Ali Raz | On Belonging

I am telling a woman, in a dream, that she fell into my life through contingency. I am telling her that she is from another world. I tell her, our paths crossed because you fell into this world by error. You belong somewhere else. By the time I finish speaking, she has vanished, the traces she’d left in my life slowly evaporating. This is how it is, maybe. People who seem too good to be of this world – they are, perhaps, truly from another world.

 

Before she disappeared, she asked me, plaintively, how it was that she had fallen from her true world.

 

In New York, a friend suggested to me the movie Mysterious Skin. It involves alien abductions and the cult of the UFO. My friend told me the film used the figure of the alien as a means of sublimating trauma. So I listened to her and watched the movie, while I was down with a strange viral sickness. The film had its moments. In particular, the opening scene: a wash of pure white light, and in it a shower of cereal, bright, multicolored and ultrareal.

 

There’s a relation between aliens and light, there is, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

 

Auster calls New York “the most forlorn of places, the most abject, the nothingness that we have built around ourselves.”

 

By this figuration, New York is everywhere, all places.

 

Consider, for example: I was in that other city, city undesignated, woozy in the afternoon because I’d stayed awake all night. More unwilling to sleep than unable. I remember, I sustained myself on soda and sweet tea. A character in a TV show, on a bus with his mother on a rainy afternoon, slumped in his seat. The music switches mood, I catch the refrain

 

riding a bus that

takes them nowhere

 

and I vibrate to it, I feel I have found a familiar. But I am, of course, wrong, and entire planes of reality stand between us.

 

Heidegger’s concept of mood, or attunement, as

the overall atmosphere or medium in or through which our thinking,
doing and acting occurs, a way of being that shape our thoughts, our
will, and our particular affective attachments to particular objects

 

What a gross figuration. As if the nothing inside us communed with others; as if existence weren’t entirely solitary. As if the world outside us had anything to do with us.

 

As if contact were possible at all.

 

How do I explain it? No, I can’t explain it.

 

This is how the narration in Mysterious Skin begins, the very first lines: The summer I was 8 years old, five hours disappeared from my life.

 

This banality, missing time.

 

Contact is not possible. Stability neither. Continuity is the greatest farce. Belonging is a lie.

 

Now when I think of her, it is without volition. The pain is unbearable. I see you standing by the ocean, radiant. I am a pupa, covered in layers.

 

It is times like these the sense of life slays me.

 

And I realize – again – how damned it all is, whole thing. The all of it turgid and shit.

 

A Saturday of sadness. The sun is too violent today. I thought that I had surpassed this, this particular – all too familiar – texture of pain. Naiveté makes me smile.

 

Something old and aged fills me. I will make soup today.

 

There’s a lady, my neighbor. Every evening she stands on the sidewalk and calls out to her dog, who in roaming has gone too far. She is the only neighbor I ever see. I watch a movie and, outside, a building burns down. I step into an alien landscape: ash and dust, smoke and flame.

 

The rattle of a machine gun. Shredding the fabric of my dreams. You should know, I shudder with anger when I think of you.

 

The sensation of alienation. Suddenly, in one’s body, to feel disembodied. In a roomful of people, I begin to asphyxiate. My tongue, a lizard, flicks at the roof of my mouth. Any moment now, I fear I will detonate.

 

The question of missing time.

 

Overcome by the sun, I fall into bed, curl in the sheets.

 

Cockroaches: they are a gregarious insect. And fluid, given the right conditions they begin to fly.

 

Under the influence of a strong psychedelic, I begin to hallucinate. The episode ends when I vomit, shivering and shaking. Everything has gone to hell. I can’t differentiate anymore, between START and STOP.

 

Let me tell you something. We are alone when we are together. Falling in love is suicide.

 

You are the knife  which I twist inside myself.

You are the knife with which I dissect myself.

 

Erase me like a disk.

 

I woke up one morning missing whole chunks of my life. Entire continents of time. Holes, you know, like in a substance corroded by acid. A deliberate defacement; looking in the mirror, I can’t recognize myself. I shiver in the sun. Clammy in a stranger’s skin. Between you and me, friend, the entire world.

 

I stumble through days of darkness, searching for my kidney, searching for my spleen.

 

Then.

 

Two boarding passes and I’m sitting on a sofa in this airport, waiting for a plane again. I feel my fear in the palm of my hand. The old exhaustion. Familiar churning in my gut. It’s time to leave. I can’t wait. Outside’s a massive, swamplike heat. Humidity. I want to dip my head in acid. Clean myself out. Shake the dirt that’s all over me. It’s time to leave at last and I can’t wait, but I think something’s happened, this blinding flash of light.

 

 

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Ali is a shapeshifter.