“All is lost,” the man (the Magician, the Car-Seller, whatever, do you still care?) yells, opening his arms dramatically like a Christic figure. Les jeux sont faits, les dés sont jetés. C’est une affaire qui roule: it’s a rolling business. There is now nothing you can do, nothing anyone can do that would prevent the events from unfolding. The game has been set. There is no turning back now.
We enter the realm of the Tower. La Maison Dieu.
I start suspecting that part of the solution resides in rekindling a feeling that I haven’t known since I became an adult, abruptly, some years ago. I had lived this many years with my heart perpetually broken, yet it had become very apparent that I had lost along the lines the ability to fall in love. I would meet people, for a second fantasize a world where we would be lovers, or partners, or whatever (do you still care?), and before kissing them for the first time, I would be able to forecast not only how well things would go at first, but also how bad things would go afterwards.
All is lost.
Including, and especially, this capacity to throw caution to reckless wind, in the most ultimate of ways. All was lost, including and especially the capacity to fall, Alice-style, lose all control, open yourself completely, render yourself vulnerable. Everytime that someone takes my hand, not fight it ‘beak and nails’ with the painfully acquired knowledge that if at first we recognise the parts that are similar in ourselves and the other, then quickly we will only recognise what separates us.
The characters falling from the tower do not display any sort of distress: their expressions are serene, unsurprised by the turn of events. They simply play the part they have been given: if you build the tower, if you climb its stairs all the way to the top, if you are able to look at a distance from its heights, it’s only because the next moment you will be thrown down, because the next moment the tower will be struck by thunder and destroyed by fire. You can’t have one without the other, Alice, it’s just the way it is.
What if we welcome the shift? What if we welcome the destruction of everything we made that we thought was going to protect us? We stand by the edge of everything, welcoming the arrow that pierces our flesh. Saint Sebastian delighting in the wound. Not that we want to suffer for the suffering only, but because no amount of vulnerability, of offering of the self, will come without welcoming the wounds. Fuck it. If I do not do it, I will never engage, I will never re-engage with life. I had at this point lived on the side of everything for too long. It was time to re-enter the stage.
I forget so fast. It’s the fucking tower. Always the fucking tower. The fucking American dream. Land of freedom for whoever comes with a big handful of privileges. The house of card, landing all flat to my feet. Let me explain what happened, we’ve all come this far, you deserve the truth.
What really happened, is that I found myself in the town of Hudson. I’ve only been able to partially piece together the history of Hudson. On the banks of the river Hudson, the town developed with the whaling industry. Thrived and decayed. Like all things, working in cycles, in and out, in and out. Hudson in ten blocks from east to west, ten blocks south to north, and right in the middle, Warren Fucking Street. What I was was distressed, because I just had received some bad news, about a teenager I knew taking an overdose and attempting to take her own life. I was so distressed that when I asked this dude for a cigarette, I didn’t even notice who I was begging this slither of comfort from.
You see the cute side of town, and the flip side hits you by surprise. You ask some dude for a cigarette and within ten minutes he asks you if you want to go to a meeting. No. No, mate, thanks. You can tell from my face that I’m not fine. Because my very own recklessness doesn’t live too far behind. Because the eyes are only glass and you’re there window shopping with your recovering addiction. And you can see how hard I try to hide.
I’m just one street away from the other side of the town. Where the teenage mothers and the junkies live, the land of food stamps. I walk up and down Warren Fucking Street which divides the wasps and the white trash, just in the middle, like a funambule. I stumble. I fall upon a little box with small pieces of papers and a pen. Prayers on Warren Street, it says.
Automatically, I pick one up and write wishes for the teenager’s wellbeing. A gesture then appears evident: I pin the prayer inside my shirt, against my heart. I am surprised, I am an atheist (well not really, do you still care?), I don’t know where this small act of witchcraft comes from, what dictated it. But I remember that my grandmother used to pin prayers inside my father’s shirts when he was little. The embarrassment he felt when the school nurse, upon the discovery that this 6 year old boy had Ave Marias pinned on the inside of his clothes, asked the headmaster to come around and look at it all. Like it wasn’t a normal thing to do. For the six year old who had prayers pinned inside her shirt every day, the realisation that it wasn’t a normal thing to do had burnt his cheeks with shame. He’d learn many things that year: that his family was poor, that the school staff did not expect little boys from this part of town to become anything else than a sailor or a fisherman.
Years ago, trying to understand the dynamic that linked my father and I, I had understood that social class played a major part in it. My father was the only one in his family to have taken the social lift in 1970s France, joining the Ecole Normale in order to become a teacher. He had reached middle class, when his sisters had stayed in the working class. The social lift. I fucking hate this expression, but that’s the one that his generation has used over and over and over again. The lift is broken, which is incidentally the exact feeling that my generation experiences. We’ve been crammed into a lift, with the promise of a beautiful view at the top, but the lift is stuck between two floors and the air is rarefying.
I like to think of middle class as an upgrade from the working class only in illusion. In fact, it’s a space to dull the mind, sedate the need for change and the righteous outrage. Nothing more poisonous for society than the mild comfort that comes with enough disposable cash that one start thinking of strikes and political activism as a threat to personal comfort.
The impossibility to get to Ikea to buy a new set of cushions because the railway staff is striking again. Damn them!
It had become apparent that you notice different things about places and people depending on your background. It had become apparent that some people can walk up and down Warren Fucking Street without even realising that the other side of town was just over there, only a block away. Look darling, home-knitted hommous. How lovely. How quaint. Damn those queer activists.
Where was I? I was angry, that is certain.