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Aug 2010
I look out the window--an endless sky. The clouds are like nothing else--bold explosions and everywhere in the sky, infinite, above and still in time and space--Madness and Horror are said to have their own faces and names. Can't Beauty? Beauty has its own life--not a distinctive face, not a concrete identity--Beauty is breathing, standing, growing above us--the Clouds. I know that it's a bit foggy, I know what is actual is only actual for the one time and standing moment that it is there--maybe the Clouds move, travel, fade--but they never leave us. They're long, still and colossal enough to be viewed, admired, stricken, crushed beneath. I'm on a bus, travelling through San Francisco--a mystery on its own, mad like a spiral or giant--one with a heart and soul that is difficult to pinpoint and seemingly jolting, constantly moving throughout--down streets, through alleys, intensifying in the dazzling Golden Gate Bridge and boundary-less San Francisco Bay--a testament Olympian and profoundly simple, such a straightforward bridge with so many possibilities and tragedies. It's my destination, too.

I go to the Podesta Baldocchi--a flower shop, quaint, small, almost non-existent in the vertigo of San Francisco, but immortalized in another Vertigo--and inspiring search and enigma on its own--the vision of James Stewart chasing hills, corners, all the trails and paths for Beauty--a Beauty with two feet, a name, experiences--Beauty named Kim Novak. He follows Her, from the shores to the grave--She, praying at a cemetery, a faded figure in grief, He, watching obsessively like a predator--He finds Her on the cold shores, of the endless, alien seas--along the Golden Gate Bridge--on the verge of jumping. He saves Her, a metamorphosis of prey and personal freedom is triggered.

That's one of the many beautiful passages of Vertigo that I remember--passion, memory, disappearance, insanity, aggression. "Here I was born, and here I died", says the woman, named Madeline--a fatal, empowering woman of Beauty and melancholy, complex and deceiving. Chris Marker saw this too--a reservoir of thought from his Sans Soleil--the movie, the moment in time where memory and the Great Enigmas had finally been touched by skin and light. February, 1983.

Memory works that way.

That is one of the things I love most; memory. Memory is fading and escaping from me. I look down at my wrinkled hands--grief and nothing else--losing myself. I step onto the cliff where Madeline, where Grace stood. The sea is a rapture. Endless, everywhere, surrounding me from all corners--dozens of people have taken their life here. They jump from the bridge, they slip into the water and drown. Their entire breakdown and loneliness and humanity is silenced and stated in a small slip into the bay, or a thin, white splash--a miniature, but Greater Fall--beneath the bridge in all its magnificence and profundity, beneath the clouds, a silent act of Tragedy and Horror with a face, surrounded and drowned in Beauty and Rapture--breathtaking and cruel.

I am tired and lifeless. I can't stand it. I remember all the beaches, skies, nights, visions of the sun and daughters I've seen in my life, all the smiles I've faked, breaths I took--I hadn't thought of this until the nineties or so, in my wrinkled, tired years. I was remembering Marie--my only girlfriend and wife one I had met in the 40's--compassionate, dangerous, magnificent she was, like Madeline. Perfection and grace and danger. I had grown, loved, lived, watched everything and took every step with her--before she had died in 1989. She was my only care, my only love. I couldn't grip myself then. I hear my parents speaking, my mum and dad--dead now--my children, beautiful things--I couldn't keep them. I couldn't. I couldn't, their eyes porcelain--I went insane over all of it, a time to foggy to look back on. Time is the same stretch, place is the same and distilled--but memory is everywhere--one thing I love and can't stand.

And now I am here. The beauty is pastoral, distant, glowing and also deadly--like cloudy figures of steel and glass, concrete with fountains and blood in the shape of landscapes and towers--branches, cold, in a lonely place, fading from truth and Truth, identity and Greater Life--a thousand misty passions and poses stretched and scattered. I'm hopeless, I'm lonely, I'm cold. I'm wary, tired, confused with nothing left in me. I'm leaving, Reconciling beneath, below, and everywhere around Beauty.

I understand any doubts. I cannot take my nerves or my senses. They've failed, broken down on me--I've lost myself, very permanently this time.

I fall. I see nothing, feel everything crushing, me lying in the crystal bay--it fades. I can't see. I can't speak--I can't love, embrace, understand--I open my eyes, dizzy and faded, in a house, a rather cluttered, yet homely one. I believe I am small, looking up to my great pale towering mother, breats and lips and glowing limpid eyes... a fireplace, some warmth, some haze and some tears of joy. It is falling apart, where I am, but it is of embracing memory. I'm being looked and smiled at. I don't know where this is.

I close my eyes, I stand and open them seven years later. Cold water at my feet and sand--I look around to see a beach, stretched infinitely--past boundaries or understanding. The sea is dizzying. I look up to see that Beauty--still standing, moving across and thinning--that Beauty is sunless. Nothing but Clouds--an illusion, foggy and slippery of sorts--impossible and unbearable to experience. I stumble.

I look up, and there's now a ceiling--tall, blazing gold, marmalade and kaleidoscope--everything is blurring and melting. I'm in a hallway, with parents--a father and mother, loving, caring and safe; the only thing in front of me is a painting, swirled and swerved shore to thunder and graceful and passionate so distant--Holy, Andalusian girls from a Utamaro madman; thinly, finely lined, velvet in color and delicacy, colliding and cracked in shape, memory or sense. The painting falls, crashes, and the ceiling falls and opens to voices and laughs. I stumble, tremble, get knocked staggering, look down the hallway. It's crashing to black--I stumble to anyone; my father, the mad size of him, I rush and cling still around his arms--a shadow--then his terrible branches rising, fading, and everywhere--complete pitch black--coming for me? Far and off and a way a place cold and a lone in the Fall long and thundering--rippled--moving--then white--then clearly.

My next vision I can comprehend without running terrified is in Japan. It's 1964, I am 25. A television set, murky like playing out my dazed oxygen-starved hallucinatory real-fake mindbursting memories. Headlines, people, looking down at me. I can feel my knees again, and my heart. It's the Year of the Dragon, I'm nervous uncontrollably. Night after night, each one passing by as I blink, walking, everything changing, changing from me, I can feel. Or maybe I can't. I keep my eyes open, and don't lose my breath, hiding in rooms and feeling and apart torn so vast. I look at my surroundings--I don't know where I am--I think in my last passage? passed on through a thousand miles and faces and every conscious and spirit. My last one. I can't hide, though. I'm dying, my last breath and vision being me fading through time--such a quick thing--spinning and burying the Earth As I Have Watched It Through The Years in snow and rain and static and the Dead--I can only stare at the streets. I'm with my girlfriend Marie, it's November 28th, 1975.

She says to me, "What's wrong? You're on the balcony alone. You've been there for hours."

Marie, hold on tight, please. I'm lonely, terrified, frightened--I made a mistake, life is coming and going with all radiance and fleeting and darkness and closing doors. I've witnessed my birthday from another room. I've thought of my life again. I've seen it, distorted, everywhere, in colors and in heaps of broken fragments, images and ruins. I need your help--

"Nothing, just enjoying the city. It's beautiful," I say. It's nightfall, blinding rain, in Paris. That's where we spent our vacation, me and Marie. I love her; she'll be gone the next morning.

Then I go back. Different times, warm times, times like beauty and solid, everything going racing and wayward that I can't see a color and then white then eyes pale and hyacinths all over the place--I see Marie in the distance, oh Yes like poised like drips like canvas all around surround floating laying, kissing me, the Day I'd wrapped gently around her now I can see it like a reflection, and O I can't take it--that very last look, her face vivid--and I can't look back and I can't look down or up--just her face, lovely, wrapping more and Closer and oh Yes all around me and my mouth is going insane so tired and limpid losing words and tract and

And I can see you so lovely so gracefully and yes I will kiss you and gently cradling and your skin like rose and blossoms with the smooth touch from an Eve in flesh shrouded red and raw and when I feel anything else running through my veins like clockwork oh Yes it blazes all lovely like a reflection and the last lonely place left to fade to is only the Clouds and Sea and oh yes with all the magic of the Rite of Spring and the fogs and streaks of August O but then now I see I see O Lord I see the one-thousand-one dead poses and faces like this marie not the one I know but her Beauty erased a lying a loft a living Girl a shape a branch and yet still loving in her stone face-without-a-face so Anonymous so Kiss Me Deadly leave me taking me sprawling around me creeping crouching touching growing up my skin and veins and conscious watching all the artifice leave me and all colors and thought coming up lashing melting seething roiling yes oh yes just like a reverie like genuine insanity haunting and boiling like sweet crazed Narcissus in all the Moorish vines so thorny so lost so complicated and savage rose gardens is all one can see like solid waves--in the distance, the bold-coifed Wooden Duke, the blue Queen, away from the warped, whirling war scape outside and cold and I'm taken back a bit now bundled away from all the rows and thorny laces of buildings among buildings way in the distance out the window like crooked Van Gogh details and the noir jagged edges and tete-a-tete feeling of Life and Hope that the neons floating down streets give you when all seeping and spraying in your eyes and O the tangled webs and thorns and spiders of the panes and glass and shards and sharp'n'smooth curls and spiraling rings of it all and O the strewn of flesh like insect and myth and negative space and city all coated and sprawled I'm going to explode and I look up to see every bit of sand, waves, bold lines and streaks above and beyond me, all those curves and rods very dizzying and all beating and throbbing like mad and my vision went like some frothing beast held and dissected under light and shape oh Yes I say and I tell you while being dragged through all the Andalusian flowers and raindrops beside and above me and the Universe and the Love that could've been it's all above me too like a rose growing and blossoming with all the melting grace of a Holy girl oh Yes I say and state as clear again so rapturously like a living poem and as I leave everyone and leave this illusion I can sigh and pause and oh my goodness it's all spinning and apart and transcendent like the first Clouds and Grace above a monochromatic world--a speck--Nothing in its embrace--I stop, gaze with the recollection of every gesture of love and love's death in my life--I'm somewhere, everywhere, from the cosmos to the sea--and the ****** comes before me--Marie, Marie--and I burst and split like dust--she speaks to me. She listens, she hears, the only thing, milky, porcelain eyes and skin like nothing else--I ask her where I am. She opens her mouth, bestridden and humbled like a shadow or a monument. Glowing like birth, she told me--solemn, silent, fuzzy--she told me that I'm dying. "Life is slipping--all of you, your raw hands, your face, your memory--everything is slipping, gently. You're being erased from the world, experienced, dismaying--you're far from it."

I asked, "Where?"

She stared, bled, disappeared into thin air and continued, "I always get lost, thinking or looking into the sea or sky. Infinite, lovely. It never ends. Never, ever ends. I look at it and cannot help but forget about every bit of land, forget any shore, stone, or war, or the clearest whisper--because it fades away from me, so clearly, and I can't help but stare down the endless waves and curls, because they go on forever. They're everything. They're all mist and unbearable, simple and Everything--I think you're at the end of Everything."

My last Beauty.
Written by
Rondu McPhee
4.8k
   Tyler Lynn Pulliam
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