What do we know, what can we know, about Tessa K.? Let us inquire. In as few words as possible. Let us choose them carefully. Let us choose them so that no one will see, understand, like. And fast. Fast, before I, they, get bored. Isn’t boredom a given? All fallen into boredom, the black burning puddle, sprawling boundless in every direction, so that time, action, do not matter that much any longer? A few rise up here and there, haranguing, proposing motions for some revenge or other. Most slumber. Some, more than one would assume, cogitate about Tessa K. But fast, always fast, before they, we, get bored. What can we know. Imagine if we could round this all up. Say what there is to say. In one long feverish night, jot this down without thinking, get that done before the fatal duel the next day, for a lover, what else, jot this down before the shot and the mute collapse into the mud. So old-fashioned, yes, people around here have been saying that I am, I don’t believe them, I don’t listen to them. You did hear them. No I didn’t. You did. Otherwise you wouldn’t even mention them. Right, right, shut up now. Back to it. Would that not be grand? Despite the concise form, a complete elucidation. The Tessa K. papers. That won’t happen.
Tessa K. is looking out through the high glass window. Shoreditch High Street, 01:34 am a black Sunday morn. Had it been Paris in its heyday she could have counted the hours before Roland’s morning class at the Collège. But this London, this is now. No critical rock star will be lecturing tomorrow at dawn, and Playboy will be busier removing full nudity from its pages to secure access to the still prude Chinese and Middle Eastern markets (before shoving it back in again) than chasing writers and philosophers for interviews. Yes, London it is. Perhaps some bacon and pancakes after sex down in the secret basement of the Breakfast Club, Artillery Lane. What is the password again? Has she ever known? She remains perplex for a second. No, no memory of it at all. A shrug. No matter, they know her anyway. Besides, John, sweet John, will know. He always does.
Tessa K. stands tall and proud in her red leather dress, facing the high windows. Where to start… Yes, the clothes, the beasts she wears, that could work. Not only the skin of others, leather and scales, but plastic as well, the standard polymers of course, as well as a live retinue of snakes and octopodes, familiars so dear to fishermen’s wives around the world. How often the proud and the blind would call her eccentric, or bold, how pitiful their greedy advances were. For she is the normal one, she knows it, and they, widespread as they are, are the oddity, doomed, on the wane. Commonplace predicament. Regrettable mishap, she grinds her teeth for a second, she has to deal with those almost every day, photoshoot after photoshoot. Mostly just annoying lechers, although sometimes verging on the scary. The worst part perhaps the fact that, perverts as they are, their wishes remain so banal. She can still see the in her mind the faces of the first ones. The dumb, brute stare of paedophilia in the wet lanes of Negril, Kingston, Montego Bay. That too, once the horror wears off, had become stale fast. There is this bit in Joyce where Daedalus looks at a sister, a cousin, someone of the sort, knows she is lost, her hopes fucked before even formulated, born for the gutter. Stephen, the real one, would leave, know the prostitutes of Paris, get married and write, know more prostitutes, write some more. So would she. Courage, the stark French word, lurks in her name. She would leave, Tessa K., she would leave. She too would know men, women, animals. For the money, for the rest. Yes, she would know money. She does. The old tale of country and city, the tale of empires, trade routes, rape and love in their usual entanglements.
So, is that it? Was she raped? This won’t be an inquiry. Has she experienced brutality? Already so clear that it won’t. An excursus, perhaps, a feeble delirium at best. When did it happen, a long time ago, or recently? Or the other way. Does she molest? Is she a torturer? Is that her weakness, her vice, her fantasy? All of it, why not, why choose stinginess when you can just discharge.
Even this, had it been the case, the worst case, the creeping trauma, tropical miasmas of her past, would have been fine, had it not been for the curse of ugly guys. Such a curse it was.
She can’t even figure out how it came to an end. She had thought of all sorts of ways to escape that fate. Tried everything. Pushed and pulled herself in all sorts of ways, but no, nothing had worked. She had lost hope, tried every once in a while when she could. She had mostly given up. And at some point, most noteworthy that she cannot remember, it must have changed. She thinks it must have for this is no longer the case now, and, by the immarcescible powers of the laws of logic the Stagirite heaped on us all, there must have been a point in time when she went from state A to state B. She can remember the early days of her new life. When suddenly the organs of sexy men, formerly unreachable, terrifying and sublime, became available. Her very own Cambrian explosion. What she hadn’t done in those days. She could have blushed at that very moment, forced to repress a chuckle of ecstasy and shame. Yet nothing. She looks undisturbed, marmoreal. Her cheeks have grown steely. She stands still, her glass in her right hand, her left holding her right cubital fossa. She looks down for a second. Still no blush, impressive. A bit like these brazen ones whose hands don’t ever shake, even in the face of peril. She looks back up, content, the same landscape in front of her eyes. Now there is this gorgeous one, John. Unthinkable John. What on earth had she done? Unfair, she had worked a lot. But still, impossible for her to shake off that feeling he would realise he deserves better, leave her and, behind him, in the best case scenario, a trail of badly written blog rants.
Yes, it must be said, she is happy now. Good progress in her pole classes. A lovely new house mate to share her abode in Stoke Newington. SpareRoom and Facebook, the winning combination. It had been months now since her man, John, the love of her life, had been pestering her about moving together. Such a romantic, this one, almost worst than herself. Why is she so reluctant? Are they not blessed and strong, nothing short of a power couple, visiting Bali and Japan once a year at least? Again these useless questions. It’s the intuition, stupid. That you shall always follow. She remembers that oath, back then, in the courtyard or the WC, down in hell. It felt like some magma, bubbly and hot, shapeless, brutal, that memory, each time it came back. It was so insignificant as well. Just a murmur, faint and futile, amid the thudding of mother’s arse fucked for cheap against the kitchen sink. Oh she remembers it well, the island she came from, sweaty little hell. The vivid smile of dead kids. She is fond of it now, now that it’s all over, origins, early meanders, all carefully preserved in the antiseptic backwaters of her brain.
She looks out toward Principal Place. One more tower. Upscale Ikea. She can see the stump of the Stage next to it. Many more slaves to come, she calculates. Business will be business. Despite it all, however, this persistent whisper in her gut. It’s simply too slow. Shanghai, Hong Kong, there is the real fury. Permanent erection, pervasive dominion. New York as well, obviously, even if mostly living off twentieth-century dividends. Around here, well, things are OK. She has been following the latest additions, more offhandedly than she used to. The Scalpel, the Can of Ham, 22 Bishopsgate, the still inceptual 1 Undershaft, and others. Points for originality for sure, even eccentricity for some. If she is a slave to anyone, it is to them. Her real masters, blatant things of glass and steel, who take your rent and don’t give a shit. How many times she has looked at these cities, all the same rotten lot, and known herself some Nero, hurling thunder upon them all, one at last with unfettered shake-up. Too unjust, they were, and too brute. Triumphs of the cunts, stupidity within, without, everywhere. She on the other hand could organise it all, make it grand and brutal for good, the parts adamantly cogged into the whole, the whole plainly insane, in her own image. This feeling of omnipotence, juicy as it was, was only, she knew it too well, the thin, fleeting veneer of jouissance on the quagmire of universal hatred (fifth circle, anger & sullenness).
Look at all this. The style, the images. Garbled tenses. What I have become. With the years, with this place. All marmalade and bitterness (not mentioning Lapsang Souchong). Not even funny. Could I have turned out different? Could I still be unsnarled? That sounds credible, more than credible. I don’t believe it. Did I mutate? Worsen? Mutate. I should have waited. That at least still possible. Wait, wait, wait. The new doctrine. Patience is the great thing. I’ve been through my own sort of conflict and pillage, allegorically speaking. Looks like it’s gone now. Somewhat. Or it receded a little. For a little while.
She takes a sip from her Old Fashioned. She is happy about the return of speakeasy aesthetics. Sweet and fruity concoctions have never been her thing. She finds herself far more in her element with the more adult ones. Vieux Carré as well, such a sugar daddy drink, one of her favourite. She had been thinking of literature lately. Of Kafka and the father, of Lautréamont and evil, and would have of Anne Carson’s daughters and mothers ramblings, had she read the book I recommended her a while ago. She likes, she reads Lautréamont. I know people who would despise that as cliché. I personally find that remarkable, although admittedly I am easy on her. Lautréamont she discovered in some shop, by chance, I would say. Perhaps Daunt Books, why not, on Cheapside, or the London Review Bookshop. Kafka, however, was a different story. As you probably noticed, she shares an important letter with him and his puppets. This brilliant fact was brought to her attention by another friend of hers, the so erotic yet so asexual Sandra K., the first time they met in this sound gallery in Deptford. Such a triptych! She loved the idea at once, and dedicated herself to swallowing every drop of the Praguian she could find (an easy task).
Sandra wondered where to go from there. Already? I thought we were just getting started. She sniffs her left armpit, and stares at the screen for a while. More of the same? Or perhaps something more narrative? They would like it, for sure, who doesn’t? Yes, these days especially. A dash of action, yes.
Tessa moved away from the window. Boring, this view, always the same, let us have something else. She went for her phone, deep in her purse, scrambled through a few objects, found it, called Sandra. ‘Are you downstairs?’ She was. She nodded to the slave by the elevator, who obliged her and pressed the button. A few seconds later she felt in her stomach that weird thing it does when the derivative of the altitude velocity vector goes up. Down in the lobby, she could spot Sandra through the glass panels, at the other end, lazing about in a sofa. The ankle jeans. The ugly t-shirt again. Pretty sure she smells. How come she’s even attractive?! Tessa savoured the ineludible cocktail of despise and sexual attraction brewing in her groin for a second, then walked to the counter and asked for her coat. Where was the gun already, left or right pocket? Rampage or no rampage?
So lame. Stop this now. What to do now? Erase, redo? She often wondered, in her dreams of becoming a machine at last, that utmost system of productivity, what would happen if she did. Just do it, erase, refashion, ten thousand times perhaps, a hundred thousand times. She often wondered what would happen. If anything would. If at last her consciousness would change. Her being transmuted. Transbloodymuted. Or similar.
Or this could be it. No. this cannot be it. Simply not enough. I know. It would never have been enough, I can hear them say. Still. Well, then. Let us be done with it. Enough, she rushes out onto Shoreditch High Street. People, cars, Clear Channel’s advertisement screen across the road. Every time she finds herself in a crowd the same idea comes back to her mind: what if she could see their inside. Voyeurism at a scientific level. See when they fart, when they are aroused. Know what they think, although that she is of lesser interest. The date and time of their last intercourse, the manner thereof mapped to different colours. Red for sex, pink for oral, purple for anal, etc. Perhaps a flashing frequency going from very fast right after the act to sparse after some time. The thirst for knowledge she has, when she thinks about it, frightening. She could knowthem all, these strangers. At a glance. Know them intimately, and act accordingly. Fucking them right there, right then, on the bare underground platform. Or what if gene editing was possible? Probably she would dispense with this hair down there that is so painful and expensive to get rid of. How about downsizing her breasts as well? They are awesome, but also a burden, and she is worried about how they will look when she ages. Maybe she should do seppuku before that. Like that author, damn, what’s his name. Musashi? Wait. Mishima. That’s it. Still on her reading list. Sea of Fertility. Such a beautiful title. Fascists seem to have a gift for that… She could be that sea, she thought, naively. A large fecund queen with many suitors queuing up to her, each more humbly than the next, eager to offer their flesh, their seed to the altar. And she would barely see them again! No hassle! In they would go, and out. All these beautiful children she would have, hundreds of them! The glorious celebration the country would throw for her thousandth one! An ocean of them she would have, and they would roam the world, burying their heads into bosoms and bottoms everywhere, to no avail, forever yearning for the love of this impossible mother, the otherworldly one in her palace, ever gnawing, ever ravenous, for more suitors, the unspeakably industrious oven of them all miserable buns of the world.