“You and me babe, how ’bout it?”Romeo And Juliet, Dire Straits, 1981.
“… We’ll love you just the way you are
If you’re perfect.”“Perfect“, Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morisset, 1995.
Names have been changed to disguise the ressentiment of the protagonists, but may the Earth choke on its ceremonial tea if a word of this tale is a lie.
On this night of December 18 in the Gregorian year two thousand and twenty-one, ten seconds before solar midnight, two tributaries of the River Lethe converge below Cerro Palestina, a short motorcycle ride from Antofagasta in Northern Chile. The first is the intermittent stream known as Justfriendistan Ditch, and the second, ephemeral and as yet nameless, the trickle of urine meandering across the stony waste of the Atacama Desert from the guileless squat of Saiph, the glimpse of whom has arrested the Vagabond for thousands of years as his woe nears its oblivion.
Expect fireworks in the region of the June solstice-point where the southern hemisphere winter signs, ‘Sagittarius’ and ‘Capricorn’, jostle for position (especially when destiny’s gate is in the anguished bardo of self-development), but perhaps the Vagabond is taken unawares because as always, he thinks of himself as just passing through, and when he pulls off his boots and socks and immerses his toes, playfully if a little cloyingly, in Saiph’s twinkle, and she reacts with dignified horror and withdraws immediately to her full distance of 700 light years, he is dismayed. Dante’s Beatrice is as far away as that.
The stony backdrop of the moonlit Lethe is not home to shadows, but gleaming statues, crystalline and petrified. Saiph is 2400 times bigger than Earth, but casts no shadow on the Atacama. No matter, her script doesn’t pay a lot of attention to shadow. She sculpts: indeed, is he not her artefact who has shamefully descended from his plinth and now stands with arms outstretched, claiming horns of a bull on his left and two overbalanced twins on his right, imploring her to be his artefact, his ideal, his life? She de-plores him, and what wets his toes.
By solar midnight she has already replaced the plaque at his feet, which in the first act read ‘Charisma’, with ‘Neediness’. On the other hand, a new title for the idol the Vagabond has kept in his own underworld heaven, ruefully offered by a retaliatory imagination, is ‘Charming Cowardice’. Surely these are labels of resentment? What do they mean? Too timid to animate sculpture? Too impolite to play at intimacy? The leading man, it must be said, is sadly out of touch with postmodernity: men who create statues these days are drones defending their sculpted gender against cancellation, even though their artefacts will not condescend to stand on their plinths. And the leading woman (to unsafely assume a binary gender)? Goddesses have adapted their anguish to the social media market, and the delusion of the complete is so yesterday’s therapy, but how well their sculptures capture their subject a non-binary audience may deride.
This homeless Vagabond will never be readier to embrace his fate, the annihilation unto eternity of intimacy by sanctimony, and beauty by efficacy, than here, as he reaches the Lethe. A howling wind is blowing and the sky is shuddering, for at the sidereal stroke of 6 o’clock destiny’s gate fell below the western horizon into the bardo realm of hell. The stage is set for the powerless to be cowed by autocratic banshees emerging from the underworld, commodifying submission and perfecting convention. The voice of Virgil is a rattle of stones: this is no place for old men. The Vagabond can feel his supplication stiffening. His whole body has become as rigid as a statue. A strong gust picks him up (on invisible wires) … the twins right themselves, and at last onstage, good old Butch the dog prances like a panda bear, as the lead actor topples. It will be three hours before he emerges from the stage door on Lethe’s far shore.