tepping out, Barcelona was hot and clingy like cellophane. I was hot shit wrapped tight. I entered the first loud bar I found off Plaça Reial.
This bar was nothing like Blue is the Warmest Color. Immediately I got trapped in a pseudointelligent conversation based on apparent reality. (A man was explaining my appearance to me.)
“I’m doing my thesis on the semiotics of clowning.”
“With a focus on rodeo clowns.”
“It’s really about metaphysical comedy - clown cars and all that.”
“My research is an attempt at de-intellectualizing clownery.”
“Are you actually explaining clowns to me?”
“You come often to bars alone, huh??”
“Yeah, no, I came here with a friend.”
“I meant, you like coming to Barce–”
“There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you,” interrupted a soft dyke-looking pinafore-wearing person. The guy looked absolutely confused. Thankfully I was saved.
“Hey… there you are.”
“Did you know she can only have sex with Groucho glasses on?”
“No, uh, we actually hadn’t gotten that far...”
“But that’s where you were headed, right? Let’s go, ”
“This is my friend—”
“Una, shall we?” Una’s legs were fuzzy, but she was believably smooth. I could tell she was just another person trying to get out of something. Said she was here on holiday with her boyfriend. She never mentioned him again. I never saw him. Everyone’s trying to wriggle their way through life.
“So what’s a clown like you doin in Barça?”
“Came here to see the architecture -- i’m more than a clown: I’m an architectural aesthete.”
“Are you fuckin serious? we can go back to the bar and I’ll leave you with that dude”
“Nonono it was a joke! a joke! honestly i came here to see Gaudi”
“The architect, I came to see his vision, the Sagrada Família”
“The gaudy church?”
“GAUDY? It’s a masterpiece - a living, breathing building. YOU gotta be fucking joking, what do you even know about—”
“Ooh, tetchy. Chill out. Then it’s as you say, whatever. Stop talking, start walking, numpty.”
Una left me simple-dimpled. She couldn’t actually, genuinely think that the Família was whimsical. She was just trying to come off hard.
Every time you take a pie in the face, part of you dies and is reborn. You’re not there during the build-up. You’re playing the dupe, waiting for the pie tosser to wind up the pitch. When it hits people are probably laughing, but all you can see is pie. The pie tastes ok, but you’re gone, diving face first into an ocean of filling. Goodbye, greasepaint. Wipe the pie off, everything goes with it. Hello, it’s you again.
Sagrada Família, a big house all for the holy nuclear family. Just thinking about the place gave me the deepest feeling of wet. The skeleton of an ocean. A monstrous malformed crab’s shell. A looming barnacled shrine. All those curves and pearls and crusts. Its undulating curvature contained a mass of thoughts and feelings without consequences. The tide, the swell, the surroundings, full of oceanic mortality.
Sometimes when the pie hits, you wish it was heavier, more substantial. Something you’d feel deep, like a brick. Instead, it’s just soft filling.
Una had walked me to the Guzzo Club (sounds fake, right?) to mellow out after escaping the loud bar. The walk was quiet, but once we sat down, I pulled out all the stops and did my absolute best to make her laugh.
“Let’s what? That a word you just made up?”
“Well, I guess, uh—”
“Don’t try an be too cute. Everything is copacetic. Cope uh cet ick, yeah? I’m making sense, amn’t I?”
Before I could answer, Una threw her face at me hard, almost chipping both of our front teeth. When she went up for air, you could see the white and red smear of my face on hers. Her desire gave my brain space to breathe. I could focus on the corners of her mouth while she kissed me, and I could hold on to her hair while she ate me out. It’s normal to not be able to make sense of pleasure. Feeling that kind of good is one of those things it’s okay to just not comprehend. My hands started feeling normal again and the churning ocean in my brain became calm.
After I stopped gasping and grasping at her, she met me face to face and I held her for a while. Her breathing was deep, floating just above sleep depth. She angled herself on top of me, pulling my left leg up and over her right. Una leaned in close, pushing together the places where our thighs meet. Una shifted all of her modest heft on to me and joined us close together, parts to parts. I was crying then, or my eyes were watering at least. I felt her bones grazing mine through our skin. I was so wet I couldn’t imagine ever dying and becoming dust.
I could walk through Sagrada Família in my head, but I knew nothing about the rest of the city. I knew context might ruin it for me. Una was maybe the first detail I had really noticed, but she wasn’t very here either. She was probably on holiday avoiding something like I was.
After I reacted well to some exploratory bites on my neck, she bit harder and harder still. she moved from my neck to my collarbone, then down to my chest, biting my tits until they felt like sapphy taffy.
I didn’t try and explain why I had no money. I tried my best to just follow one impulse to the next. She fell asleep on me and I laid there trying to see if I could get out from under her and leave. This precious unmoored soul was laying on top of me of all people. Eventually I gave up and fell asleep as well.
The sheets were like a complicated game of snooker, but anyone’d be lying if they said they understood snooker.
The sheets in Una’s hostel bed had been stained white, black and red, but also gray, pink, crimson, and every shade between.
Hand. Thigh. Thigh to thigh.
I woke up next to her. Her breath, soured by the night, smelled tangfastic.
After snack, the parc. Una was laying in the grass, staring at the sky, still talking about some clouds. There was a bank of pink pillowy shapes floating across the sky. All morning I had tried to think of excuses to leave, but either none of them worked or I wanted to stay.
“It’s mammatus clouds. Floating tits.”
“They do look pretty. Blobs of white and pink, streaks of gray. Reminds me of your sheets, though.”
“Don’t worry about it. They had to change them anyway, after we–”
“No, yeah, you’re right.”
“Did you see those flowers when we came in?”
“Oh. Yes. Get me some, will ya?”
I figured this was an opportune time to make my exit, but I couldn’t help but humor her, so I went back to the park gates and found her two wee daisies.
She looked at them like she was stoned, like she was trying to feel the atoms with her eyes. That’s just how she was. Her sober, earnest awe at those daisies was a gravity of its own. I could see her trace the edges of each petal and soak up the texture of the pollen. She eased herself out of her material fantasy and put one flower in her braid and the other tucked on top of my ear.
She saw me staring at her and said, “Jesus fuck. You’re already idealizing me. We’ve known each other for three days and--”
Horseplay was the only way out of this. “Do you want to wrestle?”
At the slightest nod of her head, I pounced.
All the world’s a stage, and all the people merely horseplayers
horseplay is a kind of intimacy
horseplay requires consent
horseplay is a negotiation of boundaries
horseplay is slapstick comedy
horseplay is a play about horses
horseplay is when you pretend to be an animal and chase someone around the house
horseplay is when you wrestle someone you love
horseplay is cooperative exercise
horseplay is tenderness
horseplay is horse pals
horseplay is playing horse
horseplay is laying next to a friend out of breath
We were laying in the grass, breathing hard.
Una took a picture of us on her phone and showed me. I had screwed my face up reflexively and my earlobes were still clown red. Una, she was cute, though, with that daisy in her hair.
“So I was reading a wikipedia article about a woman who did miming and was a student of Marcel Marceau and started doing different shit”
“Like what kind of different shit?”
“Like… she started talking. She committed the ultimate mime crime.”
“That’s not that big of a deal”
“No, but everyone knows mimes don’t talk. It’s the first rule of mime club.”
“Ok. I’m on ‘Pages that link to “Marcel Marceau.”’
“Who are you talking about? Rebecca Alban Hoffberger? Nola Rae? Hanna Berger? Zora Šemberová?”
“Listen. Facts don’t matter. Just know there was a woman mime who spoke.”
“This is bullshit. I still like you though.”
I told Una I was going to get a drink, and I left her. I could’ve stayed with Una a few more days, maybe even longer, and taught her tricks and goofs.
She was gradually encroaching on my sensitive reality. Pretty soon the clown paint would come off and Una’d see the other clown. Bathed in essence, the temple’s iconic towers had cranes around them for decades. Most people would say that the temple has 18 towers, but it’s 20 if you include those cranes. It’s comical to speak of purity of vision spanning a century. The constantly reinterpreted plans of a long-dead architect. These words are rot, too, honestly. All my reverie based on that postcard book, followed by a documentary by Teshigara and some coffee table books about a piece of architecture that I was avoiding like a rotten ex.
Leaving without notice is a practical joke. Una would find a note I left in her blue rucksack with my email that said,
- your clown 🤡
Sometimes I wish I were a complete monster, but I’m not. She had every right to not email me, but I hoped that she did.
My deepest desire was to find an atelier or artist commune in the midst of my confusion or be time shifted so I could be a travelling medieval jokester, a jongleur. I’d never settle as a court jester, but a travelling goofball? That sounded just fine. Being (dis)regarded as a fool gives you a degree of freedom from the pressure to make sense. But there’s that idea that the court jester could be the most honest council to a king, which is total bunk. When everyone’s tired and drunk in the grand hall, who’s listening? And there’s only so much a clown can do, and, if it isn’t funny, they’re in the stocks. State-sanctioned jestering takes the piss out of clowning. It’s better to stick to throwing pies at kids than kings.
I stopped three blocks and noticed a breeze. I felt the stucco wall to my left and let the cold instant wash over me. Existing is felt time. The passage of time is a wave-sensation of seconds over my body, trace after trace. Each moment with an undercurrent of touch rippling, sound muffled echoes, sight bent. Each thought and sensation manifested in its own time, every clock-tick like a small snake bite. That’s what existing feels like, like venom milked out of a snake’s fang. Thinking turns physicality into this lethal, unctuous thing. My psyche was poisoned.
I figured now would be a good time to go see the Família, but my hands were shaking and my head was spinning. Una had paid for the last few meals I’d eaten, and I couldn’t go back to her after my Irish goodbye. I went to a cafe and waited by the restroom. Eventually I slipped in as someone left. Don’t see why you have to buy a muffin just to piss. I.P. Freely never had to deal with it. Why should I? I opened up my makeup kit and got to work on my face.