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April 15, 2024

A Room for a Decent Burial of Memories

By Martin Foroz

She comes to the room, sits upon a blue stool next to a so-called small bar, and gazes at the blue Hawaiian cocktail once more. She is not able to see the color with her blue eyes in the room lit by blue lamps. She starts cursing: damn it, even the walls are blue, but at least the music is Blues, reminding her where she was lost: the African root! She looks around a little bit, finds it, the navy-blue painting of the navy yard in an indifferent blue sea where her no-longer-seen father was luxuriously lost! The room is hot; a vast mass of energy of calorific atoms surrounds the homogeneous function of the blue ambiance, taking her away from the presence of present sketches of Being to the sweltering African forests where her forefathers and her own navy father grew up. She looks at the painting again, and at the same time, in her mind, she follows some verbal traces of an individual who is speaking in an endless delirium at her death. It's again the beginning of that unknown chain of thoughts, though there is a secret origin beyond any so-called beginning that is so concealed, so warped in the wrapped shadows of reality that can never be truly grasped. So, she is unconsciously led through the naivety of a distorted chronology toward a never-reaching point on a vague time scale in an undisclosed space. It is an ever-receding point that is not presently stable in her memory, a kind of unknown familiarity with the defamiliarized existence.

Looking for a tranquil locus, she pours a generous measure of the blue Hawaiian cocktail into an old glass though she knows it will worsen her headache, which is accompanied by a cluster of illegitimate questions. She smiles like a child, reflecting a non-synthetic purity for a second, then laughs like an enchanting witch doing black magic. She drinks more and more to suspend from Now, till she can suspend the immediate form of continuity until she can approach no degree of Certainty. Little by little, she notices that the same regulations do not exist anymore in her visual inspection. Even now, concepts present themselves to her in a kind of metaphoric displacement. For a long time, she's been feeling addicted to the different types of ecstatic displacements rooted in intoxication. In this kind of state, decipherment and emotional interpretation of life problems are reconstituted. Even ethical choices are extended to a different realm of morality: a sort of loose and flexible appropriateness. She can tolerate the coexistence of heterogeneous signifiers and signifieds. A black man in her neighboring area can be called a negro, just as her grandma, who was a girl slave of a petty bourgeois family, was called a negress. The problem is that she still lovingly hates the unfathered daughter of that Negress. For her, the basis of the certain kinship of very particular species forms a continuum of unfortunate chains of disastrous rings of life. It takes away the individualization of an existence, treats it as an entity or at most as an organism with its desperate morphogenetic mechanism. That illegitimate girl who was a by-product of love and a temptation is now a part of her own being and her own destiny; but what does the word "own" really mean? She laughs and, under the influence of the blue Hawaiian cocktail, thinks probably "own" means something individual but not inherent! "I have something which is not mine." She laughs again at the intoxicated concept. She laughs, this time hysterically louder. What is a part of her own being is not felt as a genealogical unity. She abhors this shattered unity which is, for her, full of gaps, the interplay of differences, distances, and transformations. It represents fighting one's identity. She's been escaping from definiteness, from a heterogeneous homogeneity.

She looked at the painting again, remembered the voice of the woman at her death, telling her that her father was a real navy gentleman who loved Literature and that there were some sketches and writings left by him. She even remembered the words in one of his writing and how much he both hated Willy Loman and was afraid to become a person like him. She also remembered a part of the same text was about his obsession with Heart of Darkness and his disagreement with Conrad on the slight difference between so-called civilized people and the ones described as savages since he believed savages are made by the attitudinized civilized ones. She feels tipsy and thinks that she should not drink more. Her doctor once told her to be careful about her illness, a strange psychological disorder resulting from alienation, a kind of undiagnosed anomaly, a sort of dementia, a type of neurosis or psychosis. But to hell with doctors. Who cares about them? They are themselves the result of the century's psychopathology. She thinks most of the degenerations in people's normalcy result from deviations from customary prohibitions. She drinks more. Now, her eyes go black, but she can see many things in her mind: the costly bags, shoes, and other luxuries made from alligators' skin. While her eyes are alcoholically shut, she can vividly see white hunters who use black infants to lure the alligators. She can hear the sobbing of the infants with the ropes around their waists and necks.

She knows the delimitations of such memories. Some memories fade easily in short terms but some remain forever. She remembers the psycho-philosophical phrase "the limitless rein of the limit," but she knows by heart that there is an infinitude in the finitude of some memories. Some of them belong to spiritual nullity freeing themselves from the control of the mind. They live in a space in the mind which suffers from its own emptiness. She wishes to be a religious person to get help from someone called God. He has been missed since Nietzsche announced "the death of God." The death of something that never existed seems very silly to her. She laughs and drinks more. Damn it, this inebriation, philosophically speaking, this very drunkenness of the nerves of the brain creates a space into which the Subject of insobriety occasionally disappears. It's a state into which Becket may appear and ask the same question: "What does it matter who is speaking?" She likes this total absence of HER, even if it's short.

She sees herself in the dark room where her grandma was talking to her daughter in the next room. She was only eight years old when grandma told her daughter, "You should not let Barack know anything about it. He should not see Jack. He may kill both of you. Stop seeing him, for God's sake. You may even put Lily's life in danger." She knew that something about the daughter of grandma was wrong, but she was too young to know that something could be wrong with herself. Now, she understands that even her name is a voluntary effacement brought about by her very birth and existence. She feels a kind of anti-virginity flows in her while her blood is circling through her heart, feeding the cells of her present-absent mind. Identity! A word she is always confused about. Maybe Foucault is right about identity as a form of subjugation and a way of exercising power over people preventing them from moving outside fixed boundaries. Perhaps he is not! What is individuality without an identity, even if it mars one's destiny? What is the truth? Do we have an entity in the outside world called truth? She thinks Truths are those convictions created by some people who want certain things to happen as truths. Truth cannot be an uncountable noun. The created truths are cruelly conventional. They are canons based on which those in power feed the laymen.

She looks at the painting again -- the manifestation of a part of her biography, a part of the determination of her perspective, her social position, and her timidity. Some say this gentleman was so gentle that he remained silent about the jerk called Jack, but she always accused him of being a great evader who didn't like to face reality. Of course, many times, she has tried to look at him as a figure at the crossroads of certain events and personalities: a victim of love who was too nice as a father and afraid of losing his dreams for himself, his family, and his friend or the god-damn Jack -- the white blue-eyed, sexy and immoral young man who was looking for something in the illegitimate child of the grandma. He was playing cards with her father many nights while they both got drunk. And then, dad was so drunk that he would immediately go to bed. After that, there were some noises of a bitch and a man. She could never translate those noises. Still, they sound foreign to her. If, for Aristotle, spoken words are the symbols of mental experience, for her, those untranslatable noises were and still are the cause of pain, not in the area related to logos but through Kardia -- the seat and center of her existence, the essence of her life, the core of her personality, the place where her intellectual emotions are hurt. "Jack is a cool guy who is very respectful to women," dad said once.

She gazes at the glass of the blue Hawaiian cocktail for a second as if she is looking at a criminal. Then, she remembers that her ex-boyfriend or her seemingly lovely professor didn't like this kind of wine. He had Vodka most often as his preferred drink. After that, she remembers that this originally Russian professor from Michigan did not like anyone to know about their relationship, even on social media. For him, she was a forbidden friend, a secret paramour, the one who was both exciting and exhausting, not a great recipe for love over time. She knew that the covert coupling could not survive. She knew pairings made in private were no matches in heaven, but she had an obsessive preoccupation with romantic partnership, and despite the popular Romeo-and-Juliet stereotypical allure of secret romance, she felt this god-damn secrecy was burdensome for her: a type of alluring aversiveness. But there was a kind of urge, a sort of compulsion, an unknown drive inside her masochistic mind to share her innermost passion with her inamorata, her professor of philosophy, the one whose mind was always preoccupied with Derrida especially his notion of 'deconstruction.' He was against the metaphysico-theological roots of Saussure's signification and was interested in any instability that destroys the determinant meaning.

She says cheers to the absent professor who, following Derrida, was not so much interested in Presence and then drinks one more glass. After all, what is the meaning of life when it is so barren of sense or significance? She looks again at the painting. There is something unknown about the eyes of the gentleman in the picture which is bothering her. The color of the eyes! The eyes do not look like hers. They are different from what she sees in her own eyes. Besides, his eyes are confidently kind and peaceful. They are inviting you to accompany Calmness. But hers, with the disturbing color, are constantly intruding into the very Peacefulness. Hers belong somewhere else or probably are carrying the traces of someone else, but she has tried to avoid giving it a reflection during all these years. She's been escaping from something mysteriously concealed. And there is a kind of disclosed hatred or enmity about the color! But it was not all about color; their tastes differed. He favored poetry, looking for Platonic love; she is Nietzsche's Orpheus, like an underground man. He always liked light; she is in favor of darkness. He was reasonably unreasoned while she is always unreasonably reasoned. He was a man of Literature; she is a woman of philosophy. He was there and then; she is here and now! She thinks again about the absent professor. Any time she had a date with him, everything looked new to her -- a kind of novel repetition, like the Latin word 'iterum,' which signifies the combination of a repetition (implying sameness) and difference (implying alteration). He was always a defamiliarized form of a familiar guy, like Literature itself or like a poem whose rhyme is stolen by its complex content.

She wishes he could understand, among all the literary elements, what 'Fatherhood' in its real sense means. She wishes she didn't have to abort her child, but then she thinks, what for? Why another victim, another girl, or another minus male? Why any woman should live at all as long as Virility is the signifier for the word 'existence' as its signified! It can be the repetition of herself, another 'Lily' symbolizing humility and devotion. She hates lilies, the 30th anniversary flower, or the lilies of the valley, the 2nd wedding anniversary flower. She laughs at the idea of lilies symbolizing that the soul of the departed has received restored innocence after death.

She is now quite drunk, jabbering something she can't understand. She knows what has still kept her somehow sane is a minimal ideality through life's iterative events. She likes Derrida's coined words 'iterability.' For her, this word is different from the word repetition. For example, the word 'repetition' does not carry the connotative load that exists in a word like 'reiteration.' There is the absence of emphasis or clarity or even boringness in the word repetition. She looks at the painting again, but she can't see it clearly. She notices that she has switched off the lights of that side of the room. But when? Maybe it's been done by Thanatos, son of Nyx, goddess of night. Or maybe it has been done by her Thanatos in Freudian terms, her own death drive, an original masochism which the ego unleashes on itself. Darkness usually gives her a sort of pessimistic gratification. It makes her Return to the pre-Oedipal state, even before that, when she was inside the daughter of grandma, the space in which there was an absolute absence of cognizance before she came to the world where she constantly had to 're-cognize.' For her, life is absurd. We endeavor to move forward through the onward march of life to be continually propelled backward, trying hard to get back to a state before we were even conscious. Death is the lovely state in which Consciousness is murdered by putting a full stop in front of our Breath. Knowing that its presence is arbitrary and provisional, we can probably see ourselves better in the possible absence of life.

She drinks more of the blue Hawaiian cocktail and then thinks about the day she had the abortion of her child, who was the result of the 'phallocentric' society she was living in. The society that was also basically 'logocentric.' It is a 'cocksure' society in which those who manipulate sexual and social forces stabilize their power as the dominant one. Maybe the abortion of her child was a resistance to the metaphysically symbolized male world. Perhaps this very present drinking is 'de-sedimenting' the logo-centricity of this female-repressed society. Yet, she liked the child of the professor in love with 'deconstruction' and the idea of 'différance.' She, her child, was the result of a hot summer night when the professor was drunk and came to her home and raped her. She was silent during the whole act -- crying but silently. It was not weeping. It was a goddam silent cry when the forceful Maleness was somewhere inside, soaked into her female Blood. That night she couldn't sleep till dawn when the professor was released of his unwanted sexual desire!

She now braces herself for any shades of love. She knows love exists in its non-existence if it's going to be genuine love. Any manifestation, any reflection, any physical entailment assassinates the majesty of its Being. You can be only pilgrims to its invisible shrine. If it's colonized by non-human Sapiens, it will become inauspicious to its pilgrims. Then, the sacred place is changed into a colony in which you will find lots of small beings with small heads but with big lower parts near their hips. What a lost remote location, then, the place is for migrants of LOVE! Isn't it? She drinks more, falling into an ineffable rapturous loss while remembering grandma shouting at her daughter to stop telling lies to her husband. She believed he knew everything about her toy boy, and his silence was dangerous, but the daughter of grandma was lustfully heedless to her mother's warning. She was careless till the news was spread: the illicit lover was killed by an unknown man who left a handkerchief smelling a familiar eau de cologne used by certain gentlemen.

She remembers that she couldn't understand well why the daughter of grandma was crying most of the time and why she died some days later. Her father told her that the daughter of grandma suffered from a chronic illness that finally caused her death, but grandma, who was kind to her, said it was a lie, and later she would find out what happened to her. That later was a night when she found her naked aunt drunk coming out of her father's room. She stood in front of her unsteadily and, while laughing loudly, asked her if she knew that the daughter of the grandma had committed suicide because of her father! She was frozen after hearing that, like a set phrase out of any context of use, and her aunt went to the bathroom to wash her sinful part while nagging and laughing and gibbering some angry, lusty words.

She looks again at the painting. The man in the frame was once her hero; impeccably right, but she can't understand why always under the influence of alcohol, he looks suspicious to her. He is rightly a criminal whose crime is not known, a mystery wrapped in the world of a failed love, an unreturned affection, a lost passion which led him to go for war in his navy world far away from the so-called peaceful life of people on dry land. He selfishly left his daughter behind, her intellectual kitty as he used to call her. She remembers her aunt's crying and condemnation of what she couldn't understand. Like always, her aunt was chronically drunk, talking about hot sex she had with the gentleman in front of others, and the grandma was trying to make her silent. The kind of shame spreading around was too much for grandma. The shame was unknown to her at that time though it still seems mysterious to her unless she is in this very confined room of hers, drunk while she looks at the painting as if gazing into the crystal ball of Destiny.

But no one can genuinely make their destiny. Can they? We all try, but, in the end, it is Destiny which molds our existence. Even David Mignon in the "Roads of Destiny," who seemed to think that he could forge his own destiny, had difficulty when he arrived at the fork, and it is the Omniscient O'Henry who knows what happens in each road and not David. Even Frost regretted "The Road Not Taken." And why should we be able to have any role in our destiny at all? Isn't it much better when we rely on ready-made decisions? Aren't we in a better position to be dominated by the powers of destined Dominance? God or whatever is in control, and still, we try to get the silly control of each other's life if not our own!

For many years, her soul lived in a female body that she hated so much while the other option, being a kind of male, felt wrong. Her body was both hers and others' -- a kind of conflict existing in an unknown discourse to her. A discourse not relatively new but recently formed, shaped, and forwarded through the manifestation of a sort of male but female-dominated hatred. Where is the place of this manifestation on the scale of so-called Destiny? Did she create this discourse? Was it already there taken by her? Is it a part of her thoughts? Was it before any opinion got born? Isn't it like always the result of her hallucination or the result of her knowledge about this hallucination? Is it real, or is it just the alcoholic effect of her ecstasy?

She drinks more while remembering grandma's crying at the funeral. The life and the death of her daughter were each a shame for her. But who was the cause of that shame? She thinks the reasons will always remain secrets in our life. We can only feel, see, and probably understand the effects. She knows now that the illegitimate girl of the grandma, the one who was a by-product of love and temptation and who is now a part of her own being and her destiny, is dead. But why is this part of her being that she hates so much still alive, and all particles of it like cancerous cells are growing and developing monstrously? She knows the answer: the causes remain secrets in our world of effects.

She can remember the secretive signs codified in the relationship between his father and the young man on the day of the funeral. Who was that guy that was all the time with her father, and no one knew him? Everyone was so busy with the funeral that they didn't even notice how grandma looked at him. She was looking at him in a malevolently friendly way. To grandma, he looked like an antihero or a kind of antagonist who was favored over any protagonists! It was strange, but she saw him several times chasing her and disappearing like a ghost. She was afraid of him for some time till the death of her father. Then she saw him no more. But who was he? A black young man so close to her father and so far away. She didn't have enough time to ask before his father left her for his navy mission. But this mulatto or perhaps quadroon with his curly dark hair and a look that seemed intelligently serious was always in her mind with no reason. Why did the SECRET wrap itself in secretive darkness of inconceivability?

She tells herself in a drowsy way, 'but who cares?' Her whole life has been like a dream, like a "Sleepy Hollow," not, of course, that of Washington's gothic land. It's her own life that looks like a "sequestered glen." It's her own life that is possessed by a haunting atmosphere as if it is bewitched. And she can see that the spell runs through the life of the female creatures of the family, at least through three of this race.

Race? Oh, this is the first time she has used the word while unable to find the reason in the dark quest of her mind. She thinks there has always been a kind of mysterious consistency through the destiny of her race, and she remembers Emerson saying that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." But then she thinks, who is the divine? The one who makes this consistency or the one who is influenced by it? She drinks more and laughs again at the idea of divines adoring consistency. Maybe Emerson, who wrote "Self-Reliance," was himself stricken by the divine's decision at the time his first wife Ellen was sick with tuberculosis and as Richardson wrote about his situation: "Immortality had never been stronger or more desperately needed!" Though Emerson might be right in seeing the community as a distraction to self-growth, Ahab in Melville's Moby-Dick is an example of taking "self-reliance" to its destructive extremes, to the point of solipsism. But which one is better: to be true to an evil nature or correct based on society's demands?

She looks at the pepper Vodka now and remembers the father of her aborted child, the philosopher who was crazy about Derrida and Deconstruction. She feels a bitter taste in her mouth by looking at that Vodka. It reminds her of the night she saw them together on his bed with the half-empty bottle of the same drink. The girl was only 16 years old. He was drunk, asking her to join them while the poor girl was a little bit frightened. She can't delete this part of memory, but maybe Emerson again is correct in suggesting not to remain with past actions and beliefs since it inhibits the full expression of our individual nature. But how on earth can we resist the fucking thoughts and memories when they attack us? She was only 16 years old, and he was lying with the girl in the same bed he had had love affairs with her not once but on many occasions of sinful rituals. How much can one be marked as an outcast of his society's values? She thinks, then, as much as one can deconstruct any center of stability, conformity, and consistency.

It was only three days later that she accidentally heard about her death. Drug overdose was apparently the cause.

She drinks more. Recently, she has become quite alcoholic. It started after the isolation imposed by her father's Goddam water voyage, which was for her a token of separation from previously unquestioned beliefs, a venture into a fluid realm of instability where there are no absolutes, nothing to hang on. It's always been a question for her why Melville considers the sea masculine, but she agrees with him in treating the sea as a deep dungeon for murderous brutes though still, she doubts if any quality of goodness is associated with land as feminine in nature and a tranquil haven for the existence. She remembers Coleridge's poem, while the words are banging on the drunken cells of her brain:

"Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: Oh Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea."

Now, she remembers how unfairly Pound in his version of The Seafarer compares men on land with those on a ship:

"Fettered by cold
were my feet,
bound by frost,
in cold clasps,
where then cares seethed
hot about my heart --
a hunger tears from within
the sea-weary soul.
This the man does not know
for whom on land
it turns out most favorably..."

But why in Moby-Dick is there no female character while the sky, air, and the land are regarded as feminine? Why such a combative and vengeful masculine world is the dominant one? Is it representing Ahab's world? How about Ismael, who reminds the reader of the son cast out of Abraham's household? Then in a tipsy manner, she tells herself, who gives a fuck?

She again remembers the young black guy who was killed in a car accident. He was run over, and the driver escaped. He died without being known till one day her aunt told her a story that still she can't believe. Her aunt was, like always, drunk. She probably didn't know what she was talking about. Usually, when she was drunk, she was garrulous. Anyhow, shockingly, she told her that she was the mother of that young black man, and he is NOT (emphasizing the word 'not' hysterically) dead. She thinks now that what her aunt told her could be true though she was too drunk to know what she was talking about. But she didn't believe it, and still she does not want to accept that the only immaculate man she has made in her mind can be the father of the black man who has the same color of eyes as her father. No, he can't be, never ever. He CANNOT be. This is just nonsensical jabbering of a drunk woman who was the sister of the goddam daughter of the grandma.

God! She is missing the word that others replace for the daughter of grandma. That missing WORD is not simply a sign with a signifier referring to what is signified. It's a world of passion and love. It is safety and security. It is support and protection. It is a refuge for the time you're accused of incompetence. It is the heart by which you feel alive. It is LIFE itself. It is the very existence of ME. She can understand what kind of suffering one experiences when they are not only separated from that world physically but worse, mentally through what Lacan may refer to as a symbolic stage: the world of words. She feels burning inside when she hears a sound like knocking on her door. She pours another glass of her Hawaiian cocktail without knowing why it's called Hawaiian and why she likes it. They told her that her father came from there while she knew that Africans known as Pōpolo are a minority of 4.0% of the whole population. Strangely enough, Jack was from Hawaii too!

She hears the knocking. This time louder. "Who's that?" She asks. A young man behind the door replies, understanding that she is quite drunk: "It's me, your brother from another mother." He continues, "My mom is the sister of yours. Open the door; I am here to tell you the last secret, which is about your daddy, the asshole Jack and my father, the husband of your mom." She suddenly shouts and says, "Shut up, I have NO mother, and Jack is the fucker of the daughter of the grandma." She jumps to the door and opens it to see who is speaking.

He was there, the black young man. The one killed in an accident. He is now inside, and the door is closed. She thinks it's a hallucination. She holds a big knife in her hand and laughs hysterically, this time like her aunt. "You're a ghost, aren't you?" She says and laughs again. Then silence for some seconds. The young man says, "Listen, gorgeous sister, I will not let you have my inheritance. This money and the full honor of my father belong to me. Whatever I am, a ghost or real, you will finish your life with the same knife which is now in your hand." She laughs with the idea of the knife being the subject syntactically and having the theta role of the instrument semantically while feeling the sharpness of the knife into her lost heart. It is there entirely when she screams the word "MOTHER."

This short story was previously published by 34th Parallel Magazine back in April 2020.

Article © Martin Foroz. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-01-17
Image(s) are public domain.
2 Reader Comments
02:28:02 PM
This story has targeted the critical issue of "minority" from two perspectives: being a woman and being a colored citizen. Thumbs up!
Sarah Ito
06:54:42 PM
Colorfully descriptive and with a lovely flow. Martin's short story has elements of American pulp fiction, classic surrealism,and a suggestive hint of Prousts's madeleine. Even when I finished, I continued mulling this short piece over and over; a finished tale of an unfinished life.
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