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tearing the rag off the bush again
The Birth of Liquid Desires PDF E-mail
The Birth of Liquid Desires
by Ruxandra Cesereanu
translated from the Romanian by ALISTAIR  BLYTH


The men a woman twists around in words are post-males. As a rule, all that is left of them is flayed skin laid out to dry. But sometimes they leave behind visions, phantasms, sensations and emotions.

The man of whom I shall write at the beginning of this series of men of every variety was a cat. Many people might think he was a tomcat, but no, he was a green cat, with piercing eyes and a well-trimmed bushy moustache. A hussar-cat, with strange desires, about which he once told me, as we were sitting on the steps of a pavilion. He had a warm voice, albeit rugose from tobacco, a colonel’s voice, half Prussian, half Polish. He was a short man, striding softly or even slightly swaying, his eyes a little inflamed by alcohol, like a merry frog. That was why I liked him: he was both a cat and a frog. He was a man who was one of us, a women’s man, almost like us, without having lost his virile sense and without ever having had the urge to be with a man bodily, to consummate sex with one like and identical to him. What he saw in women were warm roundnesses and he had acquired a taste for voluptuousness. I didn’t know what a woman warm roundnesses was, but I liked how it sounded. He spoke slowly, munching his words like slices of halva, swallowing them at leisure. That was how the idea of writing about men came to me. For, it was he who began to tell me about how he would have liked to be a woman for a day. He would have liked to find out, for one day in the whole of his man’s life, how it was for female blood to flow there, through the crevice, what kind of blood it was, how it flowed outside. He was very attached to our life, that of women, in a tender and blithe way, because, as I have already said, he was a cat. He did not, however, want to know about what it is like to give birth; the pangs of creation did not arouse him in the least. He wanted to be a woman just for one day. As a man, his desires were both strange and normal; in any case they had enchanted me. He would have liked to be endowed with a marsupial pouch, but not like that of a kangaroo: a better-concealed, preferably invisible, marsupial pouch in which to carry his lover. To be more exact, he would have liked his lover to dwell all day long in that marsupial pouch, to carry her with him day and night, to shield her from the temptations and the despites of this world. He would have let her breathe fresh air only at night, by the light of the stars and, as he made a point of mentioning, he would have let her watch television for a little. But he would also have made her coffee at the crack of dawn and he would have washed her like a badger cub. He would have spied on her as she said her prayers, to see whether she said a prayer for him. He would have hand-fed her, like a frail creature. Well, I told him, but this lover of yours would have to be the size of a five-year-old girl, otherwise she wouldn’t fit in your marsupial pouch. What can you do with a lover who has the body of a five-year-old girl? A lover who is always with you and in you, he told me, what more could I ask? “A pocket lover,” I murmured. “I would tell her stories and brush her hair,” he interposed. I looked closely at the man before me: he was a cat of a man, and so I said meow-meow and off I went.

He was a tall red-haired man, almost always dressed in black. He was an interesting man, but I avoided him like the plague. I would not have liked to be touched by him at any time or under any circumstances. I felt revulsion, as towards a hysterical and incomplete man. His small hands were those of a girl, his eyes autistic. He was lively and full of charm and a great storyteller, picturesquely loquacious when he was not in the grip of paranoia. His body was never to be seen, because it was always swaddled, camouflaged in roomy and concealing layers of clothes. He refused to make his body felt in any way or another, and that was why he was reminiscent of a gravedigger. He had white skin, unaccustomed to being touched. He did not know what it meant to be tempted or to desire, because he did not permit himself to feel anything. He was frightened of the world and of the bodies that circulated through it. Had he been able to choose the way in which he could be born, he would have opted to be a soul without a body. That is why he was, in fact, a kind of ghost. He was a man enclosed within his own body as though in a crypt. He had the sharp voice of a quarrelsome or nosy woman: it seemed that he had concentrated his hope of life in that hysterical, squeaky voice of his, in the manhood that it ought to have contained. What was to be done with such a man? To leave him to his own devices, to let him find his own way. He had a horror of the male sex, because he had a horror of his own body. Sometimes he and his solitude made me nauseous. Other times, he was very dear to me, because he had red hair and dressed in black.

He was a mature man, very mature, corpulent and soft. He was neither ugly nor handsome, but he had a voice that could stir all the outbursts and inbursts of a woman. He had the voice of a lively and gentle man, of a somnolent man, with flushed skin. I found his voice pleasing, like a quilt, like a sheet. I floated after his voice; I stretched toward it to pluck it like a succulent fruit. I could have rubbed up against that voice as if up against a body. It was even a slippery, wet body, hence the way in which it invaded my ears as though they were defoliated sexes. In this way I would hear with my own sex split in two, and his voice fell like a mute, fluffy avalanche. It was nice. It had a kind of silky, orchid yearning. His corpulence did not entice to bodily love, but nor to disgust. It was a corpulence like any other: bearable. But his voice was a mature sex, not at all hurried, a sign, a passage, a crossroads. He had chubby and childish hands. Their sensuality was minimal, but functional.

His long black hair, smelling of laundry soap, aroused me: long black hair. Sometimes, his eyes got in his hair and lingered there for a long while, hanging like bats. He was just skin and bones, thin, a man hard to caress, because there was not a crumb of flesh left on him. I don’t know how women touched him, because I never touched him. His long black hair was enough for me. It was my baldaquin. His every joint creaked. He was crumpled up into his thoracic cavity. He was a man crammed into himself, sickly and dear. I liked his voice only when it grated, jerkily. Otherwise it would be hoarse and prickly; it would prickle my flesh and I didn’t like it. I could not at all imagine how that man made love, because I saw him as just one tall bone, from head to foot. I didn’t like his beard, but had he shaved it off, I would never have recognized him again. Polished hair and bone, that’s what he was.

He was a faun, a swarthy man, with a stiff beard. He had a curved, arched body, as though he were continuously embracing a woman. He often had an appetite for women, but he did not permit himself to expose it. He looked at them and was content with that much. He had a somehow gobbling mouth, with powerful teeth, which would have been capable of rending you asunder. He could have been an industrious shepherd of female sexes, his happy and obedient little sheep. But he was concerned with appearances. With his hands he might have stroked greedily, with his beard he might have pricked wildly. But not he. He would speak of the body, but not of possessing it, although this obsessed him. He would smile satisfied at his own masculine state, he did not omit a single woman with his gaze, he would touch her in passing, as though he had given her a slap on the buttock, weighing up her rump, and nothing more. I often used to talk to him about women and men; I liked to talk to him. I had never seen his body, but I suspected that it was dreadfully hairy. You could tell by his backwoodsman’s beard. His body hair was probably what prevented him from letting himself go: not because he was embarrassed, but because he was tangled up in webs of lianas that hindered his progress. In his jungle of mature albeit callow man, of faun-like albeit domesticated man. And, alas, of conformist and predictable man.

He was a manling, which is to say a fresh little man. He had well-drawn and strong lips. He was a guerrilla fighter, although he looked like a little monk. I don’t know how much he knew about women, nor even if he had ever had one. His body was collapsed or ruptured, although he was young. Like a seahorse. However, he also seemed to be a budding inquisitor, reining in his body and his fluids. He might just as easily have been capable of becoming a full and seductive man, a gourmand of women. He had to be prudent, because he was so slight that he would not have been able to survive the passion of too many females. I gazed on him with pleasure, as though he were my own, albeit imperfect, work. His eyes were sunken: they had a Spanish sensuality, but were restrained rather than lustful. His eyelashes were arousing, as though they were a hundred untiring thighs all tumbled one on top of another. I had the sensation that he was swathing me in yards of hair, as though in a cocoon. I would have liked to be younger for him, but time had left me behind.
I was crazy about tall men, and he was just the right height for my appetite. But he was an inveterate masturbator. He had nacreous, almost Japanese skin; he had little brushes for eyelashes, fleshy lips and telescopic eyes. Women liked him, and he was addicted to them: he had possessed many and nonetheless he would never be sated, even after the sexual act had been consummated he would still not miss out on a bout of masturbation. For that reason he disgusted me, even if it was a pitiful disgust. His own body was like a brother in arms to him, he could have done anything to it, except mutilate it. That was why he set it to work in every shape and form, as a submissive and malleable servant. And nevertheless, his body was svelte and lively; it was a young body, in the most authentic flowing of blood through veins and arteries. But it was, at the same time, the body of an autist. Sick of itself and, for that reason, stammering. I felt sorry for that man, so alien in our world. However many women he possessed, it was still with himself and with his own sex that he ate, dreamed and prayed to God. What more can I say, except Amen?

One, two, three, one, two three, he plunges into his flesh, glancing sidelong and furtively at some women. With pasteboard appetites, with puffy eyes, as motionless as a Sphinx, he unnaturally caresses his ravenous body, his inflamed and vanquished man’s body, with hairy hands, with legs cleaving the foul air, he falls and in no wise ceases in his rapacious chasm, like an owl fur-lined in its screech, the Masturbator has no gods, he does not even have the keys to the body. The sticky, delusive and heavy touch momentarily raises him to the heavens, into a Nirvana that tastes of jelly. He would look like a yogi in the lotus position, were his mouth not glassily half-open and his fixed smile not boozy, were his hands not flailing like windmills, but without them being the chimaeras of Don Quixote mad on earth. He would be like an orphan with erstwhile octogenarian millionaire parents, were his eyes not leaping with sickly liveliness, one, two, three, the Masturbator is waltzing all by himself or dancing the tango with the phantasmal bodies of the above-mentioned women, not femmes fatales, not sensual women, but bitter, with puckered breasts, their sex as black as the mouth of hell, in which, swimming on the point of drowning, the Masturbator seeks a crossing.

He was a huge man, of around three hundred pounds: he was the fattest and sexiest man I had ever seen. His body, although adipose, was friendly and calm, it was equal to itself, and that was what I liked. I never imagined him undressed, because there was no need at all: his sexual and warm voice did everything in place of his body. You could clamber on that voice like a baobab and live there for years at a time, without needing to nourish yourself on anything else. His body was a quivering basilica, stirring like an extraterrestrial mutant snail. There was something regal in his bodily hugeness, a patriarchate of flesh, a storehouse of bones enveloped in yellow furs, like a Siberian Methuselah. If some woman might imagine a Yeti in the incarnation of a sonic lover and nothing more, then such was this man, the fattest and the sexiest I had ever seen.

He was a lean, wizened man, with the eyes of a corpse. He was harsh with both women and men. I could never view him sexually, because he creaked with so much leanness and harshness. It was as though he were a boomerang-man. He yearned for interstellar communication with women, but he managed it only with men. For that reason he could speak only in an obscure tongue, so as to be sure that no one would understand him. I don’t know how he made love with women, but I was fearful that he tugged their hair and struck them across the face. His mistake was that he did not see women as predators, but sought partners for dialogue. Naturally, he was a romantic, inasmuch as he had no business living in the century that had given birth to him. He would have felt at home in exile in Siberia or on a desert island, whence he could have sent impassioned letters.
He was a man as libidinous as a gob of spit. That’s exactly how I felt him to be. He had skin beaded with sweat, with a kind of greasy bubbles. His mouth was large, as broad as a frying pan. He was tall, as I like a man to be, but all for naught. For, he provoked the disgust of a purulent maggot that burrows under the skin and bursts there. As for his voice, it made my revulsion all the greater. It was so oily, so slick in its faux tropical warmth that it would stick to the body of listener, and the latter would suddenly start to itch. It was the voice of a tender louse or an almost fervent bedbug. I was not at all sorry for that man, who was fit only to be thrown in the trash. After he spoke a few words to me, I would feel my skin stinging. Or I would get the feeling that I was about to come down with scabies. He had long pianist’s hands, but they were of no use to him. He had long eyelashes, but nor were they of any use to him. He did not know how to caress, or to see, or to talk. In spite having the voice of a slobbering slug.

He was a man who looked feeble-minded, with the face of a cretinous child, although he was intelligent and sensitive. He was so haughty that I used to feel like slapping him across the mouth, since that was from where all that vermiculate haughtiness spouted. Then, he was thin and cranky, and his thinness aroused repulsion, because I imagined his spine arching into his stomach and turning his innards inside out. In the summer, he used to wear low-cut blouses, as though he were a woman, so that his acquaintances used to nickname him the Wench. He liked those of the same sex as him, but he never tried anything because he had been far too gnawed away by the avid mouths of the female sex. He did not know how to choose women, but only to be chosen by them. He spoke bluntly and he was willfully and tendentiously scabrous, but all that made him neither more attractive nor more repulsive. My repulsion came above all from his hybrid legs, which were those of neither a man nor a woman. And from his shoulders, those of an ephebe on steroids. If someone could imagine a weightlifting angel, then that man was something like that. Between worlds.
He was an ugly man, but his ugliness attracted me. Which is to say that it was almost a beautiful ugliness. His entire being was concentrated in his face. I never looked at his body. I never thought that he could have bones or that blood flowed through his veins. I never thought that he had a sex. But I always gazed at his face with a morbid fascination. There was nothing handsome or pleasant in that face: the nose was swollen and hideous, the mouth frayed, the eyes puffy, the cheekbones unhinged. Archimboldo, Archimboldo! But all the ugliness of those features brought about a symphonic understanding of the whole face, so that the ugliness emerged from its habitual state and became something else. I might say that it became a provocative, interrogative stasis. That face was a map of the world, as I knew all too well, and that was what tempted me so cruelly. To touch that map, to travel over it, to attach myself to it. Things were none too normal, of course, if that was the way I felt. His face was like a broken lighthouse.

He was a man with a healthy body, the body of a well-fed peasant or a sailor with well-honed muscles. When he walked, I could hear his innards booming and his bones crossing blades as if in a fencing match. On the other hand, he had a face liquefied by languor, and the pallor of a simpleton. He was so ardent that his face consumed all the energy of the rest of his body, throttled as he was by all kinds of phantasms. His well-knit frame was thus useless in love: a beast of burden, fit only to carry around that ghost-like face. I felt him to be hulking in his passion. He had outbursts of rage. He was quarrelsome, coarse and did not know how to comport himself with women: he thought they could be a coin of exchange. He would come to blows, like an out-of-work drunkard, his albino fetus face convulsing. Everything flowed melting over that face, death, sexuality, and faith. Nothing was consistent or clear; everything was viscous. Pallid snail’s head atop an athlete’s body.
He was fat, but he was enormously successful with women. His flesh, his voice and his varicose legs were all charming. His sense of humor gushed through his beard like a snake. Women liked him, because he didn’t wear rings on his fingers, neither the rings of a lone male nor those of a married man. The crown of his head was like that of a newborn babe, and he had the chubby hands of a small boy greedy for candy. Most of all he was seductive for the fact that he knew how to dance on his own. His belly was both an inflatable swimming float and a pillow for sleeping, and women, however much they might have thought that things were otherwise, used to adore sleeping on top of him, as though on a warm and living bed, a moving, steaming, whitish bed. I found his ears pleasing, like those of a baby alligator. I would have played with them had he let me. He liked both to eat and to be eaten a little. He was an endlessly erotic and eroticized Ubu. He aroused passion and jealousy and frustration and rancor. I used to look at him, un-alone in his corpulence as he was, and wonder: what would a plump Don Juan have been like?

He had a shaven head and he always kept it that way, because he wanted to have two phalluses, one concealed the other visible. I knew from the start what message he wanted to convey by his close-cropped pate. He ate women with both a spoon and a ladle, and from time to time he would slice their souls in two or three with a kitchen knife. And then he would kick them out of the house. He had also frequented a number of brothels, in order to attempt all kinds of procedures for being raised from the dead. He often used to tell me about his women, as if I were a professional confessor. He liked to watch my eyes popping out. He twirled women like hoops, throwing them up into the air, jumping through them, twisting them around. He was hard to bear as a man, but he could be borne as a witness. His stories had something fantastic about them, given that they were uttered by an incorrigible predator of women. He would lick his lips and his fingers when he was recounting his women, as if they had been hunks of meat he had gobbled on the run. Had he been able, he would have added spicy sauces to them. Sometimes, he used to recount womanly fluids as though they were decadent ambrosias. He was a shaven pig, intelligent, slim, enticing. He would have crunched up however many women, whenever, wherever.
He almost always smelled as though he had pissed himself. He had the heavy stench of an unwashed man. His body was crumpled in on itself like a caterpillar swaddled up in its segments. Whenever I met him, I would never know where his spinal column was, or where his hips were joined. I would never have been able to touch him, because of his amorphous body and its pestilential smell. His gums were fused together by rosy ridges, as though he were still breastfeeding. Nevertheless, what I knew about him was that he made love quite often. On the other hand, he didn’t really know how to talk. His mind was in another world, which is why he did not take care of his body, but let it go to hell, to the trash. Whenever I met him, I would feel like bandaging my nose with gauze, as in a time of plague. Had I been closer to him, I would have told him to go and live in a fishery or a tannery, so as to quench his unkempt odour. His body was puffy, swollen by toxins. Otherwise, he had handsome, albeit watery, eyes, and the smile of a serene and contented murderer, even though he would have been incapable of killing so much as a fly.

He was a man who touched everything he could. He had a beautiful burn on his face. A charming burn, you might say. It was a skin more alive than anything else, more even than a bloody throb of the heart. He was a man who spoke much and about everything. He would speak a whole sack of stories from the street or, contrariwise, a flood of invented tales, at random, but enough to grate on the ears. He liked to kiss women on the neck, and this often annoyed them. Not because it was not a natural gesture, but because his kiss was either too obscure or too clammy. However, all those he kissed forgave him in the end, because of the beautiful burn on his face. That burn was a kind of blazon or perhaps the medal of a war invalid.
 
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