Still*

The best Utopias are those that fail the most comprehensively  _Frederic Jameson

Meeting the present is like meeting a new lover: telling the story of how you got to be this way in the present moment suddenly changes its usual cadences because of the occasion of the telling  _Lauren Berlant

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_I-I’d like to explain about my wife.
_You did.
_No – I want you to know that I tried to make a go of it. I’d like you to believe that. A great many mistakes are made in the name of loneliness.
_There’s no need to discuss it Mark.
_Alright, I won’t bring it up again.
_You’re brown. You’ve been in the sun.
_Y- I’ve been playing a lot of tennis.
_What am I going to do if you go back to China?
_Play more tennis.
_You’re not really going back to Chongqing, are you?
_It wouldn’t be good for you to see too much of me anyhow – might even be harmful.
_Oh, why?
_I’m Eurasian. The word itself seems to suggest a certain moral laxity in the minds of some people. People never think of the meaning of words, they only feel them.
_We’re talking about stupid people –
_Make no mistake – I’m proud to be Eurasian. I like to think that we combine the best qualities of both races, that we’re the answer to race snobbery.
_W-well, you’re certainly the answer to a lot of things for me.
_Mark, like everyone else in Hong Kong you’re at loose ends. I think you probably need a love affair. But I’m not the answer. I will make no mistakes in the name of loneliness. I have my work and an uncomplicated life. I don’t want to feel anything again, ever.
_A moment ago you said that words had no meaning, that people have to feel.
_Let’s not tax the day with self analysis… The friends I was going to see have a house over there, right across the bay. Would you like to swim over and drop in on them?
_Why not?

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_I’m late. When I didn’t see you I was afraid you had gone.
_You’re early; we’re both early. Give me your hand.
_Time passes so quickly – I didn’t want to be late.
_I wasn’t thinking about time.
_ [Laughter] How good it is to know a man who doesn’t live his life measuring time in bits and pieces. I like it so much. […] Hong Kong, [both looking into the distance] the hoard of a jewel thief.
_What incredible hands you have. They curve like a Balinese dancer’s.
_I have always been afraid of hands, men’s hands; I’m not afraid of yours. […] Please do not move. Stay very still.
_Why?
_A butterfly has perched on your shoulder. It’s a sign of good luck. Oh! You shouldn’t have turned! It was a good omen.
_Why you’re superstitious … and you a doctor!
_But I was born to superstition. In China, when a peasant has a son he dresses him in girl’s clothes and gives him a girl’s name because he’s afraid that the jealous gods may take him away. Or if the crop in the field is bountiful, he stands in the ditch and shakes his head and cries aloud, “bad rice, bad rice!” He does this to propitiate the gods, to deceive them. So it is with me. I should like to deceive the gods, for if they notice me, they may be jealous.
_We mustn’t let the angry gods notice us. [Shaking hands in the air] Bad rice, bad rice!
_Be quiet. I am very serious.
_So am I.

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_Give me your hand.
_Every woman in love should have a secret garden.
_And every man in love should have a mountain.
_Mark … do you remember the man you wanted to interview? The one you said was the first richest person in the world? Well, he isn’t.
_You are?
_How did you know? [Laughter]
_Oh, I’ve leant to read your mind too.
_In the next life let us be birds.
_According to the laws of reincarnation, in the next life I will be a woman and you will be a man.
_On no, I refuse to be a man. You have reconciled me to being a woman.
_Alright, I’ll have you as you are.
_Well, I’m sure I should go as limp inside of you in the next life as I do in this one.
_What sort of things will you write about in Korea?
_Oh, the same sort of things I wrote about in Africa, Indonesia: the cold facts of war; the other things that tell of men afraid, men suffering; people caught up in events they can’t understand.
_Mark? Do correspondents ever get killed?
_Mm’h, a friend of mine got killed by a bus in Tokyo.
_If anything happens to you … I shall give up medicine. I would hate my fellow man too much for having hurt you.
_Then I would be the worst thing that ever happened to you. And I would know it.
_ What time should you leave?
_Ten minutes ago. [Looking at watch]
_War has strapped you to a watch.
_Unfortunately my plane leaves on schedule.
_I wanted to bring you a present but there wasn’t time. You know I’ve never given you anything…
_Oh, Mark! What a wrong and dreadful thing to say.
_What a nice thing to reply. I have to go now and I don’t want you to be sad.
_I won’t be sad; sadness is so ungrateful.
_And I don’t want you to come down the path with me. I want to look back and see you here.
_I will be here when you come back to it. I promise.

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* This post is logged as part of an assignment where I was asked to “take up the problem of starting and … to imagine a future utopia, one that deals with some aspect of neoliberalism by proposing an alternative.” Rather than looking to the future, I tried to think about feeling in the present the capacity to disrupt and remake, to think about memory as a kind of starting rooted in stillness.

Stills from Garcia’s West Coast Vacation, 1990
Excerpts from Love is a Many-Slendored Thing, 1955, John Patrick (screenplay)

CG

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