So often I find myself talking of Walter Benjamin, his essay « Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction » or his life. I haven’t read him in some 4 years but find that nobody else has ever so my accuracy isn’t put to the test. I suppose I’ve turned into one of these pseudo-intellectuals, party parlayer, just waiting for someone to contradict me. I wonder how much of what I say is Benjamin any more and how much of it is just me filling in the blanks of my own imagination, re-writing his words, a palimpsest of wine and nails, both red. Read.
In the end, I’m not even sure he’s applicable—are the scaries of our modern lives really so present, are we all so preoccupied with their horror that they float up to the surface of every other bar or birthday I attend?
The first time is a first date of sorts, possibilities second to note but this one ruined by a third-wheel who doesn’t like intruders—queried banalities are below her, it seems. Walking to the show I’m trying to fill the silence or the silence is filling me, cross-walks and the subconscious, while number three lags behind, sulking. I know how dangerous this city can be for the soft ones, the sensitive, but my thoughts won’t line up, watching her juggle this misplaced jealousy. Having offered an awfully rude glimpse of my other options (number three hovers to the left), I end up instead recalling quips about belonging to clubs that would have me as a member, and leave early.
The next time it’s grown cold out, I’ve been strung along, out against my will of sorts because so many people in such a small space make me feel judged/judgey but effort asks that I forget myself for a night so here I am, singing along again silently (though still out of tune). Half-past 12 finds me a bar stool amphitheater where my audience of two want to be touching but can’t because forgetting isn’t so easy when you’ve known each other’s secrets. I wonder why I find that beautiful, but I do. So I bridge the space between them with talk of arcades.
Months later I’m there again, same city, different bar. I’m post-concert alive, enclosed in the inner circle but exterior still, staring at the mouth of a singer with hoop earrings, asymmetrical pirate–but he’s glancing over his shoulder (should somebody save him?). I’d imagined a connection (sidecar side-effects), but find it’s impossible to ascertain if interest is feigned in a place where intellectualism is a party-trick. He’s happy to hear of failed-escape plans but wondering why he’s been forgotten by the beautiful ones, the side-man guitar slingers, the strappy top wearers, the tattooed hands holding tonics, the daughters-of named Lou. Like Benjamin, he too is wishing for a life-line, only not as literally.
Later, some weeks shifted by the canal, it’s finally warm enough for open doors so I’m outside, plotting escapes, figurative or literal. Hiding-spot ruined by a cigarette smoker leaning in as I’m leaning out, back to the wall, still not adjusted to this smaller space of speaking, perhaps necessary for the soft-spoken, which I am decidedly not. Her atypical nose lends a sincerity lost to the truly beautiful so I tell her of smashing Ikea dishes and experiencing a void. « It’s just not the same feeling, » I explain, « as breaking something you love. » And she laughs, perhaps in agreement, perhaps at the absurdity of our corner conversation, I can’t be sure, but the topic quickly shifts to my accent and I realize “cute” doesn’t align itself easily with existential dread.
Benjamin, my constant companion, crutch, a reminder that this world is mad, not me. Or I am, but cross-walks and bright lights blinking have made me so, full of scattered and strange. So kind of him, I think, to offer us something to blame. I don’t need to wonder what Benjamin would think of the 21st century. I suspect he’d be glad he was gone, far from this time where unfinished arcade projects and the beauty of baudelairien prose have been reduced to furnishing of idle fodder, our soft sides tucked so far, deep and away.