May 2003. I walk through the automatic glass doors of St. Mary’s Hospital, Leeds.
My eyes struggle to refocus under the cold exuberance of the fluorescent strip lights that held the building in a state of awful reverence.
The stench of bleach burns the inside of my nose as if an antidote to the lassitude of the terrible emotion that smothers and constricts the lungs on any unhappy occasion that has you standing with reticence in the antechamber of the profane facility.
…I don’t recall walking from that vestibule up to her ward…I imagine it a solemn and processional walk as every ounce of my being was struggling against the visit, pulling me back away from catastrophe, back towards sanctuary.
To counter such natural and reasonable urge to flee place yourself in a moment of ritual, a ceremony or rite that once embarked upon must be seen through, there being only one way out – straight towards the heart of crisis; just like Nanuatzin I could not falter in my steps towards that terrible pyre. Never retrace your steps within a Labyrinth.
The beds in the room, ten or twelve, I can’t remember in any detail, were separated by thin plastic curtains, hygienic confessional booths where we are atoned and cleansed, healed momentarily.
K was in the eighth or ninth bed and sprang to her knees when I peered anxiously through the curtains, her hospital gown clinging tightly to her thighs, her arms outstretched towards me as far as the various peripheral venous catheters that secreted themselves into her wrists would let her.
She looked like a puppet.
(Beautifully made but false).
Her friend who sat in bemused supplication at the end of her bed, shuffled her feet as I embraced and kissed K, before making her excuses and leaving.
We didn’t really talk of why she did it, we didn’t need to. We talked of banal things and then let our eyes linger furtively – everyday discussions became loaded with a declamatory sub-text that announced to the initiated the choices we had made, secretly communicating the lacerated skin that lay beneath the thin fibres of our clothes. Nothing betrayed the sanctity and the defilement of that steel weapon more eloquently than silence.
Returning home that night, I drank. Glass after glass of cheap whiskey was poured by my right hand down my throat as it tried to separate myself from the day’s events, tried to stop the incessant and contrary feelings of guilt and salacious excitement. The image of her lying in her hospital bed, tubes driven under her pale skin and her eyes, her muddied brown irises eating over the whites of the corneas due to the pills that she had taken and the pills that she was given, drove me to a drunken frenzy. I could make no sense of my lust and my sadness, I could make no sense of her laughing so terribly and joyously at her own failed suicide. I could make no sense. I masturbated furiously thinking of her eyes and the tubes and still, after climax I was left restless and ill at ease. I drank more and more, and I smoked endlessly, willing my mind to be more like the smoke that poured from the end of my cigarettes, to be like wisps and just dissipate like ignis fatuus, that phosphorescent light that dances weightlessly above swamps. I was submerged in that mire and swallowing mouthful upon mouthful of decay, unable to communicate with her or indeed with myself.
She had ruptured her being and I needed in turn to desecrate my own or lose her forever. I had to take my cue from Van Gogh and Gaston F and commune with the sun in profane houses.#
Almost without thinking I found myself stumbling towards the kitchen. I selected a knife from the drawer and returned to my chair. It took an hour to select a part of my flesh to cut – in cutting it would both reveal itself and conceal every other part of me. It was not wanton destruction it was a ritualistic desecration, a solemn rite that would either draw me closer to K or forever lose myself. That was the danger, and that is and always will be the danger in communication, at least that urgent and necessary communication that does more than fill the air with unanchored relics of meaning.
…..20.5 cm above my wrist, 3cm from the inside of my arm continuing 4cm across to 2cm away from the outside of my arm, 0.25cm deep, I drew the knife across. 21.5 cm above my wrist, 2.5 cm from the inside of my arm continuing 3.5cm across to 2.5cm away from the the outside of my arm, 0.25cm deep, I drew the knife across once more. 22.5cm above my wrist, 3cm from the inside of my arm continuing 4.5cm across to 1.5cm away from the outside of my arm, 0.25cm deep, I drew the knife across my flesh for the last time……#
I slipped into unconsciousness, the knife, I can only imagine, falling to the floor, its shining blade discoloured with my blood. To describe what I saw within (or without) my unconscious state, will, unavoidably take the form of a somewhat subjective and poetic effusion; to describe it would be to bear false witness and I do not wish to mislead you; I saw no spear of gold thrusting into my heart. My senses were absorbed under a vast black blanket, and memory, identity, were perfectly lost to me, it was neither comforting nor fearful, I saw neither god nor demon and received no salvation nor any noetic quality. Quite the opposite.
My centre of being, that which I had projected, along with all other men, onto the immense complexity of the stars, onto the abstracts of fate and destiny, onto the entirety of the terrestrial and celestial worlds, onto God himself, were torn apart like the flesh from my bone. I recognised not myself nor any higher being, no vast anthropomorphic deity that would have been only as large as desperation dictated. I saw nothing and it was Beautiful.
This nothing was not negative, was not nihilistic, it was urgent and vital, it was perhaps that Kantian sublimity; it certainly felt like that Sovereignty of Being that Bataille says is the irreducible essence of man; that wonderful silence. “Silence, only silence answers the condition of my laceration!”#
Silence is impossible and inaccessible. Bataille was right, to my mind, when he told us that
“I am unable to speak of an absence of meaning without giving it a meaning it doesn’t have. The silence was broken, when I said…Some “lama sabachthani” always ends the story, betrays our inability to keep our mouth shut. I must give meaning to that which lacks meaning. In the end, being is offered to us as impossible.”#
Explanation of anything in this world drives essential meaning further and further away from the object of its truth.