Blesok no. 113, May-June, 2017
Prose


The Squeezing-Out
Translated by Uroš Tomić

Ivan Antić



The Squeezing-Out


Only from this distance am I able to see that Pavle was truly dedicated, in a very consistent manner, to a clearly defied effort of rendering other lives – the lives of others in toto – utterly pointless. It was as if he would always, in committing this act, experience a kind of a mythic charge which occasionally took on shapes that (even then) led me to call it all – to myself – his winking at the devil. Because I have no idea what else (but the sense that he was in this way winking at the devil) could have made him suggest to Valerija such an unusual type of friendly aid, and when I found out about it – rather late, I’m afraid – it all flab-ber-gast-ed me. The story begins with the fact that Valerija had, after a while, expressed the desire for me to meet Pavle. Until that moment I had simply known there was A Friend Pavle, who had been there for her when the times were tough, but even at frist meeting him there was much I didn’t like. Above all it was his conceited readiness to always behave in ways aimed to shock others. He possessed a strange need to make people feel conscious of their limitations, and that existing inside those limitations – which said people, of course, couldn’t overcome, or at least not without his help – made them become something less valuable. One didn’t need to spend much time at his side to recognize this trait of his. Also, one didn’t need to be in possession of a finely tuned psychological sense to recognize that Pavle’s enjoyment in shocking others consisted of shocking by the very range of his irrationality – a colossal irrationality – peerless – a monstrous irrationality. As if the only principle was to be irrational and at precisely those points within which anybody else, even the most irrational person, if they wished themselves at least a modicum of good (and that is all the point) – would behave in a certain, established way. Exactly then: to distort the situation, to do the opposite of the most extreme thing imaginable.
It is true that Valerija had been deeply depressed before she met Pavle, I always knew that, she was on the verge of committing suicide. I also knew about the dead rabbit and about the other things, although the way Pavle brought every one of those things into a causal connection with Valerija’s problem created rare examples of a filigree perversion. But the worst was yet for me to find out. I did, incidentally, participate in some events that Pavle and his girlfriend used to organize at their apartment with their friends, close friends and acquaintances, of whom I was now considered a member, but there were things in which I refused to participate, and that, beyond doubt, enraged Pavle, used as he was to the hypnotic obedience of his congregation. However, it is interesting to note that the very synchronicity which during that period used to give me hope that anything in my life made any sense was the same synchronicity that led me to one of the greatest notional errors of my life: in a word, the duck-rabbit synchronicity.

II

Beginning of December, five years ago, Valerija invited me to her apartment for the first time. The day, I remember, having grown very cold around noon, made passers-by walk faster with their necks nestled in the collars of their jackets and coats and their hands burrowed deep in their pockets. The windshields of cars had already acquired their glaze which several hours later glistened in the twilight under the glare of streetlights displaying quickly changing colors of the rainbow as one would pass them by. I had met her two weeks before at some workshop. I was sitting at my desk, and never even noticed how and when she inched her way into my awareness. The way she listed things, different ways she moved through space. She repeated something several times, she stood apart from others. That rhythm of hers, obsessively voided. I never noticed when I had reached the decision, nor did I feel it clearly enough that it was something I had to do – yet I stood up calmly and went to the pitcher with water. The rest happened on its own. The first spoken word after the second look slipped into a solution I did not reject.
I kept the memory of her during the following days through some careful dynamic of my movements. Something that wasn’t mine and that I had not known before: it coded itself into my gestures. And now I found myself in her apartment: drinking in her colors, getting to know her. Anything can fade away, I thought, but she was a concentration of stimuli. As I was sitting on the couch and she was standing in the center of the room, it seemed to me there was a kind of concise focus there.
As if the whole room pulsated from that spot.
On her back she had – I only noticed this during that early December night – a tattoo with the motif by Alphonse Mucha. Near the climax, my eye was (accidentally so) caught by the tattoo: plunging into that magical whirl – it added something sharp, pale and floral to my orgasm. Even something Slavonic and macabre. I shuddered, though not so she’d notice, as I came out of her. As if it had been a strange underwater icy orgasm. (My ears were splitting with the drumming.) That was where all those – my thoughts continued a bit later to seek – unexpected and stunning illuminations came from. It was just the sun seen from above through the murky and darkening mass of water.
Afterwards, while I smoked a cigarette, I remembered a photograph of Gauguin sitting, barefooted, and playing Mucha’s harmonium. – I noticed it had been snowing outside.
I said something to her at that moment. She laughed. Her smile was such that it pulled her upper lip tight, so tight that it would lift a millimeter or so above the endline of her front teeth and her gums. Dangerous lines, bloodthirsty lines – I was tempted to think, but she immediately revealed another, softer side of her smile to me. As if she could have known that I attributed that last thought to a child’s perception which had suddenly floated into my mind from who knows where, she began: “The kind of child’s fear where you lose all your colors, and remain gray, like the object that scared you. When the only color that survives is the color of your bloodflow. That’s how I felt the day before yesterday. The fear of surprise, of voidedness, the fear of flabbergastedness, as if everything is being sucked out of you and you have been transformed into an icy minute of absolute slippage – mere observation of everything above everything.”
The next five or six days, as I remember, we weren’t in touch, and then she asked me to visit again. In the meantime I was feeling displaced in a strange and new kind of way. As if something was happening with my eyes, day after day, as if something was off-kilter with my wakedness, as if I was flooded by a sense of dimness and convolution. But when I found myself next in her apartment I noticed something similar in her. The shift between each of her looks which were supposed to be signaling completely opposing moods – that shift tended to slip into invisibility to such a measure that each look ended up being exactly like the other. As if the second look needed in some way to manage to remain embedded within the first. And only a certain decrease in the energy flow, which in moments could be felt, pointed towards a lack of resolution and a quiet evolution of some scary quiver inside.
If we met later in the day, the evening would gain in density, and if we came together earlier the air around us would seem clearer to me. One afternoon she placed her hand onto the arch of my foot and, almost immediately, I fell asleep. When she would cup my testicles with her warm hand a few moments before orgasm, something would burst inside of me, something like a flower breaking free, and for a moment I would feel taken care of. A deep, indescribable sadness overcame me when, some other time, she caringly rolled them into her mouth and began to knead and roll – I almost cried: finally intimacy. Her distant whisper would erect my thought even during
the time we spent apart. I had a sense that she was being gentle towards me in places where I could feel it the most. It seemed to me that her smile meant forgetting everything that ever had been bad and the creepiness I had felt when her lips went over the endline of her teeth and her gums during our fist night together completely slipped my mind.

III

It is odd how Pavle could be charismatic and mentally unreliable at the same time – this was for me something quite new as I used to think charismatic people had to be calculating. However, truth be told, Pavle was primarily in control of other lives which allowed him to simulate hyperself-control and live of the fumes of that foam (while managing to delude himself with virtuosity and success for a long time). It seemed, though, as if he allowed circumstance to guide him (which I perceived as the root of his cynicism). And when he told me all those things about her, he was doing it then as well. I knew she had been on the verge of committing suicide. “On the verge of suicide? She was on the verge of the window sill. She stood on the sill and then she gave up. Something told her that she would accomplish nothing by it, that she would only come into existence in some other form. You know that Valerija is poetic.” He also added that I probably wasn’t aware of her three days and nights spent (on Ecstasy) in Soko-grad.
But when he told me how they had helped her to get rid of her fear of abortion – which, if I calculated it well, happened around the time Valerija and I met – I replied: I wish you had never done that, none of you. What he said next influenced me as nothing else in my life. However, before that he told me everything in detail, forcing me to listen to it all.
During that session, he had performed a surgery on Valerija’s soul with the help of his friends, intending to help her free herself of a fear she had admitted to him some months before, as he phrased it, during a confessional conversation. (For this is how he connected things: she was punishing herself within a long-lasting relationship with a drug addict – the one before I came – because she was in obsessive fear of abortion.) Pavle was overseeing the situation, guiding her gently, giving suggestions, encouraging her, controlling the rudder; his girlfriend, Chili, who was incidentally a kindergarten teacher and who kept bringing home armfuls of children’s drawings, held Valerija’s hand and stroked her forehead with a handkerchief dipped in chamomile tea. All the while Igor, Pavle’s marionette, who represents such a pointless existence that has only now merited to be introduced into the story, inserted slowly and carefully, observing Pavle’s instructions, a kitchen knife into Valerija’s vagina. – I told him he had no right to do that. They shouldn’t have done it. Stunned, shocked by what I was hearing, I told him sentimentally that I would like it best if he had never done it. And he replied that the sentence I had just said gave him the right to kill me. I was paralyzed. If it had been a threat, I don’t believe it would have defeated me so deeply (although it would have scared me, numbed me, to death, that is certain). But to hear him say he
had the right to kill me since I wished he hadn’t done something he had astounded me, froze me to the bone.
While he was describing the scene he kept repeating that not a drop of blood had been spilt, and this insistence on emphasizing that fact made it all, in some inexplicable way, even more unacceptable. I left. I don’t think I have ever left a place in a more furious state. There was an African mask hanging on the wall in the hall, and I paused enough to look at it pleadingly and in confusion a second before I gripped the front door handle nervously. The day after, I told Valerija that I wanted nothing more to do with Pavle (which obviously hurt her pride and – though not for long – brought into question her loyalty to the person who had helped her so much). What later came to my mind when I was able to think about things with a cooler head – after months of depression during which I constantly dreamed of them, and was in fear of every shadow every time I left the house thinking I might bump across one of them – was that all suicides should be somehow told (and I have told it to myself as well) to beware those who wish to dissuade them from committing the act because such people, if they were anything like Pavle, might later come to possess them in a way that is more than unacceptable for any human being.
And yet, the thing that always made me in some special way vulnerable, and that still comes to me as an afterimage, though I did not witness the scene myself – was the death of the unfortunate bunny rabbit which perished one night when Valerija’s ex-boyfriend came home high and, having thrown himself on the armchair where the rabbit was sleeping, he himself fell asleep on her, squashing her to death. With the TV on. Why was this death necessary for Valerija to finally decide to leave him?




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