Fiction slider — 04 June 2016

sand dunes

by
Erik Wennermark

photo “Desert” by Moyan Brenn under Creative Commons License

“Guy Toussaint: Deviant Art & The Poetry of Murder,” Alexander Milton’s unfinished dissertation in service of his PhD candidacy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, was unfinished precisely because he disappeared, presumably in the Sahara, in 1973. It was in that year Mr. Milton traveled to Morocco to complete the research for the unfinished book, the only known piece of scholarship (realized or no) devoted exclusively to Guy Toussaint and his peculiar brand of poetry (evidence of which is scant). [Some few chapters appear in other scholarly works of the time but rely more on characters peripheral to Mr. Toussaint including, but not limited to: Cunt: The New Poetics of the Belgian Underground; The O.F.F.A.L. Manifesto; and Feverish: The Don Brook Story.] When Mr. Milton had not contacted his parents, Joe and Edna Milton, for some many months after his return was due, they contacted the consulate in Tangier whereby a search for the missing scholar was quickly enacted. An assiduous consular officer traced Mr. Milton’s vertiginous path to Bou Arfa, a northeastern gateway to the Sahara. The assiduous officer, through much diligent effort, was able to discover Mr. Milton had hired a guide and a camel for a journey into the great desert, though he never took his journey despite leaving a full deposit—much to the guide’s pleasure. The guide assured the assiduous officer that if any horseplay had been involved, he had had no knowledge or part in such—there the trail went cold. Near given up on the forlorn Mr. Milton, it was only by happenstance that the assiduous officer discovered a key left by the missing man in the hotel bar one evening while he (the assiduous officer) was having a cocktail after a long day chasing ghosts of Mr. Milton. A particularly handsome barback caught the assiduous officer’s eye, words and pleasantries were exchanged and a key of questionable utility was thrust into assiduous officer’s palm—the handsome barback seemingly having confused the missing Mr. Milton for the assiduous officer, noting the relative rarity, in 1973, of white men in Bou Arfa. (Now more common, they are known colloquially as raz-ah-bil-cous—whose rough translation, while losing something of the native flair, approximates the English phrase “doe-eyed faggot.”) After some inspection, the key was related to a locker in the bus station, the contents of which—a pair of loafers, a toiletry kit and an audiotape partially destroyed by a viscous substance of unknown origin—are the last known evidence of Mr. Milton’s, and perhaps Guy Toussaint’s, existence. Due to Mr. Milton’s secondhand equipment and technical ineptidtude—he was a graduate student after all—his portion of the exchange is wholy inaudible, and likely was even before the damage of vicsera and sand. It seems appropriate in any event, the recordings having assumed Mr. Milton’s fate; the only ghosts allowed to speak here are Mr. Toussaint’s.
In the interest of immortality, we reproduce the recoverable portions of the audiotape in there entirety.

—the Editors.

 

Guy Toussaint, eh, where to begin? In the beguine, no? Ha ha, joke of course. Let me think one moment, yes, I remember, I meet him is originally in sixty-six, sixty-seven maybe. March? April? It is in the spring. Parlez vous Francais? No? This is shame, no matter, I need to have practice my English. Okay, I continue. I am making letters in the café to send to my family in Honduras. I drink cappuccino and eat brioche, it is beautiful morning, there is much sun and birds is making delightful noise outside. My pen is making on the paper in the ways to happen when to family I am writing. I tell of weather and how wonderful is here. I say nothing. It is true that my mother think I am in Espana not Maroc at all. You understand? She think her boy is find success in Barcelona. I do not tell my mother that have no money or no work and that sleep under bridge last night, but I have fountain pen and expensive kind paper to steal from the shop when boy not looking. This to make pretend of her son’s success far away from Honduras. It is struggle for me and my family to come here and I not want to make my mother feel is no good. Her efforts is nothing. My mother she live in shack above shop where she sell Fanta and sandwich to tourists and workers and her boy in Espana is big important to our family and even to neighbors so I must make appearance that I do okay. When I leave home I go to La Ceiba where I catch freighter for Rabat. Through Fés to Tangier where I am here, where we both are here. You understand? You like another? Tea maybe? No? Okay. I continue. La Ceiba is very dangerous place, many bad person who like take advantages of boy like me. I am sixteen at time. But is okay and I survive and sneak on freighter. When to catch me, I make passage by scrub, yes? Scrub is right, no? Very good! I scrub dishes and help cook. My mother, she is good cook and teach me many things how to cook. Most crew of ship—her name is el Corazon—they is to like Honduran food, they from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, so they like food I to make. The ship cook, he come with captain who from Serbia, so they like my cook more than what cook make. This is why survive and they no throw me off ship, so I live. It is happy time. I like to cook for the men and the weather is very nice and the ocean is very beautiful. I never see anything like it Honduras where there is no place to go where I can see nothing but water everywhere surrounding……nighttime take what I have is nothing but small things from my family and I leave ship. When my feet touch, what you call this, where boats live? No, this is not what I thinking. Um, is duck? Okay. Yes, I on dock run very fast to can get away from ship will see me and tell I run away. I run until my chest there is painful and I never look back until that I am in city and everything quiet. This when I realize for first time I speak no language they speak! I not even know what language is they speak! Is difficult, no? I was young boy from San Pedro Sula and the stars above is not even the same! Is crazy!…….What? Yes, yes, I know Guy Toussaint, I tell you this. What? You know I know him, why you ask? What? Okay, okay. No problem, no problem. This how I get Tangier. I meet Guy Tangier. What to say for Guy? He most beautiful man I know. Not in way he pretty or have face like woman or something, yes? I don’t know how to say, he is like sculpture with his bones outside his face. His clothes always very nice. He has good tailor. We to same tailor for many years. He is very nice man. Has shop nearby. I can show you you like, yes? He make wonderful suit for very low price. Yes? Okay, but not to blame me later, eh? Okay, okay, yes. I talk of Guy. His face I was talking of. He has nose like knife. Like, eh, the scimitar? Yes, the curve knife tourist buy in shop from street merchant in market in Fés, or is possible down by dock, see I remember, here. You go to Fés? No? Oh, it very nice place. You should visit before you leave Maroc. There is restaurant I will tell you of. You go there and say to man that Tito send you and he give you best meal in North Africa I promise you…(audio ends)

—Antonio Ortiz “Tito” Cruz

 

…borrowed iodine from old woman to paint new cuts on hands and feet…

—Unknown Fragment

 

…foolishness? It’s all nonsense Mr. Milton, let me assure you. Oh I do not doubt there were indiscretions, but I find it very hard to believe that Guy engaged in any behavior that would qualify as criminal. Things are quite different here in the Maghreb, Mr. Milton, as you no doubt shall discover. This misunderstanding is the product of silly officious twits who involve themselves in matters they could not hope to understand. Guy was entirely separate from their limited experience, of this I can assure you. He was an artist for God’s sake! You speak of them as if they approached his station. Fiddlesticks! Guy was Hermes walking these lonesome sands. It has been my experience that such parochial understanding is a problem of your people if you don’t mind me saying so. Oh yes, I have met some lovely Americans, but why must you be such a ‘Baab, from Oomaahaa.’ No don’t misunderstand me, I approve of your project, I just don’t want my friend’s name sullied. Quite simply, there was nothing to it. The matter has far outgrown its interest. Why force the boy off? Guy was happy here, or happy enough. As happy as any of us can be. Why then did he do what? Those are still mere accusations. I have heard of no verifiable proof to back them. Oh yes? Please enlighten me. Nonsense. No. His business was his own, as it is with any man of Guy’s stature and experience. What circles he traveled in when not in my presence are of no concern to me. Such connexions are truly the province of an American. Certainly Guy was familiar with women, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, not everyone in Tangier is a queer. Only most of us! Forgive my joke, it’s just so, well, true. No, I don’t think so, perhaps he diddled a lad or two in his day, how could I keep abreast of such things? Surely you can allow a man his peccadilloes besides. The truth of it, I am sad to say, is that it wasn’t as if we were even that close. I don’t think he was terribly fond of anyone. Guy was a difficult man to understand in relation to oneself, in the sense that he had no needs, if you understand my meaning. He was self-contained, not aloof or, to use your silly term, introverted, but as in the aesthetics of the matter. He was a hermetically sealed being, quite marvelous really. I certainly enjoyed the sight of him, he was a very handsome man. Hmm? As I said on the telephone, I met him at party thrown by the cultural attaché, a terrible bore really, but it is pleasant to exchange in the mundane from time to time with others of the same hue. Certainly not! Why else would I have stayed in this blasted desert for so long? I often dream of my gray Hampshire, but then I awake with a new friend by my side and the dream is as quickly forgotten. Indeed. Then ask your question! I was introduced by, well, I don’t remember. Perhaps Albert Patterson, one of your countryman. Albert is Albert, his wife the more engaging of the couple I must say. Oh yes, I think Guy would agree with that assessment. She would be the one to ask about his poetry, my literary loves are confined to the theatric, poets are a tiresomely sincere bunch. No, he was not, I said poets. While Guy may have scribbled the occasional line, I would not consider him a poet, so to speak. Not in the traditional sense at least. Artist? Yes. In the manner of Shiva. We engaged in drink and palaver, occasionally dined in each other’s company. Suliman knew him better than I, you should speak with him. Suliman ibn Aziz. You plan to? Well good then, perhaps we are done. What more do you want? No, I most decidedly…

—Lawley Tippendale

 

…dark hair protected a pale earnest face……vaguely to the square. She looked through him and he scratched the bandage on his face. The waiter approached and she ordered, relaxing into the wine he set beside her, she sighed through her nose. He slipped a sliver of the raw meat into his mouth……foreign….… picked a hair from his eye……unswept walkway led to hard seats with threadbare cushions exposing sharp stretches of metal crossbar……tetnus and pushed his hand into the corner of the metal till it began to bleed. A clock bounced at the head of the bus, above the driver, tied in place with twine. It read…(audio ends)

—noted as D. (?)

 

…a most splendid man. Yes, absolutely Guy and I met at a party thrown by Alfie and Margo, yes, the Pattersons. Lovely couple, have you met? Oh, wonderful people I assure you. You plan to? Oh, good, good good. Double good! Yes, we met at the Patterson’s, a lovely man, and so attractive! I hear he was very talented, I am a bit of a philistine when it comes to poetry. I saw him on occaision, the regular circuit of parties, the Patterson’s, with Suliman about town. Yes, Suliman ibn Aziz. What a pleasant thing of you to say. Thank you. Yes, as a matter of fact he is my cousin. They were quite close. Oh, yes, you know men, always off playing their little games…

—Ismae bin Hatoumi

 

…acquaintance of my husband, Albert Patterson. No……with men like Guy. I don’t really know, ask Albert if you like, he could probably smell the viscera on him. Men do that, don’t they? Smell each other like rutting bucks? I think so, I’ve seen it. You see a lot of that here. Because of Albert, of course. He likes it here. The atmosphere is fruitful for his compositions. I put aside my own ambitions long ago. Don’t look at me like that. You have no conception of our relationship. Don’t misunderstand me, I care so little of your opinion, I’m sure. Albert and I met at a party at the Corcoran Gallery. Yes, in Washington. It was his exhibition. My first novel had just been published, he had read it, we talked. Two months later we were married. I’m sure my parents……through Europe, we lived in Venice, Nice, now we live here. Ten years. What this has to do with Guy I can’t begin to fathom. No, I haven’t read his work. Privacy wasn’t the issue, I don’t know if he ever wrote anything down. His was not a conventional method, but yes, I suppose I am somewhat familiar with it. Once or twice we discussed Albert’s paintings, Guy didn’t much care for them, but appreciated, what did he say? there, ‘hidden moments,’ yes, that’s what he said. I thought it was curious. Albert was not pleased when I told him, I don’t know why, it was a fine thing to say. He can be so odd……stories. We’ve all heard the stories. Why would it trouble me? I wasn’t afraid……mad, mad world…

—Margaret Patterson

 

…no longer feel…….disappeared, all of me, as if into an infinite abyss. Everything has fallen away, my name, my country, my profession, my mask, my mission, all is gone and without meaning, down the long dark hole with no end. I see now what you do, its ineffability……fool I was to think I could have understood, translated somehow. The star above are part of it all aren’t they? The distance between them like the distance between the cells of my body. Part of this I feel inside what used to be me, what used to move me, now forever away and yet of the same cloth, the vast tapestry. It is all dead now. I have found ……

—Unknown Fragment

 

…Twillbeen. Twillbean was the first and not the last, she her face like Hejira, spread like crucified hawk in sun……crimson……(audio ends)

—Unknown Fragment

 

Guy Toussaint, he belonged here. It is rare for me to say of a foreigner, particularly of a French. I first saw him in the souk, drinking coffee and nibbling pistachios. Excuse my English, Guy did not nibble, he took each nut carefully, not as a plurality, removed it’s shell and placed it in his mouth whereby he commandeered it’s very essence, yet in a manner certainly the pistachio, were it apt, would willingly submit. Such devotion. Yes, as I said, I saw him in a café in the market and I watched him for a moment, not having seen the man previous. And he was very handsome, have you seen pictures? Such a powerful nose he had, like the desert hawk. I watched him for some time and, once certain I was not mistaken of his character, I introduced myself. Yes, not often mind you, but my role sometimes necessitates such interactions. Excuse me? Why yes, I do so often. We are a hospitable people Mr. Milton. Perhaps it is not so in, where are you from? Ann Arbor? This is? I have traveled to New York only, though on more than one occasion. I am certain yours is a delightful country, but as is mine. I am quite content. Of Guy? You’re being sincere? Yes, I am aware that you wish to understand Guy, but such matters are private ones. Given the circumstance, however, for your edification, the answer is no. May I continue? Yes, thank you. I introduced myself and in the following months we saw each other with some regularity. Mr. Tippendale, yes, Lawley too was there on occasion. I associate with many of the expatriate community. I did my schooling at the Sorbonne, you see. I have some experience traveling in those channels, though I must say I prefer being in my home waters so to speak, while the others I swim with are the new fish, heh, heh. It’s a little joke, of course. But as I said, I found Guy to be a man who belonged in the Maghreb. As the bedu would say, it is as if he has looked into the desert night and seen his death in the stars. Only such a man can ever truly belong among the Arabs. What did he do? For a profession you mean? I do not know, such things are not so important are they? It is said that he wrote poetry, or perhaps painted watercolours, but I do not know if this is accurate or just a fancy of the chattering class of ladies one finds in Tangiers. For my part I never read any of his work. I was not interested. I have no need to write books on his accomplishments. He was my friend and that is quite enough. We walked. We talked. What friends do I suppose. Have you any friends Mr. Milton? The same then. Or perhaps not. No matter. Carry on with your questions. Yes, I am certain he had many mistresses, but our time together was private from such worldly concerns. It was a time for men to speak in confidence. Perhaps it is different in Ann Arbor, but among my friends, the discussion of such conquests would be considered ill-mannered, not to mention unnecessary. To once again assuage your rather prurient curiosities, I would suppose Guy to have been a harsh, if capable, lover. Yes, I do speak of him in the past tense, perfect progressive, no? I am not certain either, hence I ask a native speaker. Well never mind, it is of no importance. I do not think he is dead, if that is what you are asking. No, I do not imagine I will. Of course we were close, but what is it you must think of Guy, that he is a pigeon……will meet again……(audio ends)

—Suliman ibn Aziz

 

Dimlik buggery…dizlik…buggery…buggery…bugger…bugge…bbbbaa…
—Unknown Fragment

 

wennermark For the last several years, Erik Wennermark has been living and writing throughout Asia; he recently relocated from Hong Kong to Tokyo. His work is available in GuernicaTalking Book, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @erikwmark.

Share

About Author

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


2 + one =