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All Hang Out

(after Édouard Levé)

Amy McCauley

When I hear the phrase a charming loss of control I feel nervous. In the context of a scripted scenario, such as going to the dentist, I find the proximity of strangers thrilling. I find it easier to spend time with people who don’t understand me. I return books to lenders in a timely fashion: the apparently casual approach to book-returning I have observed in others upsets me. I can’t discuss a movie immediately after seeing it. In France, I read the word bread (pain) in English. I do not fear the future or my place in it. I am amazed when I see events in real life which I’ve encountered in films: a person running the wrong way down an escalator, or drinking liquor wrapped in a brown paper bag. I fall out of love without warning: every time it takes me by surprise. During the summer of 2006 I read the entire works of the Marquis de Sade. I would have liked to be an artist, perhaps a filmmaker or photographer. I remember the exact moment I first heard Frank Zappa, at a party in Florida. I lose respect so profoundly for people who copy me that our relationship rarely recovers. I love to see umbrellas blow inside out. I love to cry at films. Any excuse to lick my fingers and I do it with gusto: pinching out a flame, opening a bin bag, eating sticky foodstuffs etc. I feel warmly towards the word catafalque: also lacklustre, wherewithal, erstwhile, sundries. I like to watch posters get removed and replaced on billboards. I appreciate the design of certain items for their simplicity and efficiency: the safety pin, the rubber band, the stapler. I like the word moss and moss itself in equal proportion. I like spending time in graveyards. I find the sound of oboes, harps, bassoons and harpsichords unpleasant: also bagpipes, hornpipes and panpipes. I enjoy the sound of sitars, ouds and accordions. Overall, the things I like outnumber the things I find objectionable and, in that sense, I consider myself to be a lucky person. I’ve noticed that butchers go about their work cheerfully and that fishmongers go about their work seriously. I habitually hear the word injure as endure. I stop in the street to admire cranes. I like all types of kiosk. I do not go to mush in the presence of babies, preferring the softness of those closer to death. I like to browse the classified ads in regional newspapers. I find it difficult to trust loud people. I have never resisted arrest. I heard someone say, you’re not the worst person in the world to be entangled with. I relish amateur marching bands, especially when the cymbals are crashing out of time. I take pleasure in the successes of my friends. I am not a lover of sports. I respect boules, blackjack, dominoes. The suffering of animals pains me yet I remain an enthusiastic omnivore. When I listen to opera on the radio I feel the drama so intensely, I am frequently moved to tears: on the stage, opera elicits no emotional response whatsoever. Just as a bride throws a bouquet of flowers, so at funerals a handful of earth ought to be thrown. I do not think I will ever settle down. I love to see someone tying their shoelaces or holding a balloon on a piece of string. I love to see people carrying large or unwieldy objects: rugs, pieces of furniture etc. I am astonished when I experience phenomena I first experienced in literature in real life, e.g., the London fog. I remember my father breaking down during the eulogy and how happy everyone was at the wake. I am not what you would call a go-getter. I have had many uncles who were not uncles in the sense of blood. I have never been to Lourdes. I am too old to die tragically young. I remember Steven Clegg, Daniel Vasey and all day indoors doing aural sex. I notice people’s scars because of my own. When I hear someone say express yourself, I think of milk being pumped from a breast. I rarely remember to whom I should attribute the remarks I remember. I admire Sophie Calle, Adrian Piper, Keith Arnatt, Bas Jan Ader, Laura Aguilar, Agnès Varda, Édouard Levé, Isamu Noguchi. I admire Pierre Pinoncelli, who pissed in Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 1993. My father owns a series of gilt-framed paintings, all variations on the theme of ships in peril off the North Sea coast by H.B. Carter. It is not important to me that I am liked by others. I heard someone say, I don’t want to be that man. If I have no money I steal food and eat it in the middle of the supermarket aisle. Film idea: 100 moments of hesitation spliced together from the archive, like Kogonada’s Hands of Bresson. Question: if there is an erotics of memory is there also an erotics of forgetting? I accept Baudelaire’s misogyny and Nietzsche’s misogyny but not Pessoa’s misogyny or Schopenhauer’s misogyny. The older I get the more sentimental I become. I love to see a dog wearing a cone, a cat wearing a cone, or any small animal wearing a cone. I love those ketchup bottles that look like tomatoes. I remember Mrs Srivastava playing the harmonium and Father Tony swinging the incense. I often think that writing is the only erotic activity. I love to see people yawning in quick succession: first one, then another. I remember when I thought Joan Miró was a woman. I find the actor in a porno fascinating for being irrefutably hard, wet, available. I have never owned a dog or fought in a war. My favourite key is D minor. I love to see cypress trees bending in the wind. I love to hear rain on a corrugated roof. I have had sex with hard people, soft people, hairy people, smooth people. I have had sex with people who knew how to please me and people who didn’t. I sometimes eat two lunches by mistake. I sometimes eat two lunches on purpose. I remember when sad ballads were bad salads. Film idea: a portrait of the wind. I would rather watch a movie than go to an orgy. In supermarkets I think of Ginsberg thinking of Whitman. A friend once told me They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships ought to be sung, They That Go Down to the Sea in Chips. I have never had a manicure or a pedicure. I no longer want to improve myself. I’ve often thought that desire and disgust are the self-same face viewed in different kinds of light. When I go out with wet hair, I invariably catch a cold. When I remember my hometown, I think of a little bit of singing and dancing. I have had sober lovers, drunk lovers, indifferent lovers. On the bus, I like to look at strangers reflected in the window. I’ve often thought that pleasure derives from a certain irrationality. While I understand the requirement to socialise, I nevertheless wonder why I have to do it. I love to hear people who are not native speakers of English conversing in English – the heavier the accents the better. In 2015 I took a roll of twenty-seven self-portraits only to discover I had incorrectly loaded the film. Cutting my fingernails is a pleasure, cutting my toenails is a chore. Sunshine and people exhaust me. I love to see someone running for a bus or chasing after someone in the street. I take against people for petty reasons, outrageous reasons. Being heavy on my heels, I quickly ruin shoes. I have a shy bladder. I hate to see streetlamps light up at dusk. I love to see streetlamps go out at dawn. I watch a sunset and think of Anne Sexton rowing towards god. I am an unreliable but witty correspondent. I find it hard to comprehend envy. I am more likely to admire the entirety of a director’s oeuvre then the entirety of a writer’s oeuvre. When I hear the word oeuvre I think of oeuf (egg). My sex drive and my sex appeal have deteriorated directly in proportion to one another. I consider it unlucky if I look at a clock and the time is ten past ten. I am not savvy, street-wise or coruscating. I do not make friends in high places. My favourite day of the week is Monday. I have never participated in a clinical trial. The most gratifying sex I had was with a person I did not love. Book idea: publish a novella in a limited edition of fifty copies – each edition bears the same title but the stories are all different. With miserable people I am inclined to be enthusiastic. With cheerful people I am inclined to be morose. I like to give false information to people doing surveys. I make rules for myself in order to break them. I have fainted twice – once in a pub, once in a hospital. I often misread the word disappear for despair. When I die, everyone will mourn a different person. I find the cello to be an emotionally manipulative instrument. I have a friend who says touch wood and touches their head. I do not mingle. I am not a graceful dancer. I entered the same talent show every week for an entire summer season: in the end, they gave me a prize for persistence. If I require a laxative effect, I eat three kiwis. I have nicotine stains on the middle finger and index finger of my left hand. I am not shocked when people hold crazy beliefs since I am capable of believing the most outrageous things. I have never been hit on the head by space debris. When people speak slowly to me I am inclined to reply quickly. When people speak quickly to me I am inclined to reply slowly. I have been hypnotised as part of a magician’s act. I shaved my pussy for one lover. When people walk out of films or plays, I want to know at what point they made up their minds to leave. I have never joined a cult, witnessed an autopsy or been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. If I can’t see something I forget it exists. When I hear Satie’s Gymnopédies I feel like screaming. I like the popping sound lightbulbs make when they blow. One of my earliest memories is of a blade slicing through frozen human flesh in the 1993 film Alive. I accept flyers publicising takeaways, fêtes, book fairs, religious groups, car boot sales. I do not accept flyers publicising gyms, insurance companies, nightclubs. I avoid introductory essays. I have regular bowel movements. My capacity for self-deception never fails to amaze me. Like my father, I cover my walls in seascapes. When I listen to Rachmaninov I experience vertigo. When I fall in love my appetite vanishes. I was never a pimply adolescent. Book idea: a compendium concerned solely with the topic of boredom. I have wandered, shoeless, through the empty streets at dawn. I always give people cigarettes when they ask for them. When I had a brace, I convinced myself the metal was leaking poison into my gums and begged the dentist to remove it. Performance idea: volunteers re-enact either the worst or best moments of their lives so far. I believe that all violence is political. My father’s mother had three obsessions: Elvis, Jesus, and Thérèse of Lisieux. I relinquish everything I hold dear. I do not know how to drive, ski or rollerblade. I do not dream about being an influencer. I do not floss my teeth or use the phrase stick it to the man. This is not a love story. This is not a cry for help. As an adult I have shit myself once. I prefer to arrive in a new city at night. I prefer sneakers to all other styles of footwear. I enjoy riding on elevators, escalators, trams. I never forget the generosity of strangers. I frequently forget the generosity of people close to me. In 1989 I nearly drowned. I rarely surprise myself but when I do it makes me happy. I am a bugbear, a monster, an assassin. I am still waiting for my life to begin. I used to think the hymen, once broken, detached itself from the vaginal opening like a loop of gristle. When I feel the urge to write the word perhaps, I think of Pound’s damn perhaps! I’ve noticed there are two kinds of people: the kind of people who say there are two kinds of people and the kind of people who don’t. I often play the role of idiot then wonder why people treat me like an idiot: proof, if proof were needed, that I am indeed an idiot. I rarely experience schadenfreude. I do not play well with others. I’ve often thought familiarity breeds indifference rather than contempt. I have committed senseless acts of vandalism. I have never attended a séance. I am excessively fond of the word often. I had a lover who liked to piss on me, though I only learned the phrase golden shower much later. It is not painful to write these sentences. It is not joyous to write these sentences. To my knowledge, I have never been abducted by aliens. If I want to make sure I do something I tell someone about it. I remember a friend’s dream very clearly – he was writing a never-ending poem with the title Les Oiseaux de Monoprix. I used to have perfect pitch but I grew out of it, the way I grew out of asthma. I am not gorgeous, urbane, charming or believable. I am not making a name for myself. I used to cry at the drop of a hat, but nowadays nothing moves me. I heard someone say, dancing is the vertical expression of horizontal desires. My desire to be useful considerably exceeds my capacity to be useful. In my twenties I was a blunt instrument. In my thirties I was a blunt instrument. I am a maggot and a delight. People do not regard me with interest. The sea is the only expanse I care for – a river throws me back on myself. I have never had a stalker or an enema. I have never been persecuted. I use the word friend when I really mean acquaintance – a not-so-great habit I acquired from a friend. I prefer the sound of a nylon-stringed guitar to the sound of a steel-stringed guitar. I make tender and rigorous judgements. I used to carry a Dictaphone for the purpose of capturing laughter. I think that youth was wasted on me. As an experiment, I behaved as a piece of furniture for a friend. I often get the feeling I am not quite attached to my life. I am captivated by wounds. I love to catch sight of a pheasant or a duck mid-flight from the window of a train. I used to think that frottage was a lace doily. I can’t see a production of Hamlet without thinking how ridiculous it all is. I have thought, the reflected self is an anomaly. Question: how to be useful, and to whom? I have never worn a trench coat or a long black veil. I love to spot gargoyles and continuity errors. When I hear the word forlorn I think, even the word sounds like a bell. I eat with enthusiasm but forget to savour my food. I write these sentences to remind myself that I am alive. I appreciate a combination of brevity and exactness. I like meals with two ingredients: feta and peaches, pickles and crackers, steak and spinach, eggs and mackerel etc. I have a strong sense of occasion. I like to look around gift shops with touristic knick-knacks, though I never make purchases. On the one hand, I do not consider myself an exhibitionist: on the other hand, I like to stand naked in the window every now and then. I heard someone say, you should always meditate on an empty stomach. I hold the keys in my left hand as I leave the house. I close my eyes before turning off a lamp. From my father I inherited a distaste for excess. I introduce badly and do not make good first impressions. I consider time, love and death as contemporaries. Performance idea: invent a platoon of imaginary lost pets and paste flyers on real lampposts across the local area. To my knowledge, nothing remarkable has ever happened to me. I am forty-one at the moment I write these words. I spend a few hours every week in a secret location. On a school excursion to Germany, I put two pieces of green puffed rice up my nose – I heard someone say, watch out! they’ll travel up to your brain! If I don’t want to do something there is no changing my mind. I’ve noticed that fascists are highly sentimental individuals. I do not appreciate Debussy, Fauré, Messiaen, Saint-Saëns or Satie. When I had a breakdown, I christened the ruins of my speech The Republic of Mumble Crumble. I have a friend who calls me up simply to deliver a stream of filthy innuendos. I can watch a bad play if the actors are engaging, but a good play with bad actors is the pits. I prefer to sit on a hill without a view than a hill with a view. I do not use the word miasma or tackle problems in a timely manner. When people start dropping names I stop listening. I read haphazardly. I despair at lazy journalism. Catching sight of my shadow never fails to take me by surprise. I fell out with a friend because they refused to visit me: I later found out this friend had a fear of the city I was living in. To piss in the shower is difficult but to piss in the bath is easy. I have written the following sentence: IF I DO NOT HAVE A CHILD I AM AFRAID I WILL KILL MYSELF. I never know how to say goodbye – I make a few clumsy attempts then give up, leaving without a word. I love to see cock and balls graffiti. I often think, is my face doing the thing I want it to be doing? I write these sentences for a future that does not exist about a past that does not exist. I know I’m depressed when I can’t reply to correspondence. I like guided tours but not the group aspect – there ought to be more one-to-one guided tours. I have posed for a photographer in a variety of dead body scenarios. I have been punched in the stomach but not the face. I have been slapped in the face but not the stomach. I have walked out on a handful of bad movies. I do not long for acceptance. The older I get, the more detailed my suicidal ideation becomes. I often say the opposite of what I mean. I have a friend who painted the sea every day for twenty years, yet never once swam in it. It saddens me to read handwritten dedications on the flyleaves of second-hand books. I do not believe in a higher plan. I do not believe in coincidence. I believe in probability. I hear the phrase death by misadventure and think of someone slipping on a banana skin. I drag my heels. I go through phases of sexual inertia. When I complete a task with success I say, you have done it once, you can do it again. Whatever job I have I never escape the feeling I am playing a role. In 1996 I witnessed a gun battle between the Basque separatist group ETA and the Guardia Civil. I have never applied for a job at the United Nations. I am fond of the phrase X takes a good picture, meaning X is photogenic. I am fond of the word haunts when used in the phrase, let’s visit my old haunts. On the cusp of sleep, I experience a falling sensation. I reproach myself. I drool on the pillow. When I helped to carry the coffin of a friend I thought, I am walking beside death. Players of brass instruments strike me as pragmatic people. Performance idea: ask people to write down their secrets, burn, then return as bags of ash. I believe that most people have a desire to do good in the world. I used to think that giving a blow job meant blowing on a penis. I am neither a fanatic nor a reactionary. In love, I have been the object of resentment and jealousy. If I had to choose between the radio and the television, I would take the radio. I compulsively make lists. I compulsively make deals with god. I imagine everyone I meet as children. While the phrase party of mourners strikes me as incongruous, I love to see a party of mourners climbing out of sleek black cabs. I cannot conceive of my youth as anything other than archaic. I heard someone say, nothing as good will ever happen to you again. I prefer to see a show in company and an art exhibit alone. I am drawn to the dislocated, the unhinged, the phantasmatic. I am not sausage-fingered, I am pig-headed. When I hear the phrase sausage-fingered, I think of sausages entering a vagina. I have never been a passenger in a hot air balloon, a helicopter, or a hovercraft. I have been a passenger on a motorcycle, a plane, a shuttle bus, a train. I have never made plans to fake my own death. I have thought, love me, love my wigs. I do not spit in public, pray, or take revenge. I do not need saving. I used to think that remuneration was pronounced renumeration. I have visited two psychiatrists and three psychotherapists. I have had narcissistic lovers, sadistic lovers, lovers who couldn’t be bothered to learn how to please me. I do not have a cruel personality – my cruelty is objective, like that of an animal. I have never witnessed a miracle. When I hear the phrase turn on the charm I think of a tap. I can be charismatic but I am not a character. I like it when a meal exactly matches the description given on the menu. I am a soft target, a tough crowd, a sharp critic. Performance idea: a lot of snot and tears. I do not believe that grief is an index. I am not careless or carefree, I am careworn. I prefer canteens to cafés and cafés to restaurants – thus, a hierarchy of preferences is established. I have a friend who steals my jokes and passes them off as his own: it’s impossible to object, since he tells them better than I do. I know I’m depressed when my principles abandon me. I will do unusual things for money: for instance, I will call you on the telephone and whisper sweet nothings. I am dogged, obtuse, unsuspecting. Question: am I writing my obituary or my autobiography? I have swum in pools, lidos, lakes. I have swum in the North Sea, the Irish Sea, the Aegean Sea. I do not dispense advice or dream of immortality. I do not expect to fall in love again. If I make it to forty-seven, I will outlive Camus. Since I find the description of an event more enticing than the reality of an event, I remember most vividly those performances at which I was not physically present. I do not have high cholesterol. I do not like crystal decanters, practical jokes, or the word Rubicon. I do not believe that when one door opens another door closes. I do not believe that when one door closes another door opens. People are often suspicious of me, and so I have learned to suspect myself. I have thought, the world is my orifice. I have ridden a donkey, a human being, a horse. I have been chased by a bull and a white BMW. I heard someone say, the real door that slams offstage gives the best possible effect. In spite of myself, I believe in the existence of the soul. Performance idea: open a shop called Happy Endings. I am not afraid of many things, but I do fear what happens after this.

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