“Only murderous hours give time the vain hope that it, too, can be human.”
You wonder why these words come out of my mouth all wishy-washy and profane like that! Like a typewriter on automatic pilot or a rally of shots from a firing squad. Just like that, meaningless words at five in the morning. It must be one of those slips of the subconscious mind, which has at least taken on board all of the lessons which make a casting error out of my life journey. But right now, I won’t sink any lower than the carpet- the colour of advanced decay- as I uncharacteristically embrace the dust mites, my nostrils buried in my trainers that seem more worn-out than they are ever laced up.
The shrill, electronic, methodical ringing noise of the cheap alarm clock resounds and persists as it hammers out its order in my brain which hovers somewhere between fermentation and formalin. I slip on my corruption gloves, put in my moralising dentures and adopt the smile of a civilised man to escape from the dreams that irritate me most of all. For good reason I will not make any analyst’s fortune, my grocer and my barman already satisfy my needs! To hell with my REM cycle. As I observe the world with a mad glint in my eyes in my daily contradictory existence I’ve already got enough to get on with to decorate this field full of cattle where free men wear labels.
It transpires that, like all idiots who have more of a career than a future, I must work, if only to carry on renting a rotten piece of carpet and a toilet block on the brink of collapse belonging to my poisonous landlord. As for me, I have an eye for detail and I’m a great lover of sealife, and so, in order to combine utility with pleasure, and despite the careers advisor’s prediction of a factory career, I became a dishwasher in a restaurant in the centre of town.
Between the midday and the evening table service, I go round in circles like a kind of human pet, my neighbourhood too far away to be able to stop. So to keep myself busy, I (become tame) as I sketch out a material happiness on each shop window, the suspension of my banking privileges replacing my heart. As if putting things into bonds could ever fill the void of human existence. A storm brews and my voice bursts with pride. There’s nothing left but to stroll at a leisurely pace to the rhythm of the overcrowded bus-shelter, its benches christened by pigeons to assert my power, my arse acting as emissary and the large bomber jacket on my back like an occupational army. From this rock in the middle of the urban sea, my sense of truth and I are fair judges of the odd puppet-like specimens (affranchis) with views on everything and nothing, always expressed out loud.
Considering the guilty view of sinfulness in the Catholic school, it must be six in the afternoon on the dot, the fumes call out to me and night frantically crashes down upon Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica. I have just enough time to cough up my lungs on the Rue de la République in imiation of the dramatic gestures performed by the part time entertainers that I have come across- who turn social hardship into a way of life. Here I am going back to square one, the daily grind, my patron viewing my cirrhosis of the liver as a public service. With glassy eyes and minty breath, I examine the restaurant as if for the first time, the last time, feeling slightly dazed and emotional and very drunk! You have to be…
I make a dash for the service entrance and run towards the cloakroom. My excitement rises as I slip on my uniform- a faded red overall, a chick-yellow coloured shirt and an orange necktie- with the hope that speed may add some value to the absurdity of it all, well perhaps.
Then another employee who wants to be an employer shouts at me about my worrying stubble on the rest of my face, as if the dishes still to be scrubbed clean were an even bigger catastrophe than the approaching September 11th. When this bureaucratic parasite was cast back to his student status by a criminal glare, I was transported to the gates of heaven.
“Dishes,” I say to myself, “my dishes!” The one and only, the ineffable, the indomitable, the infinite.
A humid, gleaming iron monster that thinks it’s an operating table. I will exist forever by her side. I alone am talking of genetic cartography, of the end of Jordan’s career, of this new thing…No one contradicts a madman! I redefine reality sprouting nonsense as part of an endless storytelling process written upon invisible sheets of paper, listened to in silence with your index fingers in your ears, and viewed with your eyes shut beneath a pair of sunglasses.
I am in the throws of commonplace madness in a hostile environment, and yet I have an Olympian calm in the face of my duty: to restore the virginity of the knives and forks. I wipe off the scum that has stuck to my skin since birth, you have to take care of yourself as much as possible.
Ultimately I am serene as I scrub the anonymous plates ready for destitute mouths, the lather giving meaning to my movements, a release to the fast-pace, an image to my work. Just when the hot water starts to purify the remnants of the table, I always sing out of tune as if to sanctify each moment, to remind everyone there that there was a before and an after to this baptism.
Since my dish-washing days, my dishes shrouded in foam, I am freely enslaved during the day and in the evening, but I will always be the king of a miniature world in a little room hidden away at the back of a restaurant. A heavenly place where the dishes talk in unison and call me Mr Pousse-mousse.
Text : Sylvain Souklaye - Translation : Sophie Inge