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Sara Poisson

Sara Poisson (b. 1964)
I was born uncomfortably in a little house at a lake. My mother, a midwife by profession, found herself in two roles at the same time: that of giving birth and that of assisting a birth. Very likely it was what caused my inclination to impurity, to the ability to take on several roles simultaneously, to the inner obligation I felt to view everything both from inside and from outside. All this and me being a journalist were totally incompatible: the duality of my personality or the mingling of things that are sacred to others when taken separately; the ability to impart meaning to what is insignificant and stripping meaning from what is significant;  deconstructing what is usual and comfortable;  building a hut of words from material fit for nothing useful and doomed to rot. I write uncomfortably. Someone is always asking if I am scared, if I feel safe, if what I do is hazardous to my health. From 1999 to 2016, different publishers in Lithuania published nine of my uncomfortable books: four collections of poetry, two novels, one collection of novellas, and two books of essays. Writing uncomfortable books was the most comfortable, cheapest, and safest of all activities known to me. Some of those books have been noticed.

a palmers chronicle right bw

Comics

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Eglė Kuckaitė, Soundless Time, 2005, monotyping, 50,5 x 65,5. From The Modern Art Center collection
 

Two essays from the book “The Beauty Machine”

 

The Beauty Machine

 

And hearing the wind
Rush rustling through these bushes,
I pit its speech against infinite silence
         -Giacomo Leopardi


A curled pink snout with two warmth- and life-signaling openings, blue eyes rimmed in a soft ring of eyelashes. Spoon-like ears that remind one of the fuzzy heads of dead flowers with a barely visible web of blood vessels covered in bristles. Perfectly cleft hooves. A smooth underbelly framed by four flexible, pink legs, dressed in sheer silk stockings... A flash of life and beauty… So very, very similar to a human body. And yet surpassed by something.

A destructive force pulses in these images. A resemblance capable of curing one of a taste for pork and shattering a person’s standards of beauty.

Is a 30-year-old model really more beautiful than a 3-day old piglet? Is a person really more beautiful than a pig? Perhaps this is uncouth? Maybe you think that these analogies are sacrilegious, and the questions born of them - diabolical?

These kinds of thoughts are excessive, lacking in taste and moderation. They’re like anxieties stemming from a morbid imagination, when at twilight or in the distance, objects and shadows begin to look like monsters, beasts, or bandits. Though, it’s hard to avoid. The shapes of this world are driven by the curse of similarity. They usher in the temptation to compare. Once we give in, we may experience a mystic unity. Although, we may progress to the painful isolation of individualism, uniqueness, superiority or imperfection, and inadequacy. Or else we’ll be propelled to balance on a knife’s edge – a knife that separates the nearby and similar from the distant and dissimilar.

In the presence of beauty, the dichotomy of unity and solitude creates a field of radiant wonder and vital energy, where our heartbeats are like the crackle something electrified. The intoxicating smell of ozone streaming from this kernel of resemblance compels us to declare--annoyingly, unconsciously, unceasingly, with an unmanageable torrent of words--the resemblance of all things, labeling that which is inevitably incorporated into sets of varied, overlapping systems of resemblance. This is how the beauty machine works. At its root – connections that stem from unavoidable similarities.

When I was young, the similarity between wild and cultivated strawberries was inspiring, and as lovely as the intimate gift of sisterhood. Then there was the kinship of blueberries and bilberries, the similarities between cats and dogs, babies and piglets, later – the parallels of cow’s milk and soymilk. The scintillating cocktail of masculinity and femininity: the most important attribute is not distinction, but scintillation, when gender is unrecognizable, possessing traits of the opposite sex.

As a child, I used to pour sugar into a teaspoon and then hold it above the flame of the gas stove until it turned yellow, frothed, and the scorched smell of caramel penetrated my nostrils. In a five-by-five meter kitchenette, this smell was strange and almost opulent. It was hard to believe that one didn’t have to pay for this scent. The solidified burnt sugar reminded me of the sugared rooster lollipops that were sold at the market. This association that I created so quickly with my own hands brought me inexplicable joy. It exceeded the pleasure I felt with my tongue. The pleasure of creating this new relationship helped to ease the pain I felt after singeing my tongue on the hot sugar.

The propagation of related connections or the recognition of them signaled the growth of the world’s security and beauty. The world, fortified by connected similarities, seemed easier to comprehend, more trustworthy. Perhaps aspiring to this state can be attributed to childishness, immaturity, which strives to produce that which is lacking. There is some truth in the proposition that a direct comparison that has not become metaphor demonstrates a weakness in the observer, the perceiver, and most especially the poet. Because correlation builds connection, instills security, whereas a metaphor creates an autonomous entity – within it, likeness is a unique property, which is merely named. So the world of comparisons is, in part, a child’s world, one that seeks and creates a secure existence, -- even if it is based on Charles Darwin’s theory of the origin and evolution of the species. There is no place in this system for autonomous, disparate phenomena, just as there is no room for willful creative passion that binds similarity and security in the same way that God arbitrarily forged man out of nothing when He created him in His own image.

Nevertheless, one day I consciously (and quite passionately) demolished my own system that I had honored for several years with cascades of boundless and demonstrative comparison--the system in which metaphor was more valued than analogy. I created a nation of analogies where the decrepit “queen metaphor” was toppled from her throne. Unable to recover from this blow, she was adorned in lace like flower petals, and laid to rest in a luxurious coffin that looked like a flower bud.

I did all of this for the sake of equality, unity, freedom, and beauty. Like many murderers who are not hired or paid. I behaved like most adolescents emerging from the security of childishness, as though from an egg shell.

It felt relatively safe to grow up in a world where children, kittens, dogs, bunnies, and fathers, mothers, and neighbors are similar to you. Later, returning to the scheme of comparison that we learned in childhood, we discovered or simply created “soul mates” of opposite sex to justify the desire that arose from distinct gender differences. It’s as if dressed in a uniform, the dangerously sharp edges were covered up.

With age, when the attraction of diversity subsides, and when you’re able to step back in order to view this desire from a distace—from above or even humbly prostrate—you’ll find similarities of a higher degree, perhaps even the very crux of forms, shaking and laughing at the recently deflowered similarities and differences (because only that which is similar can be identified as different). Here, at the mystic origin of forms, in the very center, they are as similar as two naked newborns. Maybe just like the faces of a small child and an elderly person when they’re intensely watching something or looking pensively into the distance: strained and pursed lips, and an open mouth, could signal both pleasure and discontent. Faces without the masks of self-defense, faces that don’t yet or no longer see danger in those who watch and care for them.

The gypsies who used to wander by near our collective garden, -- a locked wooden tool shed stood there, -- had faces that didn’t look like old people or grimacing babies. Though darker, their faces with inquisitive eyes were probably more similar to mine. We were bound by the desire to have a small, beautiful puppy. And my father had recently given me one. One of the older gypsy boys—maybe about seven—offered me a pocket knife in exchange for the dog. This was a remarkably generous offer, one that –like some sort of object – I wanted to hold onto a bit longer. My only fear at the time was that, when the time period for the offer expired, and they had not yet been given the dog, this delegation would never return to outskirts of our garden.

The gypsy’s dark eyes, long and thick eyelashes, small brown hands with blackened fingernails, their palms lined with dirt, was an enchanting sight – it remained my possession as long as I could see it. This beauty was mine and it adorned me, I felt that I grew more beautiful by looking at it; I was becoming more like my vision, enhanced by affinity and community. My heart beat with the rhythm of the reverberating beauty machine.

Later, when I was living in the city and the gypsies came to my door begging, and when I invited them inside, the seed of familiarity was awakened within me – I was certain that my trust in familiarity would augment our human feminine bond. I believed that my trust would destroy or at least stave off any inclination they had to snatch something from me.

In several instances, another gender, another species, another language or nation awoke within me an exalted sense and capacity for community. When I was young, I trusted in my resemblance to the elderly, and now I trust in my resemblance to those who see in me an old woman.  I believed that similarity was a given, or material given to me from which I could create this similarity for myself. Hope was roused within me, together with the understanding that one must work for, must earn, community, and that it would be a gift given after overcoming fear, and the risk losing something. That in seeking this affinity and community, I would most certainly lose something – security or even a part of the well-being I had. I would have to sacrifice something. Because the beauty machine is not an eternal engine – it needs fuel. A sacrifice.

In early August, the red apples on the tree along the fence between our apartment’s yard and the bank’s property line were beginning to ripen. The children picked the under-ripe fruit which deceptively looked delicious. They tried one apple after the other. As if each bite would bring them closer to the desired taste. The fruit, harvested by force in the darkness of late evening, accompanied by the chatter of the children, became a fragile, yet more solid connection to familiarity between the ripe and the unripe, the tasty and the unappetizing. Perched in the birdhouse of my third floor apartment, I felt pity for the apple tree and irritation at the disorder, just like the painful memory of the under-ripe apples I plucked when I was young.

To transform a sour taste in one’s mouth to something delicious is somewhat easier in pairs – when you hear another set of teeth munching and the sweet- sour affirmation that it’s “it’s quite delicious.” The memory of the alchemy of the childish duet today seems so much like happiness. Perhaps because that which I remember as happiness is no longer attainable, and it’s impossible to check if it’s even real.

Small piglets, which I was able to see and touch when I was young in the Nausedziu collective farm or our village’s barn, looked so beautiful that they had to also be happy. For me, these beautiful, innocent animals were a marvelous sign of life, showing me, without words, that which I would call joyful fulfillment today.

To be a beautiful piglet with a curled little tail, as I saw it then, was undeniably fortuitous. Would I dare to doubt that now? People who are so taken by this beauty and joy so idolize these piglets that they lay them, cooked and decorated, in the most honored place on the table –the very center of a symbolic paradise. The piglet must have looked beautiful and happy and clean to whoever did this for the very first time. And because these features are attributed to the divine, then without blaspheming we can assert that the piglet is similar to God and to His most complex creation, the human. Or that all who are beautiful in one way or another are similar to the Most Beautiful.

During those bygone days in the Nausedziai village, I was solidly convinced that the happiness of little piglets was venerable and venerated. I remember how I asked for a curled piece of white rubber, which I affixed with a safety pin and in doing so became a little bit more like that small animal with the twisted tail. For some time, to the delight of the adults, I walked around oinking on all fours. This was really beautiful! I was engulfed in smiles, laughter, and encouragement. This allowed me to think that my purpose in life—to be like the happy piglet and to bring joy to others just as this small animal had done for me—had been achieved.

In playing the happy piglet, who one couldn’t help but love and be compelled find joy in, I experienced my first similarity, community. I already had within me the infection of unity and universality, and it has not disappeared. To this day, it doesn’t allow me to indulge passionately in phenomena, revealing rich layers of heritage and similarities in each individuality.

One of my classmates in school liked horses more than piglets. She would often draw me into playing horses. Waving unfurled ribbons like reins, streaming tassels or scarves, we galloped or trotted through Lenin Square (as it was called at that time) in Panevezys. We thought it was beautiful.

My primary school classmate wanted to look like a horse, and I wanted to look like her because she seemed so beautiful and so happy. To be honest, she looks like this to this day, even though it’s been a long, long time since I’ve trotted after her. I hope that she is just as happy surrounded by the flowers in her garden as I am with my zucchini blossoms.

When I was six years old, I tried to urinate while standing and I wanted to be like a boy. Maybe because boys seemed more beautiful and happier than girls. Or maybe because, born of the female gender, I looked as though someone had drawn a bad card. My father never hid the fact that he would have rather had a son, and several acquaintances told me that they hoped I would one day have a brother. In those days, I would look in the mirror searching for some similarity to a boy.

Perhaps, as a boy, I would be more loved, I’d give more joy? At any rate, the mirror showed that the difference between a boy and a girl was not all that great, and if I really wanted to, I could be one or the other. Besides, I believed that someone who had both boy and girl attributes should pursue both characteristics. Like plants that we must water and otherwise care for if we want to keep them alive. And if we’re talking about forms of self-care, then we must preserve our femininity and masculinity. Because, as I believed at the time, more is always better than less. Did the straitened circumstances of the 1960s foster this faulty attitude within me? Or perhaps these were the beauty machine’s tricks?

My attempt to urinate while standing was one of the secret revelations of my belief in my own masculinity and femininity.

The memories of childhood are like dreams. We can easily recreate them, calmly distancing ourselves from primary meanings, because these connotations grew and changed together with us, unnoticed and involuntarily. Some childhood experiences – like clay figurines – give way to the warmth of one’s hand and become malleable, oblivious to the pain that accompanies numerous transformations.

To step into the metropolis of childhood memories is tantamount to new experiences; you view the same things through an adult’s eye and that’s why they are no longer the same. This type of comprehension even encourages resolve, to reject the obligation of recalling that child-like feeling, and for whatever reason, to transform it into museum treasures, relics of one’s personal life. Because that which we experienced in our youth can still be the raw material used to create new worlds; adornments, flower garlands, new objects that fill the empty spaces of thought, similar to those that we confidently created some time ago.

Were the boats, planes, and fortresses of our youth something completely unique? They definitely had some sort of crazy detail or characteristic that bespoke childishness. Though their main feature what that they were similar to something else that we had already experienced, touched, or at least seen in the movie theatre. We molded and modeled similar things, unconsciously connecting ourselves to the yet incomprehensible world’s order of objects and things - to the beauty machine. We thought it was reliable and truthful, perhaps even eternal. It seemed sensible to create something that was similar to things that already exist – we used to be praised for recitation, for doing something recognizable. Striving for similarity meant striving for goodness or even God Himself.

In my early childhood, the existence of God was not the most important thing in my life, although to make something similar, to become someone familiar, was undeniably important. At a certain point, it was probably the most important obligation in my life. I understood this without words, without instructions, and without the need to answer to someone or even to be appreciated. A voice awoke within me with which I evaluated myself more reliably than anyone else. Not to mention, in striving to be similar to something that already existed, one sometimes had to resort to illegal activities. Cutting a piece of cloth meant for my mother’s new dress without thinking that later I could be caught. Secretly painting my lips with my mother’s lipstick or trying on her lacy slip. In striving for beauty, the left hand had to be ignorant of what the right hand was doing.

Did I want to be like my mother, like a woman? I wanted to be more like my father or Jonas, our carpenter neighbor, rather than a familiar feminine being. To me, gender identity was alterable. To be similar to only women seemed like a limitation or even an injustice. What can we learn and who can we become similar to – it was essential to understand this. It was honorable and necessary to become similar, more precisely, to develop flexibility and more opportunities.

During my childhood, I thought of myself and other people as material in whose nucleus spin the seeds of human potential. For a long time, I didn’t understand how someone could be unable to solve an algebra problem presented in a textbook for the very reason that it can be solved and a number of people had already done so. Sometimes I struggled, but I needed this struggle to confirm that I fit the model (developed by experts) of a child of a certain age. It was too difficult to accept that potentially I could not resemble my imagined beauty machine.

I created my own universal human idea. I didn’t understand why carpentry was not a suitable profession for a woman and why a woman couldn’t be a construction worker instead of a cook or a seamstress.

My grandmother’s deaf-mute neighbor Jonas had a small workshop, with a workbench and a simple electric woodworking tool. At that time, this was Jonas’s primary job which supplemented his disability payments. His workshop shared a roof with my grandmother’s woodshed and I could enter it through the same door unnoticed. To the left of the shed lay large and small saws, hammers, and nails. Sawing a board clamped on a sawhorse was easier. And it was easier to muffle the sound of my cries when I hammered my finger than the sound of the hammering itself.

Wood scraps lay in a pile – it was clear that one had to ask before taking one. I would do this, albeit begrudgingly, when I came upon Jonas in his workshop. And still, the idea of the created object is so overpowering that it compels one to bend the rules instead of obeying them, particularly if those rules were just getting in the way. That’s why I proceeded without delay, not bothering to assure myself of the legitimacy of my actions. Because of this, several of my dollhouse furniture pieces were made without permission, though the permission probably would not only have been granted, but also encouraged with fatherly assuredness.

Today I can say that Jonas’s eyes were the color of weak black tea, his lips were plump and red, and his cheeks bright. His ripe mouth smiled and grieved at the same time, joy and sadness imperceptible from one moment to the next. This taught me about the duality of all things, happiness and sorrow, two sides—action and sensation—of the same coin.

He was a handsome man. I can say that now, but I knew this then without vocalizing it. He didn’t smoke, he mumbled rather than whisper. He was like all of those things that one would call gentle and cozy. It was worthwhile and respectable to grasp what Jonas was mumbling, just as it was worthwhile and respectable to mumble.

My habit of speaking softly and a certain shyness when I have to shout was learned in part from the deaf-mute carpenter. When I’m agitated I often shout (this makes more sense to me), and sometimes on stage I have to speak louder; though no one will force me to associate either of these things with the merit or quality of speech. No one will convince me that mumbling under one’s nose is disrespectful to the listener. Mumbling is a perfectly fine mode of speaking: to listen attentively and understand – this is a blessed and blissful act of humanity.

In those days, there was probably no one else who listened to Jonas’s mumbling so attentively and with such joy as I did. It’s also probably the case that no one else understood or loved him as much as I did. Today I think that our love was mutual and that’s why it is completely natural that I wanted to be like my neighbor Jonas. Reservedly, naturally, essentially.

Just like him, I would silently sneak into the workshop and do what I needed to do. I would saw what needed sawing, I would hammer what needed hammering. If needed, I’d strike something with a hammer—my fingers had to feel this—and I felt the pain. Though, my heart would really hurt at the sight of a bent nail. This was not a reality befitting Jonas or her who strove to be a carpenter. A bent nail signaled failure, insecurity. I would grow hot with shame and break out in a sweat. The bent nail had to be removed as quickly as possible from the scene before it was imprinted in my memory.

In the workshop, my imagined beds, tables, chairs, cabinets, dressers, sofas and armchairs became tiny beds, tables, chairs, cabinets, dressers, sofas and armchairs. One day, I painted them with Latvian brown enamel floor paint. They shimmered in the sunlight as they dried, emitting an intoxicating scent.

Today I could say that I had wanted to embody the festive scent of the paint and its luster. In an inconceivable way, this aspirational likeness was created in the joy I took in the fruits of my labor. I used a paint that many people, at that time, basically adored. This adoration probably lingered in my nostrils, my lungs, and at the back of my eyes. To this day I haven’t been able to wash it away. God, if He exists, is probably similar to the drying light brown shining Latvian paint with an ochre tint – its taste is felt at the root of the tongue, deep in the palate.

To tell the truth, the beauty machine works as though God exists. Undoubtedly, He looks just like a piglet.

 

 

A foolish woman’s room

 

 

It is easy for a man, a proper man, to live in a cave, far away from everybody.
          Samuel Beckett

I was a foolish woman. I had foolish hairdos with stiff and disheveled topknots. My real hair color gleamed at the top of my head because, as it turns out, dyed hair doesn’t lose it’s penchant to grow. To tell you the truth, this is where the blossom of my foolishness took root. Foolish because I couldn’t smell it myself, but even more so if somehow I had been able to.

To me, my foolishness seemed totally average. When I—ahead of the fashion curve by about two years—would go out into the street with a billowing skirt that tapered at the hem and looked like a lampshade, and see smiles and astonishment directed my way, and then hear giggling behind my back. I knew perfectly well what a fashion fad means to a woman. But, because of my foolishness, I couldn’t bring myself to dress differently.

Physiognomic botany associates a flower bulb and its form with reticence and longing. Against this backdrop, my foolishness clearly revealed that my reticence and longing came and went well before it had for other women. My foolishness sometimes perceived itself as an inadequate velocity for personal development for general activities. I believed that the embryo of fashion was formed in a certain cosmic stratum, which I grasp more quickly than others. And this is just foolish.

At some point, I don’t even remember exactly when, I suddenly realized that I was foolish. I think that this was the most important revelation of my life. My being, spirit, essence, and perhaps even Her Excellency Foolishness was revealed, which I should worship as my holy cloud, root, my seed, or even my God.

I would never change places with an intelligent or wise person who always doubts his intelligence and wisdom. The intelligent person hesitates for one reason: he was never told that he was intelligent or wise. Which is why, instead of being blessed with self-awareness, he feels pricked by doubt, which is harsher than the harshest needle.

The fact that I am foolish was revealed just as naturally to me as the fact that I am a woman and not a man. Just as I didn’t doubt that I am a woman I also didn’t doubt that I am foolish. This awareness was even more important than the act of being a foolish woman: there are many foolish women, but few of them know that they are foolish. It’s sad when a foolish woman tries to exist in a clever woman’s place, even though her foolishness is as obvious to everyone as the runs in her tights. A foolish woman who is not self-aware is a social illness. A self-aware foolish woman furnishes a foolish woman’s room where she can aesthetically and alluringly mould her foolishness.

If we rely on physiognomic botany, then an unaware foolish woman is like a melancholy snowdrop or crocus, while a self-aware woman is like a fragrant sweetbriar or sun-seeking sunflower: she acts instead of wanting. Because my foolishness revealed to me that I was somewhere between a sweetbriar and a sunflower, I chose a dull orange color for the walls of my room. I was active. Those billowing onion-shaped skirts were now in the past. The orange color cast away my sullen mood and let my foolishness spread unfettered. At least on those days when work (three days a week) didn’t get in the way. At first I watched over the shop floor, but later, as my skirts drew unwanted attention, and I was still oddly useful, but unbecoming, I was pushed into the farthest reaches of the back office, where I performed an important task, but did so completely hidden from the eyes of our clients. Like a strange pink or cream sunflower that reminds us of our own irritating foolishness.

This banishment was a sign that I should find my own room. One lovely evening, I lay down on the sofa and engaged in the mechanism of psychic analysis. And that very night I knew where the foolish woman’s room was: I was already there, and I didn’t have to search for it anywhere else. This was just dumb luck. I had to say goodbye forever to the greyish blue color of my walls. Honestly, I really liked this color, but it had to vanish as though injected deeply beneath a thick skin. I had to leave it like a condition that no one talked about. I had to repudiate the torturous possibility that I could also be intelligent, just as some time ago I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never be a chemist, a biologist, or a doctor. I had to become a foolish woman with a truly masculine passion for productive disassociations, obsessions. I felt a calling for this foolish vocation.

A bright orange color. It evokes the sun, idleness, play, creativity, joy, a particular solitude, but also narcissism and arrogance. Besides, it is the color of Venus. I think this became the most authentic component of foolishness. In analyzing orange I found that people who like this color are often considered to be unreliable spouses, mothers, and fathers. Although, I was most interested in the fact that bright orange was the color used in the American prison system’s attire to identify young offenders. This decision came from the mid-20th century when after the Second World War the Unites States Navy’s research team, by order of the Pentagon, conducted an experiment to determine how colors affect a person’s psyche and what color was best for combatting stress when an accident occurred in a submarine. As it turns out, bright orange works best to calm and quell aggression. Young offenders in this atmosphere calmed down after ten minutes, and this was more effective than physical restraint. Within a half hour, these aggressive young men began to doze or even fell asleep.

I chose this color without hesitation. I imagined that in this kind of room, I would unwind my foolishness like a bolt of squeaking orange calico. I thought that I had a dwelling that was tantamount to important, albeit difficult to comprehend theorems. I saw my room as a secret, unobtrusive pumpkin, whose varietal characteristics were incorporated within. The essence of my pumpkin-room remained reclusive. But I still had my metonymy, which I broadcast through the windows. I threw away the curtains and the cornices. The windows of my third floor apartment were meant to lay bare the full dimension of my foolishness. Through them I broadcasted my pumpkin-ness. It complemented the glow of the small string of lights and essentially is similar to those lights.  The cocktail of pumpkin-ness and light was the color of my, a foolish woman’s, light. Perhaps this was a nutritious yolk from which at some point I would hatch like an exceptional chicken. Perhaps I functioned as the mold of an egg, with a specific purpose, where the foolish woman’s room served as the yolk.

In the evenings, when I turned on the wall lamp above my bed, which gilded the insides of my pumpkin, I would think about our foolish, infantile dependence on electricity. About the fact that without electricity, within a matter of three days, we’d rot together with the shopping centers that look like hospital laboratories, and we’d begin decomposing like one huge corpse. The quicksilver of cars scurrying down the street would suddenly become clots that no longer matter to a corpse: there would be no place to take your debit card because without electricity not one bank or shop could process any transactions. These debit cards that are totally ridiculous at the farmer’s market.  I thought about a person’s childhood and early adolescence at the outskirts. About the never-ending youth of those caught in the clutches of electricity producers and banks. About childhood that lasts about one third of a person’s life.

A person is considered immature for about the first twenty years of his life, if not longer; unprepared for serious decisions, political life, or real business. Only poets or other artists, to include prostitutes, - all those who bring joy or sadness - are considered to be mature contributors to society. Their mission is to awaken emotions, to inject glue into the world of diluted feelings.

Everyone else is afforded the conditional role of foolishness, in more polite terms: youthfulness or immaturity. Supposedly, only a person between the ages of 25 and 60 can be considered not foolish. The law usually upholds a person’s right to the idle days of childhood and well-deserved days of rest, politely concealing different kinds of fatigue that are intrinsic at various stages of life, that is, - an unavoidable psychological and intellectual fatigue, in other words – foolishness. Having in mind social protections that the State provides for children, adolescents, and the elderly, we can assert that the State defends foolishness as a thing of great importance. Not to mention the fact that the State without exception defends the mentally ill and those with serious intellectual disabilities. The State, in my eyes, presents itself as a defender of life, one third or even half of which is given to Her Excellency Foolishness without the least bit of remorse.

Every time I reflected on this, it reinforced my vocation to be a foolish woman, and to do so with confidence. It was an aspiration for Paradise, or for the Orange Absolute. It made my blood flow. The flakes of my doubt disappeared as though soothed by the orange Sulsena anti-dandruff ointment. And I used to think that I had created for myself a world similar to a womb, which only waits for the moment when it can spit me out, in other words, -- give birth.

That summer I removed from my room about half of the books in my library that I had collected over the course of 20 years, about 3,000 books in total. So that my foolishness could breathe more easily. I felt an invisible resistance. A professional decorator, to whom I had entrusted the orange colored walls of my room, experienced several disasters during my room’s renovation. First she fell ill, then had to nurse her children who had sickened suddenly. When she put a second layer of paint on the walls, the orange wallpaper suddenly erupted in huge blisters. For the sake of peace of mind, we blamed the poor quality of the glue, but the cause could very well have been more complex. For several nights in a row, the decorator dreamed of an orange bug that she wasn’t able to crush.

O, I thought: if we created for ourselves this greatly patronizing national regard for foolishness, bracketing the value of maturity between childhood and old age, handing it over to the embrace of double-sided and ambiguous foolishness, then why couldn’t these peripheries suddenly become the core of our existence? Or – the miraculous intersection of rest and play, which the mature portion of society strives for repeatedly during vacation? Because many squander the maturity accumulated during the early years of childhood and adolescence so that they could fool around on the weekends or while vacationing at some sunny resort.

The final purpose of the intellect and intelligence is nothing other than foolishness, which is unusually similar to the paradise described in holy texts or the galaxies meant for gurus. As to my own revelation that I am a foolish woman, I thought that I had reached this objective without effort or toil, simply by the grace of God.

And still. Is my foolishness secure? Or do I treat it like an appendix, which when infected threatens my very existence? Sometimes I would think that the foolishness nurtured in the orange room would one day outgrow the room and begin to fester. Then someone would have to surgically remove the appendix in order to protect the rest of the somewhat more moderately foolish world from the infection of extreme foolishness. Sometimes I would quiver with fear listening to the sounds of my shaking body as it trembled against the green pleather sofa cover. At that time I tried to guess how long I’d have to tremble in order to rub an asymmetrical hole in the cover, and would it be more nauseating, or just really hilarious. This was foolish.

In the mornings, driven by some inconceivable instinct, I would sometimes unconsciously lather my feet with soap, and then, as though I had reached the top the mountain and was rolling down, though consciously now, with an almost inspired astonishment, which an unexpected metaphor or paradox can provoke in a text that you’re reading, I would finish bathing. My white feet, when I washed and dried them, brought me narcissistic pleasure.

I felt the difference between an earlier guilt-ridden relationship with my narcissism and my current neglect, giving into foolish pleasure. I sense that difference when I think about the nature of pleasure. I experienced this difference as an invisible, but essential, personal adornment. I thought about foolish beauty and intelligent beauty, unable to determine where their paths diverged. I thought about the fact that the foolish sweep of my thoughts and a beautiful object exist in basically the same sphere, that they are metonyms. I was titillated by an invisible, contemplated giggle that was foreign to an easily recognized passion. And then suddenly a thought would come to mind that this is precisely why everyone thinks I am strange and that one day I would be surgically removed like a gangrenous appendix.

More and more, the foolish woman’s room needed confirmation that it was not alone, that it existed in a system with other foolish women’s rooms. Both the room and I needed a Foolish Women’s Society, A Kingdom of Foolish Women’s Rooms. I decided to search for this kingdom on websites where women looked for women. Without a doubt, there are also foolish women looking for men, maybe even more foolish than foolish, but I couldn’t expect that their foolishness would be available because it was being offered not to me, a foolish woman, but to men.

That Russian woman waited for me in her house like a potential lover. She was my first woman searching for a woman. She sent me a message with a tearful erotic scene culminating in the orgasms of two women. This woman also wrote me sentimental love poems that reminded me of the trashy lyrics of pop songs. I would have never agreed to meet with her if not for the fact that in one letter she revealed that she lived in the same city, was born the same year in the same month on the same day as I was. Before our meeting, I also found out that she trained dogs. I recalled how at one point in my adolescence I had firmly decided that I would become a dog trainer. I had even started translating a Russian book about dog training. These coincidences got me all worked up. Sometimes we feel like small children and want to drag our new gifts into bed with us. Stemming from an as yet unformed erotic impulse. Or from a mixture of affection and the feeling of ownership, which later advances more mature loves. “I’m going to take you to bed, my love. You’ll be my first woman.”  - I wrote to her flippantly before our meeting. I even had enough foolishness to believe this.

I was met at the door by a plump woman, almost a foot shorter than me with bleached blonde hair and a crooked nose. She offered me pea soup and was delighted that yesterday, for the first time in a long time, she had bought peas at the market. I told her that I also had come home with some peas yesterday and that I had already eaten three bowls of pea soup. Later, she blurted out that she was on her period and unfortunately would not be taking me back to her bedroom. It would’ve been funny, except I had the same issues myself that day. To tell you the truth: instead of calming the tremor of loneliness, I was overcome by a quiver of double the loneliness, almost a spasm. As though the solitude of a foolish woman were looking into her reflection in the mirror and seeing a swelling fear.

Much of our time together that day was spent looking through her photo albums on her computer. These albums were filled with portraits of her, her family and her friends, obviously lesbians. From what I understood, she had engaged in some physical relations with most of the lesbians in the photos. Her commentary about the photos exhausted me instead of satisfying my curiosity. Besides, this gay lady was so pleased with her photos and with herself that I saw her as a self-pollinating flower, one who had absolutely no need for me. “But I’m so energetic, right? Here, I’m really spicy, isn’t that so?  I think I look really good in this one.” The photo show seemed to me like a long, weary, unimaginative dance. Kissing her was not as difficult (though this was the first time in my life that I had kissed a woman) as flipping through those photo albums. When we finally went back to the kitchen for some tea, I was completely satiated of this ‘World of Old Bags’. I felt it almost physically how my ‘old bag’  part began cowering form the excess of ‘old bag-ness. My ‘old bag’ part was suddenly infected by the virus of self-destruction; ashamed of my own reflection on the surface, which enhanced it, magnifying the entire ‘old bag’ abomination…. As I left, I kissed my friend on the forehead; she joked that because of our difference in height her forehead was the closest thing to my lips. This configuration of the kiss, I think, was the only distortion of the mirror. It just confirmed the existence of the mirror.

There is no need to speculate about the color of my online friend’s walls. She lived in a dim orange room. And this was nothing other than the room of a foolish woman. What should I have thought? It was enough for my foolishness to realize at least one of these orange rooms does not exist and what remains is the reflection of the foolish woman’s room in a mirror. As I drove home down the narrow, dark streets of this small town, my belief that neither my room nor I existed, that we are only reflections in the mirror, grew stronger and stronger. Suddenly I remembered someone saying that foolishness can be described as an emotional deficiency rather than an intellectual deficiency. This is why I was overcome by anxiety that my vocation lacked emotion or desire, and this is why I feared the end to my foolishness. To tell you the truth, together this was the realization of absolute foolishness and the foolish woman’s room: to exist only in an unemotional reflection and to experience the most foolish fear that you do not exist anywhere else. That you are less than a puff of smoke in the wind, less than a scent. My mother (is she also a reflection?) called these things “shit steam.” I think I was less than that. Only the bright orange color didn’t care if it existed in reality or was just a reflection on the wall. The reflective wall, in a reflected room with a reflected woman and reflected foolishness was my callous orange triumph, the throne of the Foolish Women’s Kingdom. Or even it’s capital.

 

Translated by Ada Valaitis

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