Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Wonder of Lost Fragments

I was laying down, half asleep, in the brown sofa in the living room of my grandmother’s house. My body was gently soothed by the light cool breeze that was not quite strong enough to counteract the humid heat of the early afternoon and the recurring attacks of the mosquitoes that found their way into the house. Lorena came up the stairs from the dining room and stood before me, with her metal framed teeth, her large conical breasts and her thick brown body that had a kind of earthy beauty that could not be found on any billboard or TV ad. I opened my eyes completely and I saw her standing there, smiling at me, her head framed by the bright light that came in through the open door. If she had been busy, she would have run through so quickly that her sandals would have been hitting the upper levels of the stone steps outside before I would have realized that she had been there. But she was free right now, at least for a moment, and she was ready for me to ask her questions, ready to give me answers. Without any need to say it, I understood her message and I sat up to talk.
We talked of soap operas and movies and stories. She said to me: "I have never been able to be fully interested in movies because I never see them from start to end, and the same is true of the soap operas." She saw movies in little snatches in the midst of constant work. Maybe a bit of the end of one movie while she ate, then a bit of the middle of another movie while she ironed my grandmother’s clothes, maybe she would just hear the start of one from the kitchen while the TV was still on in the dining room, maybe somebody would tell her how another movie finally resolved. She would catch soap operas in snatches as well. Sometimes her schedule would fit in just right and she would sit to watch a whole episode, from start to finish. Then she would recognize a character, understand a particular trail of a story line, maybe even manage to piece together where the whole soap was going and what the main obstacles would be. But her schedule might not match the TV schedule for another week and by the time she could watch an episode again, the stories had changed, the characters had married, died, gotten sick, gotten well, or they might have simply disappeared. So she could never feel herself fully invested in the stories themselves. Even as she saw a scene, she knew already that she might never know how the story turned out, how the pretty girl escaped certain death, how the handsome man returned to marry the beautiful woman, how the poor lost little boy found his mother again. So each scene, each moment of story, had to be enjoyed in its own terms, as sound, as picture, as emotion that came from nowhere and went nowhere. She shrugged her shoulders, as if giving up on the whole endeavor. It was just something to do when there was nothing else to do. In that time of nothing, a story was something and she could never be fully part of that something because it would quickly return to nothing.
I agreed with her that it was difficult to fully experience a movie when you had not seen the start, or when you never got around to seeing the end. I paid special attention to the way she talked about the movies, about the soaps, about the stories. I wondered what she saw as a movie. What did she think it was. Where did she think it came from. To her, these things simply existed. She could not imagine the process of creating them, she could certainly not imagine herself being part of that process. I wondered how similar her experience was to a pigeon’s perception of a wall or a house or a telephone pole, something that has always been there and always will be there, like a tree or a mountain or the sky, and because these things had always been there, because they simply existed outside of any pigeon intervention, then they could not have involved any effort of any kind, certainly no effort that a pigeon could understand. These things, these movies, these houses, these mountains, these stories, these things were not planned, they did not carry intentions, they did not fulfill a purpose, they simply were and they had always been and there was no need to explore them further, anymore than you would explore the wind.
I thought then of comic books, the ones I read when I was little, the ones I looked at before I could even read, and how I also experienced them as lost fragments that existed in tense isolation. Back then, I could never be sure of getting the continuation of a story. I could never even be sure that I would ever find that comic book title again. The people that placed them in the stores probably treated them like grains of rice, completely interchangeable with each other and beyond any conscious notice. So the comic books would simply appear in random batches of color, text and story, without any plan, without any promises, without any past, without any future. I remember reading the words "to be continued" at the end of these little books and feeling them fall upon me like a giant stone mallet. In the final panels of the comic, I would sense a door that would probably never be opened, a mystery that would never be completely solved. Without knowing it, these careless comic book suppliers were teaching me how to live in a world without complete answers, where questions rose over my head like shiny balloons that never ran out of air and never touched the ground again.
I remembered reading Kaliman and realizing that I did not truly know who the villainous Zulma was, why she was with the awful Radames and why they were in search of the sacred stones of Kali. I saw their actions and I recognized them as evil and I could fill in the possible pasts that could have lead to this terrifying present. Sometime in her youth maybe Zulma had learned to be evil, maybe she had grown in a dark city of the desert, maybe she had simply learned to hate from her family of rich and selfish lords. Somehow she had encountered Radames and seduced him, tempted him with her full bronzed body and her deep black eyes and pulled him into her world of reckless desire. Somehow they had brought together the savage gang of killers that they called the Knights of Terror. And somehow they had come to learn of the precious stones of Kali and they were slowly getting all seven of them, one savage massacre at a time. Even more mysterious was Kaliman. Who was he? How did he come to serve Kali? How did he gain his subtle powers that set him apart from ordinary humans? Why was there a little boy with him? Why did they put themselves in danger, time and time again, to save the stones of Kali? Was Kali a real creature that could reach out from the sky to strike out her enemies or was she some form of subtle presence that could only defend her servants through the actions of a strange man in white clothes and the little brown boy that followed him everywhere? All these questions were open and vibrant and, as the story traveled from chamber to chamber, from danger to danger, from daring escape to daring escape and back to the jaws of death, other details were introduced that only added to the tension, to the multidimensional past that spread open behind every tiny move of Kaliman’s hands. Back then, I would have thought that the stories, as good as they were, would have been even better if I had known the answers. I had now come to understand that it was the questions themselves which kept the stories suspended in mid air, flying from mystery into mystery, always avoiding a lethal final answer that would make them come crashing helplessly to the earth. The endless questions that bounced around inside me didn’t push me away from the stories of Kaliman and his little apprentice. Without my conscious knowledge, their nature as disconnected fragments pulled me in and filled me with ever expanding spirals of wonder, filled me with the infinite possibilities that extended in colorful webs through my mind, and beyond, to the furthest reaches of the vast savage world outside the tall windows of my room.
In the same way, I followed the adventures of Ultraman on TV, faithfully and voraciously. When the time would come for the show, a black and white Japanese series dubbed into Spanish, I would sit in front of the TV and I would not allow anything or anyone to disturb me. Nothing could be more important than knowing what great danger Ultraman was about to face and finding out how he would manage to deal with it. I knew that there was something here that meant more than I was seeing, something that called from beyond the blanket of the stars, and said that there was more to our daily life than could be seen with the common human eye. Ultraman was a defender of the human race but he wasn’t quite human. There was a man, a young fearless pilot, that was not Ultraman but could summon him and, in summoning him, would become him, and the two, alien and human, space warrior and pilot, would become as one. In one fateful episode, Ultraman gave his life to save the Earth, battling against overwhelming forces to the death, and light beings from the heart of the galaxy came to the Solar System to give him burial among the stars. They had complex shining emblems and silver horns and mystic amulets that meant more than I could even manage to ask, they implied more than I could dare to imagine. I never knew where they came from or how Ultraman had been sent here. I never knew how these deep space warriors learned what they knew, how they were taught the power to travel among the golden suns that spread far beyond the reach of my knowledge. I never knew of their childhood, or their dreams, or their secret stories. I only knew that they were out there, and the unanswered questions vibrated around them like an aura of strange magic from a dark world that I didn’t know and couldn’t comprehend.
I came to understand that, more than James Bond movies, I adored the initial sequences with which they began. After a shocking prologue that would show me the true nature of this ruthless English spy, the music would begin and it would be clothed in psychedelic waves of sex and violence. The confluence of these three impulses -the shamanic expansion of consciousness that traveled outwards into the pure Universe of archetypes, the burning heat of sexual desire and the heavy dark hunger for blood and destruction- they crashed within me and filled me with a tingling excitement that was tinged with fear and drenched in possibility. The silhouettes of naked women would dance around black guns that swam in an ocean of colors and dreams. The women would be threats and temptations and they would also be lovers and saviors and the spy was the only one that could swim deep into their hidden recesses and discover the truth. It was a call to the lustful exploration of the esoteric underpinnings of reality and it was drenched in the chromatic tension of the movie theme that made my heart beat intensely with an uncontrolled anticipation of new doorways to be opened and new chambers to be discovered. The movie itself could never live up to the far flung expectations of the credits, like Schroedinger’s Cat, it would always fall into a distinct final reality the moment that the box was opened and the poor little kitty would either be alive or dead, but always the taste of those opening credits remained, and that taste was more than enough to make me come back, again and again.
The questions were there in the proto-metal of Black Sabbath, where strange chords and ghostly sound effects and lyrical references to underground grottoes and ancient gods of war and death, evoked a world that expanded outwards, far beyond the limited reach of a distorted guitar playing pentatonic riffs, far beyond the reach of an old little tape recorder and its tinny little speaker that threatened to break apart every time that Ozzy would scream, far beyond my little room filled with books, cassettes and newspapers, all remains of other stories, other dreams, other lost fragments floating in a sea of unanswered questions. It was in the loud clear bell at the very start of a song, and the sounds of a foreboding storm and ghostly winds, it was in the acoustic guitar playing a strange exotic scale for what then seemed like hours and it was really only a few seconds, before the electric guitar came in, it was in the string orchestra that descended on the blaring power chords to create the shining structure that would rise up towards the sky, designed by spiral architects, possessors of long forgotten knowledge, gatekeepers of the House Absolute where ancient unknowable symbols still charted the hidden secrets of Creation. But it was then far beyond me to understand that these tiny suggestions, these elusive touches of the dark mystery all around me, were indeed the center of my adoration. Where I would have thought of them as little touches that completed the picture, they were actually the heart of the picture itself, everything else was adornment, everything else could be taken away and the picture would still remain the same. In these lost fragments of dreams was the truth that could never be spoken, the secret that could never be said, the question that could never be answered.
Lorena shrugged her shoulders again and then she said: "These things keep you entertained." I nodded and she smiled and I said: "Yes, they do." Then she said: "I should get back to work." She turned around and walked away towards the stone steps outside. I looked at her walking away from me, her long blue skirt pressed around her full round ass, her white shirt semi transparent in the sunlight showing the outline of her bra. I imagined her naked and vulnerable, her brown skin glistening with sweat and her large nipples hard and eager to be touched. She walked up the steps and I knew clearly that the question posed by her physical presence and her careful smile tinged with sadness was yet another fragment lost in a world of shadows. Where did she come from? Where was she going? What were the dreams that she kept secret even from herself? The trails of possibilities extended in all directions, but it was this fragment called Lorena that offered the question today and I now knew that this fragment was all I needed. The sunlight kept on shining through the doorway after she disappeared and the light breeze kept on caressing my sweaty skin as I leaned back on the brown sofa, and once again, I closed my eyes.

A closed door that vibrates with infinite possibility.
Kaliman: "All truth is simple and invulnerable,
if it is just."
The red Horned God from the stars,
the leader of the space warriors.

Zulma and the Knights of Terror
who are the manifestations of her deepest
and darkest desires.

Questions of five simple notes and their infinite variations.

The Knights of Terror in full fearsome attack.

Lorena stands ready to answer my questions.

"You are strong and beautiful, stranger.
You shall be my favorite slave."

The questions that lie behind the white veil.

"It is an evil Goddess.
She can change form whenever she wants to!"

Ultraman flies fearless towards the
ancient questions beyond the stars.

"With our last drop of blood,
we will protect the sacred chamber of
our Goddess Kali!"

A girl walks down the street of San Salvador.
Where does she come from?
Where does she go?

Bond with his magic weapon ready to
dive into the deepest mysteries of the world.

Questions of power, pain and pleasure and
the hidden places where they meet.

Bond at the heart of the woman that is his lover,
his enemy and his only true God.

"Only destroying the bridge will I be able
to stop the Black Spider."

The horned space God and the lustful Goddess of Earth.

"What a great pleasure it is to see a slave die
with the venom of my beautiful snakes."

Questions of dark English forests and of witches
that meet in dark old mansions
away from the eyes of the world.

Zulma finds all her beautiful serpents dead
and wonders who may have killed them.

Questions that remain even after
the veil has been removed.

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