The real relic is the true vision. Somewhere, in writing, in plans, in living memory, the complete work of art is enshrined and maintained, re-enshrined and re-maintained. And like a remnant, a saint’s fingernail or a piece of the true cross, it is as revered as the vision itself, when it is actually, a piece of the true vision. A gem is not brilliant until the light shines upon it, and all we have is reflected and remembered light.
One day we were trying to lift a few snacks from a gift shop, and I saw all these Família souvenirs, t-shirts, mugs, all the tacky shit. In all honesty, they had probably been all around me for weeks. I wondered if I had turned a tourist trap into an esoteric ideal. For all the tchotchkes, it seemed just like another showy landmark. Maybe the Família was just another huckster god.
“Alright chucklefucks, let’s do this and do it right” is never a good way to start a performance, but… we perform Fatal Falafel on a crowded Sunday in Sant Antoni. It was a “puppet show” – Mamen’s head, arms, and legs were attached to strings. We’d splurged for a fresh, piping hot order of falafel. It was pristine, steamy, and on the ground just out of Mamen’s reach. Three of us, Llúcia (Clotho, the Fate who spins), Ignatz (Lachesis, the one who draws out), and me (Atropos, the one who cuts the string at the end), pushed and pulled the strings. Mamen’s makeup was done up a gaunt blue, making her look like a hungry zombie. She’d dash for the falafel. We’d yank her everywhichway. It was more of a 3-on-1 tug o’ war with food as the prize. It was going well until a strings (rope, really) got tangled around Ignatz’s left foot. He fell, and Mamen pulled. We remaining two Fates lurched forward and barely recovered. Ignatz got up, then I fell down. I got up, then Mamen fell down. We looked around, and the falafel was strewn and smashed. The Fates lost, and we lost our dinner.
From the crowd: “Do you know the Blue Man group???”
Ignatz almost started a fight
After we broke up the fight and broke down our set (or broke it down even more, rather), we wandered around the booksellers, then sourced some food.
We were bringing back some bruised and beaten veggies from La Boqueria and a swiped bottle of Vermouth. Everything seemed to be going well as we returned to the squat.
“...but really, this new skit honks”
“huh? what’s that on the wall?”
Who the fuck is “Remy?”
“And ye shall know her by her trail of whippets.” “Well, she’s done planning that new skit.” “I thought that was code for an emotional breakdown” “Well, I guess we’ll see tonight. She’s dropping by around 8.” “Looks like you’ll be meeting her after all.”
My gut didn’t feel right about it. At 7:30 I told everyone I was leaving to get cigarettes. I don’t smoke. Remy, Remy, Remy, where are you?
If the person I replaced was coming back, especially if they were Remy, there wouldn’t be a place for me anymore. I grabbed my make-up kit and Mamen’s special rubber chicken. I didn’t want to cluck this up.
Snake nut can.
It was not hewn from rock, it was grown, cultured. I knew there was a heresy if you just looked close enough. For all his piety and all his faith, I knew Gaudí was a decadent. Surely his aesthetic was blasphemy, if not his words. I could close my eyes and picture Gaudí’s sacred family: Mary Mother of Pearl, Our Abyssal Father, and the Softshell Son of God. The curves of Sagrada Família were a theological anomaly. They eluded Catholic morality.
I was across the street from the clown squat
Based on the way they talked, I could tell this Remy was the leader of the troupe. Llúcia had been doing her best to cover in her absence. From my distance I couldn’t hear much. But I could see how someone would say we were doppelgangers. Her face at rest had our chin, that tiny tip of dimples, and the lines on our brow. But when Remy spoke the resemblance crumbled. With her hair up, she looked rather put-together for having just returned from a breakdown. When she spoke, Remy was animated with exuberant confidence, her eyes always listening. But Llúcia was reluctant to speak. Remy kept asking questions, ending up asking “Who?” over and over. Her face turned sour.
Remy left and broke one of our rules to squatting: Never use the front door. Just as she turned the corner I rose and followed her on an impulse.
I had been doing good with Llúcia, Ignatz, and Mamen. Why let this deserter ruin it for me? I was the wandering mushroom. I was Atropos, the Fate who cuts the thread of life. I was the purple Pantone Mime. The troupe worked.
Even if it was a fluke, why should I let her ruin it for me?
I followed by silhouette and shadow. Not looking back or seeming to notice me, she flit down one alley, enjoying herself. In the dark I followed the sound of bells sewn into her hem.
I wasn’t going back. This Remy deserved a good scare. Then maybe she’d disappear for good.
No one told me the road to hell was paved with banana peels.
One paver rose to meet the tip of my foot. I tripped and fell into her.
I fell face first in front of the Família. That’s me. All gaffes, no laughs.
Two sound waves interfered with one another, cancelling out into silence. My mind, normally a whirl of sensation, plateaued. I felt serenely at one with myself. And then, one moment completely empty, it was busy filling the next. Looking around ourselves, it was an entrance to a feeling of pure physicality. I was entranced by the portal, the nativity facade that felt so menacing. I tried to clarify myself. A church is just a building and a building is just a shell. Remy led me by my own hedonistic projections.
My moist fancy was being stripped away. My submarine pleasure palace was crumbling.
I should be telling you what happened: I succumbed to a material truth. The world and the flesh.
I had been faffing about since I was born. Was I empty or overflowing? Had something sucked out my personality or was my personality pumped full of poison?
All I see are eyes. All I feel is skin. All I hear are ears. All I taste are tongues. All I smell are noses. Scooping out a memory, my senses are neutralized, the muscle connecting me is cut. My spirit goes slack in my body, then crumples under its own weight like wet oyster meat sliding down. This slimey self holds the beatific facial expressions of saints. I raise my hands, palms up, in supplication.
I looked around me for Remy, as I felt a heat radiate within the temple. She was nowhere to be found. My previous pearl was gone.
The star above, leaving a glorious trail of stone, announcing the Christ boy’s birth, was a mace ready to strike.
The light cut. It cut me off from everything.
I had been cut off from Remy a few times before, once during switchblade switcheroo at the ComediDrome. I have a pretty gnarly scar from it on my hand.
For the old switcheroo, all you need is two clowns and two switchblades. One with a real blade, the other with a floppy piece of plastic. We’d keep switching them up, testing them out, trading, testing, tossing. Putting the sharp one down, looking away, and picking up the floppy one. We’d get to testing them on fruit, then bread, switching and forgetting each time. At the finale we test them on each other. The viewer finds out immediately which is the real one in a sharp moment. But all through the skit, we dulled their senses and the switchblades are both, either, neither. A blade’s not really sharp until you cut through that confusion.
There I was, an oyster severed and shucked.
The stone above, now choppy like waves, now flicking tongues of flame, danced all around.
i was ruining my temple by just looking at it. was my gaze corrosive?
No flowering crosses. No fluid decorations. Every organic flourish was awash with curlicues of heat, wisps of mirage heat.
The air became lofty in the heat, my hair hovered, taking on static from the currents. A wall of true warmth approached me, sweeping past. The evening damp was transformed into a desert dry. All light turned a warm brilliance. My eyes wept automatically like an ablution. There was no spiritual spa dimension. Water is living, I kept telling myself. But the the vital wetness was boiling off, leaving only molten confusion.
I looked at the temple before me. The stone seethed with life. Birds, goats palm fronds, all writhing under the stone surface. The human figures struggled as though half-alive, imbued with the essence of everyday people.
I yearned for the baptism of fish oil and the salted holy water that I had dreamed up, but it was burned up in the heat, gone. Behind me there were only seared wastes, heaps of slag, and red sand. Everything had been stripped of my projections, leaving only that entrenched matter consumed by feelings felt. Where was the mischief and fun? The curving conch shell of a moisture palace from my postcard book? Vanished. Evaporated. The menace before me was harsh, rigid, moralistic: apocalyptic radiance.
A small dog, which had been next to some shepherds gazing up at Jesus, jumped down and shook off small fragments of stone.
The dog struck up conversation. “Hey clownface, what are you staring at?”
“It’s just so…”
“Yes,” I replied, not knowing if he meant a talking dog or the Família
“He was a Catholic, you know.”
“Gaudí, the rest of them who made this, uh, portal.”
“Portal? Did you see another woman here?”
“That girl you pushed? She stumbled right into Hell.”
“OK. OK. Move along little doggy. Scram.”
I looked at the entryway below the fiery surface of the nativity. My mind got that scooped-out feeling again. What was a talentless hack like me doing in a situation like this. An inability to deal with real problems doesn’t indicate ability to handle unreal problems. I was on a permo.
The door was rainbow black, like oil in moonlight. The surfaces of the Família had warped in on themselves infinitely. If that’s where Remy went, I wanted to follow.
At that moment, I really wanted a cartoon dog. I would pull it like an accordian and it would stretch and stretch, each new inch of dog revealing a new little nip. A magic scarf dog to wrap myself up in. But all I had was this stone mongrel. Going through this portal alone was less than ideal. I decided it would have to do.
“Are you going in, dog?”
“Yes, and it’s Furcifer. You think I’d be welcome where you came from?”
“Fair enough, Furcifer.”
I stepped out of god’s shadow into the cruel heat of Hell, rolled up in a wave of sizzling air, stabbed through with icicles, assailed by my own senses.
Walking through the portal I was dunked in searing ice and chilling fire, a numbing iridescent pain. I was frozen ashes tossed in a burning freezer. My senses compressed and flashed cool blue flame, red hot icicle, and then a cruel purple that intensified both. Pop.
The opal palace of my dreams collapsed on me.
I started descending the ladder in my throat.
The sound of a slide whistle going