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13

Permafrost

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Baltasar, E. (2021). Permafrost. , 154, pp. 13-24

15

So, what’s it like with a woman? In bed, I mean.’

It’s half past twelve and it’s taken my sister two whole servings of almond chicken and fried rice to let her hair down. Or maybe it was the Coke. She hasn’t had any in more than three years. Slow-acting poison, she calls it. But tonight is special. Not everybody has a lesbian sister to comfort them after a breakup. Tonight’s heart-to-heart will be a real treat – irresistibly modern, maybe even obscene. My sister can’t help picturing herself as the lead in a popular TV series. Playing the sister of the lesbian is quite the role; it offers a seal of respectability. ‘Do you want Nestea?’ I ask her before dinner. She throws me a thunderous look, as if she’d just decided to go into business with the Mafia. ‘Screw it, I’ll have the Coke!’ she says, thrilled. Screw it! ‘Careful it doesn’t go to your head. You’re not used to such strong beverages.’ My sister doesn’t know her way around a can, so I transfer the Coke into a tall glass that she takes from my hands with a wanton gleam in her eye. The poor thing feels funny, she’s used to getting her beauty sleep. But great things are afoot! ‘What’s it like’ – enticing inquiry – ‘to fuck a woman?’ I swear this is the first time she’s ever uttered the word ‘fuck’, plumb-drunk on Coca-Cola. ‘So that’s what you wanted to know?’ I ask with a dash of cruelty. I flat out refuse to suffer fools, even when they try to make an effort. ‘You know that’s not true!’ she cries. I concentrate on the guest room and nothing but the guest room, crucial as fingernails. ‘Shall I tell you another story?’ She nods with a headful of eyes and the aspartame-laced smiles of a pampered girl who will never, never ever indulge in another can of Coke. ‘All right,’ I consent. The tactic works. ‘Have you ever heard of action painting?’ Now she shakes her head. ‘Jackson Pollock?’ I insist. ‘No.’ ‘Okay.’ I walk into my room and bring out a book of Pollock paintings. It’s tremendous; images like these make me re-evaluate my love affair with death. ‘This is art? A child could have made these!’ my sister blurts. ‘But a child didn’t.’ The woman must be dumb. Thick as two planks. This guest room is costing me a tidy sum, but what else can I do? Where else can I go? The sweet-and-sour prawns are affecting my ability to think, but I have another go. I’m sure that with some effort I can pluck a plastic flower from the dunghill, a plastic flower that will satisfy the dregs of curiosity of the poor aborted lesbian lurking in my sister’s brain. ‘This is an action painting,’ I begin. ‘Action painting is the product of impatience.’ She pulls a face like a cricket. ‘Around the mid-twentieth century, there was a period when artists were no longer being challenged. For centuries, they’d struggled with a series of problems: motif, depth, form, color, realism, fidelity, light . . . everything! In other words, they’d run out of lines of inquiry. And then Pollock rocked up with his huge, unplanned canvases stretched out on the floor, and wham!’ ‘Wham?’ ‘Look at this.’ I show her Number 3, flip pages, Number 5, flip pages, Number 34, a superb piece with that horrific red-thinking head and its two yellow hemispheres. ‘Look,’ I tell her. ‘Clear, simple manipulation of raw material! Pure experimentation! Pollock splattered canvases driven by the spontaneity of the moment. A work of art isn’t only the end result – it’s art in time, art in real time, in action, as simple and impulsive as a drawing by a child. But there’s a sophisticated concern below the surface, an interest in process – life’s immensity concentrated in that process. Do you get what I’m saying?’ ‘Sort of.’ ‘All right. So now you sort of know what it’s like to fuck a woman.’

—p.15 by Eva Baltasar 1 year, 9 months ago

So, what’s it like with a woman? In bed, I mean.’

It’s half past twelve and it’s taken my sister two whole servings of almond chicken and fried rice to let her hair down. Or maybe it was the Coke. She hasn’t had any in more than three years. Slow-acting poison, she calls it. But tonight is special. Not everybody has a lesbian sister to comfort them after a breakup. Tonight’s heart-to-heart will be a real treat – irresistibly modern, maybe even obscene. My sister can’t help picturing herself as the lead in a popular TV series. Playing the sister of the lesbian is quite the role; it offers a seal of respectability. ‘Do you want Nestea?’ I ask her before dinner. She throws me a thunderous look, as if she’d just decided to go into business with the Mafia. ‘Screw it, I’ll have the Coke!’ she says, thrilled. Screw it! ‘Careful it doesn’t go to your head. You’re not used to such strong beverages.’ My sister doesn’t know her way around a can, so I transfer the Coke into a tall glass that she takes from my hands with a wanton gleam in her eye. The poor thing feels funny, she’s used to getting her beauty sleep. But great things are afoot! ‘What’s it like’ – enticing inquiry – ‘to fuck a woman?’ I swear this is the first time she’s ever uttered the word ‘fuck’, plumb-drunk on Coca-Cola. ‘So that’s what you wanted to know?’ I ask with a dash of cruelty. I flat out refuse to suffer fools, even when they try to make an effort. ‘You know that’s not true!’ she cries. I concentrate on the guest room and nothing but the guest room, crucial as fingernails. ‘Shall I tell you another story?’ She nods with a headful of eyes and the aspartame-laced smiles of a pampered girl who will never, never ever indulge in another can of Coke. ‘All right,’ I consent. The tactic works. ‘Have you ever heard of action painting?’ Now she shakes her head. ‘Jackson Pollock?’ I insist. ‘No.’ ‘Okay.’ I walk into my room and bring out a book of Pollock paintings. It’s tremendous; images like these make me re-evaluate my love affair with death. ‘This is art? A child could have made these!’ my sister blurts. ‘But a child didn’t.’ The woman must be dumb. Thick as two planks. This guest room is costing me a tidy sum, but what else can I do? Where else can I go? The sweet-and-sour prawns are affecting my ability to think, but I have another go. I’m sure that with some effort I can pluck a plastic flower from the dunghill, a plastic flower that will satisfy the dregs of curiosity of the poor aborted lesbian lurking in my sister’s brain. ‘This is an action painting,’ I begin. ‘Action painting is the product of impatience.’ She pulls a face like a cricket. ‘Around the mid-twentieth century, there was a period when artists were no longer being challenged. For centuries, they’d struggled with a series of problems: motif, depth, form, color, realism, fidelity, light . . . everything! In other words, they’d run out of lines of inquiry. And then Pollock rocked up with his huge, unplanned canvases stretched out on the floor, and wham!’ ‘Wham?’ ‘Look at this.’ I show her Number 3, flip pages, Number 5, flip pages, Number 34, a superb piece with that horrific red-thinking head and its two yellow hemispheres. ‘Look,’ I tell her. ‘Clear, simple manipulation of raw material! Pure experimentation! Pollock splattered canvases driven by the spontaneity of the moment. A work of art isn’t only the end result – it’s art in time, art in real time, in action, as simple and impulsive as a drawing by a child. But there’s a sophisticated concern below the surface, an interest in process – life’s immensity concentrated in that process. Do you get what I’m saying?’ ‘Sort of.’ ‘All right. So now you sort of know what it’s like to fuck a woman.’

—p.15 by Eva Baltasar 1 year, 9 months ago