“There was in all this a kind of melancholy of existing…”

Chapter 1, part 3 of 3

Outside of these two cursed places, the rest of the town dissolved into a uniform mass of banality, with interchangeable houses, with trees that were exasperatingly immobile, with dogs, vacant lots and dust. The spells occurred more readily and more often in enclosed spaces.  Usually I could not bear being alone in an unfamiliar room.  If I had to wait there, the swoon would overcome me within a few moments, suave and terrible.  The room itself prepared for it: a warm and hospitable intimacy would filter through the walls, trickling over all the furniture and over all the objects.  All of a sudden the room would become sublime and I would feel very happy in its space.  But this was no more than a trick of the spell, its fine and delicate perversity.  In the next moment of my beatitude, all was overturned and confounded.  I would stare wide-eyed at everything around me, but the objects had lost their usual significance: they were bathed in a new existence.

As if they had suddenly been unwrapped from the thin and transparent paper in which they had been enveloped until then, their aspect became ineffably new.  They appeared destined for new, superior and fantastic uses that I would have strived to discover in vain.

But not only that: the objects were thrown into a veritable frenzy of freedom.  They became independent of one another, but it was an independence that meant not only their simple isolation but also an ecstatic exaltation. The enthusiasm to exist in a new aura overcame me also: powerful attachments connected me to the objects, through invisible anostomoses that turned me into an object in the room like the others, in the same way in which an organ grafted onto live flesh, through subtle exchanges of substances, integrates itself into the foreign body.  Once, during one of my spells, the sun had cast a small cascade of rays on the walls, like irreal gold water, marbled with luminous waves. I saw the corner of a bookcase with thick volumes bound in leather behind glass, and these real details that I perceived from the distance of my swoon ended by intoxicating me and knocking me out like the last inhalation of chloroform.  What was most common and familiar in those objects disturbed me most.  The habit of scrutinizing them so many times had probably ended by wearing away the exterior skin, and so sometimes they appeared to me flayed to the point of bleeding: alive, indescribably alive.

The supreme moment of the spell was consumed floating outside of any world in a way that was at once pleasant and painful.  At the sound of footsteps, the room quickly returned to its old aspect.  Then there would commence a decline within the four walls, an extremely slight, almost imperceptible diminution of its exaltation; this convinced me that the certainty in which I lived was separated from the world of uncertainties by the thinnest of membranes. I would find myself in the room that I knew so well, sweating, exhausted and full of the sensation of the uselessness of the things around me.  I would observe new particularities in them, as happens when we discover some fresh detail in an object that we have used every day for years.

The room vaguely retained the memory of the catastrophe like the sulfurous smell of a place where an explosion had occurred.  I saw the bound books in the glass cabinets and in their immobility I noticed, for some reason, a perfidious air of concealment and complicity.  The objects around me never gave up their secretive attitude, ferociously maintained in their severe immobility.

Ordinary words are not valid at certain spiritual depths.  I’m trying to define my spells exactly but only find images.  The magic word that could express them would have to borrow something from the essence of other sensibilities in life, distilling itself from them like a new scent from a masterly concoction of perfumes.

For the word to exist, it should contain something of the stupefaction that grips me when I see a person in reality and then follow their gestures in a mirror, plus something of the disequilibrium of falling in dreams with the whistling fear that runs down the spine in an unforgettable instant; or something of the fog and transparency inhabited by bizarre scenes in crystal balls.

I envied the people around me, hermetically sealed in their clothes and isolated from the tyranny of objects.  They lived as prisoners under jackets and overcoats but nothing from the outside could terrorize and defeat them, nothing penetrated their wonderful prisons.  Between the world and me there was no separation.  Everything that surrounded me invaded me from head to toe as if my skin had been a sieve.  My attentiveness—distracted at that—to the things that surrounded me, was not a simple act of will.  The world naturally stretched all its tentacles toward me; I was crisscrossed by the thousand arms of the hydra.  In exasperation I was forced to observe that I was living in the world that I saw.  There was nothing more to be done about it.

The spells belonged to me and to the places where they occurred in the same measure.  It’s true that some of these places contained a malevolence of their own, but all the others were found in a trance themselves much before my coming.  So it was for instance with some rooms, where I felt my spells crystallizing from the melancholy of immobility and boundless solitude found there.

As a kind of equity, however, between me and the world (an equity which immersed me still more irremediably in the uniformity of raw matter) the conviction that objects could be innocuous became equal with the terror that they sometimes inspired in me.  Their innocuousness came from a universal lack of force.

I sensed vaguely that nothing in this world could reach the end, nothing could complete itself.  The ferocity of objects also became exhausted.  Thus the idea was born in me of the imperfection of any manifestation in this world, even the supernatural ones.

In a never-ending interior dialogue I would sometimes defy the maleficent powers around me, and at other times fawn upon them basely.  I practiced some weird rituals, though they were not without meaning.  If I left the house and went on different roads, I would always retrace my steps coming back home; I did this so as not to describe a circle with my path in which houses and trees would remain enclosed. In this regard my walk resembled a thread and if, once unwound, it had not been rewound, along the same road, the objects collected in the knots of the walk would have forever remained irremediably and profoundly bound to me.  If I avoided touching the stones in the path of the water when it rained, I did this so as not to add anything to the action of water and not to intervene in the exercise of its elemental powers.

Fire purified all.  I always had a box of matches in my pocket.  Whenever I was very sad I would light a match and pass my hand through the flame, first one, then the other.

There was in all this a kind of melancholy of existing and a kind of organized torment that was normal within the limits of my life as a child.

In time the spells disappeared on their own, though not without leaving behind their powerful memory, forever.  When I entered adolescence I no longer had these spells, but in a way, that crepuscular state that preceded them and the profound feeling of the uselessness of the world that followed became my natural state.

The uselessness filled the hollows of the world like a liquid that had spread out in all directions, and the sky above me, the eternally correct sky, absurd and indefinite, took on the characteristic color of despair.

To this day I go about in this uselessness that surrounds me and under this eternally cursed sky.

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“It was a vagabondage that broke my heart in the end.”

Chapter 1 continued, part 2 of 3

It was always the same places in the streets, in the houses or in the parks that set off my spells.  Each time I entered these spaces, the same swoon and the same vertigo overtook me.  Veritable invisible snares placed here and there in town, not any different from the things that surrounded them—with ferocity they lay in wait for me to fall prey to the special atmosphere they exuded.  Were I to take a step, a single step, and enter such a “cursed space,” the spell became inevitable.

One of these spaces was in the town park in a small clearing at the end of a path that no one ever used.  Bushes of sweet briar and dwarf acacia that surrounded it opened up on one side to the desolation of a deserted field.  There was no place on earth sadder or more abandoned.  The silence lay thick on the dusty leaves in the stagnant heat of summer.  From time to time the echoes of the trumpets from the regiments could be heard.  Those drawn-out calls in the wasteland were heart-rendingly sad . . .  In the distance, the air ignited by the sun quavered vaporously like the transparent steam that rises above a boiling liquid.

The place was wild and isolated; its loneliness seemed endless.  There I felt the heat of the day was more tiring and the air I breathed heavier.  The dusty bushes baked yellow in the sun, in an atmosphere of perfect solitude.  A bizarre sensation of uselessness floated in the air in that clearing that existed “somewhere in the world,” somewhere that I myself had happened upon without purpose, on some summer afternoon that was likewise without any meaning.  An afternoon that had strayed chaotically in the heat of the sun, through some bushes anchored in space “somewhere in the world.”  I felt more profoundly and more painfully then that I had nothing to do in this world, nothing other than to tramp through parks—through dusty clearings burnt by the sun, deserted and wild.  It was a vagabondage that broke my heart in the end.

Another cursed place was situated just at the other end of town, between the high and pitted banks of the river where I used to bathe with the other kids.

In one place the bank had caved in.  Above the shore a factory had been set up for extracting oil from sunflower seeds.  The shells of the seeds were thrown into the pit of the riverbank where it had caved in, and with time the heap had risen so high that a slope of dried shells had formed above the shore to the edge of the water.

The others would go down to the water on this slope, cautious, holding hands, stepping deeply into the carpet of decay.    The walls of the pit on either side of the heap of dried shells were steep and full of fantastic irregularities.  Rain had sculpted long streaks of fine cracks like arabesques but hideous like badly healed wounds.  They were veritable rags in the flesh of the earth, horrible gaping wounds.

I too had to go down to the river between these walls that affected me beyond measure. Even from far off and much before arriving at the riverbank, my nostrils were filled with the smell of the putrefying hulls.  It prepared me for the “spell” like a short period of incubation; it was an unpleasant smell though mild.  Much like the spells.

My olfactive sense separated in two somewhere inside of me, and the two effluvia of the odor of putrefaction reached different regions of sensation.  The gelatinous smell of decomposing hulls was separate and very distinct, though concomitant, from the pleasing, warm, domestic aroma of roasted hazelnuts.

As soon as I smelled it, this aroma transformed me in a few instants, circulating fully throughout all my internal fibers dissolving them and replacing them with a more airy and uncertain material.  From that moment on I could avoid nothing.  A pleasing and intoxicating swoon began in my chest, which propelled my feet toward the shore, toward the place of my definitive defeat.

I would descend to the water at a crazy speed on the mound of hulls.  The air opposed me with a sharp and hard density like a knife blade.  The contents of the world hurtled chaotically into an immense hole through mysterious powers of attraction.
The other kids watched my insane flight with horror.  The gravel strip down below was very narrow and the smallest misstep would have hurled me into the river, into a place where the whirlpools on the surface of the water showed its great depth.

I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing.  Once I arrived at the water, I went around the mound of hulls with the same speed and ran along the bank down the river to a certain place where there was a hollow.

At the bottom of the hollow a small grotto had formed, a cavern shaded and cool like a small room dug out of rock.  I entered and fell to the ground, sweating, exhausted and trembling from head to toe.

When I revived a little, I found near me the intimate and indescribably pleasing decor of a grotto with a spring that spouted slowly from the rock and that trickled along the ground, forming a basin of limpid water in the middle of the gravel, above which I bowed to see, without ever tiring of it, the wondrous lace of the green moss at the bottom, worms hanging from bits of wood, pieces of old rusty iron with silt on them, animals and a whole variety of things at the bottom of the fantastically beautiful water.

“I no longer know who I am or where I am…”

Chapter 1, part 1 of 3

When I stare at a fixed point on the wall for a long time, it sometimes happens that I no longer know who I am or where I am. Then I feel my absence of identity from a distance as if I had become, for a moment, a complete stranger.  With equal force, this abstract character and my real self struggle to win my conviction.

In the next instant my identity finds itself again, as in those stereoscopic views where two images separate by mistake, and only when the operator lines them up, superposing them, do they suddenly give the illusion of relief.  The room then seems to have a freshness that it didn’t have before.  It returns to its former consistency and the objects within it are deposited the way a clod of rubbly earth in a glass of water settles in layers of different elements, well-defined and variously colored.  The elements of the room stratify into their proper contours with the coloring of old as I remember it.

The sensation of distance and isolation, in the moments when my everyday self has dissolved into insubstantiality, is different from any other sensation.  When it lasts a while, it becomes a fear, a terror of never being able to find myself again.  In the distance, an uncertain silhouette of me remains, surrounded by a great luminosity in the way some objects appear in a fog.

The terrible question “who am I?” lives in me then like an entirely new body, sprung up with skin and organs that are completely unknown to me.  Its resolution is demanded by a more profound and more essential lucidity than that of the brain.  Everything that’s capable of being agitated in my body becomes agitated, struggles and revolts more powerfully and in a more elementary way than in everyday life.  Everything implores a solution.

A few times, I find the room as I know it as if I were closing and opening my eyes: each time the room is clearer—as a landscape appears better and better focused in a telescope as we go through all the intermediate veils of images in adjusting the distance.

At last I recognize myself and find the room again.  There is a sensation of light drunkenness.  The room is extraordinarily condensed in its substance, and I am implacably returned to the surface of things:  the deeper the trough of uncertainty, the higher its crest; at no other time and under no other circumstances does it seem more evident to me than at those moments that each object must occupy the place that it occupies and that I must be who I am. Nor does my struggle in this state of uncertainty have a name; it’s a simple regret that I’ve found nothing in its depths.  I am only surprised by the fact that a total lack of meaning could be bound so profoundly to my intimate substance.  Now that I’ve found myself again and I look for a way to express the sensation, it appears completely impersonal to me: a simple exaggeration of my identity, self-generating like cancer from its own substance.  A tentacle of a jellyfish that’s extended itself too far and that’s looked through the waves in exasperation until at last it has returned under the gelatinous bell.  In this way, in the few moments of anxiety, I have gone through all the certainties and uncertainties of my existence to return definitively and painfully to my solitude.

At that moment my solitude is purer and more pathetic than at other times.  The sensation of the world’s retreat is clearer and more intimate: a limpid and delicate melancholy, like a dream that we remember in the middle of the night.

It alone recalls to me something of the mystery and sad charm of my childhood “spells.”

Only in this sudden disappearance of identity do I regain my falls in the cursed spaces of old, and only in the moments of immediate lucidity that follow the return to surface, does the world appear in that unusual atmosphere of uselessness and desuetude that formed around me when my hallucinatory trances ceased wrestling with me.