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WANT TO BE AS LUCKY AS HE




My brother Adi was a good fifteen years younger than me. Despite such a glaring age gap between us, we were thick friends. He was an endearing young man whom I ardently loved; still I was awfully tight-fisted with my compliments, lest it get to his head. When I say that, I do not imply whatsoever that he had a tendency to let things get to his head, just that we were not the overtly demonstrative type of brothers, nevertheless, like still waters run deep, were there for each other when we needed to be there for each other.
“I think that books address the ear,” said he, as he reached for the decanter. “You care for one?” he enquired holding a whiskey glass up for me.
“No, thank you,” I answered.
“Don’t you dare leap for it once I have begun to sip on it,” he said with an air of authority, “if you do, then I am afraid that I would have to be hauled up for murder.”
That’s what I had loved about him – his unabashed uprightness and his air of assured authority. A man of my own making, I allowed nobody, not even my parents try and boss over me, but this boy held a control over me like nobody else had ever been able to exercise over me, and I was utterly fond of the manner in which he took me for granted. “That’s what elder brothers are for, aren’t they? To cater to the whims of their siblings, regardless of the fuss we make,” he said rather nonchalantly. “How the fuck do you read my mind?” I asked, aghast. “I am your brother,” he replied as he poured himself some whiskey and sat on the leather sofa not too far away from me. “Where was I?” he questioned.
“The ear.”
“Ah, yes, the ear,” he resaid, “I think that books address the ear, a timeless organ, while a movie imprisons one’s eyes. It acts on you, not you on it. That’s why you don’t generally see or look at a movie. You watch it the way a cat watches a bird, until the cat strikes, kills, eats.”
“How much of dope have you snorted since morning?” I asked as if to trouble him a little.
“My dope this morning was an hour and half of intense Taekwondo.”
“Ah, yes.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Do what?”
“That?”
“What?”
“Fuck you!”
I enjoyed irritating him, and I knew, somewhere, even though he patently denied it, he liked being irritated too. To make matters worse, I stretched my hand towards his glass, and he handed it over to me without a battle. I squinted, “Someone had declared that they’d kill me if I drank from their glass.”
“First flatter and then slaughter,” he said with a wink.
“Go on,” I said laughing, thinking to myself about how much I wanted to be like him: disciplined as well as windswept.  
“So coming back to it, in a way, I also think that movie criticism often exhibits an aggressive, personal, killing response, although movies today aren’t dealt with such intelligence or wit or knowledge as they once used to be dealt with.”
“Have you heard of the movie critic Pauline Kael?” I asked.
“Of course,” said Adi rather assertively. I scrutinised him to see if he was being honest or merely fooling me, since Kael was someone not many had read, and those who had, were considered incredibly erudite in their literary tastes.
“You aren’t the only clever one at home, you know,” he breathed heavily.  
“How very kind of you to let me know.”
He rolled his eyes, “I see how some of her sarcasm has seeped into you.”
I laughed.
“Much was made of her visceral responses to movies, as if they were inappropriate. In fact, they were most appropriate, since you watch a movie—a predatory watching—with the primordial intention of eating and killing. It figures that the basic form of movies, literally and figuratively, is the chase, and that people love to eat during movies, subconsciously anticipating the kill, the meal of blood,” he explained.
“It is the same reason why movie actors are more threatened by their audience than any other performers?”
“You mean no performer is more masochistic or suicidal?” he probed.
“Yes, Marilyn Monroe, known for these qualities in her life and art, was loved to an extraordinary degree by the camera, the cannibal eye of her watchers. Hordes gathered in the darkness, eating, eating. Too much was made of her sex appeal, too little of her Oedipal.”
“It is common for people not to read a book to the end, even when they like it, but very few walk out before a movie ends, whatever their opinion of it,” he said.
“Idiosyncratic, don’t you think?”
“You think so? Majority cannot imagine themselves walking out from a cinema because they have never seen a movie they didn’t like.”
“Indeed, we all go for movies we want to see, but say, by chance, we go into a theatre and realise that the movie is not what we had thought it out to be, do you think we would still endure it?”
“People are often pleased by the experience as such, which is easier than reading, and essentially visual and passive, and so, I would say that quality is irrelevant when it comes to the visual, while one could not say the same about a book.”
“I beg to differ,” I said, “unlike reading, it certainly takes a bit more than mere determination to watch a movie, even one you don’t like, since you need only to sit still and not go to sleep.”
“I concur,” said Adi repeating softly my ‘I beg to differ’ in mimicking my intonation.
I smiled, “Besides, you often find yourself watching a movie with a friend who might like it, and then you cannot stand up and suggest leaving.”
“My gentlemanly brother from the sixteenth century,” quipped Adi with a glint of mischief in his eyes, “who has been suspended, unfortunately, in a time-warp and landed up in the throes of the twenty-first century to be precise.” 
“Oh, you are no different.” I made known.
“From which angle do I look like a gentle man?” he asked.  
“How very amusing,” I declared with a titter.
He grinned, “You are right. I have seen at times how an argument over a movie can quickly become furious, and in certain instances end up threatening friendships as well.” I dipped my head and rounded my lips, allowing what he had articulated to establish an internal debate within me. Yes, friendship, or for that matter any relationship, that amputated itself on trivial motives was not worthy of preserving, but then, if we were to lacerate everyone who stood up against us, or disagreed with us, then, sadly, we would be left alone with ourselves, while the world would tug along, unaffected, on its own thoughtless and selfish routes.   “You’ll be fine,” he said patting my knee twice, “don’t think so much.”
“I know,” I said gently, even though it was a sardonic dig at me.
“It is for this reason that movies are known to engage the most primitive sentiments.”
“And you think that books don’t?”
“Books do too, but people read alone, and their experience is internal. Even when a person reads a book aloud to you, it’s nothing like watching a movie with someone.”
“So you are saying?”
“That even going to a movie alone isn’t like the privacy of reading. Movies are intended for the world—are fundamentally social and sensual—insisting on the physical senses of sight and sound, while words in a book make pictures and carry an author’s voice.”
“I see.”
“And these are miracles of interior sensation and belong quite to the radical privacy available only to human beings.”
I was overwhelmed with awe, “Tu itna bada kab ho gaya, Adi?” (When did you grow up so much, Adi?)
He flushed the colour of crimson and smiled shyly. “Some people, as I have seen, dislike the privacy of reading, and hence wear earphones so that they can listen to music at the same time,” he waited, reflected, “and some tend also to dislike the privacy of others who are reading nearby.”
I tapered my eyes to understand better what he was telling me.
“In an airplane, for example,” he further enlightened, recognising I was a bit lost, “the person next to you may begin to make conversation the moment you open a book.”
“Oh, yes, that is truly bothersome.”
“My last girlfriend, when she went to her room to read, was accused by her mother of masturbating.”
“Well her mother might have been right. Her boyfriend,” I pointed to Adi, “is the spiciest male in the whole wide world.”
“How much you dream, my brother,” he laughed, “but, on second thought, you may have a point though. I am, after all, the spiciest male in the whole wide world.”
Both of us laughed for a good few seconds.
“So this is where I think that there is something about privacy—especially the silence and isolation of one’s inner life as represented by reading—that can create a state of anxiety or even irritation in others.”
“In our day, with regard to privacy, the need to desecrate the thing that inspires mass frenzy is spreading in the society like an uncontrollable virus. I recall how the revelation of a little harmless fellatio between two bon vivants affected the course of world history.”
“I think that sex in the movies was so much more sexy than it became after you could actually have sex in the movies. It was dreamy and tender, with sighing and surrendering. Not merely a whole lot of animated athletics.”
“I concur.”
“The same goes with books. The romance in the art of making love is lost. Even in words they simply fuck like animals.”
“Absolutely, and that is when I wondered about all this, particularly about the difference between movies and books, after watching Kubrick’s last movie, Eyes Wide Shut.”
“Oh, that movie was received with much negative criticism, which seemed fair enough, but it held my interest to the end, and later, I remembered many of the scenes with extraordinary clarity. And yet, it wasn’t so much the scenes that haunted me as the central metaphor, which had to do with masks. They appear in, if you have realised, other Kubrick movies too. Gangsters in The Killing wear masks, and so do the marauders in A Clockwork Orange. Apparently, they intensely fascinated Kubrick.” I was enchanted by his observations and paid attention carefully in order not to disrupt his thoughts. “But masks, if you look at them, have been universally fascinating. They are important elements in plays, operas, novels, narrative poems, and many occasions of daily social life, and of course, the movies.”
“Yes, just like face painting and decorative scars are rudimentary masks in tribal societies.”
“Have you heard that in technologically advanced countries, the cosmetics industry provides savage masks for innumerable women who won’t settle for a natural face. Masks are so much in evidence everywhere that we hardly see them. Kubrick made them salient as objects to contemplate, and as metaphors crucial to his thematic concern.”
“Yes, in a way we each live and die with masks.”
“Being literally or metaphorically masked, makes it possible what is, at worst, only imaginable, and this happens several times in Kubrick’s movie as characters seek sexual pleasure, with both comic and tragic effect.”
“When you say ‘only imaginable’ then I am most compelled to add that as such it is related to a pervasive social reality—that is, we lie to one another. In the most familiar and not very dramatic situations, as in ordinary conversation, in faint modulations of tone, you might discern fleeting minuscule lies, usually quite harmless, rather like minnows darting back and forth in a stream.”
“I agree, and also think that such lies make social life charming, polite, cheery and agreeable. ‘Why Is Everybody Lying?’ is a funny essay that Dostoevsky wrote on this subject.”
“I remember reading that in college.”
“Byron too asked, ‘What Is A Lie?’ and answered the same as ’Tis but the truth in masquerade.’”
“Sach mein mere bachche tu itna bada kab ho gaya?” (Really my kid, when did you suddenly grow up so much?) I asked, this intense feeling of euphoria engulfing me. Just a few years ago he was my little one, and here he was, all grown up now, citing lines from Byron and Dostoevsky.
“What about the politicians?” asked Adi with a smile, “we assume that politicians are liars, often vicious liars, but the entire social order is a construction usually based on some lie about national purpose. Millions die all over the world, they are killed in man-made wars because of the lies that leaders tell for no reason that anyone seems to remember.”
“Perhaps this accounts for the media frenzy that would cast a blazing light on privacy, as if it were an evil darkness wherein lies may germinate?”
“Perhaps,” said Adi.
“About what Byron said,” I said, “I still think that despite its relation to lying, a mask isn’t necessarily a lie. I think that all it does is obscures personal identity not to lie but only to create, or, preserve a sense of mystery, as in religious rituals that are sometimes accompanied by drumming, which effects a collective trance wherein the gods are said to descend among people, and even enter their bodies. This obscuring of personal identity, this masking, is also fundamental to erotic experiences.”
“Erotic experiences?” asked Adi.
“Let’s take Shakespeare’s comedies, lovers are often disguised, or metaphorically masked, and therefore happily deceived about personal identity, names, as well as gender. Their ignorance, as in the stories of intra-familial sex, makes possible what is only imaginable. In traditional carnival—in places such as Venice or Rio de Janeiro—a similar thing happens when the crowd becomes deliriously abandoned, free of personal identity, and then, with or without masks, amid universal estrangement, anybody might have sex with anybody. Through a complicated transformation in genetic chemistry, the mystery of otherness arouses sexual desire, and it has been scientifically explained as the desire for a sexual partner outside of one’s gene pool. That is, heterogeneity is crucial to the health and survival of the species.”
“What you are saying is that what effects estrangement, or obscures your identity in the eyes of others, might obscure it from you, too, estranging you from yourself?”
“Yes, it is rather like what a child experiences when it covers its eyes and feels invisible. People do things when feeling invisible as in a darkened bedroom, they couldn’t do otherwise. In this way, when masked, or mysterious to yourself, the imaginable becomes actual, and sensual pleasure is suffused with the rapture of transcendence, as in miracles of art and religion.”
Adi acquiesced with a nod of his head.
“So strangeness or estrangement, the essence of a mask, is regularly exploited for its dramatic value in all forms of storytelling, where it is often a precondition of romance and sex. In Hitchcock and countless other movies, in myth and fairy tale, and in TV shows, virtually anything that effects estrangement or liberation from personal identity seems to carry some degree of erotic charge. The Story of O, a highly sophisticated modern fairy tale, associates estranging masks with the religio-erotic desire for humiliation. In Blade Runner a man falls in love with a robot who will remain forever a romantic stranger to him, and a mystery to herself, but the latter possibility isn’t explored by the movie. Basically, much the same happens in The Stepford Wives, in which wives are murdered and replaced by robots who the husbands find more desirable. In Last Tango in Paris strangers meet by chance and have sex instantly. In Dressed to Kill strangers have sex and, immediately thereafter, a homicidal moralistic transvestite appears who connects the masquerade of cross-dressing with sex and murder. Similar elements are at play in Some Like It Hot, but the transvestism is hilarious rather than hideous and punitive.”
“Don’t you think that in ancient myth and fairy tales, personal identity is masked and thus transcended, as when a frog marries a princess, then turns into a handsome prince, or a sculptor falls in love with a statue and it then comes to life?” asked Adi.
“Even Daphne for that instance, flying from sexual assault, reverses the sequence and turns into a tree.”
“Oh, yes,” said Adi, “you only have to look at Bernini’s impassive Apollo reaching for Daphne as she transforms, in horror, into a tree to feel the exquisite terror of estrangement at the core of sexual mystery. And how about Zeus, who appears as a swan in the rape of Leda?”
“Oh, yes.”
“That way if you see, the variations are innumerable, and so very different that any effort to reduce all the stories to an erotic algorithm will seem forced.”
“Have you thought that exotic travel affords another form of erotic experience, closely linked to the search of otherness?”
“Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that thrills of estrangement are regularly provided in the TV classic Star Trek, which tells of travel to exotic places where Earthmen and otherworldly women sometimes become romantically involved and have sex. In the real world—though restricted to our small globe—many thousands travel to find love or to have sex with strangers. The strangers are sometimes children, which is pathetic and vile, but just this desire becomes high literary art in Thomas Mann’s homoerotic romance novel Death in Venice.”
“I didn’t think Mann would be on your reading list.”
“Like I said earlier, you aren’t the only bright one at home.”
I smiled, “As it does also in Nabokov’s Lolita, in which romance and lust converge in a story of exotic tourism and, unlike Death in Venice, actual sex with a child. The hero calls the child a nymphet while comparing himself to an ape. Thus, he is among the swans, bulls, frogs, who are figures of lust, in myth and fairy tale. Similarly, otherness in the novel is represented by the child, Lolita, a figure of innocence, though it is suggested that she may have been around the block before the ape gets at her. Both the strangeness and eroticism of this story may be have drawn Kubrick to make the first movie version of Lolita.”
“What’s with Lolita and you?” asked Adi with solemnness.
“I don’t understand?”
“What you don’t understand is what I want to understand.”
“That’s absurd.”
“Are you wanking off to her fantasies?”
“You quite have a whacky imagination.”
“I am your younger brother, but we are friends too, and to romanticise over Lolita is perfectly fine, but to nurture her in your head more than required might lead you to some internal distress.”
I flung the closest magazine that was near me, and he escaped getting struck by it by moving to a side.
“So I was right.”
“Have I ever hidden anything from you?”
“The larger question here is have you ever done anything worth sharing?”
“Ass,” I said, as both of us laughed heartily together.
“Yet, lot of bizarre crap used to happen too,” said Adi, “imaginary as well as real historical with these tourists.”
“Bizarre in the sense?”
“Like Odysseus, Byron and Casanova are heterosexual, but Byron, like Casanova, had a lady lover who dressed as a man.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Outright kinky, right?”
“I know, and that too in the open, way back in those days.”
“You wished you’d lived in their time now, don’t you?”
I preferred to remain quiet, because if another word had been said by me, the skeletons from my closet of the orgies, and the threesomes, and fuck marathons I had indulged in before I had graduated from school would come tumbling out of Adi’s larynx.
“You pervert,” mumbled Adi with a grin.  
“Did you even hear me utter a word?” I protested.
“I can read your mind.”
“Arse!” I said.
“In his narrative poems, Byron’s heroes wear costumes, and when his great hero, Don Juan, hides among girls in a harem, he dresses as a girl.”
“Up, close and personal, without them even knowing it. What an scrote, this Don Juan,” I said.
“You bet,” Adi laughed, “in Mozart’s Don Giovanni there is disguise and sexual adventure culminating in travel to hell.”
“Shakespeare’s Cleopatra puts her ‘tires and mantles’ on Antony, a sex tourist, while she dons his Philippan sword,” I augmented.
“Thus, cross-dressing and tourism, strangeness upon strangeness, or mask upon mask, figures in the most sublimely romantic tragedy ever written,” appended Adi.
“In life, mystery is desired, and mystery is necessary. And masks have always been central to this. Yet, modernity has been much about stripping off the mask, making the inchoate, the hidden, the invisible, visible. This modern disposition appears among the horses of Jonathan Swift’s masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels, who are extreme precursors of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, the great de-mystifiers who, largely, invented the world we now inhabit. The horses have no idea of mystery and believe that a lie is merely to say ‘the thing that is not.’ Living in a condition of absolute demystification, they are as unlike human beings as their counterparts, the Yahoos, are like them. Gulliver in the land of horses and Yahoos discovers that neither population—one supremely rational and the other depraved—is capable of wearing a mask. Gulliver then goes insane. This suggests that masks are necessary to the preservation of sanity as well as society in general.”
“What was that again? It was too heavy for me,” said Adi with a playful smile.
“Oh, shut up,” I said.
“Big brother,” he said, an unusual element of gravity appearing in his voice, “how are you?”
“I sit before you,” I answered calmly, “how do I look to you?”
He stared at the floor introspectively for a few seconds, then looked up at me and said he was sorry, the gravity in his voice however intact.
“Hey. Hey. Hey,” I said getting up and going closer to him at once, “I am sorry I was not there for you when you went through so much too.”
He gave me a searching look. “It weighed me down a little, but I am your brother, and I won’t let anything throw me off the tracks. I learnt what I had to learn from it,” he opened his hands, “and here I am,” and spread them wide, “unscathed.”
I kissed him on his forehead.
“Are you still seeing that sexy model with big boobs?”
I shook my head.
“She cheated on you?”
“Nope.”
“You got bored of her boobs?”
“It was crazier.”
“She strapped on a dildo and forced you into pegging?” he asked, on the verge of laughter.
“You’re sick!”
He laughed, “How was it? O, it must have hurt. She should’ve known better to use the lube liberally.”
I smiled, “Her father caught us fucking on their drawing room carpet.”
“What the fuck? How?”
“They were supposed to be out of town and decided to come in early.”
“And?”
“And he was furious and chased me out of the house before I could put any clothes on.”
“Your mobile?”
“It was in my jeans.”
“Ouch!”
“As uncanny as it may sound, it was an exhilarating experience, to be bare like that before the world.”
He laughed from the heart. “You closet exhibitionist.”
I joined him in the amusement by laughing along with him.
“What a devil that old man!”
“It was December, and it was fucking cold.”
“Your balls must have cursed you, man.”
“When I got home I didn’t have the keys. I sat by the car, and the oddest thing that crossed my mind when I covered my nuts to keep them warm was that our genitals, possibly the ugliest part of our bodies we tend to treasure the most. We fight for them. Lie for them. Even kill for them.”
“I know,” said Adi, “weird race we are.”
“I found myself dozing off despite the cold and then I suddenly felt someone shake me violently. When I opened my eyes, she was before me. At first I thought I was dreaming, but she asked me to put on my clothes. I slipped into them, and…and minutes later I took them off again as we fucked in the car.”
“You horny toad,” said Adi with a smile. Both of us laughed together again, and that is what I loved between us, those moments, that were only ours to share, only ours to keep.
“Why didn’t you ring me from a pay phone, or borrowed one from a passer by?”
“Nobody would have given me the phone in the state that I was in. They would have probably called the mental hospital instead. And second, calling you would have been nothing short of a disaster. My pictures would have gone viral on social media.”
He laughed as loud as he could.
“You were shooting for your movie if I correctly remember.”
There was silence for a few minutes and then he spoke up. “Why did you go away to London that long when I needed you most?”
“I would have been hysterical and anxious had I been around you.”
“So?”
“Sometimes care can get stifling, you know,” I said.
“Did you ever think that maybe hysterical, anxious, and stifling was what I wanted?”
I tried not to meet eyes with him. How could I? I felt like an arsehole having only thought about what I thought was best for my little brother, and not viewing it from his point of view.
“It’s all right,” said Adi, “you were taking care of you, and I was taking care of me, and we were each taking care of us for each other.”
“I said I was sorry,” I said still not looking up at him.
“Cheer up,” he said enthusiastically, “have you watched my recent film?”
“It was the first time I went to a theatre alone.”
He pressed my hands affectionately. “And?”
“And,” I hesitated, “I couldn’t see you cry on the screen.”
He laughed with gusto. “I knew it. I just knew it.”
I looked up at him.
“That was just a movie, man!”
“I know, but I just couldn’t.”
“Why do you love me so much?”
“Because you are my kid.”
“And if I were not?”
“I would still love you the same. It’s not blood alone that makes brothers. It is the bond, and bonds aren’t biological.”
He raised his eyebrows, “Too much!”
I smiled.
“Now getting back to our conversation,” he said, “what correlation do you infer between Eyes Wide Shut and Swift’s horses?”
I took a deep breath, “It struck me while watching Eyes Wide Shut that movies as a popular form have become comparable to Swift’s horses. To put this very strongly, maybe too strongly, it is in the nature of contemporary movies—if not all individual movies—to demystify a great deal of human experience, especially sex, by making everything—especially sex—merely visible. There is hardly any aspect of existence into which the modern camera has not shoved its all-perceiving glassy snout. Like newspapers and television, movies teach us that anything is a potential form of entertainment, and voyeurism is an innocent depravity.”
“I agree,” said Adi, “now we even know what Romeo and Juliet did with each other’s body.”
“Or what Anna Karenina did with Vronsky.”
“Ah, Anna, your other wank fantasy,” said Adi with a wide smile.
“Fuck you!” I said laughing.
“What did you hate about her?”
“Nothing.”
“She drank, and you hate people who get drunk,” said Adi.
“That’s correct.”
“So that’s one thing maybe.”
“There was a whole list of things I loved about her.”
“Why are you like this?”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know,” said Adi.
“If you don’t know, how will I know?”
“Of course we always knew, and yet we didn’t know, because the physical congress of lovers, before movies, existed in the haze of a reader’s luxurious apprehension, or fantasy,” said Adi.
“We are digressing.”
“We aren’t,” said Adi crisply, “you are!”
“Answer me then.”
“You are being unreasonable.”
“How can I answer someone about me, who knows more about me than I do about me?”
“Thanks to movies, we know from the outside—from the camera’s relentlessly neutral point of view—everything one body can do to another for the sake of sexual pleasure, or that displeasure which is also pleasure,” elucidated Adi.
I felt such respect for this young man before me. This man who was my rock. My anchor. How much I loved him, and yet, how miserly I had been in bestowing him with that love that he rightfully deserved.
“Stop looking at me like that,” said Adi.
“Sorry,” I said shaking my head.
“It isn’t simply that contemporary movies mostly show us people being tortured, fucked, and killed; that movies have convinced us that the technology of luminous revelation respects no mystery and makes everything in the world vulnerable to inspection.”
“You ass,” I said, “if you disagreed with me then, why did you wait this long. I would have saved myself some energy.”
“One must not express one’s view until one has heard the other one out completely.”
“Rascal.”
“I remember you telling me something about the movie Genius a few days ago. What was that again?” he paused, got hold of his mobile phone, clicked here and there for a few seconds and read aloud, “Saw Genius (2016) last night. Painfully slow, but a very poignant slice of life. The reality of the trials and tribulations of a creative genius. The struggle and stress, and the strength of true connection, and a bond between two individuals who are bright on the outside but pitch dark on the inside. What a landmark script indeed.
“My words in your voice sound like music to me.”
“Pompous pig!” He laughed.
“Truly.”
“Since you’d liked Genius, I would like to say that this conviction—true or not—may account in part for the shock of all-demystifying hyper-journalism in the novels of Tom Wolfe as well as the ferocious contempt they have elicited from literary critics, one of whom, at least, has put his finger on the problematic centre. James Wood, in the New Republic, compared Wolfe’s last novel to Hollywood productions, particularly in regard to the matter of illumination.”
“Really?”
“Yes, above all, this passion for inspection is the enemy of metaphor; hence, much else that exists only as metaphor. It reminds us that the visible has often been suspect, even sinful. They saw that they were naked . . . make no images.”
“Umm.”
“So contrary to what you say, I think that Kubrick’s movie Eyes Wide Shut is an effort toward the re-mystification of sex, obviously, and, by implication, a good deal more.”
I was letting descend inside me what he was expressing so beautifully.
“As indicated by the paradoxical title, the movie is about not seeing. Men and women have orgiastic sex while wearing masks as well as other disguises. Yes, Kubrick uses cumbersome masks as a sexual metaphor that is radically anti-romantic, since his masks make kissing impossible. But mystery beings don’t often kiss. They ravish. This happens mechanically in the movie’s orgy scene where everyone is masked, but only the women are seen naked up close. They appear naked in other scenes, too, as if to suggest mere nakedness has no erotic value.”
I was about to say something.
“I am not yet done,” said Adi, “in the movie’s hottest scene the heroine confesses to an adulterous desire for a man wearing a navy uniform. A uniform leaves the face exposed, but it is only another kind of mask, hiding the man from the neck down. So when the heroine has fantasy sex with the uniformed man, he never takes off his uniform, so the erotic charge of the fantasy is sustained. The thing desired is the mystery of desire, not penetration, certainly not the banality of consummation,” he ended, “and this is where you are permitted to add your bit to it.”
“Permitted? Really?”
“Yes,” he pronounced in his landmark air of authority.
“Fine,” I smiled, “you forgot how she describes her desire, but the fantasy sex occurs only in the mind of her husband, who, in this respect, resembles Othello, but without his murderous jealousy. In fact her husband seems only confused, and as if he had no strong feelings beyond curiosity.”
“Correct, but why are we talking only of older movies today? Why not those of today?”
“Perhaps we can keep that conversation for another day?”
“So did she force you to peg?”
“Bollocks!” I laughed, and decided it was time he knew.
“Confession time,” he chorused from the look of my expressions.
I smiled.
“Fast,” he spoke hurriedly, “I don’t have all day.”
“It was drugs,” I said punching him on his arm for the ‘I don’t have all day’.
His facial vocabulary betrayed nothing as his eyes were focused on me.
“She overdosed.”
“And?”
“I was terrified, and yet I held on, but if I hadn’t gotten off the boat, then it would have sunk with both of us, aboard.”
“And?”
“People thought I was a coward.”
“I love how we let what people feel affect us.”
“That’s rude.”
“That’s the truth.”
“You think I quit?”
“I think you were frightened.”
“Of what?”
“A future that was blurred, unpredictable.”
“Yes, I am complicated, and I am fucked up too, but I did what was best for her and me,” I stopped, “you know, like you can lose your path and still find your way home in being lost.”
He said nothing for a while and I said nothing for a while as well.
“Can I fix you another drink?” I enquired seeing there was barely any whiskey left in his glass.
“I don’t think you should have let her go,” he said, “unless of course she wanted out. You stand by people when they push you away and not be their comfort when they are secure in themselves.”
“She wanted out,” I said impatiently.
“Did she tell you that?”
“Her actions communicated that louder than her words.”
“You know what,” he said with some significance, “you are petrified of losing your independence, your responsibility. You are petrified in letting yourself depend on someone else. You are fine so long as you are the pillar of strength to the world, but the instant you see that those lines are beginning to blur, you press the panic button.”
“That’s a load of bullshit.”
“I am your Bachcha. Danyal is your Kidd. And Rahul is your Chotu. You love us the same as what parents may love their children.”
“What’s this?” I asked, “my eulogy?”
He smiled kindly.
“You draw from this unending reserve of love and give us more than what we can imagine, whereas,” I endeavoured to say something, but he held his hand before me, so as to indicate that I cannot utter a word until he had finished, “whereas,” he restated, “you abhor children.”
“That’s unfair!”
My objection fell on deaf ears. “You love us because we are grown up. You love us because we are the easy way out. You love us because we each fit the image you have of what your child ought to be. Have you ever thought that this loathing for children must spring from an inner reserve of your stubbornness and dread, from the fact that, like black and white, you are clear about your likes and dislikes, and that god forbid you had a child of your own, who did not correspond to the image of that child, then your ‘perfect’ world would come crashing down.”
“I don’t know what you are talking.”
“You very well know what I am talking.”
“We are not having this conversation because, yes, Danyal is my Kidd, Rahul is my Chotu, and you, Aditya, are my Bachcha, and I care less what anyone thinks of it,” I mustered up courage, “even what you think of it too.” He smirked. “You are each my life and so it shall remain until the end of me.”
“Yes, we are having this conversation,” he retorted starkly, “it is time you looked life squarely in its eyes and let it consume you in its entirety, or, or, you bloody well annihilate your demons for good.”
I was quiet for a long time. “How did you arrive at such a conclusion?” I asked.
“Let’s take a jog down memory lane and examine the women you have courted. The ones who were married were not a threat to you; therefore you relished the affairs so long as the lust lasted. When it came to the women who were stringent about not having children, and swore that their life and their freedom was utmost to them, you were jolly, and fucked them like rabbits fuck at a drop of a hat, but,” he breathed, “but when it came to those who wanted to take it to the next level with you, to the level of marriage, you took to your heels and sprinted into the abyss.”
I was astonished at his swift condensation of my life. How easily he made a conclusion about me when he knew everything. Everything. Anyway, I let it go, hoping that someday he would understand why I was the way I was.
“You can say what you have to say,” he said coolly, “ and do as you wish to do because I know you are craving to punch me.”
I straightened his eyebrows, “I am proud of you.”
He pushed my hands and turned away, “Why does it always have to be about the others and not you?”
I turned him around and tousled his hair, “Don’t be worried about me, that’s not your job.”
“And what’s my job?” he asked with a tint of annoyance.
“To live your dreams.”
His nostrils flared up. I noticed how livid he was at my shutting him off. “This is not over,” he said lifting his index finger and pressing it ruthlessly into my chest, “let’s keep it open for a conversation on another day, and, and, don’t you tell me that nobody has the right to ask you about your life or its sciences. I have all the right to do with you as you please, especially when you are making an ass of yourself,” he gasped, “and, yes, I am sorry you had to go through all of that alone.”
I smiled, “So what would you say in conclusion?”
“I’d say that the heroine desires the stranger because she is bored. She has a husband, a child, a grand Manhattan place of dwelling, and she is beautiful. She has everything except mystery, the only thing she wants. At the department store, she listens to her husband’s plea for the salvation of their marriage, and she says a few words herself, and then abruptly says, ‘Let’s fuck.’ She wants to make her husband shut up, presumably, because he isn’t intelligent. Still, it seems a pity that the movie must end on this unfortunate line, but after that what is left to say?”











This piece is a tribute of sorts to Leonard Michaels.

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