I remember the exact moment my son, Thibault, was conceived. My wife wanted to have a child four years on into our marriage. I wasn’t so sure; I was already 40. Our whole time together had been one big party till then. Lots of drink, cigarettes and party.
Sleep on your right side, it will influence your dreams, she had picked up from God knows where. So she slept on her right side and dreamt of babies. Every time she thought she had fallen pregnant, she’d try out another one of her best friend’s recommendations. She peed in a goblet and added a large lump of salt. After two hours the salt still hadn’t melted so she wasn’t pregnant. She peed in a plastic box, put a brand new needle in it and put the lot in a cupboard away from sunlight. After eight hours the needle still hadn’t turned rusty or black, so she still wasn’t pregnant. After two years of larking around like this, we conducted some proper tests.
Everything was fine with her, it seemed. The doctor wanted to know if the same could be said for me. So, in I went to the hospital, they gave me a container, said,
‘Bring it back in 5 minutes.’
I went into a room where the tables were covered with porno mags and films. I must have wanked for about an hour, my hand even hurt, but not a drop came out. I went back the next day. Same story. The nurse was standing behind me, she kept coming over every few minutes:
‘Any better today? Come on, make an effort! Have you finished?’
For crying out loud! She should have come over and played with me a little, or let me have a sniff of her, that would’ve been much better.
‘there’s no way this is going to work.’
So they told me to wank off at home the following morning. On an empty stomach, mind, then bottle it and drive it straight over.
That’s what I did. The test results said that I had enough secretion and there was sperm, but that they were extremely tired. Is that any wonder, with the lifestyle we were leading?
We went for a week to the Costa del Sol and in that time I had nothing to drink cos the wine there was more like piss than anything else anyway. We ate well; I had lots of meat and just a bit of salad, not all that rice or potato stodge, and I did lots of sport everyday. Avocadoes and almonds were a regular. Loads of vitamin E in both. Good for your sperm. Zinc and selenium in almonds for that extra boost, tho I know that some swear by drinking the water you’d boiled your eggs in once it had cooled. Can you see me drinking continental tap water to foster the birth of my child? I’d be up at five whilst all the other holidaymakers were still snoring, I’d swim for an hour then go up for breakfast. And in the evening, I’d be sure to sprinkle a generous dose of fresh parsley on whatever I was eating; great for men’s reproductive health.
The second time we made love, there was something about the way her body reacted: I knew she had just fallen pregnant. On the flight back, she kept saying,
‘I feel sick, I’m gonna throw up!’
‘Oh, you and your bla-bla-bla!’
She didn’t believe me for a second.
‘When we get back, you’ll go to the chemist for a pregnancy test. I don’t want any more jars of piss in my cupboards, got it?’
The test came back positive. To be on the safe side, I sent her to do a blood test. Positive. I could tell the doctor exactly when the baby was conceived. Not simply the week, but the precise day and the precise hour. He believed me, because it is possible, but very few people are so tuned into their bodies let alone the body of another.
I know the exact moment when both my children were conceived; there was an energy, a reaction: I just knew it. And if I listen deep down in myself, I know that I was a father already at the age of 14. That 19-year-old I had, before my mother had explained to me coitus interruptus.
My wife went along with my biking mania. She did the license and I bought her a brand new Harley. We had money in those days. A brand new Harley with all the trimmings. And our son, Thibault, in his seat on the back.
(from the Book of Joseph, in Verses Nature. And because it’s Christmas, here’s a little something extra you won’t forget in a hurry…)
sucette.du67@… (reading): 26.01.04 (Re:Virtuality and Distance; 09.11.—) Falling from Heaven. Having –
GinImE@…: Let me do this…
sucette.du67@…: You just –
GinImE@…: Please… (takes the sheets from sucette.du67@… Hesitates. Tries to bring some control back to her face):
Having re-read your comments on virtuality and distance, and with the benefit of hindsight regarding the way our friendship has evolved… (Gulp… suppressed smile…) I would like to air… and share a few of my reflections with you. (Pause) If I ramble on a bit, forgive me, I am just thinking out loud: this is not an exam and I don’t have a deadline to meet. As one of my Professors quoted to me the other day ‘I’m sorry this letter is so long; I didn’t have the time to write a short one’. (Ladies chuckle. Sucette.du67@… gives Gini’s leg a squeeze)
I am familiar with the value we have conferred upon the natural sciences, thereby elevating the corresponding methodology to our (apparently) most reliable instrument of measurement even for the human sciences (e.g. quantitative analysis, positivism, etc). Piaget’s developmental theories, for example, and even Bowlby’s attachment theory, which he claims has antecedents in biology and ethology, all lean heavily on the natural sciences (to name two influential 20th century human scientists), as does, rather persistently, much psychological research today. If you look at it historically, psychology grew out of the natural sciences, and the social sciences out of psychology. It is no wonder, then, that early human science abounds with references to and analogies between human development and its interaction or adaptation, as an organism, to its environment. But, if we are going to stay with this picture, organisms do not remain constant; they grow, they adapt to new requirements. As such, you could say that modern human science, or social science, is the grandchild of the natural science paradigms reigning up to the late 19th century.
noluckwiththefu@…: Give it to im!
GinImE@…: When have grandchildren and grandparents ever seen eye to eye?
The weak link, as far as I am concerned, in your argumentation, is the misrecognition of the historical (i.e. social, cultural, political etc) factor in the shaping of human knowledge. Further, a – permit me to call it such – ‘positivist’ attitude oversimplifies the wonder of the human mind.
Whilst the human individual may well be regarded as an organism in conjunction with her environment,
which is still the message behind the newer human sciences, I am not convinced that this originally biological analogy sits as well as it should when transposed to the human mind. The interaction, or touching, as you say, of two individual human minds is always mediated by the individual cultural environments of the participants. In other words, the socio-political, and therefore historical dimension, is crucial to the interaction, giving it a dimension not immediately evident for a purely natural (as opposed to a socio-psychological) phenomenon, even if we concede that the environment for the human comprises the historical context as ‘natural habitat’.
kissmy@… behind her hand to noluckwiththefu@…: Don’t understand a word but it sounds good.
noluckwiththefu@…: Shut the fuck up!
GinImE@...: The human mind cannot be dissected, cannot be classified like a frog, an insect, or even the human body. All human knowledge is at the mercy of whatever theory is currently popular, or at the very least, our theories are limited by our current state of knowledge. Freud has largely been dethroned. Piaget has been ousted. Bowlby defamed; and although he uses the ethological mantel to give his view the seal of credibility, closer inspection, corroborated by the lack of empirical or biological foundations for his major issues (monotropism as the source of good infant mental health), exposes his ‘theory’ for what it is, namely folk knowledge with an extra portion of chauvinism which should certainly not have held currency for so long. And as I don’t believe in coincidence, I do not regard it as one that Bowlby’s views became so popular after the War during which women enjoyed considerable social and political freedom in the absence of their men, and which Bowlby’s theory ‘incidentally’ puts an end to. Vygotskian theory on the cultural contingency of human development, being one of the most recent insights that the discipline has to offer, is still quite popular, although here, too, critique is gathering. And it is interesting to note that Vygotskian theory sparked off a whole new school of thought in the West from the 70s onwards simply because his writings had not been translated before. Historically, however, he is Piaget’s peer, and appears to have been familiar with Piaget’s work. If his writings had been available at the same time, he probably would have been debunked as well by now… I’m oversimplifying drastically. If you’re interested, just google them.
I had strong reservations about the application of natural science paradigms to the human sciences whilst working my way towards my first postgraduate degree, but couldn’t be bothered to get into a methodological debate with the university as I was probably not betitled enough to be taken seriously as a co-thinker. You and I can meet on a more equal footing, and I don’t feel afraid to say what I think even if you then rip my argument to shreds.
Although I am glad…
although I… am glad… for every opportunity to learn something new, I also think that you understood my original statement — that our relationship was not purely virtual, but, at least for me, very real — in the vein in which it was meant.
It was an expression…
(Pause. Eyes closed)
…of the closeness I felt to you; of my – as I now understand – erroneous sense of our ‘touching’ in a very essential, ‘cellular’ way, beyond the words — the linguistic particles — being ‘hit’ between the two of us.
(Deep breath. Proud smile. babygirl@… comes to sit at Gini’s feet)
That you choose to point out to me my error, and in such depth, is very telling…
(Deep breath. The sheets tremolo)
It tells me that I view our relationship differently (although a day earlier you write: ‘our relationship goes far beyond any physical barrier, because is based on intellectual and emotive elements that have no boundaries. And is because you have an instinctive sensitiveness towards my waves also). It hints at your possible fear of getting your hands ‘dirty’:
(Sistahs nod, make consenting vocalisations)
we do not, cannot ‘touch’, is your philosophy (though you wish to experience my flesh upon yours, your flesh within mine… you want to ‘mould’ me with your hands… virtually, of course…).
(Snorts of solidarity. babygirl@…’s head on Gini’s lap)
You are nothing but a ‘ghost’, you insist, and I should not invest you with more life than that. You tell me you want to see the naked me, yet when I stand before you in all my nudity, in all my intensity, you take fright, tell me I fly too high; beg me, in a manner of speaking, to put my clothes back on.
What am I to make of such inconsistency? I refrain from calling you a hypocrite, as I refrain from calling you a coward. What am I to call you, Maurice? If ‘nature’ were as inconsistent as this, we would have long ceased to use it as a reliable yardstick, don’t you think?
Could it be that ‘nature’, ‘science’, like language, like feelings — like love — amounts to more than the sum of its visible individual constituents? Is more than what we may ever ostensibly ‘know’? If it were that ‘simple’, let me say (as an overambitious layperson), we would have the answers to most of our questions, I would imagine, though we evidently do not (or do you take issue with the greatest thinkers who admit, at the end of the day, that we ‘know’ nothing…?).
(Puts her hand on her chest, just so briefly. Anger flicks across her face)
You pick at my innocent statement in a process of Jesuitical casuistry, so I feel obliged to react. My language, and certainly, my feelings, are not to be viewed with the cool eye of science, but with the warm heart… of an artist.
(sucette.du67@… gets Gini to place her head on her shoulder. She runs her hand across Gini’s forehead, repeatedly, for the rest. Gini gives her a nod as if to say, it’s ok, I’ll manage)
To boil down my meaning – or language generally- to a mere swinging of particles is to do it a severe injustice. If this is the stance you adopt, then, in a very ‘real’ sense, you and I shall never ‘touch’.
Take your gloves off, Maurice, if you have the courage to do so. Dive in and get your hands dirty.
(Breathes out slowly, so so slowly, eyes closed)
Fall from heaven… Let go of what you know, but keep your faith; it is the only way to live.
PS: I have to smile; do you sculpt with gloves on, or do you only wear them for me? Do not get me wrong. I am not angry; I simply wonder… and wait…
PPS: Is not Science but Art by its other name; principled expositions of the hungry, the humbled mind genuflecting before its god?
Extenuated pause. babygirl@… opens the St Emilion. The plopping of the cork –
punctuates the harsh silence. Everyone gets a glass.
GinImE@...: OK. This last one’s called ‘Anniversary’.
I shouldn’t have, so it serves me right and I have no right to be disappointed not to find a message from you today. You’ll have other things to do, won’t you: presents to open, a dutiful wife to kiss and say thank you to. And others, no doubt. But not me.
I wish I had never met you.
(kissmy@…squeezes in behind Gini. Finds a place for her legs on either side, so that Gini may prop herself up in the bed of her girlfriend’s groin. Her right hand soothes Gini’s chest, just below her breasts)
That you had left me sleeping. But you, you pushed and pushed until I let you in.
Now you don’t want to stay, having fed your eyes to their fill.
Now I have to get over it, I suppose. Now… I should… n I will…
(Eyes closed. Head back. Exhale…)
I don’t even want to write to you anymore, yet I know of no other way to wash myself clean from your reach.
From your memory.
(noluckwiththefu@…’s hand rubs the pain away from Gini’s other thigh, but first, she bows, squeezes Gini’s shoulder. Gives it a kiss)
The recollection of you trails me like a wailing child. Or am I that child, wailing, arms outstretched and waiting for you to scoop me up…
and soothe me. I have no idea. No idea…
Certainty’s bounced off down the road like a bright rubber ball I tried to hold on to too tightly. I can only run after it with my eyes,
with my heart,
but my feet are not obeying and they won’t budge, no sir. They’re staying put.
(Pause. Change of tone. She sounds apologetic)
Maybe because they want to be here to greet you when you suddenly show up again. If ever you… Maybe they’re just plain scared of another wrong move, so refuse to move at all, like the hare frozen in the glare of headlights on a dark country lane. The only thing that never stops moving is my mind. Picking and sorting
and sifting and
reconstructing its way through the minutiae of our brief, our blinding, history; trying to get its fingers round the wrong movements; my wrong
my nimble African fingers picking out the bad grains in my bowl.
(The rest is read by heart as the sheets sprinkle to the floor)
So when I wake up, it is with the demeanour of one who has just finished hard labour, though the whole long day yawns in my face like a disinterested listener.
Again and again, I ask myself: have I had to pay too high a price for this ‘love’? Again and again, the reply laps at my feet and recedes with a sigh, with a