It’s Private by Eric Ellingsen

New York Live Arts presents

Marjani Forte
Nov 15-19


Desiree Des

Desiree Des. Bathroom Poster, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

That’s what we said. At the Ows-land-er-be-horde, the office for foreigners, pantheon of come backs of stays of goes, place to renew and apply. You have to make an appointment weeks ahead of time to renew. We made an appointment, then we missed that appointment. But today you don’t have to have an appointment, though it is advised.

So, my wife Hope and I had an appointment to renew, and we missed it. My wife is named after Bob Hope, Hope’s dad Jules says. And I know hope (the concept) fits this story, but it’s also the way it is. I’m a bit torn here—to change Hope’s real name to something more believable but less true. Her name could be Charity. Mercy. I’m friends with a Brazilian Ding. Freelanced with a Corner. I even briefly loved a Brie. The memories burst in on me. I could even make her a heart surgeon, say that gives her the right.

Hope and I didn’t mean to miss the renewal. Who goes out of their way to make an appointment to make things go smooth and then wants to intentionally miss the smoothing part? We didn’t try to miss renewing. We didn’t take the morning of renewing off, get our one-year old all strapped up and repacked and out in the rain, because it was raining, then rush to get every document we have collected in the past five years collated neat. As a foreigner in Germ, you are on year-round audit. By which I mean, the tax accountants ask for all your statements—everything going in and out. For proof you are declaring all. By all I mean everything. By everything I mean every thing. They don’t call it auditing, just what has to be done. We didn’t get all that done for weeks ahead of time to blow it off and café or something.

So, we rushed to get some things from the everything the rules asked to be gotten ready for done. And we had to miss the appointment. We didn’t intend to miss. And we have a verygood reason. And we didn’t have enough time between the time we had to renew and the times available to make a new appointment. We didn’t have time but timing worked. So, we’re just showing up on the next just-showing up day, reason and all.

I take off from work to not work but not to fun, too. Hope takes off from work. We get the kid strapped up. We take off from work to work to stay. We want to stay. Renewing just doesn’t happen, even if staying does. At least we have the option of staying for now. We get ARE strapped up. Kid’s name is ARE. His initials are A. R. E. at least. Addis Rex Ellingsen. I hope, in the future of ARE, ARE doesn’t mind me using his real name, or maybe mind me period. You have to get you name approved here. Same in the US, I guess. Had a Mexican friend in the US that legally changed his name to I-can. I-can wanted to name his kid Devil. I-can called me Kentucky because I was from Kentucky. I like being called the place where you are from, da Vinci. I-can calling his kid Devil would set the kid up for a future in soccer, or so he figured. Designed a casket for a crib. Wife was thrilled. Not as bad, perhaps, as what’s-his-name’s story at the opening of The Selfish Gene, about the woman who names her daughter Meconium after hearing the doctor say the words after birth. I guess I could look up what’s-his-name now, but why?

So, they said, “I-can, you can’t call your kid the devil.”

Most likely all of us would say the same. Rights of kids, like rights of water and wind. Other vibrant matters. So, the I-can, he named the kid Diablo instead. I say he on purpose. Wife was thrilled. In a story, everything is on purpose, especially the accidents. Like Mann said when a Ph.D. student caught Mann near The Magic Mountain. Ph.D. asks Mann, “I found all these things in your book. Did you put them there intentionally?” “Whatever you find, I put there,” Mann says. Most things were barely wind anyway.

Hope and I have a running philosophy of the future of ARE. It is not raining. That’s all we know. It is one of the last late summer days when you know you are getting ready for six months of uninterrupted grey. Pain grey, as the author of the body says. Berlin, more north than London. Many recent years on the Berlin record have streaks of twenty-six days without sun. Stevens says something like stopping in summer to remember winter, and it sounds pretty poetic when he says it—romantic, like you are the ying wrapping your arms around the yang that is the world around you while you are in it, but it’s more like putting your arms around the person that is not there and holding the thing that’s not there close. Then the thing that is not there bites you out of the grey, and you’re red, every writer’s favorite color, for no reason. A snuggle called cleave. I have tried to catch one mist before.

So, we get to the office for foreigners. I even put on a collared shirt. Hope doesn’t bring the East German DDR cookbooks from her collection to prop up casually on the help/renew window. In the past, this has charmed the women working behind the glass into something. Not many foreigners have much interest in past edibles, more trinkets. Structural horror as collectable keep-sake. And when we get to the third level of renewing and shine past the shiny floors still floating with a whiff of disinfectant, which smells like what was used to rub over vomit caught in college carpets after kicking it up a bit, and the red neon numbers on the sign are abuzz, we might be called when we least expect it, passing by all the posters of all the flags of all the countries in the world that count here. And we are in a long line. And a woman with a checklist is briskly walking down that line, front to back, asking what people are here for. A hard question, depending on your existential slope. And I don’t think saying brisk comes as a judgment.

We are waiting in a line and notice people peeling away in front of us, in multiple directions rather than just going forward, most finding out they are in the wrong place. At least they didn’t wait in the wrong waiting place for a renewal the entire time before the law, wishing to maintain gained entry. I did that once. Waited in the wrong renewing line for over an hour. It felt like a null experiment from the last century—the luminiferous aethers and alien élans—like trying to prove something doesn’t exist. It is hard to prove that what isn’t there doesn’t exist. What doesn’t exist can still be missing. The nothing that is not there and the nothing that is. I ask Hope if she ever wonders why, instead of saying ”the end,” people don’t say ”the done.” Done did or didn’t. Avoid a void.

“The rock rocks.” That’s all Hope says. In trances entrance.

The woman walking towards us, the get-things-done woman. The get-in woman is later, and they cahoot. When the get-things-done woman gets to us we say in her language we are here to renew.

“Why didn’t you make an appointment?”

“Do we need an appointment today?”

“No, but why didn’t you make one?”

“We did, last week, but we couldn’t make it. There were no appointments available for today, and the next available one is past the deadline for renewing.”

Stare.

“There are no numbers to call to cancel, no person to reach on the other end.”

We knew this. We had been here before.

“You missed your appointment?”

I look at Hope. That couldn’t be any clearer.

“Why? Why did you miss your appointment?”

“It’s private,” Hope says.

“But why?“

“It a private reason.” I nod. Hope is unflappable. Inimitable. Our kid ARE nods, but ARE nods at everything. And points. Da.

“Yes, why?” the woman demands. And we don’t know the woman’s name. They wouldn’t want you to know who you are talking to when renewing. All your personals are on a check-board in their hand in front of you and not a name tag in sight. Hope and I decide to call her Louis Pasteur.

“Why is because it’s a private thing,” Hope says.  

A heavy breath from Pasteur. I knew it. Pasteur is a heavy breather. Heavy breathing is different than deep breathing—exhale laceration versus controlled replenishing. A heavy breather lets you know they are doing all the heavy work, even the little things. All the little things are heavy. Heavy breathers let on that they are working hard, that you are not right. You might also be working hard, but then you need to breath heavy, too—a kind of nod breathing. And if the person in charge is a heavy breather, or a retired heavy breather, then even the deep breather has to heavy breath to play the see-me-I-am-working-hard game. Heavy breathing is the opposite of deep breathing, relaxation’s extremity, contemplation’s inverse. A chirality with mean, and prove it on the other side. It actually doesn’t get the body-bellows into the belly-stove like deep breathing does but fills the head rather than clears it. Proofs reproof. Heavy breathing sucks even when going out. It has a way of drawling into itself—an operational mode, being gravity, are’s is, a force field which is hard to pull a good feeling out of. Here, someone will go out of their way, walk across the street, and give you advice on how to feed you kid, or how to walk your dog. You are told what you are not doing. In Chris Marker’s film Sans Soliel, the narrator says the Japanese will wait for the light to change after the cars have passed even when the way looks clear in all directions, and that this waiting is out of respect for the souls of past cars, because those past cars are still passing, pasting even, because everything has something that goes on and on in the same way that it went on before. Here, we wait because it’s the rule. There is a difference, like the difference between a rule and a custom, between routine and ritual. I don’t know what kind of waiting this waiting now is. Of course, the narrator of Sunless is writing from 4001. Deep breath.

Pasteur says, “You missed your appointment and need to tell us why if you want another.”

“We don’t want another appointment. We don’t need an appointment today, and we are here now.”

I kind of wish I had said that the reason is private, so why does not matter. It’s do or do not, and we did not. Why is irrelevant. Why is not the information needed. What matters, and the what is that we are here now on a day when we do not need an appointment, and we can renew as is said on the website.

Perhaps it would have even been worse to say that. Perhaps it would have sounded a little touchy, pedantic maybe, patronizing. Right words with an undertow. Easier to speak direct.

Anyway, I don’t know the language around me that well. I don’t know what you mean by traveling in your language. I don’t know if I am in my language today.

I really say something in my language, something closer to, “Listen, we don’t need an appointment today, do we? So, why are you making us go through this little inquisition? It’s none of your business. That means it’s private. You cannot know, and will not know, and should not ask, and we will not tell you. Private? Person-leash-in. We don’t need an appointment today. This is very clearly stated. So, why are you asking about something that is not needed and that you have no business asking about? Butt out.”

Stare. You’ll regret that stare. Going-to-make-you-pay stare. Before-the-Law-stands-a-gatekeeper stare. I-have-the-power-to-punish-now stare.

So, Pasteur hands us a number, and she smiles a smile packed to the hilt with all kinds of coefficients of weirdness. She says—really, I kid you not, this is real—she says, in English: “I got you.”

Our hours later. A vending machine-blueberry muffin later. Another vending machine blueberry muffin later. A vending machine pack of unsalted pretzels later. A screaming ARE later. A talk about razor blades hidden in Halloween apples as kids in the US. The cutting open of the fresh things. A talk about the cyanide capsules stuck in raw meatballs and placed all over the fringe of parks and U-bahn stations in Berlin the past three summers. Poison capsules stuck in the raw stuff, unbelievable! Some person out there getting back at dog owners for shitted sidewalkes. A talk about pink crickets sold in Kentucky. Pink crickets are guns for girls, four-year olds plus a one-round .22 caliber. A talk of all the guns not allowed stickers on all the Chicago public window fronts today. How you can’t stop thinking about what isn’t there and all around you. A talk about if the rules rule the rulers today. Hope hopscotching structural racisms, complicities I don’t know. Every time ARE nods off, the buzzer goes off and ARE wakes up. Is Pasteur controlling the buzz switch from the other side of the glass? A talk about how today’s Neo-Nazis play the Pink Panther theme song at rallies, and the few there clap. It’s scarier being cute. How quick the new associations colonize the now memories. In the US, the KKK rebrands into non-obvious hates—the isolationist pitch, the tea kettlers. The new House of Un-US Activities. The old Powell Memorandum. The educational Banking systems. Other pedagogies of consciousness oppressed. How the negative learns. Where consciousness hides collusion lurks. How the DE Amazon’s run by neo-Nazi security personnel HESS. The 17km one-way walks from the new Europe labor camps in the morning, all day hobbling, scraping by. Fast food labor camps at home in Immokalee, Florida today. Life in the fun funds catch. Apocalypses heart of darkness now. In the dark and out in the open. A talk about how the newscasters can’t talk about the climate in China. Weather today, long-range tomorrows. The journalists locked up in Addis for talking about talking about Chat. Chat is a light narcotic, a leaf chewed, a social past time.  Addis another foreigner in Germ that has to foreskin. The ban cuts across custom cutting into old practices of belief. A talk about the bile’s House of Fines, about the Home of Crazy Knives, about what it means to be taken today. The place where all the things that don’t exist go to exist, entelechies wherewithal. A talk about what it means to be called to stay. A talk about being called. 

We are called into an office. “Do you have all your documents?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you miss your appointment?” another woman asks while Louis Pasteur eyeballs us from behind her. We name the new woman Robert Frost. Pasteur and Frost are working together, together together, say together together, to gather together a part of every gesture. Smirk eyes. Frost’s eyes heaving breathing here, inverse glints. I didn’t see eye smirkings much until I got here, even though I know it goes on everywhere in the world—except maybe Tibet, and there they just laugh at you. When your questions are met with laughter you have to laugh back or you’ll hold it in forever.

Hope says to Frost, “It is for personal reasons.” Hope says, “It is the private reason, the region of reasons, reasons Aroundness.” Hope says, “You have a right not to know. Ask the sky, and the reason will be clear.” Hope says, “Ask the wind, and the reason will blow by you. Watch the water boil.” Hope says, “We have a very good reason, a very very good reason, a private reason.”

And the eyes lecture us. And the heart valves jingle. And the inverse glints. Craves opposite. Carves beingness crotch first, into your da-seen, into the Aroundness. Heidegger spends most of his life trying to figure out what he calls the Aroundness, says the chair leaning up against the wall doesn’t touch the wall. For two things to touch means for them to be encounterable to each other. He says touching is a spatial knowledge that includes an encounter in understanding where the other leans from. Where the other comes from. Requires knowning the way the thing got to be the way the thing is. Hope and I imagine waking up every day for thirty years wandering around wondering what Around means. To be around things. To surround surrounded as Henri Bergson said to Einstein in a debate about time last century. Hope and I wonder why Hide kept teaching in the Germ when what was around him in the world was not something he could only keep around him or out of his theories of Aroundness? Talk with Hope about what does around mean today? About being around for each other germinating care. Talk about what around will mean to us yesterday? Talk about what does it mean to be around things organizing today thinking tomorrow? Talk about how Francisco Verala says what you know cannot be separated from what you do to know it. Talk about containment cells tomorrow’s today. Talk about how there is plastic in every see fish. DDT’s in Inuit mother’s breastmilk. Seven-billion-plus planet makes me a part-per-million, too. The sun’s center turning around a galactic center 30,000 light years from one edge, and the thought turns us on. Hope talks of a history of leaving messages in all languages for the next half million years or so, give or take. Nuclear markers for don’t enter + press ENTER. Markers for things around that we no longer have the language for. Talk about being around a curve. How do you say around in your language? To be around to each other. To be well arounded, around rounding. Talk with Hope about the bacteria around you and in you. 99% of your DNA, something else not human. You, a bit of everything that’s around. What was around comes. What is before is was, too even are. The beforehand is present at hand. And what is ready at hand but after words afterwards? Hope asks the people sitting next to her the difference between Vorhanden and Zuhanden? Does ready mean the same thing as readiness, presents as presence? Water is private now. Wind is private now. Streams are private now. These private thoughts jumping around in your head now killing time or something it’s twisted. Frost jumping down my throat T-boning heart.

After the smirking we are sitting around in steel-gridded chairs bolted to the floor oriented in rows around the red screen flickering numbers up in the eight hundreds, thinking about straight things in the private parts. Hope pinches my private parts. We are watching ARE. Hope bringing up how newscasters in the US found out that audiences believe you more if you stand and gesture with your hands. Now, the gestures practiced. Now, the art thou practiced. The art of delivery. How even in the predetermined choreography of buy-into-it, still, still the uncontrollable personality slips through in micro-gestures, saccades, glances at real feelings felt things. Face things. The little things that slip past the doers. Social-neuro-scientists have found that men will micro-glance at cleavage, admitting nothing; the women googled admitting to feeling felt up with the eyes but seeing nothing, not able to catch the gawks. Same scientists have found that when walking a piece of cake through the side aisle of a room full of people on diets that the dieters heads will stray fixed, eyeballs darting around as a piece of cake is carted through. The cake is going through the story now. The hir and zie. I ask Hope, “What is it we are really looking at here?”

Frost says, “Okay, sit back down, we’ll call you when we are ready.” Still she sits there smirking; she is in her smirk like smirk is a couch, a soft place you sink into. There are cushions in Smirk. A foot rest  in Smirk. Always large change in between the seams that seem to buy anything ordered for deliveries get up. Heat coils under the padding. Everything hooked to a clapper in Smirk. And there Frost is in smirk’s our, Pastuer’s lip curling, accusing us of doing something wrong, of being wrong, of being wrongers, of needing to repent, of repenting now, of needing to admit something, an admission, admitting now, a kind of admission of guilt, all holier than thou, a Tigering out of the orgy woods, of wrongdoing’s comspectus, self-righteous and oracular, and she the corrector, the distiller of missed appointments, the arbiter of Hope’s excuses, the destiny of ARE’s now here.

Our destiny now is the waiting room. I say, “Hope, what if it was a public smell and a private age and a private eye and a program on the lap which takes your picture when you look at pictures— something only the seer seeing sees?”

Hope says, “It would be a public/private negative public/private reason.”

“What if it had a private taste and a private eye and a public smell with a one-meter radius and a public touch and a public sound and a private view and sneezed on the subway so mucus on the private pole that Pfizer installed like they installed the turn-styles for more public control, less moving spatial health?”

And Hope says, “It would be a private private/public, public private/private public reason.”

And I say, “An eye lash on the privates!”

And Hope says, “Watch it! Or you’ll get the bite, not the tail.”

And Hope and I talk about how I once saw a court case in Philly that made it into the local news—private semi-private/public—about a guy that lived on the half ground floor of an apartment downtown. Street windows looked into a living room. He put a TV in the window inside his living room, behind his small stoop, which was facing the sidewalk, and went to work everyday rolling hardcore porn programming out past the wee hours, until he got home. A public view from a few-meter point of view, a private smell, a public sound from a few meters around, then just a flash show shown from the darkness down the street, a seeing ceiling, a private space, a public sidewalk, no taste, and touching, in a way, that pissed a ton of people off because people even went out of their way to see it, just to get pissed off more.

Hope and I talk about how that new news replaced some old new news, which was a story about another guy in Philly known as the Grabber. The Grabber rode around on a bike with a hood on and grabbed girls’ and guys’ tits and asses while they were walking on the sidewalk. Everyone just assumed the guy grabbing was a guy, but who new? After the Grabber did his thing, he rode away with a victory fist in the air, hollering “Ho ho ho!” (smooth gender elision intended). There were even undercovers hired on the basis of their grabability; some with love handles, others not; tons of street-walking hoping to get grabbed, with the cuffs ready, and even camo-fingerprint dust on their cans. There were people decked out in their best Wordsworth, hoping to be grabbed, to be touched, to be a touchy subject. Those going the long way around hoping to be snatched up. There was grabbing for ideas, for security, for insecurity, for fun. There were grabbing parties. There were grabbing songs. There were artists licking subway poles for laughs. Grabbing in LOVE park. Then LOVE park became less friendly. And the skate boarders posed for group portraits in front of LOVE, giving the mayor of the street the collective bird. And the X went somewhere else. There was everything up for, and nothing going. There were fake grabbers grabbing people, and these were, in fact, real grabbers, too—just not the Grabber. And somehow we knew this, somehow we could feel it. It grabbed our attention, and imagine, people just walking, waiting to get grabbed by the real Grabber, not just any grabber, but any grabber counted. Go figure. 

I start to fend Frost off in my head. I want to tell Frost that it’s a grave reason. That only he who unsheathes his knife is given Isaac again. That even the road less traveled is the wrong road. That there is no road. There is only stick stick stick ant stick dirt dirt dirt dirt leaf leaf leaf smirk leave. I want to tell Frost that someone close croaked. That I have a story about heart that must be heard to hear it now. A three meter heart. A three meter steel welded heart spray-painted jet black hanging from a swing-set with a sledge hammer attached and dropped on Valentine’s Day in public space in the West Coast Sea near the Sound. For a second, I catch myself wanting someone close to me to really have died or been injured hard, so I could say it. To have a doctor’s note or news clipping ready at hand. Maybe just enough of an injury for Frost to feel bad for insisting to know. Something eschewing know out of known, the punishment practices she was mastering, magister officiorum. Something I could show her, like my great uncle greyhound, Carl, who showed me when I asked why he won a purple in WW2 that he pulled down the troughs at breakfast, and I buried half a pointer finger halfway into the inside of his right thigh. Whole grains and half-milk over metals. I want to show a hall pass for all of the life I carry. I want to say there was a fair, speak in Middle English, something frought and galled. Something besotted. I want to ask her ephemerals what her real problem is. Is she not happy in the wrinkles? When will she be accepted into the universal course on learning how to laugh? I want to say, “What is wrong with you?”

I want to give her a heart-butt. A heart-butt is kind of like a head-butt, but we can get into that some other time. I want to say something that only makes measured sense. Them seaweed’s noisome and sprag. I want to say that I stuck those rubber-knobbed dirt-bike handles in the mouth, was tonguing the falsehood floors, am an invariant of marriage and whales, that I live in the princess’s garden miraging, dicking around and you name it.

I want to discharge something shocking but less man-spreadish. I want Pasteur to hear something scientifically authentic: how my meckel diverticulum had invaginated into the lumen of my anal tract the morning of my original renewal appointment, and my colon pulled backward like a three-day-worn sock in a Madrid summer because I had been sticking the toys grandma gave ARE into my private places. I was running with that idea while waiting around, ready to sing. To help us to feel less awkward in the waddling arabesques.

And mostly I want to not want what I want to say. And this shakes me up most. Because I don’t want to want what I want, my own little Maxwell’s daemon brewing, opening and closing idea’s gate, grabbing negative energy. All the non-violent incommunicado which wants what isn’t said noted. All the passive must say. All the flows keep stirrings things together. Hope says, “Well, there are things we live among ‘and to see them is to know ourselves.’”

The numbers call us back to her room. We snatch ARE’s paws out of the hopper. Hope is cocked and ready. We stroller ARE and find the door at the end of the hall without windows and knock on the door with nine numbers and two letters and a point. We get there. Stop. Knock. We are called in to be told it is not our turn. Another question: why? Another time we say nothing.

You know, in the US, visitors from any EU have to apply weeks ahead of time for the eke with full destinations mapped out, reservations set. Like US going to China. Hope sat next to an oil guy on the way back to the US last time from all that is not here; all that was not here was pissed about the US welcoming techniques of the criminal, the fingerprinting of everybody. Time of the Paranoid Policies. Parroting difference. The cathartic not I. Paranoia way different than difference feels. Agon’s again. Paranoia way way different than caution. Times against nomads these days. Revolution as a brand lip-syncing meaning lip-syncing purpose. Today’s Fear Deomcracy. Fear Freedom. And we from origins of easier get in. Around’s legislator legitimating itself. The floors of no benches for waiting over there. Of no blueberry chemical pad’s muffin’s preferential. Imagine being from Ethiopia. Hope says, “I sometimes feel like I’m from somewhere I’ve never been anymore.”   

Today I am from the teller window. Clearly on one side of a non-transparent glass. The teller is Frost. Frost is short. Frost has a tight-packed frame. Schist sheered skin pulled drapeless around bone sharp features. Bleached blond hair in need of ends upkeep and kept that way intentionally. Frost dons a just-one-size-too-small stretchy over stone-washed jeans, and is, as bureaucratic workers go, pleasing to the eye in a second punk-life way. Kind of my style, somehow I feel. Harsh. Someone with whom I would be friends with. Glee clubs aside. Someone who if on your side, would throw a finger of cuss into any antagonist’s grill no matter what build. Someone who apologizes for nothing and will lend you troves of love advice you don’t ask for without having to say anything because you don’t have the language for it. It’s hard today to have the words for things and not a language for things going on. So, I try the technique of levering. I want to lever, to make a lever that crowbars something open, open. A crack maker. A grain boundary. A place of sheering and exchange in the lovely dislocations. A seam in which flow can cross and through which what creeps, creeps, and turn us on rather than turn on us. In a weird way, I even want Frost to like me. I realize I want Frost to approve of me somehow, not just approve me. For Frost to note the common fang between us. I want to tell Frost how one time I shaved all the hair off the tail of Hope’s husky. Beautiful matt of hair, beauty’s root itself, bald tail when sheathed in touch me, so graceful, hops like a deer nose-first into the rambles, fishes out moles and drops them squirming in the center of old men’s games of bocci ball in Wall Park, which was really two walls, dichotomies opposite, a place between two places one was not allowed to enter, as if sending the mafias a clear message with the mole. (They looked at me like I meant it. Another time.) How, I thought, wouldn’t it be funny for people to see and ask to pet the beautiful thing, then, when they are petting the beautiful thing, to notice by feeling it out, the ridged strange bald rat tail flapping strongly in bizarre enthusiasm. How what we touch feels when cut of groom. I know Frost would laugh her ass off in the right setting. There would be hugs all the way home, and Hope wouldn’t be jealous. Just like when Junk and I’d call the carefully groomed dogs over to ensconce clump chewed bubble-gum wads in the soft tufts of fluff. Pink chewed wads returning gleefully to owners call then bewilder. Even Hope laughs about it now. Shaved tail headlined the X-mas card. Edged out Jesus. Trumped ARE. So, I let Frost finish hoping for the choice moment to share. 

Then Frost says again, ”Really, what is the personal thing! What is the private thing! Why did you miss your appointment?”

And each time she is asking all these things in Germ, fast Germ. Which is fine, it’s Germany, of course. We should speak fast Germ. We should know the words for thermostat gradient, for secondary confirmation of third-party foreign accounts, for management of the consular and colonial register, for consciousness in a perceptual encounter, for that which cannot be gotten to the other side of but can be walked around. All these things have one word, of course. All these one words handy, ready. For that which cannot be gotten to the other side of: Un-um-gang-leash-a (as AC Nox’s). For consciously perceiving perception while perceiving: bay-oh-Bach-tongue. For empathy: Eye’n-fur-lungIn feeling back intothis language. And when we ask Frost if we can ask her something in English she says in fast English that we have to ask in German. Then she cooks up one document we didn’t have, a document that doesn’t exist, a thing which need needs. Hope’s head grabbing for straws, Frost siphoning out the heart, my bewildered never mind.

“We have been here nine times in the past five years,” Hope says, in German, in Germ in jure, “and we have never needed that document, and your website doesn’t list that document as a document we need.” Fast Germ response. I hear the word horse. I hear the word furrow. I hear the word annals and beholden. A behoove. The word drones. I know I am not the mushroom I am, or the room’s view to the river. I recall Oprah trolled by nine thousand penises. How Louwrien Wijers says the most important law for economy is: If I take care of you, others will take care of me. Maybe the holdup is a little backlash. Maybe because we come from an US now that listen’s in to all the Chancellor’s phone calls, a place that also installed listening viruses on its own citizens at the airport on laptops going through the check-in operations, because they were suspect for what, they wouldn’t say. Now we know just which toppings Angela gets on her za and zamzams. She has a taste for flesh. We for death. Because we’re from a place of us where the communication companies have a hand up, because they hand over all private constellations of communication for the watch. Joke runs how my dad went to Penn, your dad went to the pen. Most of us just shrug, safety comes first. A mantle for the trophy. Car park not the park. Billboard of freedom on the front of the building, loading dock of everyone’s privates snowed in on the backside. Malinowski left what he calls a coefficient of weirdness in his formulas, expounding on the systems organizing the universe. Time to look means you have too much time. It’s not what you cover it’s what you discover,someone said. And as if there is only one such coefficient. And as if all variables aren’t partaking of the weirdnesses of today.

My ears zoom, stretching for some ends of some sounds to hang on and archeolog some okay meaning back from snatches. A stick factor. Ear fly paper. What it means is the meaning you’re trying to get out of it. Something is changing between her lips and my ears. It is a slippery thing without handles or heart’s grip tape. I gripe. My wife had printed the necessaries from the site’s listing. The second year, my wife hired a translator helmet to help her read this list of necessary things. The first year, we just hired a translator helmet to come with us. The translator helmet carried our needs and the be-horde’s needs back and forth. To translate comes from to carry in Greek. In the waiting for the necessaries, anything from before or after can pop into your head. You know that farm-raised salmon are fed carotenoids to make their flesh appear more pink for sale? I’m all ears.   

This time, you need this thing to get this to renew. We need to be renewed. We’re stuck in renewals betweens. One time running out, the future coming toward us, up shit creek. I hailing from Teakwood Drive off Turkeyfoot in Woodford near Nonesuch, KY. Capital Frankfurt. London nearby. Paris, Kentucky nearby. Versailles nearby, but said like VER-SAILS. I find it hard to argue about the things that don’t exist, the nonextant things you don’t need until you do. Hard to convince someone in charge of the permissions what enough means when enough is not out in the open and defined ahead of time. Hope clarifies, “If we can get to these necessary things today, are we assured of being renewed?”

Nod.

Not tea-kettling, past post-holes, Hope asks to clarify that nod, a nod on a kind of line hard to translate sometimes. “So, if we bring back this missing document today we are assured being renewed. There is nothing else we will need later?”

Nod. Then Frost adds, “We close a little before 17:00.”

“How much before 5:00?”

“Usually a little before.”

“Okay, so, if we are back at 4:30, is that enough time before a little before the time you don’t know that we will be able to get renewed today?”

Nod. On our way out, another foreigner comes in asking questions in English, and Frost trills a pleasant response in flawless Anglo, as if Pasteur just sat on her nice switch.  As if this is for us to hear here.  

Hope, ARE, and I trucking down the hall, high-tailing it. Only way for the possibility of needed things to line up is to hire in both directions. Home – bank – notice of something I don’t understand but know the words for, like what’s-her-name translating things she can read but not understand in what’s-that-novel. It’s the middle of March, we bolt back to the office of. Keep the get up going. An easy sixty worth of trips to triangulate the city for something that basically says we have enough of today’s currency to stay current and where we are. Need a wagon hitched with a baby seat, something that can carry the carriage. For some reason, taxis don’t like to wait without moving in Berlin, even when on the meter. Heavy breathing often says so. Had one leave us once high and dry the original morning of in the rain and without having been paid and with a few of our nonvaluables in the back seat, just because the driver decided he didn’t want to wait for Hope to get ARE down the walk-up to go where we needed to go any more. Put a real wrench in our appointed day. Now we have to call, wait, ask for the largest getsome they got because we’ve got a day’s worth of ARE’s things with us and must on the fly. 

Back for the second ninth’s time, having fetched the made-up things, having had another choppy back and forth with a bank teller because she had never heard of what we were asking for and said that it didn’t exist. We knew what we needed didn’t exist, but we still needed it. She couldn’t give us what didn’t exist, even if we gave her more than clues. She said maybe we heard the German wrong. She said, “You need to go back and ask for the real things you need.”

She said, “There is no such thing as the thing you’re asking for.”

Hope said, “Yes there is because we have to bring it back.”

Hope says, “Can’t go back, no time! We need what doesn’t exist, and we know it, and we need it now.”

With a bit of strong-arming, Hope forced the teller to write down something official on something official about the amount of whatever we officially have today. Now, what didn’t exist did, and we carried that newly existing thing back, pronto, grins drafting new boarders, back in line with Frost and Pasteur at a risky 16:33.

Our renewals are there waiting for us. Not a word exchanged but we weren’t looking to hold forums for more of Frost’s sayings. Now we are holding the renewals in our hands. The renewals feel great. Feels like this thing you are holding in or palm, at the end of the mind, but thinner and with a seal and in a language clearly opaque. We’re approved to be here a while longer. Why did you miss your first appointment, she asks. It is a very long way she says why:  “Waaaaaaaar-um?” Hope maintains that it was for personal reasons. I butt in saying, “Will you never understand personal? It’s private.”

Glare. “I have made a note in your file,” Frost says, “and it is serious.”

I wonder how Frost can note what she doesn’t know. And I ask her that. The glare. And I can’t help it. And the glare, and the glare abdicated. Glare for glare returned. I can’t help it. I give in. Mirroring’s pitfall. I know I don’t want to want what I want to do or what. Finally, I give in all I can. Completely. Unapologetically. There is no good reason not to, and it’s a good reason, and I know it, and Hope knows it, and ARE feels it, and it is time to tell her once and for all, and this is it.

Eric Ellingsen has a practice called species of space. He spent the last year teaching at Cornell University in the architecture department. In the fall of 2015, he will begin teaching at the Art Institute Chicago (SAIC). From 2009–2014, he taught at and served as the co-director of the Institut für Raumexperimente, an education experiment started by Olafur Eliasson and others at the Berlin University of the Arts.

Desiree Des lives and works in New York City. To see more of her work, click here.

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