dijous, 23 de juliol de 2020

The ritual of abandon

They sat alone, but not unique, for they all seemed to have been born brothers. Time and exposure made their clothes alike, wine and air gave them the same eroded skin. The crust of dirt, the swollen noses, the stale tears in the eyes, all gave them the same appearance. Having refused to follow the procession of the streets, they sought the river which lulled them. Wine and water. Every day, in front of the river, they re-enacted the ritual of abandon. Against the knots of rebellion, wine and the river, against the cutting iron of loneliness, wine and water washing away everything in a rhythm of blurred silences.
They threw the newspapers into the river and this was their prayer: to be carried, lifted, borne down, without feeling the hard bone of pain in man, lodged in his skeleton, but only the pulse of flowing blood. No shocks, no violence, no awakening.
While the tramps slept, the fishermen in a trance pretended to be capturing fish, and stood there hypnotized for hours. The river communicated with them through the bamboo rods of their fishing tackle, transmitting its vibration. Hunger and time were forgotten. The perpetual waltz of lights and shadows emptied one of all memories and terrors. Fishermen, tramps, filled by the brilliance of the river as by an anesthetic which permitted only the pulse to beat, emptied of memories as in dancing.

The houseboat was tied at the foot of the stairs. Broad and heavy on its keel, stained with patches of light and shadows, bathing in reflections, it heaved now and then to the pressure of a deeper breathing of the river. The water washed its flanks lingeringly, the moss gathered around the base of it, just below of it, just below the water line, and swayed like Naiad hair, then folded back again in silky adherence to the wood.
[...]
As soon as I was inside of the houseboat, I no longer knew the name of the river or the city. Once inside the walls of the old wood, under the heavy beams, I might be inside a Norwegian sailing ship traversing fjords, in a Dutch boyer sailing to Bali, a jute boat on the Brahmaputra. At night the lights on the shore were those of Constantinople or the Neva. The giant bells ringing the hours were those of the Sunken Cathedral. Every time I inserted the key in the lock, I felt the snapping of cords, this lifting of anchor, this fever of departure. Once inside the houseboat, all the voyages began. Even at night with its shutters closed, no smoke coming out of its chimney, asleep and secret, it had an air of mysteriously sailing somewhere.
At night I closed the windows which overlooked the quays. As I leaned over I could see dark shadows walking by, men with their collars turned up and their caps pushed over their eyes, women with wide long skirts, market women who made love with the tramps behind the trees. The street lamps high above threw no light on the trees and bushes along the big wall. It was only when the window rustled that the shadows which seemed to be one shadow split into two swiftly and then, in the silence, melted into one again.
At this moment a barge full of coal passed by, sent waves rolling behind it, upheaving all the other barges. The pictures on the walls swayed. The fishing net hung on the ceiling like a giant spider web swung, gently rocking a sea shell and a starfih caught in its meshes.
On the table lay a revolver. No harm could come to me on the water but someone laid a revolver there believing I might need it. I looked at it as if it reminded me of a crime I had committed, with an irrepressible smile such as rises sometimes to people's lips in the face of great catastrophes which are beyond their grasps, the smile which comes at times on certain women's faces while they are saying they regret the harm they have done. It is the smile of nature quietly asserting its natural right to kill, the smile which the animal in the jungle never shows but by which man reveals when the animal re-enters his being and reasserts its presence. This smile came to me as I took up the revolver and painted it out of the window, into the river. But I was so averse to killing that even shooting into the water felt uneasy, as if I might kill the Unknown Woman of the Seine again –the woman who had drowned herself here years ago and who was so beautiful that at the morgue they had taken a plaster cast of her face. The shot came faster than I had expected. The river swallowed it. No one noticed it, not from the bridge, not from the quays. How easily a crime could be committed here.
Outside an old man was playing the violin feverishly, but no sound came out of it. He was deaf. No music poured from his instrument, no music, but tiny plaintive cries escaped from his trembling gestures.


Anaïs Nin, The houseboat.


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