Hotel Palenque /12 — Louis Armand

– , 7 February. “To create extensions, ramifications, divisions which will become even more complex.” The spectator would no longer know who’s acting. Who’s manipulating whom. Who’s at the source of a movement. Would no longer perceive what produces light & shadow. The beam of the projector or the blinking of his own eyelids? A horned moth. Caught in flagrante delicto. Right into the flame. It bursts out of its winged chrysalis. The body locus. The physical shroud destined to wither & decay. The body, in fact, of the dead actor. The decrepit face. Death’s head. The shabby impersonator unmasked as though once & for all. And at that moment, the camera’s fixed frame & apparent neutrality giving the image a documentary, purely reproductive function. Or else, the performance is specifically designed for the camera, according to the requirements of filming. To exhibit gestures independently of the rest of the body. To cut the body into sections & thus show its inadequacies & its paradoxes. The limitations of our knowing. And within this unknown the camera moves. Reveals. Selects. It gives the illusion of casting us in time. Of mastering it. Until the end of the reel. A sequence which would have its own anatomy. Which would assume, to the end, a subjective gaze focused on “the language of the real.” Angles. Depth of field. Relations between body & camera. He calls it La Travestida. the film constructs an architecture of ambivalent desire. In such a way as to suggest the illusion of a unique, subjective & continuous gaze. And which, because of its continuity, its seeming coherence, implies an object which is otherwise elusive. The world is nothing but appearances. Every appearance is a world. Even if a mere blink of the eye would cast it into oblivion. At the same time this imaginary gaze acts as a minimal constraint. Searching the mirror strategically positioned above the desk. To write or not to write? (He thinks he’s fucking Shakespeare now!) Being alone I could afford to leave blanks. To travel in circles. To engage in the most flagrant masturbation without my hands ever leaving the keyboard. Acting as if he was in the process of discovering some unknown quantity. Egged-on by the camera’s incipient nihilism. There are too many words, he complained. Soliloquies which could only be uttered backwards, in the darkness of a striptease theatre between the acts. To enable the imagined spectator to “grasp” the presence of things beyond reach. ¡NO TOQUES! – , 19 October. I’ve put together my notes. To see how far the general conclusions arrived at in my former diagnoses were applicable. In each case there are no clear examples of disorder of thought. Nothing to suggest the presence of psychotic illness or delusional beliefs. At the same time there’s something questionable about the extent of my scepticism. As if, perhaps, it masked a deeper disquiet. Something that needed to be concealed before it could be expressed. Something that must be prepared surreptitiously. Among the notes a particular passage stands out: “They hold me. They devour my strength. They have no qualms. They give shape to what I hardly dare to evoke. Or to what my body, on its own, wouldn’t be able to produce.” An almost fatal crisis. Calm follows, during which the tension diminishes. The temperature then rises. Accompanied by profuse vomiting. The vomited material contains dark blood. This persists for several days. Then it subsides. A constant groaning which escapes involuntarily from the mouth. A slow dismal chant. Words reduced to a catatonic state. It seemed like an expression taken from elsewhere. Another passage stands out. Added later on, in the right hand margin. “We are in a time when grinning, killing & feeding are the only signs of human life.” Los cuerpos sagrados. I see the back of that figure lying on the other side of the room. He doesn’t move. He knows exactly who I am. Just as I know who he is. We have expected one another. For a long time, it seems. For as long as I can remember. And he, before that. Before my coming into this world. Translated. Transposed. Transformed. Fearing it. And at the same time wishing for it. How we have lamented one another. Buried one another. Time & again. In the recesses of conscience. Lured one another on to the crime neither seemed capable of. Alone now, there’s no other purpose. Nights of delirium. Insomnia. An archaeology of unlocatable motives. Mute, indecipherable symptoms. All the patiently gathered impurities. After which, to write this down as some sort of proof. A record. Against the nullity. The punishment of unreason. It will be a kind of revenge. To go on. Even as its meaning ceases. The object itself. The impetus. Concealed behind the allegory of itself. The half-hearted gesture of self-abandonment. The muttered oath. The phrase born on the wind. The shred of a cry. Leaning over the bed, he pushed the boy’s trousers down. Nesting among the black pubic hair, a dark unsheathed cock. AND YE SHALL CIRCUMCISE THE FLESH OF YR FORESKINS. AND IT SHALL BE A TOKEN OF THE COVENANT BETWIXT ME & YOU. Feeling for the pulse. The blood in the vein. He seemed to be unconscious but still breathing. A bloodied mass to the occipital region of the head. A half-centimetre by four centimetres laceration above the right ear. A slight shudder passes through him. Slowly his body begins to sway. Back & forth, in a staggered motion. I begin to sway w/ him. I’m no longer capable of independent thought. The mind’s full of indistinct noise. It’s both white & dark. White walls present in the darkness of the room. The room, like a present body, swaying. In which I also am swaying. Wave after wave of peristalsis. A bouquet of gastric acid. The shuddering magnifies. I’m vaguely aware of watching him clutching at the floor. Spitting at his reflection in the yellow bile. The aftertaste of blood & digestive fluids. An abject metonymy. How to go on stomaching oneself? Retracing his steps on the road to purgatory. “There was no sign of life in the steep winding street. Among the seedy hotels & cubicle restaurants.” Passing beneath the stretched tarpaulins, the corrugated iron roofs of the marketplace. Labyrinthine terraces wending the hillside. Air thick w/ the smell of cured meats. Flies. Char. A thick haze of smoke under eaves, slashes of lurid sunlight. The passage becomes ever darker & narrower, leading to a steep flight of stairs. The ascent becomes more difficult. Working through the needle’s eye. How & when did we reach the opposite side? It was night already. A door at the top of the stairs opened. The other was there ahead of me. Like a shadow, anticipating my moves. Luring me continuously on. “He brought me again unto the door of the house. And behold, waters issued from under the threshold of the house eastward. And the waters came down from under the right side of the house.” A voice, like a soprano, seems to echo from the sides of buildings. Orange streetlights flicker against their windows. The humming of fuse boxes. A sound like a series of indeterminate chords. At the end of the street, the ruins of a concrete urinal. A dead end alleyway piled up w/ trash. Rusted cans. Mattresses. Cardboard boxes. Plastic bags. Broken bottles. A burning garbage-mound on a street corner. Smoke filling the throat & lungs. – , 5 February. A ruined edifice surrounded by a wall forming an enclosure, adorned w/ rows of small columns. In the centre of the enclosure, an altar. The edifice, composed of two rooms, is built on a graduated pyramid composed of seven andenes. We climbed the nether stair-head. A dark intimation of conferring presences. One experiences the depression & hopelessness of a transparent sheet w/ punch-card perforations. How to explain the relation between its two sides, simultaneously THERE? The lens which remains invisible to the eye. As though its seeing were immaterial. The brain nothing but a blank receptor. A screen on which images are miraculously projected. The body spirited away. Somehow, the need to intervene. To enforce the presence of something concrete. The actual body & not its impression. An artificial sensorium at the end of a nerve fibre. Grabbing hold of it by the neck. Feeling for the pulse under the collar-bone. Is this, too, a figment of insomnia? Delirium? Hallucination? The rats are slowly filing out of the woodwork. Snakes uncoiling. Insects beating wings against a light bulb. Circling the room. Crawling over him. The subtly different locations to which he’s transported. A dank, dark subterranean room. A half-window facing the street at eye level. Along the wall beneath it was a couch covered by a sheet. Against another wall was a bed. In the corner stood an alter w/ a crucifix. The rest of the room was littered w/ worn rugs. Articles of clothing. Potted plants. A talking parrot in a cage. Dog hair. A scrawny, coyote-like dog. Its body hid beneath a wardrobe at one end of the room w/ only its muzzle sticking out. – , 14 October. It appeared that the victim was lying on his back. Had been repeatedly struck w/ a weapon by a person standing close to the eastern wall. I took a series of photographs of the interior of the room. Also took a number of photographs of the exterior. A small yard behind the building. A row of chicken coops made of corrugated iron & wire mesh. A trough at one end. The ground scattered w/ vegetable refuse. Dung. Feathers. Dead chickens. A barking dog. Two emaciated bulls striking one another w/ the flats of their heads. Snorting & pushing. A heard of cattle, their heads stretched down into the mud. Moving slow jaws. Dung & brackish water. Dry causeways cutting across the plain like series of parallel lines. They lead nowhere. Running dumbly up against the low margin of the sky. Leaving the house we drove along a dirt road through fields of henequen. On the side of the road, a donkey w/ its hind quarters covered in welts. Flyblown. A vulture committee eyeing it from atop an old telegraph pole. Further on, a church in the midst of ruined adobes. Its old walls, its belfry widowed of its bells. We pass into a square where bodies are displayed between rows of candles on wooden scaffolds. Soldiers stand nearby as women cover the bodies in curtains & sheets. The smell of ashes matted down by rain. I’m holding my breath. How many seconds? Minutes? They’ll hear us. Smell us out. The road’s cut by a broad irrigation ditch. A sewer. A river w/ sheer banks. In a moment the barking of dogs. Men w/ darkened faces. Ropes. Machetes. He holds me under the water so they won’t see us. Further & further down. Eyes piercing the gloom, become invisible. Mud & reeds & leeches clinging to arms. Legs. The nape of the neck. The weight of two bodies. One pushing down upon the other. Water entering the lungs. Lips & teeth. Tongues of dark water stopping the nostrils. The ears. The throat. But what if he refused? Gave himself up by forcing the others to discover him there? Hidden beneath the water. Behind a wall. Behind a mask. The shift from reality to unreality isn’t indicated. Night after night arriving in unknown towns. The first thing that comes to mind is that he has walked into a theatre in the middle of a rehearsal. Faces turned towards him. Expressions that are blank & factual. Nothing to read in those faces. The mirrored vacancy of unconsciousness. Like someone who isn’t entirely awake. Struggling towards resumption. The figures animate. The scenes once again follow in order of progression. Still they had the appearance of things come upon after the event. An object or series of objects. As though this too had been calculated in advance. In expectation of you. The other’s there, always, at every instant. The beggar who just left the room or the short man who just turned the street corner. What does it matter if they’re real or not? What matters is that they’re real enough. – , 4 October. A laborious, fatigued voice in what I’m writing. Or am no longer writing. Already abandoned. At some point. Just when completion might have been within view. Or not. Brought to a standstill. Exhausted. The very thought of failure. Going back over each last sentence. Phrase. Word. Finally not proceeding but static. Repeating over & over the same disintegrating expressions. Expressions that take form as if for the sole purpose of disintegrating. Something whispered in the ear. Overheard in dreams. Copied down mechanically from a secret dictation. “Chance & statistics make it possible that we’ll again live the same moment we’re living now. We’ll be exactly in the same place. Looking at the same sea. And we’ll be surprised to hear ourselves saying the same words. Words that will sound strange coming out of our mouths. In whose echoes we’ll perceive the remoteness of another life.” I imagine looking up, expecting to see you there. Having just spoken these words. Waiting for my glance. I look up. The gesture’s foolish. If I look back at the page the words’ll still be there, but yr voice won’t. Or else I haven’t written them yet, y’re still in the future somewhere. The writing, like the body under the lone oleander w/ the cardboard sign hanging around its neck, also a figment. A “déjà vu.” ¡PODRÁN AMASACRAR  A NUESTROS CUERPOS, PERO A NUESTRA DIGNIDAD E IDEALES, JAMÁS! Beyond their defined limits, the body’s actions are a mystery. You ignore them, but the body itself doesn’t disappear. Instead it begins to take a more insistent form. To take on many different forms. A dwarf concealed inside the machinery of a chess-playing automaton. Commencing w/ the endgame & working backwards to the opening. Night to bishop three. As its consequences become clearer to me, I realise the act itself is a conception. I’m going back to my birth. To erase that mark in the eternal register, in which the proof of my existence was abducted from me. El pecado original. And before that even, of the father. I don’t stand witness but my being stands witness. The one must cancel out the other. Confusion, as they say, has its own consequences. Undo one thread & the knot unties itself. The single thread of my thought taking form in yr present, lost in this past, unmet in some other future. Because this is fiction, it stretches out interminably. In reality, one of us would simply be dead. – , 22 October. X, in a letter written just before his departure. “Things exist in many spaces & many times, not merely as we perceive them. There’s no single picture that can describe this. It’s necessary to discover many pictures at the same time. (Ours aren’t the only experiences which constitute this world.)” The word sticks in the throat. Innocence, perhaps. The absence of fear of the unknown. The unknowable. How to order it, write it all down? The world in all its uncommunicative virulence. Like falling over. Emptying a washbasin. And then, there’s a point at which even the most routine thing makes no sense. Life persists or it doesn’t. Beast & mantra, vanquished by the world. This world & the world-outside-the-world. Behind the game that’s being made out of everything, meaning comes apart, only to begin again differently. Pilgrimage of the next extinction event. Chicxulub. Alamogordo. IF YOU BECOME LOST, STAY WHERE YOU ARE. THAT WAY YOU’LL BE AT THE CENTRE. AND THE CENTRE WILL ACT AS A MAGNET FOR THOSE WHO’RE SEARCHING. Useless wisdom. I keep moving. I don’t want to be found. (What’s it matter if the others don’t exist?) Keeping to the shadows. Slipping deeper & deeper into the maze. The jungle. The mire. Leaving nothing but the barest pretence of a trace. Laying out the clues where they’ll least expect them. A humourless joke, concocted from a handful of fossilised rubble. An idiot stumbling around in the dark, trying to switch on a light that no longer exists. There’s a hole in the ceiling w/ a pair of wires coiling out, but he can’t see it. Shattered glass underfoot on a concrete floor. Or else it’s broad daylight. The room’s empty. For the time being it’s emptiness signals calmness. I looked down at the broken glass. Even the accidental harbours a purpose. Was someone being made to suffer for things they don’t understand? The position of the camera. The directness of the line of sight. The straightness of the lines defining the window. The shutters. The windowsill. The pleats of the curtain. Standing in the middle of the room you could see directly to the harbour. Grey light barely illuminating the sky. Once again you experience the pull of disintegration. The lines can’t hold. Slowly the greyness comes apart. Paring back at the edges. An image breaking-up on expired film stock. Radiating in a toxic fade-out. Imminence hovers there like a threat. It requires every effort to turn away. Avert panic. Pulling the curtains shut. Keeping to the sanctuary of the darkened room. Knowing the symptoms must pass. Like all the others. The shivering. The vomited blood. The albumin in the urine. They appear in stages. Passing. Recurring. Passing again. “The attacks have no reason or motive. The disease begins suddenly, usually in the early morning.” A chill or chill-like sensation. A rise in temperature. The skin becomes jaundiced. Yellowed. Like pages from an old interrogation-room phonebook. The temperature persists for two or three days, but the pulse is slow. Becomes slower as the temperature rises. AS IF BY CHANCE OR PREMEDITATION. The rest follows an entirely unsurprising course. There’s no moral. Everything that goes on is pure reflex. Through the long pre-dawn, from this to the next. I lie down on the cell floor. Eyes closed. Breathe. To save myself from the desire to confess, I count the seconds between inhaling & exhaling. Stop. Count nothing. For yr sake, determined to make my mind as blank & empty as possible.

February, Mexico City, 1999
June, Mexico City, 2019

Louis Armand is the author of THE COMBINATIONS (Equus, 2016), THE GARDEN (11:11, 2020) & VAMPYR: A CHRONICLE OF REVENGE (Alienist, 2020). He lives in Prague.