tastes, distractions… new stimuli feeding my hungry developing brain. It was also around the time I was busy teaching myself how to masturbate. My schedule was packed”.
After having earned the trust of the audience with fast paced gags at the beginning of the show, he turns to long-form suspense to potentially reach a better orgasm.
“I began my sexual odyssey by rubbing myself against the mattress. The discovery was accidental, I’m a restless sleeper and moving around caused a funny kind of friction. The real magic started when I became infatuated with my pillows”.
He takes out a mime cigarette and burns the tip with an invisible zippo lighter, breathing in hiatus, then letting the smoke billow out from his nostrils, and watching it rise through the space like poured milk in a cup of tea.
The presentation made all the better by his sitting on a stool like a beat poet might as double bass strings keep tempo.
“As I got older, so did my tastes, making love to pillows were the perfect human substitutes to be found in the home. We used to pack up and leave so often that IKEA became my red light district. All the pillows had sexy Swedish names. ‘Rolleka? Memory foam huh? Well, you’re gonna remember tonight honey”.
The technician washes the stage with a hue of velvet as the Comedian looks off into the distance.
“I really had quite the love affair with pillows I can tell you. The next Summer I spent at my Grandmother’s house, I broke my vow, I went back to the Blue Room, where all the dolls lived”.
He gets up from his stool and kicks the invisible door, mouthing sound effects of it crashing wide open.
“Well well well Ladies, look who’s returned a man. I’m twelve years old now. I’m not afraid of you anymore”.
He takes a drag from his cigarette, blows it out flirtatiously and proudly looks at his audience.
“I fucked all those dolls.”
A beat to allow the audience soak in that confession.
“The Blue Room was now my brothel. If you had a blacklight, it would look like Jackson Pollock… had cum everywhere”.
He groans, pouts, and lifts up an eyebrow.
“I even had sex with the teddy bears and they had nothing to do with it. I was becoming a monster”.
The Comedian shields his face and turns away the audience.
“Any toy’s a sex toy if you fuck it. That’s what I told myself anyway. Hungry Hungry Hippos? ‘No, we’re not hungry’ they’d yell. But I gave them no choice”.
He thumbs the mimed plastic tail of the beasts to rejig the memory of people aware of the game, so they could better visualize the colorful mammal gobbling up the effluvia from his gyrating microphone.
“Are you enjoying my Art?” he asks the audience, who crescendo nicely along to his premise, unsure where the line between truth and poetry lies.
It’s at this height he drops the closing line, just as the lights returns to the usual flood, composing himself gracefully.
“That’s how I got over my fear,” he says, “I chose love.”
They laugh at the stupidity, the simplicity, as if it were that easy.
The scene fades, and he is back in the attic, left looking at the porcelain doll in the red Victorian dress collecting dust, strangely feeling sorry for the marionette.
He’d only been looking at her for a couple of seconds, but a dam burst open that slowed down time.
He picks up some photo albums as well as some notebooks, eager to leave this part of the house and return downstairs. The attic is where he found the cursed wedding ring his Father offered his Mother, but was declined. The ring which he used to bend the knee for his divorce.
She deserved better but he was a cheapskate afraid of spending what little money he had saved up.
I was afraid of spending what little money I had saved up. Scared. Oblivious to what such an item symbolized.
How tormenting to learn lessons too late.
He turns to look at the attic one more time, grateful for its existence, and then closes the door behind him.
“And when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.”
Thank you for reading this far. I appreciate your time. I know some of my stories are a little long, but I wanted all those elements together for a reason. I’m still learning how to be a writer while not letting myself be paralyzed by a need for perfection.
I continue to create while balancing all the challenges of daily life in a city that demands a lot. I once read somewhere that “success is not owned, it’s rented, and rent is due every day”, so I’m working and hustling hard, and will be grateful for your help; Subscribe to my YouTube, my podcast, leave comments, share etc… Thank you for your help.
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Let me know what you think of the journal entires, the short and long ones.
Lots of love,