GENESIS | THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
In the beginning, there was the writer. Alone on her middling sea. Measuring high on the autodidactic Richter scale and wondering if she would ever achieve her full writer’s flow. She’s written thousands of scripts, travelled her own creative journey, knows all the tricks and turns of the hieros gamos, the marriage between the conscious and unconscious minds, where the real miracles take place. But there was always something missing. Me.
The disembodied voice in her ear, the character crawling into shape, the eternally curious archetype of autonomy, whispering ‘come, come fetch me from the depths of your experience and imagination, and let me see the light’. Or words to that effect. Now she sits on the horns of a veritable shofar revival; holy matrimony versus lifelong independence? Historical veracity versus a little shoehorning? Plot over character? Point of view?
Well, these are her problems, not mine. Perhaps that’s why this novel of hers is so fragmented, even with seven months to go. She’s trying it all out. She’s bobbing about on that fictional ocean of hers, tugged to the depths by the occasional storm and catapulting to the surface once more with a pearl or two of her own irritating oyster trajectory. I’ve tried to tell her to edit some of it out, but she says not yet. Stick it up your chiton, I tell her. She had to look that one up.
During her decades of psychotherapy, the writer had dabbled with a technique called Active Imagination, advocated by my good friend, C. G. Jung; a sustained, conscious dialogue with an archetype conjured from the deep. There’s a slew of questions, C.G. explained, by which this method can invoke us to ask our inner creatures; Who are you? Where do you come from? What do you need or want? It’s a telling exercise to speak to symbols. A totem animal? A conch? An oud? An ancestor?
It was time for the writer to ask; ‘What does Wanda want? What is her gift? Her destiny?’
‘Ha! Not so fast, girlfriend. It’s a dialogue, did you say?’
‘Nu, what do you want from me? I’m your creation, after all.’
‘As I said in my proposal, I want you to experience immortality differently, take the risk of existence and non-existence, over and over again.’
‘Give me a break. I’m just coming into being. First things first.’
‘It’s just that it’s all been done. People always seem to seek immortality, then we discover we’re only human and then it’s all over bar the kaddish. They won’t even let girls say it at cemeteries.’
‘So, you want to shake things up a bit?’
‘Well, as an eternal archetype, you’re doomed to live forever. But the problem is you can’t ever truly experience your humanity unless you grow.’
‘You’re on and on about this human condition thing.’
‘I’ve been told it’s vital. Otherwise there’s no empathy with the character.’
‘So give me some tzores.’
‘Well, let me suffer a bit. Thwart my desires. Throw me headlong into mayhem and see how I cope.’
‘Then that creates its own paradox.’
‘Pair of dogs? Can they be Great Danes?’
‘Get serious. I can’t have you so autonomous that you run the show. You have to work with me here.’
‘What do you call this?’
‘Fair enough, but not like that time you came out in that Momentum meeting and had me playing air guitar on the boardroom table.’
‘Sorry. That director hadn’t even read the treatment.’
‘You did save the campaign, hey. Anyhow, I’d like to see how this stance of immortal life can gather its own momentum.’
‘Like a merry-go-round at a village fair?’
‘Something like that.’
‘I went to an orgy once at a village fair. High Wycombe, it was. Back in ‘77. Tangled the ropes something terrible.’
‘I’m getting to that when I write Chapter VIII.’
‘How about the time I was raped in the Holy of Holies. That was a bit of a thwart.’
‘Yes. But they see you as grotesque. One sided.’
‘Well then, you’ll just have to develop me.’
‘Yes, but you don’t want to age.’
‘I think we made that clear up front.’
‘And you don’t want to change physical form? Even though you shape shift through the ages?’
‘Look, we’ve had this discussion. Your readers are already confused enough as it is.’
‘How about you’re a hundred and twelve at the end of the book and you’ve aged nine years for every two centuries?’
‘How about I just keep my youthful good looks, now that you’ve found that Gypsy Girl thingie.’
‘Fair enough. We can vacillate over this for the rest of my life.’
‘And you’re running out of time. You’ve got to turn this draft in by the end of tomorrow.’
It worked as inner dialogue. Now to put it all on paper. Pixels, actually, even though she did know how to hold a pen. And now, there’s no stopping her. The writer is obsessed with one thing only; my imaginary life. I practically haunt her. Every film she watches, I lurk in the corners, just off camera. She seeks me in every novel she reads, between the lines, finding similarities so uncanny, she feels like she wrote them all. She doesn’t know whether I’m dybbuk or döppelganger; a dislocated soul clinging to the living or the apparition of her projected self, soaked in the soil of her literary imagination. Either way, she’s working like a demon possessed.
I came to be like an out of focus jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing. And as I gained in power, in voice, I started to coalesce, to become, to dictate my story. I don’t want that shofar; I want to pluck a phorminx. Enough with the himations; I want a sari; I want sugar sprinkles on my matzah. Please, Ali, no. I want out of home early – just like the writer – but marriage is not for me, will never be, unless I try it on as a temporary outfit, like those disposable undies you get in hospitals. Mothering is also not my scene. I thought we got that straight. How do you schlep a baby through the ages? It totally messes with the timeline.
Once there was light, there was hope. But the problem is, I’ve been in hiding for so long, I tend to take over. Even if she’s wanting to fill out a troubadour’s tale – Robin Hood is far too obvious and anyways, there’s far more musical action taking place across the channel in Langedoc, Land of Occitane – I have to pull the plot back to St. Albans, to Roger, to the origin of the slur. Dare I hike cross country during the only Crusade to be held on home ground? Cross dress in a country full of Midons? Sackcloth and ashes, baby, bring it on. But I do prefer a high thread count khanga, anytime.
Even after all the years of kiddies’ stories and copywriting, she was a member of the Avant Garde. Avant Garde a clue. (Old Occitane joke). I was going to make a Master out of her even as she fashioned me; promiscuous virgin, maverick mistress, sonorous slave, horny hetaira, a ne’er do well with a love of intrigue and disguise.
Through the initial scrivenings of Nomadness, as she working-titled her master-piece, the writer recognised a deeper archetype, even though she could not name it until the Winter Season of the First Year: she was bringing into being a nascent Picara; carefree, duty-free, amoral, slightly avaricious – and exiled. Tossing off the concerns of the ordinary world for her Walter Mitty imagination and failing stupendously. With a dash of Forrest Gump. A twinge of Sappho. An an embryonic avatar of yours truly.
Nu, we decided together – it’s a collaboration, after all between the writer and her character – that we’d do a chapter every three hundred years or so. Nine in all. Starting off with the Tummel in the Temple, a defloration which really happened in Johannesburg but segued into Jerusalem; moving through Zeugma, the writer’s imaginary experience of sexual slavery, The Cochin Twang, gleaned from a failed karaoke audition in New York; Troubadrixing in The Occitane, culled from a disastrous Robin Hood submission and weaving in the scapegoat of anti-Semitism as the witch hunts waited in the wings. On to Constantinople as Solly’s smous, the chapter where I really got my rocks off with a dinkum sultan; an unwritten episode inspired by the 18th century classical orgies in Medmenham near High Wycombe where I’m sent to retrieve Terpsichore’s plectrum. A close encounter with Razzie and his bouzouki during the reign of the Romany Creams. And a cast of thousands for the twentieth century about whom we’re still making up our imaginations. The gaps between the episodes become tighter towards the present day, probably as a result of the writer knowing more about the last hundred years than the previous bits. Tough Titicaca, I tell her, you’ve got the CyberCyde. And the library. And a frequent flyer card. Get on it.
This was all very well; but in truth (as in fiction) the writer only had me to commune with; and I can be a demanding and sometimes subjective companion. If I didn’t want to play, she was doomed. She needed a room of her own. Enough with this temporary on the lap business, even though she could pound out a Conrad5 or two in a Cancun hotel suite, a Manhattan coffee shop, a breakfast nook in Jerome, Arizona. Thank heavens she’s figured that one out, bought a stolid mahogany desk that faces the Jacuzzi and her Wordsworth terrain. Even so, she needed help. And she knew she was on her own.