photo by Σπύρος-Ίωνας Μαρκάτης
Thanos’ voice came coarse from the depths of the abyss.
“My mother used to say: ‘A whore will get out, even if you shut her in a bottle …’ and waving the dipper menacingly at my sister, Vasiliki, would scream in her ear:
”‘People point at the whore in the bottle like a relic… ̍Won’t you look at that tart! ̍, they say’”
”My sister was tall, very tall for a woman, and exceedingly thin. She tried to get out of the bottle and was found in a basement with the veins of her right hand slashed. There was a scarf knotted around her neck and a faint smile on her lips made the spectacle even more morbid. She looked like a half-finished statue of plaster in a grotesque pose… I remember the colour the knot of her scarf turned… It was a deep purple… livid… like her lips… Her gaze was fixed, as if she was looking at some blind spot on the ceiling… and next to her… right next to her… oh, God… I don’t want to remember… next to her was a picture of her in the same position as she had in death, like she was sitting for a photographer… how odd!”
He sank onto the couch clutching the faint white cloth little fish with its greenish inverted bow-scales, which always slept in the same corner, there, against the arm of the couch. The couch in the shape of a chaise longue slightly touched a wall with a light blue background that carried you away into the open…
“Are you interested in photography?”
“Not really. Vasiliki was. She wanted to be a photographer. I adored her since she was little. She was my little queen, my sweet fairy of the dawn. I would get up very early to make her breakfast and listen to her dreams. Dreams of the day and dreams of the night. I listened to her attentively and encouraged her to make them come true. She’d give me a quick kiss on the cheek and leave for school. Oh, the tragedy that’s stricken us!”
“Where there any other photographs in the room?”
“On the night table, right next to the reading lamp, there was a childhood photograph of her. Vasiliki, wearing a short print dress and a purple ribbon in her hair, in the same position as dead Vasiliki on the bed. Creepy! Curled up in a peaceful sleeping position, like a foetus. A doll dressed in exactly the same clothes slept beside her. As if the doll was a scaled-down photo of her inside the photograph itself. I found that morbid and creepy as well! I don’t remember any such photograph of her in our family album. Where could she have got it, I wonder?
”My God… I don’t know what I’m talking about… am I going mad? At any rate, one thing I could never see in Vasiliki was her glance. She always looked somewhere else, even then… somewhere beyond me… beyond herself, beyond her doll… There was a letter on the night table next to her… a few words hastily scribbled by a quivering hand that read ‘don’t eat it, it causes indigestion’. There was a coffee stain on the letter …”
The coffee stain… on the trail of a ritual residue… hmmm… a trail… a para-language, Ezekiel Query thought and stirred absentmindedly in his chair.
“The sight of a naked sappy body terrifies me, even though I’m a sculptor. At first it fascinates me, it turns me on… then I imagine it full of wrinkles, aged and flabby and, fortunately, I go off. It turns shrivelled and I lose the appetite to chew its rosy flesh and spit the remains on the surly faces of each and every one of those girls. I don’t do it, though. I only let my imagination toy with the idea… But why did I recall all this now? I’d better go…”
Hmmm… far away from the vertigo induced by the crests of a sappy female body… Perhaps he constantly anticipates some terrible punishment for his temptations, which are of a sexual nature… At any rate, he’s not a confirmed lover of pleasure, as they’d say… The pleasure that floats his boat is the pleasure that hurts, Mr. Query repeated without vocalizing a sound.
“Just a minute…” he said emphatically. “What does one eat when he’s hungry like a wolf? Meaning? Far from sinful temptations? Why do you seek to compromise temptation with atonement?
”Think about it on the way out. What satisfies our hunger? There are texts we devour… others we swallow through our ears… and others still that are quite indigestible for our stomach. They’re sweet when you taste them, but when they reach the stomach, they bring on the bitter taste of heartburn…”
“Yet my words eat at me and I chew over their pain… At least, if I could… if…”
“If… Indeed, the condition of ‘if’ makes all the difference”.
“Yes… if I lift my foot off the ground, I won’t roll on the floor. I’m a mythical totem, the legendary farmer, at times. You know… the nursery rhyme ‘the farmer in the dell’. Not even that. I’m just a nutshell, without ‘nuts’. They’ve been cut off. Only a shell, then”.
“Who circle around you?”
“Everybody… along with the dreams I dream at night, which I don’t remember in the morning. I feel like a snake that wants to uncoil, to lightly crawl like dancing among the pebbles before leaping into the crystal-clear waters of a cistern. A snake fighting to shed its skin… but something prevents it… I won’t manage. I know I won’t…”
The patient under analysis stood up without another word, a shadow of death tracking his every step. He mentally counted the squares on the wooden floors to the front door without mentioning it to his analyst, Ezekiel Query, and the echo of his voice resounded in his mind, counting behind him…
His aspect was indeed that of a snake. Was it that of an adder or of the serpent of Eden, who talks in order to prevent Eva from being born onto her desires? “Eat the forbidden and you’ll never die!” An omnipotence with no presence. A serpent already whistling the mournful tune of an imaginary presence that’s present, though dead as a statue. A serpent-totem. The progenitor of a tribe. Gaunt, with a pale face and a body that coils in its cavities. Thanos had grizzled hair and deep expression lines under the eyes. A mark like a seam furrowed his left cheek. His hands, raw-boned and skinny, sweated against the couch and when his tongue encountered the teeth of his lower jaw a consonant whistled as he uttered his last words through a half-opened mouth…