The Costume

Bill Jacobsen - Untitled 1999

The Costume

            When there is dialogue, or perception.  When he’s awake.  But what to name it?  How describe?  Perhaps even while sleeping.

The lag.

At checkout counter, clerk addresses: to absorption, numbness, mumble.  Other.

Strikes Alfonse as he’s driving toward home:  there are trees bending, being present in their way.  Cars, pedestrians, small animals scurrying.  A school bus.  Neighborhoods – definite yards and homes.  A mail-delivery-person.  A filmy mist.  A fall-behind in his perception.  Gap.  Perhaps.

He initially considered it a veil.  A tremulous fog.  A curious “vagueness to things.”  Like long, cold Winter.  Haphazard inceptions:  tree, bus, children; cat, dog, car.  No attachment.  A muffling and delay.  A foreigner.  Driver inside steel mechanism, separate by seconds, very nearly removed – a skein, a skin, a veil.  An organism with apparatus.  The slow calculator.

The smeary light when she speaks:  lover, mother, friend.  Overlaps, palimpsests, a smudging feedback, a decay.  The children crying.  Vocalization evokes.  Indicates.  Needs.  Response.  Remembers he is human.  Particular understandings, expectations.  Affirmations and acknowledgments.  Times for saying yes.  Attentional assent.

Alfonse disbursed.  Pernicious regress.  As if he’d be immediate.  As if the others were.  As if it all were touching, interspersed and in exchange.  This thing and another.  He is embodied.  The body seems slow, or surprisingly fast, almost anticipatory (unbeckoned, unmeditated erections).  He can’t make sense from it.  Body makes sense he knows not of.  Who knows not of?  Of what?  Even how might be accurate here.  Alfonse cannot seem to know, this is his costume, a glassy shroud, the sluggishness between the here and now.  Without a zipper or a tag.

Inside a bottle within distorted frame, but without an image described so clearly.  Costumes are alive – expose the motions of the wearer.  Notions.  Reveal, conceal, but variant things.  Who dressed him this occasion?  This dismantled undoing and random erasure, perpetual hiatuses of interpretation?  His hesitant reality – a retardation, sensational slag, both slow-soaking sponge and absorbency-abdicator.

“I got nothing,” he murmurs, “didn’t catch a word you said…” as if in some other language of different rhythm and tune.  Not understood.  Multiple things unrelated, cannot tell, cannot smell, is uncertain where he is in his motions.  Not quick enough, just out of joint, who what where why when never equals now for him, nor how.  He is Alfonse and he seems costumed.

Making love – a metaphor for intimacy – those direct invasive actions – and yet he’s steps away, slow to the uptake, uncertain who is doing where and when.  That comes later and looks like smudges that he estimates with guessing.

Is this uncommon? – is what he wonders.  Am I the only one who cannot tell?  Does she know what she is doing, feeling it as it happens?  He’s asking something far away he cannot measure.  He wakes each morning, to himself, inside this costume, and dons the heavy cloak of it for sleep.  Asynchronous, distant, accidental and traumatic, but postponed – perpetual flush of shut-down, shock, bewilder.

He thinks “flamingo” inside a jar of unfocused space in alternate materials in artificial frame and anesthetic wall in analagesic scheme, so far, far, far, far… the clock is slipping.  The span from here from now, from him from there, from this to happening, happens.

And so it goes.  Costume he can’t remember wearing that encases and engulfs.  Awareness too long after to affect.  A lostness in the makeup or makeover, the becoming and become.  Too late.  Ineffective.  Ever after and begone.

Echoes.  Surely something must be said, something addressed to him, something interjected, interacted and applied – only ever now arriving quite beyond a sensibility toward response – apposite, inappropriate, out of line and time and sense.  Unsettled and uncouth.  A threatening out-of-sorts, off-color and unfelt.  Feeling suffocated, unrelating.

Alfonse swimming being, non-concurrent, unawares.  Ineffably indistinct.  Imperceptibly misinterpreted.  Not.  Never.  Was. But.  Here.  Where.  No.  Not.  Now.  It slides away.  He heard something (her mouth, lips, the child-in-walkway, bird, tree bent to breeze) – no, not yet, before, never always, when?  How?

Soughing in a muddy river, ice overhead shifting, yesterday.  Forever.  There is no today in the mix, the undertow, a disconnected untoward, who where when – not he – can’t remember, a caesura of consequence – plugging, plunging him far from present, dark and drear.

So far between the now and when – not-knowing.

Invisible costume.  Alfonse’s weight.  Indistinguishably unable – uncommonly common, this viscous opaque coating – no known axis or location – simply not.  Not.  Not.

Knots of not…not-knowing, not-quite-hearing, not-feeling, not-tasting, ever too late.  Undone for undoing.

Alfonse within costume, a muzzling muffle of indigestive guzzle, of life.  A weather and reprove, a restrictive deconstruction, a not-quite-absence in the presence of the everywhereabouts and everywhen of… of… everything.

Flamingo Robert Frank