Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DIPTYCH BEFORE DYING can this be read?



          For some time now in the delusion of being a writer I have been writing what I thought should be called DIPTYCH BEFORE DYING, based on the two journeys --- to Newfoundland and Mexico City--- I made with my father in the weeks before his death in the summer of 1973...recently i have thought it should be a TRIPTYCH as I discovered the imagined death of my first wife in Venice in the Spring of that year, while in Venice on the way to Bulgaria.  At the beginning of August we were staying at the Hotel del Prado on Reforma, in Mexico City... so

          The guy in the hotel tourist office gave us the tickets and said in the summer they try out young bullfighters.  It gives them, what is it you say, experience for the regular season…  You can’t learn to fight the bull in your head, I’m sure you know this, you can’t do it only in the country out there in a village way beyond the city: you have to come into the city eventually, be in the big stadium… these are not good seats but they are high up… that is the best way to see it for the first time, away from being there too closely, to see why people come to see what they are seeing, up too close it is all personality and something to be written about and make photographs of and you look at the people looking more than they’re worth.  And you can’t understand what they are saying… Americans always insist on the best seats in the house... you don’t want that, I think.
          However, did this man: here is the descriptive pause in recollection:  ---thick brown frames of eye glasses, heavy black hair combed back from the forehead, a broad face, blue suit jacket, white shirt and black tie, neither tall nor short as he never stood all the time I was in the office--- the brown envelope with the tickets had been handed across the desk to me, silver ring on the second finger of his right hand with a small green square of stone: enough you might say--- begins to talk to me in the office off the waiting room with the faded posters and the broken down over-stuffed leather covered  chairs which in the years developed wounds that had been sewn together, but never healed, he was saying, when he could see my hand was on the sewn wound of the seat of the chair next to the one I was sitting on. 
          The woman who sews our chairs no longer seems to be coming by the hotel, I can’t account for her disappearance as we pay her well and in cash and she did her work quickly with no expectation of something more, I think, but one can’t tell people all the time what to do and she was one of those people, maybe as your hand can feel on the wound---  the words from a song:  in mortis examine--- that is what your fingers are moving over and I have seen you with your father is it?... when you came for the car to see Teotihuacan… that is another reason for the seats I found for you and your father as already it is all too close to you and I am sure you feel this as he goes to sleep or if you awaken and see him sleeping, preparing his face, we say here, sleeping, preparing our last face to be remembered, something, maybe the only thing we do not have to do, to remember that---  what we looked like when we were last seen, though they remember and you will remember forever and ever as they say, ever and ever… replacing the living with the last memory, with your father you will enjoy going to the bullfight, it is not to my taste but it remains here and it will remain here though I am not in any way… sitting up in the heights you will not be targets for the wild ones who like to throw things and as long as your father keeps his hat on he will not be a provocation… it is written about in one of the English language books about Mexico that the little boys like using the bald heads of the gringo for target practice--- I do not know in pursuit of what it is they are training.
          Eduardo has come into existence.
          We never say Eddie or Ed like the Americans do in their constant intimacy, their constant drawing the wagon train into a circle, even if only on the basis of a person’s first name, Eduardo was saying, once the tickets for the bullfight had been pushed across the glass topped desk, I had a friend who called me Ed.  He had heard the name in an American movie he had seen and liked the sound of it, as it was foreign and we each saw the other as a visitor from some other place: I wanted to come from Russia and sometimes I wanted to come from China, don’t ask me why, while my friend wanted to come from the US of A.  He liked saying that: the US of A.  He liked the sloppiness of the Americans and told me the formality of our people will be the death of our people:  as you can see we were both experts before our time.  My friend said we were so formal we had a code worked out for the different coughs a person could utter for a multitude of purposes… and I’d ask him where his English originated and he would look at me as if I was talking about the dark side of moon or some other place at which point in an impossible to believe change of topic he asked if I was… and I will complete that sentence for you as it gives the wrong impression
          You are to take a taxi, Eduardo says, as a pause came after his sentence.  I notice as his hands moved about on the desk, moving pages from here to there and then straightening the little pile that a blue and white paperback book moved into view and then disappeared but not before I had seen the title The Clothes of a Dead Priest.  The author’s name was unfamiliar to me yet it seemed close in spelling to John Currier or it could have been John Carrier. 
          I did not ask Eduardo about the book as I thought his revealing it was all he had wanted to do, though I could not understand what he had wanted to tell me by showing this book.   
          A taxi, from the front of the hotel and the driver will know where to leave you for the entrance these tickets will allow you to enter.  I doubt the stadium will be very crowded since it is summer time but those attending will be there for the most honorable of reasons:  the tickets are cheaper, they can really feel superior to these toreadors, they will be encouraging of the young and sometimes the comedy is of the highest order since it is wrapped in blood and death, even if everyone involved is not of the first rank. And you should feel no compassion for any of it: this is the hardest aspect of going to such a spectacle, it is a moment away from the usual, a necessary turning from so as to turn back.
          Sea deep thoughts are to be kept away from yourself and you should enjoy wondering when the boy with the beer will be up to where you are seating yourselves … these trivial details are finally more productive, if one must be vulgar about such a matter.  There will be an element of winnowing to be witnessed:  the last days of the aged horses, the bulls that in some way are defective, not being fully worthy of being killed by a master… and while the bull hardly has much of a chance and the toreador runs his risks, there is always an unbalance… the superficial wounds inflicted on the bull, don’t ask anyone their opinion of any of this as this is your advantage of not speaking Spanish… the banalities of protest and explanation. 
          Trust yourself to what your own eyes see and be able to ask your father what he sees and I do hope he will be able to find words for what he sees as such a spectacle is more ably described by he who is closer to his own final moment but I fear I might be intruding upon your own wish to be closer to the end of the story, am I not right?
          I had been listening to Eduardo’s voice and while it is probably impossible for a reader to believe I could have remembered this conversation at this great remove---as the old books would have it--- I have to say Eduardo is here as close to me as the skin on my fingers is to the bones it covers.  Though there is no way I can claim to be an anatomist and use the resulting authority to plead my case:  yes, I did remember what Eduardo had been saying though I am willing to grant  some of my memory might be frazzled by the passage of the something or other, but that is neither explanation nor defense of the veracity of my transcription of his sentences.
          If it rains and it is likely to rain on such a Sunday, a boy will appear with clear plastic rain capes and the fight will go on no matter the weather… as in football matches: the weather contributes its share to the struggle, unlike baseball that is so easily defeated by the weather, baseball the constant humiliation of its players by the whims of the weather through which the football player and those in the impervious struggle with the bull labor for a conclusion must to be achieved no matter.
          I dislike the poverty of our languages to describe this weather my friend in Arizona calls the monsoons, admitting in his choice of this word, a failure of linguistic imagination, a poverty in need of bringing over from the far east this word, monsoon, but no matter, a Sunday outing for you and your father different from what you are used to--- I am sure--- back at home as it is for me also--- a time to rest, to sleep away the gloom that always descends with a fierce swipe of a mental scalpel that cuts always after two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon any strength we might have as we, the two of us know, the week will again be here and this foolish day of rest and never asking: rest for what?
          It makes me nostalgic, Eduardo says, leaning back against the high back of his chair which seemed to shrink him to only his voice though of course a man, really, a man who had found these tickets for the bullfight and who was not going away and would be at the hotel in the morning and was saying do look in.
          Would it be possible to imagine I handed Eduardo this photograph 



which I had taken during the intermission when these young men wheeled out this platform with a large Pepsi Cola bottle wobbling and after a few minutes in the rain they found as they tried to return the platform that the wheels had become stuck in the surface of the ring and additional workers were called into both push and pull the platform from the ring so the rest of the program could begin?
          There would be no need for the evidence, Eduardo was saying,  I do not always believe what I see as I am sure you are also skeptical of those who retreat and that is the necessary military word for this defection from the art of the tongue, if I may wax on before your scorn melts me to a puddle.  You have seen something we would not have seen and for that I can only thank you--- though of what significance can it have as already it is a form of ancient history, due only to evaporate as the color of your photograph will fade or as in some cases burst into a sort of golden obliterating stain?

I wonder if this is readable and if there is anymore the possibility of seeing something like this into what was used to be called book form? Please, keepi in mind that this is a prepared slide from a longer manuscript.

5 comments:

Rav Grewal-Kök said...

I thought it was wonderfully readable. Thank you--

Anonymous said...

To me it looks like a masterpiece in the making. I'd probably stay with the title Diptych Before Dying. You could always put in an epilogue with the Venice adventures.
Good luck, and keep writing!

- C.F.Gildea
Gothenburg, Sweden

Anonymous said...

The title "Diptych Before Dying" is wonderful. Register it before someone steals it.

Thomas McGonigle said...

I am sure someone will steal the title... it is nice that someone has read the post but i live now in the reality that since I know no one in the so-called world of publishing.. no one with the power to publish books even though both of my books were well reviewed in the NYTimes and I mention that only because this is the only newspaper that seems to matter--- I do no exist and soon as is likely will be beyond the caring when all the papers that surround me at the moment will be bagged up for disposal as I will have been.

lucien said...

Don't give up, Tom!