“Today, two years or so after our meeting in New York, I open Will Slotnikoff’s letter and to my amazement there drops out on the table a translation of Leon-Paul Fargue’s Horoscope. Nothing could be more astounding to me… ” – Henry Miller
I know my hour. Though I have not examined the point of the ecliptic that was at the horizon when I breached the nothingness, with a magnifying glass, compass, goniometer or incandescent light, I know and can recognize myself like a good banknote. When I go to a restaurant, into the night or world, I consent, I go along, but deep down I’m skeptical. I know myself.
My sign is that of urchins, zebras of the sea, shellfish, barbed pterygoids, scaly groupers, spiny fish with suction-cups, faces so blue they seem close-shaven. I live in the company of seamen, jazz writers, astronomers, hypnotizers, psychologists, tobacconists and hotel clerks. These are my secret brothers, haunted by the same teeming maternal stars. Freemasons of my moment, they live the same life, drink the same beer, love the same woman, die the same death. I have a number, a day, a birthstone, a climate, favorite dishes, pears for when I’m thirsty, comings and goings of predilection, and vices which I do not confuse. I know that I am supposed to pick my friends in Cancer or Scorpio, my mistresses in Virgo, Taurus or Capricorn. I get the sense it has all been prearranged, from the lighter of street lamps who threw old straw on me every evening when I went to lycee, to trains that arrive late, and ushers who wait for me like sentinels at the turning points of weeks and years. All censors, bus ticket inspectors, taxi drivers with sudden breakdowns, and bibliophilic concierges are my traveling companions, just as unexpected downpours, the street one does not find, banana peels, and abrupt embraces, long desired but no longer hoped for, are gifts.
I am surrounded, marked, registered, pinpointed. I have a speedometer in my lungs, a scale in my eye, a calendar in my ear, a Michelin map beneath the soles of my feet; mirrors, atlases, sets of keys, chronometers over my whole body. When I get up, I clock in before starting life, like a good worker, but if I do overtime, I don’t get paid extra. I have twelve thousand senses, quays of ideas, colonies of feelings, a memory of three million hectares. And I know a lot of other things besides.
Like the traveler in a train car pacing the corridor while the train glides into the countryside like a carpenter’s plane, my destiny makes its way through me, and yet it submits to me. It obeys me. When it races off, I hold it back, when it falls asleep, I rouse it. It thinks it is stronger than me and taunts me, choosing its moment, for example, the step between waking and sleep that one always trips over. That is generally when I see it, slightly affected, slightly aristocratic, its eye clouded and cosmic, brain-colored, restless like a typhoon, twitching, anxious, a sort of toy balloon Gargantua, neither entirely a dream nor entirely a threat, enormous and flaccid, so large it occupies my whole eye, sky and nothingness, as heavy as sleep, as elusive as a handful of water, a waterfall’s presence, an ocean’s hypocrisy.
And in the morning when I feel a bit childlike, covered in goosebumps and trembling with indecision, my destiny enters me like a hunger, the kind that suddenly breaks into your stomach, that treats you like a safe. I see it and I don’t: it’s like a shroud and a headache, its voice is perhaps mine, perhaps its own, a distant voice over a broken telephone giving me the advice of a grandmother and delinquent, which I listen to. I swim in it and it swims in me. Fish.
When I feel it has settled in me, when we are enmeshed like wrestlers who are allowed anything and take advantage of this to force navel into ear, when I descend into it and it descends into me, and, with the circular airs of an elastic sphere, it takes charge of my affairs, this star in Southern Pisces starts to lecture me so disdainfully that I blunder out of argumentativeness. Destiny is the hurricane in a bottle that ferments in the breastbone. A zodiac sign, the Sign, Yours, the one whose stray bullet you are on earth, is the ground swell that capsizes you.
Mine is titled. It has a coat of arms in the shape of a fish trunk; it is astonishingly hirsute, spiky like the iron Virgin in Cologne. It is the color of an aquarium, full of itself like a country moon, yellow above ponds of blood. It exists more than me, eternal, established, just for those who have been tangents to it, like a recruitment office. Like those men who have noticed once or ten times, have perhaps even spoken once or ten times to some milkmaid or princess, some cat, some cousin or sister, and thought they had rights over her, my destiny assumes rights over me. All my life, then, will I have to let my blood settle, buy amethysts, write about amethysts, put pieces of amethyst beneath the legs of unsteady tables, float in diaphanousness, and show a predilection for brown? And, then, the spines of my books will be chestnut, my pupils bay, my socks bronze, my enemies chocolate, my friends tobacco, my mistresses golden, my maids cafe au lait. I will be the large dark native of auburn boulevards, the brunet in the hazelnut sweater, emerging only in the ashen hours of brownish-gray and earthy neighborhoods to frighten and harm sunburnt harlots. And be marooned, on top of it! All my life?
All my life, says the monster.
My uncle gave me a stone for a power hammer, a stone the color of an ice rink, a corundum, a pretty, astringent, and monotone ring that long served as my companion. Upon further inquiry, it was not my uncle. This piece of alum, the color of semen and lettuce, had fallen on us from the sky on a Monday, like an aerolite. We tried, to no avail, to lose it; it was found again. And when it was found, it was lost again. How many times did I rage against this eye, against this dreamlike scrap with its laboratory smell that no shoe sole could reduce to powder, against this nebulous speck. Nothing could be done, it was destiny!
All my life?
All my life, replies the Southern Sky.
When I stay in a hotel, I try to get number 11. I leave my house at eleven o’clock, I give eleven francs to the phantoms, I bet on eleven, I have eleven friends and eleven enemies, I count to eleven.
In the eleventh district, at the eleventh hour, in front of number 11 of the eleventh street starting from the Seine, the eleventh in a row of blondes murmurs to me and fawns, taking me for a bonze, in her voice of bronze:
Say, don juan, let me redden your dawns?
A hundred times I have wanted to be Aries, Cancer, Aquarius. But then it would be thirteen, platinum, daffodils, mild tobacco, chicken in wine sauce, the suburbs. Having given up all hope of being a free man, possessor of a hand without lies, of a sky without stars, as pointless on the surface of the planet as a breeze, a witty remark, I have often dreamed of another zodiac. Of a zodiac that would not oblige me to marry twice, to present myself as a radical emphysemic delegate in Trois-Sevres, to clean my clothes in histogenol or contract laryngitis passing branch ax(2)+bx+c of the Credit Lyonnais. Quick, another algebra, less anticipated alopecia, women without predestination and new dreams under collapsible skies! A zodiac that would be a lemon press, a fascist, a private tutor, a black tulip, a philharmonic society for sulphurous baths of railroad capitalism. Enough celestial telegrams, military papers for solitary men, extra-stellar passports.
Happily, I’ve escaped this gathering of souls. There are no intellectual symptoms in my fingerprints, no filings of poetry on my envelopes, they will sought in vain, I remain without past or future. I have no hollows anywhere. I want no shadow over the ground but the one cast by my wounded tenderness. I am not a number on a roulette wheel, and I turn as I please, always infinitely available. My destiny is each night’s effort toward myself, it is the return to the heart with slow steps along cities enslaved to the bureaucracy of mystery. What does it matter if I’m born, dead, have a hundred years of hair, a predisposition for the merchant marines, a measure of argumentativeness, and faithful wives in other people’s beds? What does it matter if I’ve made an advance reservation in this world, which I know having made it? I am one of those who sow destiny, who have discovered the cloakroom before venturing into full life. I’ve arrived entirely naked, without cosmic tattoos. The gentle giant who annoys me when I still feel deboned by sleep is the universe I have created for myself, that keeps me warm in my dreams. If I die tomorrow, it will be from an attack of disobedience.
(Turtle Point Press, ISBN 1-885983-18-2)