I hear the pot in the kitchen. It’s almost ready. It’s a pot for espresso. I have an espresso machine. I also have a pot from Italy. The pot’s for the stove and brews espresso on the same principle as volcano’s erupt. My little Vesuvius, I call it. I’m only discussing the coffee pot and my drinking coffee every day without fail because you, my readers, will insist that this tells you something you should know, that you need details to know that you are experiencing a human telling of a human experience, otherwise you might not understand my humanity or yours. Detailing in this way insures, you imagine, that you are receiving a representation of human being, although in light of your prejudices, your preconceived ideas that you have been receiving for as long as you have confused parroting for speaking, randomly passing images or words in the mind for thinking, I doubt you or anyone has the patience or the love–yes, the love–necessary to perform what I might call higher literary election, interpretation, deciphering? I’ve come to question the certainty of my doubt.
I am going to go to the kitchen and shut the pot off and have the coffee I need because if I don’t have coffee in the morning first thing after the first thing I have, fruit juice, I am just not myself, whoever or whatever that might be. Who I am that others imagine they know and can tell all about by looking thus seeing thus understanding at times persists as a mystery, but mysterium mysteriae aside, who stands under me, I wonder? Who has, who is willing, who can? I’ve had women who laid themselves down under me, along side of me and themselves on top of me, yet the kind of standing under we need to perform gets lost on the stages of life–on, not in. To understand is to stand under, I become post to a lintel when I do.
I remember thinking about why the veils Muslim women wear upset us so much, and they do upset us. I am at times upset by the apparent backwardness of it, and there are times I am certain of the backwardness of women who cover themselves entirely, all but for a slit for the eyes. I’m still confused how hair on the head is sexier than hands or eyes? Muslim women are in fact either more overt than we are willing to be about our mask wearing, or they hide the masks they wear in the world and only reveal their masks to their husbands or family. The stranger is strange, always estranged. I do, though, think it is fucked up for them to be wearing them here in America, but then I am not an apologist for Western Civilization, nor am ever going to experience White Guilt, not that I think I should. And that’s the most offensive of remarks, I’ve learned–to say that I have none of the insipid white bourgeois liberal’s affected guilt over the past. I’m not a supporter of Affirmative Action, nor am I an opponent. I always suspect any measure meant to improve anyone’s lot once it has been subsumed by the bureaucracy and managed by it. When we not only look to but receive all our clues and cues about Affirmative Action from the State, I can’t help but suspect its design, its motives, its results. I’m sorry, but I really do not give a shit except in as much as it is integral to any discussion of freedom for all people, how people of color have been screwed by European Colonialism, and most of the descendants of those fucked by European Colonialisms do not give a shit either. I still do not hear Americans disrespecting Muslim women as often as I hear in Bay Ridge Brooklyn for instance Arab Muslim men disrespect American and European women day in and day out–what’s Arabic for whore and prostitute–you can hear it every day because there are enough young men in a place like Bay Ridge who hate Americans and America every day because their mothers, who wear the niqab, or lesser coverings resembling tents, resent the shit out of American and European women. I’m sorry, but in the ways of democracy, Islam has nothing to teach me except in what not to do, how not to respond.
Yet, I wear masks as well. The masks I wear are many: the masks at work, the mask in the classroom, the mask with colleagues, the ones I wear with friends, the ones I wear with my lover, the ones I’ve worn with family, father, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, where, when, what clothes I wear, the parties I’ve been to, the strangers I meet, yes strange, less strange the more I get to know them–do I get behind their masks. What about the masks I wear inside, the masks on the selves in the self. I am we; we are, I am, how so the other who I might be, there are many. Estranged?
I have come to the kitchen. I have turned off the espresso pot. I wait for the erupting to subside. After, I pour a cup half full of steamed milk. I sometimes have caffe latte. How many of us imagine the things we do habitually define us, how many of us need to read details, details and more minutia in the fiction we read in order to believe we are experiencing something real, something tangible, something at least consistent with traditional values of verisimilitude. Yet we are mostly full shit in this way, and most of us have no clue what we want from fiction, or need from fiction, or could accept from fiction, most of us reading as badly as we do, needing more and more description of familiar or de-familiar places in conventionally framed presentations of the de-familiar in order to think we have read something meaningful. But then we are the kinds of readers who more often than not skim the pages we imagine we are reading, never performing a deep enough kind of reading the first time we read, so that if we ever do re-read, we might just come closer to full enough first read. Not likely though.
But the veils we put on memories, the veils we put on Truth, the veil of Maya everywhere, the veils we use to hide one thing or action or word or trait or manner or feeling or whatever have we in the universe of being human, of having human emotions . . . what do they cover or discover? Is there a way to discover by veiling? I used to take photos with various kinds of stockings over the lenses to capture varying levels of opacity, a photo I have of the old Jefferson Market now a branch of the New York Public Library through a thunder storm from the second floor window of the former B. Dalton Bookstore at the corner of Sixth and Saint Mark’s Place: a building’s tower veiled by the rain. It’s a beautiful photo in shades of gray, a charcoal sketch in photography. Da Vinci’s sfumato technique reminds me of a form of veiling as does the singularly greatest advancement of the Impressionists: the painting of air, of atmosphere, of atmospheric effects. What then must we come to understand about these veils they wear–yes, they, those people, those women, them? Honesty? Is it about this? Overt? Is it more overt what they wear, more overt about a pan human condition, the masks we wear, and all veils are forms of masks, and everyone wears a variety of masks in a variety of social and interpersonal situations. Then there are the masks we wear inside; inside the Self of many selves we wear masks on these selves. masks that we wear by nature or by civilization are then covered by other masks personal or oppressive, imposed by conditions peculiar to one’s state of oppression.
I wish there was a resolution to provide. There isn’t. What I have herein said about veiling and masking, covering, uncovering, discovering–again all discovery is a way to keep anyone from covering or re-covering. If the westward Atlantic voyages of discovery had only uncovered this Hemisphere, there would have been re-covering. But discovery disallows recovery, and in this we have our world.