Notes for Nothing on Twitter.
X comes home and tells me he’s found a pub. Not the ideal pub, of course, but not too far off. No music! he says. Above all no music. No radio, no TV. Local ales and a farm cider he could write odes to if he were a poet. Like mountain air. Crisp and flat and pure and cold and dry. The only real cider in town. Not like that horrible fake shit. And strong. More than three pints of this brew and don’t expect to walk home in a straight line, he says. It’s a working man’s pub, he says. He walks in and orders his farm cider, drawing a few suspicious glances from the regular drinkers at the bar. They turn back to their conversations when they see he’s relaxed and keeping to himself. He sits against the far wall and prepares for the first sip. The best drink in town! he says. Soon he’s transported to dewy dawns in Edenic orchards, and the dirty carpet, stale smell and lack of light don’t matter! And what’s outside and waiting for him when he gets home doesn’t matter. Not that those things matter much anyway, he says. That’s what this stuff does to you, he says and he slumps on the sofa, it makes you remarkably clearheaded, for a little while.
He perceived all the strangeness there was in being observed by a word as if by a living being, and not simply by one word, but by all the words that were contained in that word, by all those that went with it and in turn contained other words, like a procession of angels opening out into the infinite to the very eye of the absolute.
– Blanchot, Thomas the Obscure (tr. R. Lamberton)
X tells me he dreams of a pub, of his ideal pub. It’s silent, above all it’s silent. No music! he says. It’s like a library without books, where everyone drinks, where alcohol flows through everyone but no one talks. Except for the occasional friendly hello, thank you, and goodbye. A pub enveloped in an amorphous silence, vague yet clear, within which you can drift off or concentrate as you please, that’s what he dreams of, he says. The drinkers get up and go to the toilet and return to their seats. They get up and buy drinks and return to their seats. They read or write, stare into space, come and go as they please. As the sun moves across the sky. As dusk settles. At closing time we leave, he says, no need for a bell. No need to shout. No need for a sign urging us to respect the neighbours. Above all, no music! No jukebox. No fights, no one on the pull, no shrieking made-up women. No conversations, no laughter. His ideal pub, he tells me, that’s what he spends his time thinking about, when he’s in the pub.
Oh God, I tell X, I feel it under the surface again, it’s coming, it’s still there, I’m terrified, look at me! What am I terrified of, what’s there to be terrified of? Oh Christ help me, you’re no help. Who can I turn to? It’s all there like it always was, we have to do something, we have to get out, what can we do? I’m still scared, I say, scared of nothing, it’s waiting to get us, Oh Jesus, we need to get out, let’s go do something, see a 3D movie, I don’t care how bad it is, anything, dive into the sea, find someone to talk to, run down the street, my stomach’s turning, nothing’s right, nothing’s changed, it’s still bubbling under the surface like my bubbling guts, this is a nightmare, do something, why can’t you help? Let’s get a few bottles, X says, and have a quiet night in.
You’re too much in your own head, I tell X, and you’re dragging me in there with you. Why do you think I hate you? I wouldn’t care if it was just you, but no way I’m ending up like you. Why don’t you open up a bit, I say, what are you afraid of? You think you don’t need to? You think you’re better than the rest of us? They all know you’re not, I say, they’ve told me. Man up, I say, get serious! Hypocrite, he says.
All my efforts to understand were doomed from the start, I tell X. My words are corpses, cadavers! At last you talk sense, says X. All I do is kill when I should be living! I say. This scribbling I do, this tapping, it’s like a kind of grieving for what I’m killing. No you lost me there, he says. You were right the first time, you’re doomed, we both are, they got us and your scribbling is nothing, literally nothing, just something they let you do until they can be bothered to come for us. It’s about time you faced the facts. Right now they’re probably on their lunch break, he says, or sitting at their CCTV screens laughing at us, or shaking their heads wondering why they’re wasting their time with us. If they’re even there, he says, there’s probably not even anyone there, that would be the biggest joke of all, he says.