Monday, January 24, 2022

Douglas Messerli | "The Double Room" (after Baudelaire)

The Double Room

                              (after Baudelaire)

some rooms are like dreams, spiritual rooms, where the dense air is tinted blue and pink.

There the soul can bathe in indulgence fragranted by desire and regret as at twilight, when all the blues become roseate, a sensate dream in eclipse. The furniture, elongated, languid, almost prostrate, seems to be dreaming itself, endowed with that somnambulistic existence we attribute to vegetables and precious rocks. Even the hangings speak the silent language of the heavens, of flowers, of suns about to set. 

No abomination of art upon the walls. Compared to the dream, to the obscure impression, art, with its statements, is blasphemy. In this room everything is bathed in a vagueness that produces harmony itself. 

An infinitesimally scant scent, exquisitely chosen, mingled with the slightest small of damp, floats through this hothouse environment, cradling the spirit in sleep. 

Over the window and bed muslin in diaphanous masses cascades into snowy cataracts. And on the bed lies the Idol, sovereign of my dreams. How has she come to be here? What magic power has placed her upon the throne of so much contemplation, so much pleasure? Does it matter? She is there, and I genuflect.

Yes, it is her eyes from which the flame pierces the darkening sky; those subtle and terrible spheres which I recognized by their aw-inspiring spite. They attract, subjugate, devour the gaze of the impudent. How often have I studied those black stars, arousing in me so much curiosity—and admiration. 

To what benevolent demon do I owe all this mystery, silence, perfume, peace? O yes! What we usually call life, even at its fullest and happiest hours, cannot compare to what I now experience, minute by minute, instant by instant. 

No! There are no more minutes, no seconds left! Time has disappeared. It is Eternity, an Eternity of pleasure that rules now. 

But on the door a knock, a resounding clamor of the fist, and I, as in some infernal nightmare, feel a pitchfork being stuck into my gut.

Enter the ghost, a sheriff come to torture me in the name of the law; or an infamous whore come with accusations to add to the petty pleasure of her life and the sorrow of mine; or a boy from the newsroom sent by the editor to back the sequel to my last installment.

That paradisiacal room along with the Idol, sovereign of my dreams (my Sylphid, as the great René used to say), all that enchantment has vanished with the brutal knock. 

How awful! I remember. Yes, now I recall! This filthy hovel, the dwelling place of boredom is my own. Look at those stupid, dusty, dilapidated tables and chairs; no fire in the hearth, without even embers, soiled by spittle. And these excuses for windows with furrows traced by the rain across their muck; manuscripts half-erased; the almanac wherein my pencil has circled sinister dates. 

And that intoxicating perfume wafting from a world beyond this? The stank of stale tobacco commingled with the sickening of must has taken its place. A rancid smell of waste. 

In this narrow world, so full of disgust there is but one object of delight: a vial of opium, my terrible, old love, who like all mistresses, alas, betrays me as often as she takes me to her breast. 

O yes, Time has returned to be reinstated as the sovereign lord of this place. And with him his entire retinue of Memories, Spasms, Fears, Agonies, Nightmares, Nerves, Rages, and Regrets, all have come back.

I can assure you that every second now is accented strongly by the clock, each after each calling out, “I am Life, unbearable, unmerciful Life!” 

One second only in the lives of men announces good news, and that news puts terror into the heart of every man. 

Yes, Time again rules; he has resumed his tyranny. He pokes me with his fork-shaped prod as if I were an ox: “Move on, you beast! Sweat, slave, sweat! Live and be damned!”




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