Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Chapter Five (part 6)

(continuing the "all nighter" conversation between Cassie and her lovers P. and S.)

"If I tell you it's OK to borrow my vacuum cleaner," P. rambled on, "my words are expressing a gesture of social politeness at odds with the natural, selfish desire to withhold what's mine from another person."

"And if I asked to borrow your wife, old man, it's much plainer why you might say no." S. laughed at his own cleverness.

"You'd be wasting your time loaning him a vacuum cleaner," I quipped, "try hiring a maid." S. made an overly-elaborate wincing motion, then rolled over and buried his face in my lap.

"Loaning me a wife would accomplish two goals at once, including having a cleaner room," he mumbled through the cloth of my skirt. His voice vibrated against my thighs, tickling, distracting me momentarily from "deep thoughts."

"You're a male chauvinist, Retter!" I scolded after bringing my attention back to the conversation. "Besides, the ideal ménage à trois for a woman is one man to do the dishes and another to clean the house."

They both laughed, though I'm sure it was in competition to seem the most solicitous. Ah, testosterone. Still, I relished the competition between them with my attention as the prize.

"We subvert our own selves through these hidden desires or urges," P. went on while shoving S. over onto his back. "It's the same with texts: they have hidden subversions." He put his hands on my shoulders and began rubbing out the deep knots of tension there. S. couldn't compete with him on a physical level.

"Sounds like shrink talk," I blurted out with S. joining me in a conspiratorial laughter.

"There's definitely an element of the psychoanalytical to it all." P. sorta shrugged at our small point. "In French it's called différance."

"Not more jargon!" I protested.

"Ah, vive la difference!" S. leered, first at me, then at P. to show he didn't mean it for anyone in particular.

P. parried by running his foot along my bare legs, nearly lifting the hem of my skirt. His showing off made me blush— I didn't like him letting S. know whose property I am that way, men are so fucking possessive!

"It's not the same word, old man. Différance is a Derrida made-up word combining 'deferring' and 'difference.' The meaning's pretty straightforward: no poem or novel or play, no writing at all can sustain a coherent meaning."

"What? That's absurd! What about political writing, or scientific texts? And what about propaganda? Explain that to those of us like myself who are by-products of the Second World War." S. wasn't grinning now. "When Nazis talked about gassing Jews, where is the incoherence in their meaning?"

"No matter how tight or logical words seem," P. shot back, "all texts have internal contradictions. Those contradictions cut us off from what we call a real meaning."

I thought then how much Deconstruction applied to my life: an outer façade (good girl, good wife) plastered over a maze of impulses and "meanings" at war with one another tight. "A mass of internal contradictions." Perhaps that simply describes human beings in general? I didn't think it applied to P. He's usually so constant— except perhaps for sex. He likes experimenting in the places we make love, the positions, etc. Beyond that limited sphere of his personality, however, he's so grounded. Unlike me, he knows he was born to teach, that he'll someday write important books and think great thoughts, and eventually become Sterling Professor of Comp Lit like de Man."

(to be continued)