Twenty Minute Doll
By Carmen Rizea
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Twenty Minute Doll
Even before I get there I know it's all over. I
spent the day as I usually do, going to and fro into the city, feeling my
heartbeat going slow when passing by the fashionable grand magazines or the
chocolat de luxe little shops which stood in temptation with brightly coloured
tin soldiers bowing before miniature white streaked wedding cakes or guarding
with martial attention life-size plumber's tools all carved in dark cocoa. Even
the doorknobs seemed to share gingerbread's consistence and not once did I touch
them secretly hoping that I would find a sugar trace on my fingers and so fancy
to be a new-age Gretel up in a mushroom cottage resting on a chicken foot. I
went to the funicular too with no purpose whatsoever but maybe just watch the
mob who idly followed fairy-like mimes near the merry-go-round and taking so
much after that gathering of rats spellbound by the enchanted flute without yet
knowing that it would eventually drown them into the frozen river. Late October
is all about attraction. Dummies and gimmicks and marshmallows all day long and
deep into the heart of the week. Somebody, a stranger, took advantage of my
being there alone and tourist looking, to furtively put in my hand a free
invitation to a religious concert like Gospel or Gregorian chants. Drowsy wet
weather and passengers in a hurry turned the basilica into a quaint collection
of dry moments fallen out of a time that seemed to have had a relapse down to
lost memory. It was an invitation for two so I threw it away.
I still have all his books so I know I will see him again. It took me forever to plough through all that sweet and sour mixture of detective best-sellers and blockbusters about internet bursting bubbles betraying his propensities for an American-to-be frame of mind. It was light pleasing 'litritchur' as he used to call it, so easy to forget but bringing so much delight when read that I would become aware of it's frailty filling me with an almost sensual touch and having me manoeuvre the text as if it were lace. There were, of course, great titles too, slipped among this delicate two-bit narratives, most of them conceived to frighten, enrapture and then completely take over the reader. I would finish at least two books a day praying to be fast enough and feeling so bewildered when, at night fall, I would look at that brittle heap of words and syntagms confined within the frames of the pages thinking to myself "eight down, ten to go, nine down, nine to go..." and so on. I would find myself quoting aloud from these books while pacing my room trying to imprint in my memory phrasal flavours that I intended to occasionally utter in maybe an exquisitely disguised Freudian slip. There was so much material of seduction in it, so endlessly prolific that I was taking it for no less than a manual of how to unveil beauty, a recipe for subtlety. And most important, I know for a fact that he cares for those books much more than he ever cared about me and I can't bring myself to blame him for that, because I too tasted their hemlocky power and know nobody could resist its overwhelming all...
We are supposed to meet tonight for the last time in order to exchange goodbye fetishes and perhaps tender slightly embarrassed looks because we know we are no longer in love. It was a touch-and-go story for both of us. A two-month going to cinema and purposely choose bad movies so as to rush out by midnight and push each other near Canal Saint-Martin, a fortnight reciprocal clutching on the evening benches before he desperately took me piggyback to a cab and hurry home to put on Leonard Cohen's 'New Songs' just for the simple egoist pleasure of making love all night through. Yes, the whole world was going apart, maybe Wall Street and Silicon Valley were going down along with the British Museum, the apocalypse was probably nearer than ever and of course, I was most certainly going to die of addiction to smoking or anorexia but Paris was still there and we were young and awkwardly vicious. Am I in regret for it? Would I keep madly going on and on like that if chance allow it? Would I strip all sense of reason off my already hot and bothered self only to pursue this race for wasting, consuming, out and in burning? Three times yes, dear reader, three times yes...The perfect number.
But WE have decided otherwise. Being thoroughly in control of our self-inflicted happiness we could dispose of it at will, and which is the utility of a right if not to be abused? I have done with philosophic matters long ago and I can now stand before love in contemplation and allow myself not to hair-split any of the mysteries, just take it as it comes, cum grano salis. But I am no longer too young to die so don't ask me if I have a choice. For how can one account for the end? Even I know that once you have decided -for decided you have- to accept the lexical entry of the word 'fickle' as changeable, irresolute, vacillating, unpredictable, inconsistent, mercurial, whimsical, erratic, fitful, spasmodic, fluctuable, unstable, shifting, wavering, flighty, giddy, capricious...volatile...you cannot go back and say hey, I was wrong about free love, I think I terribly need those strings attached...So soon after this fit of passion he wants me gone. No, he doesn't just want me to go, he would stifle me out of his life if need be. I as a Narrator. I as an Enemy. It am better to think of it as a mutual decision and that is how, reader, I will entreat you to take it. So that I can safely jump in my bed late at night and shout HE didn't leave me, WE parted and I was there to say yes to It.
The day is almost at its end and as the moment of our meeting approaches I am still wandering in the now deserted city, this time subject to a double bind: that of fear and that of rage. Should I put on indifference? A embittered smile? Should I burst into tears and beg him back? Should I keep silent and just hand him the books in despise? Should I take matches and burn the pages one by one in front of him? I have attentively completed his notes on the borders of the pages, it was imperative at the time to join my personal connections and references in order to be a part of those damned books. So I'll be burned with it altogether. Let it be...I wasn't up to it so I should be punished. Auto-da-fé.
Where have we met? How did we started it? All I can
remember is that it began with a Twenty Minute Doll.
It's a story that has no morality for it never actually happened. A story that I imagined for you, my love, you whom I have to meet tonight for the last time, but it is not meant to frighten you, no...only to damn you, my love, to make sure that in the after-world you will be lawfully forced to spend eternity with Me in a completely biting irony. It's no use in you reading it. The act of writing is already performing its birth and it makes it larger than life.
The Twenty Minute Doll lived alone in the silver
forest of Forever September. Sometimes, the Western Wind stealthily poured
himself through the wet branches of French toast and stopped to sip a cup of tea
with her. Because she could speak to the wind. She knew only too well his old
habits and thus could tell better than anyone that he only needed a touch of
cold cream and a crystal of candle sugar in his beverage and also that he could
have passed the whole afternoon listening to her. For he loved listening to her
telling stories. What she told him were neither tales, no jests, she would only
tell him her dreams. And everybody knows the September Wind to always have a
word to whisper when he slightly brushes against our coats, to never pass by
without planting at least the seeds of a dream in our hair, so subtle and so
frail that we only discover it long after his leaving and sometimes, some of us,
pass their whole lives without as much as noticing it was ever there. Every once
in a while the Wind needed to resource his imagination but not on plain real
facts which, even if heavy with meaning couldn't properly fill in a deep
sensation so as to turn it into afterthought and further more into unforgettable
lapse of time. Or maybe, was it this very weight of reality he wanted to shake
off moments in order to have more impact with less substance... I do not know.
But as it were, the dreams of this Twenty Minute Doll always over flown him with
shiver and need to come back for another one, and another one, without end.
Once, for instance, she had told him that in her sleep she had seen from a
quaint mansion that at midnight this long-fair-haired woman was joining an
gigantic butterfly or a black capercaillie which took her on their wings up into
the sky only to bring her back, at the same spot, at the break of dawn. And that
during daytime, two men, one of which was white-haired and the other one
undistinguishable, shared the mansion with her. But when night came, this last
unfaced man dashed quickly after her into the flight of stairs and she climbed
the steps two by two, breathless to go up to the first floor where she locked
herself up behind a door he couldn't trespass. While he was pursuing her he
would suddenly metamorphoses into incandescent fire and she felt his burning
breath closer and closer to her chin. Her fear was unrestrained...During the day
she had a never-ending talk with the other man, who wouldn't let go of her for a
second, and this chit-chat seemed dreary and unbearable to her beyond
description. The only moment of pure, undisputable beauty was at midnight, when
she noticed the apparition of this mysterious sky traveller who went either with
the bird or the butterfly, over and over again. As days went slowly by she felt
pervaded by an overwhelming fatigue and distress and sometimes her eyes went
warm, but still no tear could really ease their languid torment. So, one night
she decided not to lock herself anymore. When she heard the men's footsteps
behind her in the stairs she got seized by panic again and she couldn't help
running but once she got upstairs she resisted the maddening urge to pass the
door. She turned her back and eyes closed, leant on this door waiting for the
fire she imagined ever burning to consume her. Yet nothing happened. She only
felt two faltering hands on her shoulders and heard a sweet sorrowful voice in
her ears saying 'I only wanted to talk to you, nothing more'. She turned around
and she took a look at the man she had so feared and she saw he wanted to pour
into her the fire he was carrying with him. He just couldn't do it.
Nevertheless, he looked relieved, almost happy. Then she left him and got
downstairs where she met the other companion who told her that every time she
left the house he wrote her letters he never showed to anyone. And he took her
to a room where lay a tower like stack of unopened letters almost reaching the
ceiling. There were thousands of thoughts, thousands of unexpressed desires for
her and she felt ashamed with her childish fear. And all of a sudden she
understood... She could see now that the butterfly and the bird were nothing but
this man who every night took the most proper shape that would allow him to bear
his Sadness, embodied in the fair-haired woman, the feminine instance of his
. It was an eerie dream, all right. Especially because it had no ending. None of her dreams ever had one. One could never tell if they wouldn't be continued the following night or during the next slumber.
The wind didn't think of it much. Fleeting as he was, he'd rather pick from these dreams the very puff of eternity they concealed, for he needed it in his everyday reckless flight. He only felt that after each dream, the Twenty Minute Doll looked so tired that he would have liked to give her some sort of reconfortation. And the only thing that seemed at hand was to set on the table and next to the empty teacup, some remains of music he had already planted in his way but of which he always kept a hint or two. He didn't worry much because he knew that at dawn she would have another dream and he would immortalise it, for the Wind is unable to forget any of the dreams he comes across. And he was secretly in love with her but he wouldn't say anything that could sadden her even more, he kept his desires and longings for himself.
But he loved her so that he couldn't help thinking of her, and every once in a while, when he scattered the dreams, he would accidentally forget something of her own being too, either in the grass, on the lips of the lovers he passed by or up in the towers, near the sleeping bells. Eventually, he realised this lapsuses but he couldn't see anything bad about it and he didn't talk about this to anyone either.
One night, when tired after having flown restlessly in the world of the mortals he was going to sleep as usually in a lake among some rushes, he saw a blurred silhouette leaning against a tree. It was the Devil. He was looking at him askance with a green ear in his mouth. The wind couldn't go back or pretend he didn't see him. It was too late. So he drew closer in order to greet him. Even from afar he could notice his green clothes and the feather on his hat and he was thinking to himself that he was almost glad to meet him because the Devil always had something interesting to say and his manners were impeccable. As he approached him the night became darker and thicker. The Wind remembered that every time he met the Devil he couldn't help feeling this strenuous, almost stabbing pain he exhaled. But he closed his eyes and reached for his hand trying to ignore and eventually reject this black sensation of suffering which sometimes was stronger than a closed fist. He was somehow amazed to see the Devil standing there alone because he knew him to always be accompanied by the Sleep, as it were...He felt chills going down his spine because he realised that seeing his dark friend again was extremely delightful but flickery as he was, he didn't give it a second thought. He began talking to him slowly yet with desire and he was unaware that he had already started answering the Devil's questions. There were simple questions, not at all different from those that he normally asked. But the Wind failed to see that something else was hiding behind all this apparently pointless discussion. And so, being a bit distracted and fuzzy, the Wind told the Devil everything about the Twenty Minute Doll, her dreams and about how happy and refreshed he felt after having listened to her stories.
The Devil was listening quietly. Meanwhile he took his time and kept asking him innocent questions, sometimes mere repetitions of what he had just said as if he hadn't followed the discussion or as if he already knew it all. But from times to times he touched the borders of his hat as if by accident and his fingers lingered a little on the light tissue in a strange caress as if to imprint in it some sweet flash of pleasure. Of course, the wind failed to notice anything...he had become far too immaterial, his companion conveyed vibrations of well being onto him and he was receiving them with a shudder of sincere gratitude. Then the night fell all of a sudden on his thoughts and his heart, heavier than he could ever remember. Now, the other one was looking at him with a starting smile which signified several things at a time. The Wind could only tell one of them: ' You know that now there is nothing left to be done, you will have to take me to her house...Yes, it was partly up to you but do not regret it too much, it was written, it had to happen one way or another'. The Wind gave him a long look and he tightly closed his invisible fists, vainly hoping that he would find in them some force that would help him stop the time from his crazy rush and maybe, who knows, build a wall between himself and the Devil. Yet nothing happened...Of course, he already knew it...He could have died...'Not tonight, he said, let her have one more. She will dream of something. Let me have this last dream'
He saw the Devil shiver with impatience. But only for a moment. Anyway, he had already won and they were both aware of it. There was just this neutral second that was vacillating between the Other's pain before the awaited victory and your own hope, because nothing happened yet, there was still hope, nothing was bad for the time being.
He promised to wait for the next night. He even said that he needed this delay in order to get prepared. Actually no one could tell what he really meant but at the same time one could discern in his words a certain quantity of desires and a frail spasm. And the wind knew that those desires weren’t dreams and so he couldn't hope that they would change into a woman's body at midnight and fly away with a bird. He thought he ought to have stopped talking and start to be afraid but this powerful sensation of delight all over him was stronger than anything else, stronger than his love for the Doll. He was helpless before the Other and he immediately acknowledged that she, in her turn would be even more.
The next morning the sky was cloudy and when he left the lake, the Wind stopped for a moment and deeply felt the unfathomable weight of his sadness. He just shrugged and said to himself that the world was a bad place full of flaws and that there was nothing perfect in it. So this place only deserved to die anyway. He spent the day trying to chase away his almost unbearable regretful thoughts. He dared hope and despair at the same time. He even thought that maybe, the Devil wouldn't come after all, or that he had forgotten about everything, but at nightfall, when he caught sight of him into the forest, he got a violent spasm of powerless rage and he had only one desire and one only: that everything be done as quickly as possible, that the end of it come once and for all. He didn't even look at the Devil, he just showed him the way to the Doll's house and flew away as far as he could without turning back.
It was pitch dark when the Devil stopped in front of the gate. She was still out into the garden because she had heard the wind, her hands were quiet and cold, and she was almost falling asleep. She had had a disturbing dream the night before and she wanted to ask the Wind what it could mean. For the first time she felt that the dream was not intended for her, it was as if she had stolen it from somebody on the unawares, as if the dream belonged to Another. And for once, it had an ending.
Only then did she notice the stranger's presence near the pile of carved wood. Why was he standing there? And who was him? She didn't ask any questions, she just opened the gate and invited him in with a glance. He closed his eyes for a second as if to thank her and followed her among the apple trees to the table were she used to spend her evenings with the Wind. Then he took a seat and silently refused in a light gesture the cup of tea she had offered him. She hesitated for a short moment then she asked if he wanted something else. He suddenly looked deep into her eyes and asked for pomegranates. Did she have any? Of course she didn't...She never ate such things but when she looked into the kitchen she saw a bowl full of golden and orange fruits waiting near the cupboard on a little chair. She didn't fell astonished in anyway and she handed the bowl to her visitor.
Nevertheless, the appearance of the stranger sitting next to her was intriguing because there was some sweet heat of unknown tenderness coming from his person and at the same time she felt the roughness of a dark rock covered with ashes. But she didn't have time to think of it for he had already asked her to tell him her last dream. The request was brief, clear, almost natural. Notwithstanding this apparent calmness there was in his words something which hurt her so deeply that she had an irresistible need to tell him everything, even unimportant details, and she realised with a shudder that all the dreams she had ever had wouldn’t be enough to quench this thirst of telling and she thought that she would have to invent things because there was going to be a long night and she didn't want to find herself wordless at dawn.
As if he had understood all that, he reached his hand and circled her neck with his fingers, without pressing them on; it was just a soft touch, a caress. 'Just the dream you had last night. Nothing more. But remember it well...please! Describe me what you've seen. Especially the ending'. So she obeyed. With every word she uttered she got drown closer to him et she felt like the only thing she wanted was to get lost in this stranger, to completely mix up with his flesh in which she guessed a summum of pain and ecstasy. Her voice was neutral but she felt that the sound of it burnt him. She was talking fast, breathless, sometimes she was actually screaming. Each detail, each unexpected light, each and every sensation that her imagination had bred the night before perfectly matched, and she had the dizzy feeling she was dreaming it all over again. Only this time she fully understood that the dream hadn’t been neither stolen, nor accidental. It was FOR this stranger.
Well...he didn't even listen to her anymore. He already knew all she wanted to tell him. He wasn't there for that...And seeing her consuming herself like that he felt bad and unhappy, and for the first time, in a low voice, he cursed God for having given him this wickedness he couldn't beat. He was tired, he hated himself and the power he had, that very power that made him what he was. He thought he heard the wind weeping through the branches and then he felt The sudden fit of pleasure so familiar, so overwhelming. Almost drowning him.
She had finished her story...They were there, together, in the midst of a silver forest and they both knew the part the other one was about to play. For even without uttering a word he had conveyed her his real nature. And he now also understood why the Wind loved her so much. But he was what he was...
He couldn't bring himself to leave right away. He had to be gone before dawn but he needed to stay a little more. He could have left, of course, as always...He closed his eyes for a moment and through the skin of his eyelids he didn't miss one bit of the shining smile she offered to him only and to nobody else. Nobody had ever smiled to the Devil before, and nobody would ever do it again.
Once she was all alone she didn't remember a thing. She went to bed as if spellbound and she immediately fell asleep. From then on it was going to be a sleep devoid of dreams but she didn't know it yet. She only realised it the next morning and the morning after. She wasn't waiting for the Wind anymore because she didn't have anything to tell him. The forest began to lose it's sparkling leaves and the seasons started to follow. Winter and then spring came. And then she wasn't that young anymore. Six months passed and she didn't see any of the white flowers that grew all over the place, even within the house. The now changing world couldn't bring anything frightening or beautiful to her. Only once a year, on the 17th of September, she went out into the garden and without knowing why she placed on the little wooden table a bowl full of pomegranates, sometimes golden, sometimes orange. She waited silently for a few hours sitting on the chair which was already black with rain, and afterwards she went to sleep leaving the front door open with no reason. The next morning the bowl was always empty. But she had already completely forgotten everything.