Suicidio – 7

[The woman of the colored mice]

Right before the side windows are covered with a sudden slap of wood and we are like inside a tunnel, one of the horses whinnies again and I remember the first time I was on a horse. I was a child and I couldn’t believe the size of the animal. I was terrified, the head of the horse being as large as me. Someone placed me on the saddle and offered me the reins, which I grabbed as if I were already falling. From that point on, I was waiting for disaster to happen, the head would turn and devour my arms or the tail would reach my neck and strangle me. Life is normally simpler, of course. The horse jumped and I flew into the air. In that instant I regretted I wasn’t one with the horse any longer.  But one instant later there was no horse, there was no fear. During some moments there weren’t any directions, I was just floating, alone, in a white space. Later on I woke up on a bed, or a lap, some place safe enough that I cannot remember. Between the time I was still floating in the air and the time I went to sleep, I was so light I felt out of my body and I could see my future, mostly a future that wouldn’t happen, even though there were colorful mice digging, chewing and sleeping, and there was a house I would live in.

In the dark, the inside of the carriage seems to have expanded, and waiting becomes a much more evident and involved task than it was before, and one pays more attention to any sounds, even the meaningless ones. The sad man sights again, much louder now, it seems. I cannot hear the old woman sobbing, she might have stopped.

Seeing the future then. As a child or now, the important thing is not to sit and wait to see what becomes present, reality, and then past. The important thing is to tell apart the truthful future from the imaginary. The mice is something that has already happened, but the house I still need to inhabit with someone I will meet is also true. Both events are equally true, come to think of it, all in that floating memory, the future one being as true as the present one.

When we enter in Suicidio the darkness is not only darker, it also becomes and sounds more confined, like an overcast night dancing inside a box. There’s the flutterings of creatures outside and a grinding noise that sounds as two pieces of rusty metal scrapping against each other. Also a loud whisper that I imagine coming from either a fat giant or a distant tornado.

The carriage stops and before we understand that we have arrived the side door opens. “Welcome to Suicidio,” a man outside chuckles, holding a candle but wavering it so much all over the place that it’s a miracle it doesn’t go extinct. He has two eyepatches, one covering each eye. Just like a fly. Each eyepatch is for the most part a piece of opaque, black glass, surrounded by an engrossed rim of reddish leather. The youngster is the first to get off, as if propelled out of the carriage by a spring mechanism. I look at the man and the woman still sitting down, and I’m ready to let them exit before I do, but they remain seated and I just go. The youngster has already gotten his suitcase from the back of the carriage and heads toward an open door in the adjacent building. The man with the two eyepatches has walked up to that door, still holding the candle with one hand, the other arm extended and pointing towards what awaits beyond the door.

Suicidio – 6

[Jonathan Trupp]

Now we were so close to Suicidio that I could see the walls of fabric being shaken by the wind and I could imagine I was able to hear the constant blasting noise of the canvas being pulled out and then whipped again. In reality what I was hearing were the puffs and whinnies of the horses. They must also have sensed the asphyxiating presence of Suicidio, growing stronger and stronger. I heard the snap of the whip and the horses whinnied again, but we kept moving ahead. As I was trying to imagine the inner layout and machinery of Suicidio, I noticed two people right outside of it, dressed up in black uniforms, standing together and holding two adjacent sections of the wall with both hands.

The coachman turned his head back, glanced around the side of the cart and saw me perched on the window and looking out.

“Get your melon inside,” he yelled. As soon as I obeyed, two shutters banged over and covered the windows. I could no longer see the outside but enough light still passed through the spaces left between the shutters and the sides of the windows, and through the gaps between the wood boards that made the sides of the cart. I could still see the features of the woman who was sitting in front of me.

During the whole trip she had seemed distant and not too interested in what was going on. At some point I was  studying her face while she was looking outside. What thoughts were wavering in that brain of hers, producing a frown, then a smile.  When she turned her head and her eyes found mine I looked down and she must have thought that I was perusing her anatomy in an inappropriate manner. Her gesture of pulling down her skirt was a clear sign of protection. Not at all my intention, obviously.

For a few minutes I kept asking myself why such a young and healthy-looking woman had opted to end her days in Suicidio. I decided to ask her exactly that same question without any dilation. I just needed the proper cue to unleash my words.

I spent some decent amount of time rephrasing my introductory question in my head and it still seemed unpolished. However, the man sitting next to me breathed in a lot of air and blew once again a huff of displeasure, and before the man took his next breath I had started to summon my question, without my conscience noticing.

“I’m very sorry to interrupt you, and I realize that I should have already introduced myself and maintained a conversation at some previous time in our journey, but some times, of course, my name is Jonathan Trupp, you may have not heard about me, which is totally understandable, but I cannot stop myself from wondering how is that a young and healthy-looking person like yourself has resorted to Suicidio, if you don’t mind me asking,” I said.

She considered my question for a while. “Business,” she finally said with an air of mystery, of holding something back.

“What type of business, if you don’t mind me asking?” I probed with a neutral, welcoming voice.

“Mice,” she said. In all honesty, I cannot say I care too much for mice.

“Oh, mice, that’s very interesting,” I said. “What do you do with the mice?”

“I’ll try to sell a few and then I’ll keep moving.”

“Oh, you sell mice. Of course. Most interesting. Good business, is it?”

“Only in San Francisco, really. But it’s a good idea trying to expand the business from time to time.”

“Oh, yes, right,” I was able to say.

Now that she seemed to loosen up and be ready to maintain a lively conversation, I did not have anything to add. I find all aspects of the selling business most uninteresting and soporiferous. All the mystery and captivating personality that I had imagined her to be covered with had dissipated. She had been transformed into someone that would try to sell me a pair of mice, a cage, a satchel of grain and a pet owner’s manual.

She regained some of her initial allure when the shutters came down on the windows. In the semidarkness she seemed worried, as if she had been keeping a secret and suddenly realized that someone was on to her and her secret was going to be revealed.

All of a sudden we were in total darkness and I could not see her anymore.

We were inside Suicidio.

Suicidio – 5

[Infausto]

The miles and miles of canvas are like a saggy skin. Not perfectly spread but covering Suicidio in its entirety. Without the canvas Suicidio would just be several blocks of wooden buildings in the middle of the desert, drenched by nothingness and dried and cracked by the sun. The canvas is a barrier that isolates Suicidio’s contents from the desertic landscape and creates a self-contained universe below it.

Suicidio is like a black, giant tick with its head turned inwards. It doesn’t care about what happens outside. It’s too busy sucking itself dry. Suicidio’s function is to discourage the soul from remembering about hope, about the distracting elation from fleeting and colorful moments, like seeing a robin pulling a worm from the ground and dashing away. Its function is to plunge the thought in wet hollows. Outside the canvas, light, life. Below, Suicido, a city draped by the black of fabric, darkness, filth and depression.

I know that most people enter Suicidio thinking that some sort of hell awaits for them, sufferers burning in fire pits, red devils torturing with their tridents and claws, worms eating the eyeballs and crows pecking at the cheeks. However, the canvas is pulled aside long enough to let the cart enter in Suicidio, and soon after that all expectations are frustrated as the passengers step down and they are already inside a building, somewhere that looks like a porched driveway although it’s too dark to discern anything beyond a meter away, and there is a lack of imagery, the only illumination a candle jabbed into a candlestick nailed to a wall, burning by an open door. Maybe a sigh ensues, a shrug of shoulders, and in that moment of disappointment Suicido has already started its slow process of painting a layer of sadness on the previous layer of regret. No hurries to overlay the next coating of sourness. After all, no one in Suicidio worries about efficiency (well, maybe the Mayor does), it all comes down to results.

Suicidio – 4

[The woman of the colored mice]

The sky is placid, nice white clouds that don’t move on the sky, no signs of danger. It would have been nice to have a little of light rain, to wet the sand, make it solid. The carriage has been raising clouds of yellow dust all morning, lapping on the sides and through the windows, all the shoes making a grinding noise any time they relocate and press against the boards.

Just a little of rain, that scent of possibility, of regained momentum, of closing the eyes and breath all the senses in and out, especially at dusk, or at night while lying by a window and looking over the park and into the bay.

But there is no rain in those clean clouds, those cut-out shapes that seem to have been pinned on the sky just to be contemplated.

With each jolt of the carriage, the other passengers find an excuse to glance at each other, a second or two of looking for reassurance, I guess. There is the youngster embracing his books. There is the fat, middle-aged man, most likely a businessman, with a bowler hat, a yellow bowtie with black dots, yellowish stains on his black jacket. There is an old woman dressed in simple black clothes, all her body covered except for her hands and her face any time her laced veil is lifted by a sudden gust entering through the open windows. She is crying without shaking or grimacing, passively, like she’s not even noticing the flow of tears. I’m next to this old lady, mostly looking through the window on my side, but anytime I turn to look through the other window I’m drawn to her grey curls that must be fake and the tears drying on the plain fabric over her chest.

It’s quite annoying the youngster peeping at me. He has been eyeballing my legs and breasts from the beginning. Not too subtle, but the most bothering part is his stupid smile, his sense of superiority. One can tell how full of himself he is just by how he keeps adjusting his worn-out tie.

The horses start to complain and the carriage slows down. There are two nasty whipping noises, the horses scream in disapproval but we start going again. That youngster sticks his head out of the window, then looks at me and, while smiling, tells me that he can see Suicidio, we’ll be inside Suicidio in less than five minutes, he proclaims. Then he pops his head out of the window again, like a dog excited to be out after hours of home confinement.

Suicidio – 3

[Jonathan Trupp]

At this time, if I were forced to summarize my subject matter in only five words, I might say that “Suicido is simply a tent”, although that short description would only capture the physical aspect of the business, the plain wrapping that confines all that goes within. Five words are most definitely insufficient. In any case, from the distance, one gets the impression that the black canvas that extends over the top and the sides of Suicidio is an immense structure, compared to the sad cacti and shrubs barely surviving in the surrounding area.

The available information about the size of Suicidio and thus the size of the tent that covers it is scant and very unreliable, a collection of opinions scattered within the pages of San Francisco newspapers and two short pieces in the Old Farmer´s Almanac, written five years apart from each other. One can read entries like “…miles and miles of a city under permanent darkness,” and “The canvas that covers Suicidio may thus be the largest piece of fabric in the world, and it is hopeless to reckon how many months of sewing were necessary to accomplish such a feat,” and “This black sky is sustained by hundreds of very long wood-posts well inserted in the desert soil. These posts have all their surfaces carved with blurred scenes, even on their top parts where passersby will never see such carvings. The carved scenes that can be discerned are clearly depressing, some quite disgusting. But most carvings on the first meters of the posts cannot be discerned because they are buried under a patina of fungi. Suicidio is quite humid despite its location, most likely due to the combined effect of the condensation that gathers within the huge tent and the stagnant bodies of water that seem to accumulate everywhere. Such patina of fungi, or something like fungi, mostly pink and green flat mashes with shapeless borders, spreads over all types of surfaces. There are also a high diversity of mushrooms of all sorts, sometimes in curious places; for instance, one of the carvings on a post represents a man cutting his own hand and where his eyes would have been two small but elongated mushrooms had sprouted from the wood.” This last quote is from an article written by a French reporter, Pierre Boisson, who told me that two months after arriving to San Francisco he had already frequented all the bars in the city. Every night he would visit several bars in an area and in each one he would strike a conversation with some of the patrons. Next morning he would write his daily article based on one of those conversations or an amalgam of several of them. He also told me that some mornings it was difficult to disentangle the recollections of his informants’ stories from the previous night and the fabrications of his hangovered imagination, “but if it sounded right, it was likely right, right?” A sickening approach to journalism, although one should be a little forgiving as this may be the usual modus operandi among European journalists, so he may just have been doing his job in the manner that he considers to be the most professional.

I must admit that one of my main motivations for coming to Suicidio is to be able to catalogue and analyze all those post carvings, a bulky and note-worthy doctoral thesis in itself, no doubt. Indeed, an endeavour of greater consequence that the deciphering of those silly Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Suicidio – 2

[Jonathan Trupp]

In my humble opinion, I would think that one arrives to Suicidio a little unsure about himself. It is not my case, of course, but I am an exception, an anomaly amid the load of suicides converging on Suicidio.

I must without delay clarify that I am not going to Suicidio for the obvious reasons, but simply as an insightful spectator, to measure its distances and profundities, to collect fauna, flora and ethnographic specimens, to gather testimonies of the locals; in short, to amass a tremendous amount of information with the ultimate objective of synopsizing the reasons, needs and arguments that can explain the existence and perpetuation of Suicidio. One dreams about eventually turning all such material into a book, a sociological masterpiece, most likely to be published by the University of California Press, otherwise deserving an outright acceptance as a commentary or brief communication in the Southern California Journal of Sociology. The whole expedition should without a doubt be praised as “most worthwhile,” but if my results turn out to be even half as thought-provoking as I expect, I may end up producing a piece of work that should become a cornerstone in Sociology, Anthropology and even Psychology.

My name is Jonathan Trupp. Family members call me John and a couple of friends outside academia Johnny, but within the university system all of my professors and colleagues call me Jonathan. No exceptions. I think I would take it as an insult if they did otherwise along the corridors, classrooms or auditoriums of my ill-lit but acclaimed university.

Suicidio – 1

[Infausto]

One arrives to Suicidio almost without noticing it. The small sandy mounds to which one becomes accustomed to after hours of traversing across the desert keep succeeding one another without interruption. One also gets habituated to the same two types of shrubs that clinch here and there to the compacted sand, never too obvious whether they are dead or alive. And one also soon forgets the pervasive wind, squeezing through the wooden panels of the carriage and creating shrilling, baby-like noises. And, suddenly, the carriage turns around yet another sandy mound and there, in the distance, Suicidio stands flat and surprisingly black, like a petroleum splatter bubbling on the scorching sand.

One arrives to Suicidio through a diversity of routes, each one of them being just one of so many ants converging towards the protection of the final nest.

One arrives to Suicidio not caring too much about the present, thinking too much about the past, and hoping for a short and definite future.