Asa Nimi Masa

15/2/2022 • 15 min • meaningless fiction

"The camera is a liar. It shows everything. It shows nothing. It reveals only what we want. Often, what we see is seen only from a window, moving past and then gone. One window. My window. If you’d been here, chances are you would have seen things differently."

—Anthony Bourdain

Collectively, we thought of utopia, exactly like our predecessors. Manifestos were written; to destroy the "contemporary"; to light the beacon of a movement; an "ism" to last a century; to become idealists again. All in hopes to stop the influence of cultural wastelands, of cultural degradation, of the mechanistic nature of the self-serving minorities in charge of societies. We thought we could become a New Avant Garde; to move art in directions as a means to civilization.

“Avant-Garde” came from the French term for Vanguard, the military scouts that were always in front of the other marching troops to scope out what was happening.

We were never the Avant-Garde. We were La Guerilla—with secret traitors amongst us— defending our homes with kitchen knives and Molotov cocktails while the enemy rolled down the streets in tanks. It was too late. The best we could do was to delay the inevitable.

I found myself outside a mid-sized Modernist train station with no train to catch. Alderfurt-Lachs Nordwest Bahnhof said the lit-up signboard shining bright in an empty night sky; all carefully typeset in Spartan. They always loved their long names, but I was never actually there or here. I knew that, because there was no one else here. The station was closed with plywood boards covering the windows. But the sign kept going.

I used her first key, out of two, to open the door. It was a dream come true, an entire station to myself. Oh what mysteries lie in these hundred year old buildings, still used for its exact same purpose to this day? I loved the unknowns: the war bunker underneath platforms 2 and 3 at Gare de L’Est, the unused service platforms at Gare du Nord, and Mussolini’s royal waiting room in Milano Centrale behind giant doors passed every day by tourists and commuters alike without a second thought. As for myself was an empty void.

It was nothing like the dream. I had only two keys, one to enter and one to exit; the rest was locked down. A singular path to follow set by someone else. No forks, no opportunity to question. I sat down on the cold marble floor as the moon shallowly illuminated trough the windows. In the pursue of agency had I gained almost none. They, an unreachable carrot on a stick. I, a donkey being commandeered unknowingly. A pawn in the game of others. They were so scary, I hated it and would have rather died.

It was clear which door the second key opened the very moment I entered. It was an inconsequential door resembling the entrance of a janitorial closet, which museums refer to as the caretaker. It stared at me just as I stared back, like a tiger in the grass waiting for the right moment to capture its prey. I had been trying and failing to get through different doors—anything but that, just to prove that I was able to: staff entrances, shops, maintenance tunnels, toilets. The door knew this; it judged me for it. I could feel it tormenting me, laughing, and taking pleasure from the fact that I had no choice. Humiliation. I waited an hour, and the clock struck midnight, the second hand carefully pausing two seconds on the hour mark. Reluctantly, I opened the door marked 302.

I tripped my way down the marble stairs and a highly decorated candle-lit dining hall awaited me. The occasion? A child’s birthday party: equal parts barbie-girl, Día de Muertos as imagined by Americans, and Adam’s Family. The color pink and cartoon skeletons became the visual motif in the form of a 20 meter long table of dollar-store material and hand crafted ornamental chairs with the Trashy off-brand essence of an American Versailles: plastic forks, off-brand pop, Halloween-themed paper plates, skull cups, and a tissue-paper thin table cloth all bought for a dollar a pop—well $1.50 with inflation. Balloon letters spelled Happy Birthday alongside that mysterious phrase from a long time ago. “Asa Nimi Masa.”

The centerpiece was a cheap supermarket bakery coffin cake and a dead girl in the nude, her skin pale and purple tinted. I picked up a polaroid photo of a baby girl called Ani Maus which had some instructions on the back: This not a day for mourning but one for celebration. Cut open the sacrifice.

Fuck that.

I tried the door in hopes of escaping, but it was locked from the outside.

Reluctantly, I picked up the hot-pink cake knife that was lying there and cut her lengthwise from the top of the scalp down trough the neck, cleavage, the belly, down to the vagina. A produce-style sticker was stuck on the anus that said “Peel me.” I did so, and underneath this skin was an equally naked, but sleeping, girl.

The sides of the hall burned down to ash as if it was nothing more than the plywood sides of a sitcom studio. The table transformed into turned into a queen-sized bed. The ground, into a burning rainforest while the clouds simultaneously dropped an ocean’s worth of raindrops. The trees mimicked a child’s drawing with those illogical branch configurations: half of them were birch, the other half fir.

For a flash moment, she gave a quick smile which then vanished along with the skins that covered her, leaving behind a still beating heart attached with several fragile nervous threads to a brain.

The clouds kept poured down the freezing water like a shower head at full blast which also did nothing to stop the wildfire. I couldn’t decide whether I was hot or cold, it all sort of came together. I was so scared that I went to bed, with the heart and brain held tight to my chest. As I closed my eyes, the brain and heart sank into my chest like quicksand. I slept for a long time—too long. It must have been several days, and yet it felt like many years—decades even.

Grown-ups is a euphemism for insanity; as a child, I had all the means to imagine a better but lacked the knowledge or agency to act upon it. Many years later, I finally gained the knowledge and agency needed to make change but had forgotten what I had meaning to do; I was too busy. I had the chance, but never managed to become young again. Now that I’m older, I lost my hearing and sight, not just in reality, but also in my dreams.

Life was nothing but a black void for what felt like eternity. Then, in one short moment did I gain the ability to see and hear again—perhaps so for the last time. Not only that, I was also young again, but it was too late.

I was in a desert again. Although this time it was not supplemented with a spectacular ancient city. Instead, were those four persons that stood in a semi-circle.

“Remember, in order to make something new, you have to destroy,” whispered one from the inside of my right ear.

“Buono fortuna,” whispered the other from the left.

He started growing. He grew larger and kept going—like a skyscraper; he became one; he beat the records, he was now probably the tallest in this world; he was exactly like a skyscraper as designed by Mies van de Rohe—made of steel, glass, and concrete—which covered his engorged organs, muscle mass, and his guts—it was his skin, his skeleton; he was stuck; he was boxed in this life without any control; he was human in body only and only barely so.

This affected the one for some reason as she screamed and turned into aggressive shapes that showed motion frozen in time like Umberto Boccioni’s Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio. He grabbed her which melted her genitalia and breasts into nothing—and she turned ambiguous.

The last one couldn’t stand this. He covered himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire which also made him grow large until he morphed into a sun—a complex sun composed of a trillion pencil strokes. He was now capable of doing anything, but did not know what he wanted—he never did in the first place. He went to absorb the other, whom turned into a simpler and simpler figure, like the different iterations of Picasso’s bull, and then too turned ambiguous and was eaten.

On the ground, were the possessed, ghost-like, semi-transparent bodies of them in their original state.

I put my hands trough each of the ghosts of their bodies to find a beating heart in one, and a wet brain in another and violently pulled them out.

Oh how much we loved dreaming about a world where it was not the underlying forces of civilization that moved art and culture. Oh how much we feasted on blind optimism in a meal which had in fact been a final supper. Those friends must have had theirs already. I will never see them again, but that’s ok because I also never met them. I returned from the woods from a hunt, and lacking any Golden Retrievers, I had to fetch the goods myself.

I sat down at a white table-clothed American police interrogation table and placed my meal on the plate. Cutlery and a plastic wine glass filled with grape juice could also be found, but I elected to ignore both. I didn’t need any appetizers or deserts. No bread baskets. No amuse-bouches. No cheese platters. The main course was more than enough. That’s the only thing life will give you anyway.

With no grown-ups at the table, I ate with my hands with heaps of curry-ketchup and frietsaus. (Had I been older, I might have appreciated a strong mustard to go along with it.) The raw heart that kept beating throughout the whole dinner was like chewing beef jerky while the brain had a texture closer to custard. There was so much food; but my stomach was a bottomless pit.

It was my turn to grow. Two additional legs and arms grew on each side and my torso got wider (but not fatter), and out popped another head; but it didn’t quite look like mine; and I kept growing and growing until my torso split and I was two persons. One of them visually indescribable.

I was quite literally larger then life; in deep space, the earths visible—there were two side by side—were nothing more but painted Easter eggs—but I didn’t feel like eating them—I couldn’t.

“Life comes from death,” said a voice.

“This is love, and that is love,” I said.

Someone did not matter anymore. It was a real person with real flesh, but as a mere figment. I wish it never mattered. But how could I possibly escape what I believed to be her song, and what I always imagined was said: "I'll be you mirror." As I learned, it is not a love song—they forced her to sing it until she broke down into tears. Dancers getting shot, swimmers getting shot. Sometimes, I wish I could cry; I cherish those 200 night skies I saw with my eyes closed, although with the detail of a pinhole camera, I could live without my body screaming; an invisible pain, but so was she.

I looked at my right to my other self. It was a recreated memory of someone, like a stunt double that almost, but not quite, looked like the actress. Even further right was someone else, this time in her natural hair, a sight I had never seen before. She smiled and muttered some words in silence before turning and walking away. I returned the wave with no sorrow in the farewell. A boring, but incredibly boring errand. I stepped inside the stunt-double and the two Earths became whole again, without me in it.

— Laurens Spangenberg