In response to Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
(to be read aloud as fast as possible.)
The lonely landlord lived on a luscious avenue, but in his queer heart he was prone to jealousies. It was why his marriage had not worked. It was a feckless struggle-and-compromise formation.
And the perfect tree-lined way glittered on day after elysium-colored day. Some of these feelings came from the notion that time was constantly playing gentle tricks on his then-benign intensities and dispositions. Perhaps too some issue came in the form of no frugality in the information he chose to gather, which leads one to feel embarrassingly overwhelmed and nearly completely impenetrable to jokes and jocularities. His wife was prone to witticisms. They were, the pair, hopelessly incompatible.
So there was the existence of an early love letter she had written about the scenes and trials of their courtship. It lay open on a side table in the library. It was not a thing that had been opened in a long while, and the landlord did not know how it got there, but there it was all the same.
“And I have the memory of you coming over in a taxi. So late, to make love to me while a storm raged outside. And some of my favorite music played, which became your favorite. But then you had to go- so you went. Back into another taxi to a bed without me in it. Me to a bed without you, or your hard and yearning kiss.”
Events of this sort had been reoccurring in a harmlessly slight and insidious fashion for longer than he could remember. In the life of the landlord, there were many “I don’t know’s” and they had to be enough. They formed a sheen around his anger, but not an impermeable one. He could rise to meet the occasion of this emotional challenge with his perceptive attentions. But his body had other more nervous and mischievous ideas for the analysis and relief of the aforementioned psychic blocks.
“I pick the hills.” She had said before leaving. And to think for even a moment she had been happy in a way he could not try for or did not wish to steal away. She simply could not seem to wear anything humourous.
“My taste is displeased.” He had uttered thoughtlessly one day as she was dressing. He wanted to take the statement back almost immediately. When the flash of her eyes grew dark and brave he then lost all chance at redemption.
And how closely one factor predicts another in a side-shot look. This is the endless-father correlation. The thin-sliced experiment of his smile he counts as service. "Daddy" is a title herein meaning all-judgement-no-forgiveness. The one chance at intimacy ruined by absence: Away on natural life for the stabbing death of his wife.
Oh wives and their legends, Papa would say. Old Papa- his was the astounding paradoxical implicit association test of a man who went to Yale University, then on to replace beerkeg compression units. Meanwhile collecting remote controls and antiquated batteries. He used to run a street sweeper between jobs.
But the Landlord- somehow the glistening ignorant city left him as impotent as a bug.
He employed murder to match the white cross-dresser’s work in the dancehall. Completing the gaudy poem of their oozing hips. Caustic gains in worths and worthiness of the ill-described are thus: A moaning laugh. Cough. Someone loses a shoe in the park. No one drowns but a few get wet. One pukes when he finds the homicided.
And the tendril is the spark is the stem of malice creeping a creep ominious and slow from the poisionous spotted orchid. The tendril of disease sprawled to clutch at the softest tissue of the closest one.
Ah- it is how the small learn from those whose blood fates bloom large enough to smother their own.
The Landlord’s Wife. Now Ex-wife. She had two sisters.
She was one of a set of identical triplets. They were prized for the very product of their existance. Their mother was an heiress. Their father was a writer of much loved novels. The first time the landlord saw his Ex-wife’s sisters was in a family portrait. He came very suddenly down with an atrocious case of basorexia. He swelled with guile from a sinister prospect.
If you had inquired of the Ex-wife to describe her landlord, she might see fit to call him a filthy Pan. Evil-grinning satyr who cares for no one. Immune to certain sensational transferences in the name of a push-button sex drive and the will to kill.
She would say something cryptic like “his best sketches were done in the hospital.” And it would mean bits. Any creative impulse he grasped or even momentarily exercised were masturbatory self-portraits in cum. Or they were the exorcism of insulting passes at the female staff on days when he was most warmed over with pain and injections. (The landlord was pre-diabetic and had dirty kidneys as well as a predisposition to gout.)
The Ex-wife would say this only after she was slain at his hand, however, because she had deemed him previously to be too soft. Too much infused of a guilty-staring complex to be capable of such a thing.
But those nights alone while the landlord sucked treatments from fluid bags into his veins, they became projections to live over and over. She was like an already dead soul, keen and trenchant in the quiet under an authentic moon. She entreated the afterlife for its embrace. Summum bonum by the Bete Noire. She held the hands of her neverborn children and heard their whispers reveal projections of the adaptive unconscious. “You are very brave to be here.” They said. Confirming all stratospheric transferences with the long, direct looks from their dark levels of brow and eyes. She knew her sisters were in danger then, but not how or why.
Alas, defamation carried in the mind does no great good to anyone beyond. Verbalized estimations, however inane, to one and from those who consider themselves to be in possession of their better faculties, ought to be shared.
The Ex-wife was not buried in the loamy swamp at the back of the local zoo for a full day when the Landlord, kept out in the park to think, ran into the second sister and her husband.
They inquired eagerly after his person and their own blood kin whom he claimed was home with pneumonia and recovering with a lot of sleeping. Assuaging them tho’ he could barely keep the glee from his voice. A glee saturated with new reason. For now, the life worth living the most for the landlord was not without murder.
And seeing his Ex-wife’s twin strolling with her beau, he could picture her sweet face in its revelatory convulsions brought on my masturbating with her favorite ivory handled letter opener. Beakheaded bone handle down as the business end. Now here was another ex-wife shape who probably championed very similarly while in the morbid throes of enacted lust. And here she was accompanied by a man whose shirt matched her dress. Seriously.
“His shirt matched her dress.” He said aloud to himself as he passed, suddenly taken up with the true and profound absurdity of life as if he was in a whole-lie-wood film. No gunspinner of the wild west here. Just the priming experiment of an officious coward. Landlord, indeed. Passing poorly along his doomed life like a rat who cannot find its way out of the wine cellar.
And so it was under the guise of a brief and barely meditated gathering of the remaining two sisters at the landlords behest and exquisite dwellingplace. Alerted to the notion that his wife had gone missing within the spell of sickened delirium.
The sisters had made the mistake of coming alone, and as soon as they had gathered near to the fireside and taken up the miniature snifters of cognac from the hands of their host, in one swift yet slightly ridiculous motion their throats were slashed and eyes punctured by two separate antique steak knives that were pretty much lying around the back of a kitchen drawer not being used at all.
Much later, he had no trouble surrendering to the man who’s shirt had so perfectly matched the dress.