Body Without Soul

12/8/2022 • 7 min • meaningless fiction

Her body was there in the nude with a name I forgot. She was young, as far as models went, and average looking with a thin built and a hard to draw rectangular shaped torso, with a French approach to body hair; this was to be later to be represented by means of lines, shapes, texture and patterns. I grabbed a piece a charcoal and dragged it across the canvas with veracious movements originating from an unknown need. I was not alone; a whole cohort of scratching sounds could be heard in the background; this was my first life drawing class. This is where the beauty and the rawness of the human figure could be seen, observed, and interpreted. Contrary to popular believe, life drawing is not erotic. The spectacle and sexual nature wears off quickly as the human figure gets dehumanized and objectified into individual forms and shapes and sequentially re-humanized, subjectified, and characterized onto the page. Ideally, a life drawing is not just an accurate representation of how a person looks, but also their personality and their soul as seen trough the subjectivity of the artist. This is why I always found “realistic” portraiture boring; they tell us very little about a person.

But today I was in the nude, and all I could think about was being that model; to be watched and observed; to be able to hide nothing. But I was in no class and there were no artists surrounding me. I looked up to see a sky lacking a vanishing point as it blended with the sea, and as an ocean breeze filled the air. The cyan colored water vibrated thanks to the mid-afternoon sun, and my warm naked body depressed onto the surface of a rock beach.

Away from the beach and were the remains of a vintage and abandoned Mediterranean beach town; a ruin; the building foundations merged with the roots of plants; sloped roofs were missing every other tile; terraces were littered by battered umbrellas, chairs, and tables. It was the perfect beauty within the ugly. A ruin is a sketch of the past; it is a souvenir that relies on the viewer to imagine what it used to be; to imagine what it could have been.

I smelled fire. My hunger followed it deeper into the ruins. The lowest depths of hunger force you to imagine the most strange of things. The cackling of the flames, the hypnotizing smog, and the subtle tears from my eyes. In the town square was a burning deflated hot air balloon.

There was a young woman sitting down with her feet up and a lit cigarette, not a care about my lack of clothing.

“Eat first, Aiko,” she said. But I had forgotten what was supposed to be my name.

“I know this seems really hard to believe, but I just woke up naked by that beach and uh, could you tell me where I am? And who are you?”

I noticed the white clothed table, with steaks, potato and dandelion salad topped with dark pumpkin seed oil, polenta squares, and a bean mash with pork cracklings. To drink, white wine was poured into stainless steel camping cups.

“Eat first Aiko,” she repeated again, “because you are what you eat.”

I sat down and ate my meal, and she joined me.

“I’m Coral and you’re just along the coastlines of the former Adriatic Republic. Now, part of the so called Holy Remulian Empire. We never learned from imperialism or war—no one ever does. But where you are is unimportant. Where is it you want to go?”

“I already have too many questions left unanswered: Where really am I? Where do I want to be? Where, should I be? Truthfully, I am bored of sadness and sad of boredom. I wish I could be somewhere else, all the time, or to be with someone else I never met as I meet new people which I hate doing, or to be new people as I am alone, or to be someone else as I move myself—this bag of flesh—around.”

“If you don’t know where to go, then it doesn’t matter which road you take. Take the fork. But, I’ll tell you what you can do. After this eternal picnic, we will go to the movies.”

“And if this picnic is eternal, how can anything possibly happen afterwards.”

“Eternity is a state of mind, not a state of time. Time always continues regardless of anything, it’s one our only constants in life: the constant that there is no such thing as a constant.”

“What about the time before Remulians?”

“And then war happened, and we tried to make meaning from those many dates and names to stay sane, like everyone does, but they are in fact meaningless. We measure records in hopes that there will be an end, but it never does. Never mind The Adriatic; Aiko, I have something to ask of you, I have known only war these months. Could you tell me a love story?”

I forgot what exactly I told her. I never had love. But she sought out original stories she could collect like tiny shells and therefore said:

“Only on midnight does love happen, watching a drawing of a perfect sheep—night skies best seen eyes closed—getting closer to the end of time, moments past the cherry blossoms, using ancient runes of time keeping; a half created visitor arrived on Matisse’s island and Monet’s sunset, where strains of hair flowed like grass fields; the spoken words turned silent, trough the works of a hopeful heart, about someone always far away.”

I never remembered finishing our meal, it really was eternal and I only ever recalled a perpetual middle, and then I was seated at an old cinema.

The projector gave light. The first few minutes was nothing but garbled noise, which made the identity of this film a complete mystery. It was a black and white magical-realist romance involving a toxic couple who are both cheating on each other with the precise knowledge of what the other was doing. The man was an artist while the woman was a struggling actress that fantasized about being young again. At least, that’s what I understood; I couldn’t understand the language, except for the fact that it wasn’t Italian, French, Spanish, nor Greek.

At one point the woman became a spectacle as she joyfully walked in circles around a street—the public gazing at her apparent beauty—wearing an exquisite white dress—the camera following her in a single dynamic shot. In the next moment she returned to the dreadful reality—she had been daydreaming. The view switched back to the perspective of the someone, who, in a dream sequence, ran across a rainy street and entered trough an open window. This morbid monochrome street became a technicolor desert.

“I don’t recall this happening,” she said. I panned my head towards her, but she was nowhere to be seen. It was not that someone who entered trough the other side, it was me. Or rather, I was the character. I was stylish and wore a black suit, a matching cape, and sunglasses that gave everything a warm tint. I was to play this bitter character—much older—filled with grey hairs originating from a burnt out creative career. With nowhere else to go, I made my steps trough a triumphal arch onto the stage of this brave new world, with my new skin I could manage to pretend to know where I was, what I wanted, what I wanted to wear, where I wanted to go, and always, with whom.

— Laurens Spangenberg