I had promised to tell a friend what I thought about the book that she had bought me as a birthday present as soon as I had finished it. I am sorry to have to reply late and not as I would have wished; until recently we were rushing around so I told myself that I would finish it when things slowed down and I had some time. And now, when there is time to burn, I am paralysed: I pick the book up again without being able to remember either the plot or the page where I had stopped – and this is not because of Olivier Bourdeaut’s lack of talent, let it be clear that I do not blame him! When I learn to read again, I will tell her, but isolation is confronting me with what is most intimate and strange about myself; I cannot read, and on top of everything I suddenly find myself clumsily in disposal of a body in solitude. What the frenzy of rushing around and the contact with others dissimulates is today made patent, by means of the pandemic: having a body is a nuisance.
If love passes through the Other, erotics passes through the body – and the body is always alone when faced with the indocile jouissance that inhabits it, even if there is a partenaire. It is not the virus that teaches us this, but the pandemic reminds us of what through analysis has been the experience of the jouissance of the One-All-Alone coming to constitute itself as a body event.
It is said that love and erotics carry the stamp and wounds of their time. Shall I write an essay about baroque erotics, about courtly love, about matches and mismatches in analogical times? About microscopic and anonymous traumas, about the encounters that come to pass in the times of digital love and Tinder conquests? I could, but what was the capacity to concentrate and write has become, in quarantine, dispersion in the void, and the epistemophile desire that seemed to me inexhaustible disappears upon the reading of a couple of paragraphs – by Lacan or the good Olivier. Perhaps when this is over the saga of the baroque, the courtly, of digi-porno and Eros-Apps will be swelled with chapters on love and eroticism in quarantine. Maybe, but I might also have forgotten things by then and no longer want to write them.
No essay, then. Here, that invasion of absences so typical of Sundays became chronic; two hundred kilometres away, the cries of the couch. or the referee’s whistle – that used to enter uninvited from the Excursionistas Club in order to resound in the inner patio of his apartment – fell silent. Tom Waits and a dog’s howl recreate the murmur of life on the phone, while he says that he doesn’t know whether it is time for breakfast or lunch, that he has lost the sense of hours and meals. It seems as if bodies and time have fallen apart.
In this suspended time that is ours, the fact that life keeps palpitating perhaps reintroduces what the capitalist discourse rejects: the subject divided by what causes it, and love. If anything is becoming clear it is that suspended time and vertiginous time condemn us in the same way to a perpetual present, conspiring against historization and subjective time.
And so, out of the invasion of absences an Argentinian woman who was never a big fan of popcorn makes pochoclos, and two hundred kilometres away a New Yorker who called himself a “strategic-occasional” drinker of maté and who never polished his accent – despite living for years in these latitudes – becomes a real maté drinker and starts to use “Romance” grass. The unlikely signifiers that unite us come and go, transforming themselves into moorings – fragile or solid? – that restore a little temporality. Fragile and solid: they last while they last.
Before the quarantine, I made Tiramisu and we drank Negroni’s. Now he is about to leave his apartment to go to the market, after having not set foot in the street for days.
He says: “If you give me the recipe, I’ll do it”. I tell him the ingredients, taking care with the different stages of preparation so it ends up – almost – the same as mine.
Life’s murmur falls silent again, Tom Waits stayed with him on the other side of the phone, and here the dog keeps howling – with this howl becoming the invasion’s most uncanny noise. After a while it goes quiet, because of tiredness or lack of response.
I return to this neo-normality of silence, paralysis and dispersion in the void. Again.
Until I receive in my WhatsApp the subtitled photo of his Tiramisu, and time is re-knotted.
He says: “Tira I miss you”.
I won’t write any essay; time and the signifiers of love will always be a mystery. The pandemic doesn’t teach us this either, but it is good to remember it.
P.S. A great record plays while I write. “Before we were so Rudely Interrupted” by The Animals.
Translated by Howard Rouse
Originally published in Zadig Espana. Available online.