6 Of romance and parlours
Arriving in Rome is as arriving on the steps of one's home, even though my capital and parental estate had been elsewhere.
Having settled in the tavern of his choice, Basir hurts me, but he means well, that I understand immediately. I learn to suppress my suffering, without him I would undoubtedly crumble, I am in that poor of a state. First, he digs out the middle of my body with a file. I am immediately one bleeding wound, what kind of moisture is there in me! All that salt water, all that mucus. I groan, but the poet keeps on working. He treats me with bone glue, raw cotton and chalk glue, dissolved in water, it feels like he's covering me with a corrosive herb. Thereafter he scours me, which is worse. He lets me dry for three days and lets me writhe in pain for three days.
On the fourth day, he draws lines with charcoal and paints me with tempera and contour paint, supplemented with earth and cream, brittle sheets of gold leaf follow. At that moment, I am enjoying myself to the full, it is as if I am bathing in hot milk. When the paint on my skin has dried, he does so a second time, now with carnation paint. Once I'm dry again, he varnishes me in resin.
Hence, I now fully am an embellished talisman for my superstitious poet.
Basir enjoys himself for a while in the brothels of Rome, they are exceedingly dirty, smelling of characteristic odours lingering in poorly ventilated spaces and the smoke from burning lamps. The mural decorations are in accordance with the object for which the house is maintained. Hairdressers are on hand to repair the ravages wrought by frequent amorous conflicts, and young boys wait by the doors with bowls for washing up.
In his favourite brothel, the first time, I notice that my poet is a desperate seeker, someone who feels entrapped by his own body and extends his arms to another truth - it makes him, frankly, quite the same as all other visitors. He is a man in love with the idea of love, but can't find anyone he deems worthy of his love.
'Sad, lovesick poet. You think you're a good man, while in reality, you aren't. You're neither good nor bad, even though I understand that the world is easier in black and white.'
After several months, and a disastrous romance with a prostitute, he repents and decides to wash his soul clean in a secret heathen church. I think he is primarily curious and craves for a higher level of entertainment. The intention is for him to spend a full night in the temple, and to have his mind be liberated from all thoughts. Expensive dupery, if you ask me, because I'm a witness to his feelings getting worse and worse, to the point where they take full possession of him.
"Someday," he says, while he cannot sleep and the love in his heart is replaced by the feeling that he is desolate and alone, "someday, the light that people make will be extinguished. Someday it will be reduced to a sigh and every love will evaporate. One is never purely in love with one person: at some point, you go separate ways, and there the journey ends. The table at which Cupid' hearing is held to send his brethren to the earth to intervene in loves' fate is a mirage: an empty theatre in an empty city in an empty world. For the time being, my broken heart is lying here, sweating on the floor, craving wine and women."
'Nonsense, you were writing about love, only a week ago, as the highest virtue in life. Remember the other girls,' I comment, 'the brunette of the nomads and the big breasted girls you met in the ports on our way here.'
"If only I may see her again! Oh, dearest! Why did you abandon me!"
'She was never in love with you, idiot poet, you were the one who fell for her! You almost forced this woman to fall in love with you. She owes you nothing! Her beauty makes you feel entitled to her, but the fact that you are in love with her doesn't mean she is obliged to be in love with you as well!'
He continues to cry.
The water in the fountain in the middle of the temple stinks, but the poet still drinks, he has nothing else, so he settles for it. Afterwards, in the shrine, the poet becomes prey to a kind of madness.
"I imagine a world," he says to himself as he lies down, "in which every person is aware of his nullity and in which everything is allowed, such as repeatedly destroying that world. What a silence, such an absence!"
Turning around and around on the cold floor, he curses.
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I'm aghast, what's happening? He spouts even more nonsensical talk than when he is writing poetry. It's spectacular and saddening at the same time: in one night, someone loses their faith in what good people have taught mankind about love.
Strangely enough, it doesn't seem despondent to him, reassurance appears on his visage and it makes him belligerent. He wallows towards the well again and concludes his temple sleep: "The age of greatness, wisdom and vanity is over. Now that love has forsaken me, certainly, the worms will come to get me, they are already grinning at me."
I feel sorry for him. What a creature. He craves sorrow, wrapped up in pathetic beauty. My poet is not improved by the spiritual hand of the heathen temple. Out of writhing frustration of the love he lost, he drinks from the drugged water once more.
And it is there he leaves me on the altar, next to a burning candle, while he remains on the cold temple floor and leaves me, earth and life behind.
'Ah, lovesick poet, was it worth it? Dying out of a broken heart?'