An Excerpt From Passes Throughby Rob Stephenson
Forthcoming in April from FC2
I was filled with regret today. Ghosts are everywhere. I feel more and more like a fool. It is such a sorrowful thing. Losing the ability to see a person in a positive light. What you desire greatly begins to show up around you in little pieces until you see it everywhere. It points right at you wherever you are. He mentioned he was no longer interested in architecture or lovely furniture. I feel as if I’m outside the whole interaction. I watch him talk to me, but his words are a mantra to keep him tuned to the incredibly small world necessary for his security. The world of the absolute answers to everything. The same songs over and over. The world I run from every day. I am not sure how to make plans for us to do things together. I am no longer certain of what will offend him. He looked amused at that. His sentimentality is heartless. Everything must fit into an order that at all costs will be maintained. Rude characterizations are artificially stamped on every character. There are bound to be unpleasant consequences. I feel guilty because it was easy for a while. I am a shadow. A senseless road. That’s what he said. My life is a hesitation. I type. He drifts. The rudder is stuck on this boat. He doesn’t need both hands. We were served a meal where one peppered dish after another burned a different region of the mouth and throat. What answers do I think I need from him? I feel the wild tempo of the inner process. Useless patterns. Unsettled. Brittle. Our clocks are not in unison. There is some taking that is not given willingly. There are degrees of rape that transport what is seen into something else, something unaware. What parts of me do you want? I’m all twisted together in a tangle. The idea of collecting myself includes untruths I no longer even know about until they come to the surface. Balancing a clinically maintained self with a passionate driven self. Where can I take this? What is the best way to expand this character? To what end? I settled for watching a movie with him. Roughly filmed and edited with a jagged elegant economy. It was about whether a man is a factory or a landscape. There was a landscape and they built a factory on it. There was a factory and they put a landscape around it. He thought the character didn’t speak from inside his own script, but with the words someone else gave him. A mirage born of despair. He knew how to be a bastard and come out looking pretty good. And he wanted revenge against a way of thinking that buries the deepest thoughts inside a secret place. You trust yourself too much, you pretending piece of self-deprecating sponge.
That museum is overwhelming. Too much private desire in a public place. I particularly enjoyed the barbed wire collection. Over one hundred varieties. Lengths of it radiating out and around a large oval frame. Inside it was an old photograph. Sepia-toned. Horns and antlers. Particles of dust. Dirt that attaches itself to a car. Fibers from his clothes. The procession of insects that arrive at the dead body in a predicable and datable sequence. I wonder if addictive behavior manifests itself the same way in countries with different religious emphases. I would like to find those dangerous old visions. To love the forbidden things that could be found without much effort in the library. He suggested a whole new set of moves through a pair of thick brooding lips. He had the cheapest tickets. Secret thrills that were better than the ones the other kids were looking for outside in their cars. I feel so selfish. He must think I’m an animal. Real noise directs us away from the message itself toward the medium in which it occurs. I have to get away from this city. Avoid the same traps. These awful feelings of ruin. Such mediocre stuff. It turns out each middle has its own distinct properties that affect the message in precise ways. Shut up and fill in the gaps with something multifaceted. Will we see the end of his bad ideas about love?
He has a way of making everything I do seem unimportant. I don’t think he means it. But sometimes I just want to have an ego. The problem of owning instead of renting. I like it when he calls me daddy. When he thinks I make all the right decisions. Even when I’m wrong. I like getting the praise I don’t deserve. When I steal the glory. I’ve entered a game where I suddenly become this person that’s a different person from the one you’ve been speaking to. I excel in this highly organized form of pretending. Capable of dastardly behavior. The gradual reintroduction of their ideas into my own. I know the jokes, the references to all kinds of old art. It’s an odd use of the dead. The vanished. There is always continuity. Maybe everything has already vanished. Not much physical evidence left. Objects can be irrelevant. They don’t pre-exist in a valuable state. And still I’ve spent so much of my life trying to make usable structures. Everything is contaminated. I’m not sure how to proceed. To find better definitions. It’s futile to have a part of your life that no one can touch. The limbo between prose and poetry. Someone else’s right thing. Lots of military guys. Standing there. Guarding emptiness. People are taking photographs in groups. Parasitic tourists. He says I am experiencing the accumulated charred and unholy ends of all my failed relationships. Boy, I do hate lazy reviewers.
ROB STEPHENSON lives in Queens, NY. He has been creating texts, drawings, paintings, music, performance, video, films, and installations for over thirty-five years. He has a BA in Experimental and Interdisciplinary Art from San Francisco State University and an MFA in Electronic Media from The Center For Experimental Music at Mills College. He is the author of the novel Passes Through (FC2/University of Alabama Press).