Friday, December 01, 2006

The Liquid Life (installment five)

Running material from the 1980s can make a writer sqeamish. There's plenty about "The Liquid Life," to criticize; the density of the prose, the expository ending, the in-your-face drug-taking (the world has changed a lot). But this character is one of the scribe's favorites. Sometimes he wonders if all the energy and detail pumped into Elendele are merely a set-up to her step-sister's soft counterpoint. She makes a second appearance as Seri in the screenplay, "Lunches w/ Actresses."


Her name was Saturnina. A woman younger than twenty-three who marveled at the rocks on the beaches of her fearless and far flung journeys; who dreamed of starfish and drew them in charcoal on an easel first thing each morning; who picked sky clowns out of clouds the way demented people like to do.

I repeat, she was a softer, less focused version of Elendele and the blood relation – no matter how incomplete, was undeniable. Same curls, curvier body with rings around her waist and wrist, like the planet she’d named herself after on the plane ride over.

She talked and I listened. When she stopped, I asked her more questions.

“Didn’t Elendele tell you anything about me?” she queried.

“Elendele doesn’t talk about anybody but herself.”

Elendele gets a little mad at this talk and I am pleased. So is Saturn. So are the stars in their distant humming. The new friend sing-songs that it’s time for her little magic crystals and she cuts up enough methedrine to keep a stallion from sleeping.

Elendele refrains because it’s a thing that makes her horny.

Saturnina tells me about how she is fascinated, in particular, with the study of systems of thought. The isms for order in the world, and the investigation into each’s undeniable, singular failure.

“Surrealism, futurism, socialism, I have embraced them all like lovers at my favorite bar,” she says, “and of course have had my flings with Allesandro Nata and his shameless ghost of an Italian Communist Party.”

She now only believes that there is something, somewhere worth believing in.

“My engine needs only a spark, the faintest glimmer of hope to fire its pistons, and I don’t believe in being tired, either.” These, she explains, are the sturdy root elements of a philosophy she and Elendele are developing for the coming centuries – unfinished, but in a triumph of style, already named “Intra-realism.”

The Intra-realist revolution, she says then, has more to do with high fashion than fatigues, and she still wants to sleep with Princess Stephanie whom she’d had debates with in Washington Square.

Elendele pretends to fall asleep, listening in, but the conversation goes on for hours and her light flickers finally. Saturn pulls a bottle of candy red liquor out of her bag of kicks and mixes Campari shakers for the two of us. We spend the rest of the evening drinking – she spinning a spell, and me, swinging in its sway.

Finally, an arcane and enlightening discussion of the seventeenth century rift between Galileo Galilei and Pope Urban the VII, at her suggestion.

“That rumble cost the astronomer a lifetime under house arrest,” she showed her feathers. “He was furthering the teachings of Copernicus, talking here and pamphleting there, about how the sun was the center of the universe. Not the earth, as the church had been saying for a pretty long time, Dominique.”


“The lies of religion,” Saturnina illumined, “had been revealed under the exacting gaze of the newly-improved telescope.”

Unlike Elendele, she was practically an ally of positivism.

“Now that it’s all been fought and mopped over anyone would have the right to think they’d have stood with Galileo in his cause. Or with Abraham Lincoln in his freeing of the slaves, or with Buñuel in his rampages over proper Paris…But they don’t know how untrue that is,” she furthers me. “Genius which portends massive changes in perception is mostly feared until those in the next millennium of the mind can posthumously come to understand it.”

Outside, dark blue had turned to silver, pulled back a layer onto gray, and ignited butane blue. Elendele wakes creaseless and peaceful, fresh in the face of our bloodshotness, our drooping, drunken countenances.

A good sport, she mixes up a breakfast for us all of strawberry quick-milk, cinnamon rolls and oranges.

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