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Authors: Tennessee Williams

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Moise had not moved but I caught hold of her as if she were running and shouted to her, “Moise, you didn't invite her, surely you didn't invite her?”

“Who, who, not invited?”

“Skates, to the announcement!”

“Oh, has she come, is she present? The lights so dim, I—”

“She has just entered with her little company of attendant bitches and there's a dreadful commotion by the door.”

“Oh, just arrived. She must have missed my announcement, I'll have to repeat it to her.”

“Don't!”
I cried out to Moise but she broke away from my grasp with amazing force and started moving toward Skates as Skates started moving toward her. I'm sure it was by intention that Skates arrived at the threshold of the room at the same moment as Moise, no one between them, close enough to have embraced each other had that been their impulse. There was just enough light still coming from the candle for me to see Moise extending her delicate hand toward Skates as if to offer her a polite welcome, and then this fantasy of a confrontation occurred, and before I tell you about it, let me assure you that I am aware of the regrettable sound association between the name “Skates” and the word “skater.” You must believe me though when I tell you that the skater and Skates were two polarities, the skater being love and Skates at the opposite pole. All right. Now this is what was now occurring at Moise's announcement party. Skates threw both her skinny arms high into the flickering penumbra by the threshold, her face contorted with loathing, and began to make this loud hissing sound that continued and continued and continued. I will always hear it. It was worse than the hissing sound of any imaginable reptile since the age when the giant ones ruled the earth.

And yet Moise seemed not to hear it at all.

Eventually it stopped, as all things eventually must, and at the very instant it stopped, the candle went out altogether and it was totally black in the room, it was not just black in the room and the corridor but an intensification of black.

But next, and then?

I did not realize until then how dreadfully people fear dark when it is both total and sudden, even when the light that preceded it came only from a candle that was flickering toward its instant of extinction.

The guests were now all in motion and collision. They were tumbling among and over each other in panic toward the door onto Bleecker, that is, all except Moise and Skates and myself.

Skates struck a match and resumed her hissing. And Moise, still seeming not to hear it nor to have noticed the flight of guests, repeated her announcement with slight variation.

“The world of reason has ceased being tenable to me. It was once somewhat but now is not anymore. I have used all my paints to exhaustion, linseed and turp are all gone, brushes worn to bristles on splintered sticks. So matters stand, you see, and to say that they stand may seem ironical to you, if this were a time when”

“Sssssssssss!”

“Since matters in such a state cannot be thought of as standing nor as standable, either. However”

“Sssssssssss!”

“However, in all circumstances, before accepting surrender, one last resistance seems required by the nature of all still existent.”

How long it might have continued is a matter for speculation had not the little clutch of attendant bitches behind Skates, probably feeling that she had scored her point, begun to draw her back along the corridor to the street, some striking matches as they moved her, and it made me think of how the Queen Ant is moved by the colony and that is an incorrect statement for at that moment it made me think of nothing: it makes me think now, in retrospect, of a malignantly fertile insect, yes, perhaps a sort of huge driver ant being hauled about by drones in the colony of malignant creatures, a thing I once saw magnified by a microscopic lens in a copy of the
National Geographic
.

Last month received a rejection slip from a little mag called
It Is
and the Editress had scrawled on the slip, “Incoherency is but is not.” Oh, well.

Of coherency, I usually attempt it.

I was now alone with Moise, I mean I was
then
alone with Moise. We were not visible to each other but our hands were in contact.

“Was that Skates at the party? Did she hear the announcement? Was someone blowing a whistle? The light was so dim that—”

“Love, don't you remember?”

“Did they all?”

‘What?”

“Go before the request?”

“No, no, if you mean Tony.”

“I meant Jane too.”

“Of course, and I think the actress”

“But she lost consciousness, she, she
did
, she fell down, I think she meant well but she fell!”

“Moise, dear, things will be repeated, it was that sort of occasion when things will be repeated via the grapevine. Time, it may take time, and Life and Fortune and People, but things will be reported about the party and eventually”

“Yes, I know, I know. And so the party is over.”

I think that I was beginning to catch Charlie's fever since I broke into song.

“The party's over, the candle flickered and dimmed.”

Not very funny, but then

“Go, dear. I have to pray. I do it better alone.”

And so she dismissed me, gently.

All the way back to the rectangle with hooks I sang that song which now makes me cry. Do you remember?
Killing me softly with his song
. . .

I am sure that by this point you have come to realize that present conditions are distinctly unfavorable to putting things in order.

Without expansion of that remark, let me include a slight account of a close call to an encounter between Moise and Skates at an occasion a month or so previous to the announcement party.

It was the exhibition of Don Bachardy's portraits at the museum near what was once called Columbus Circle and maybe still is.

I went with Moise.

We had been there admiring the portraits for less than five minutes when a great commotion occurred near an elevator door which had just opened. I recognized the cause and I turned Moise away from it.

Yes, it was Skates, attended.

She was scarcely out of the elevator, possibly still in it, when that phenomenally shrill voice cried out, “My God, an exhibition of realistic portraits just when my non-portraits are catching on!”

Variations upon this outcry were echoed by her attendants. The effect was rather chilling on the large room although it was crowded to capacity and the body heat was sufficient to have made it comfortable without radi

Sorry. Do radiators exist in the world anymore?

The next thing I knew was that in this chillness a great man of
letters—
was it Isherwood? Christopher, yes, of
course—
had gone straight up to Skates as if unaware of danger and had said in a loud, very clear English voice, “Did I hear you say non-portraits?”

“Sssssss!”

(Echoed by attendants.)

“What are non-portraits, if you'll explain the term, are they portraits which are not portraits, and if that is so, what are they?”

“Sssss!”

(Echoed by attendants.)

And on that occasion, too, the attendants removed her from the scene as a massive female insect, dedicated to the reproduction of the species, venomous, is removed by its drones.

I would say it took ten minutes to remove the vapor about the elevator by which Skates had arrived and departed with her attendants.

Moise seemed to be unaware of what had occurred.

It was only on the subway going downtown that she remarked after a long reflective silence between us,

“I suppose.”

“What?”

“Skates.”

“Yes?”

“Is inclined to”

“What?”

“Realistic self-portraits of a certain nature.”

“I know, but being deluded”

“Oh, deluded, no. I think she is quite at home in the world of reason.”

I am sure that you must see, now, why I thought it appropriate to squeeze this account of the previous encounter, such as it was or wasn't, into my last Blue Jay notebook.

It's seldom my practice to observe sequence. When I try to, my thoughts blur and my fingers shake but these being the final three pages of my last Blue Jay, I have a sense of time running out on me faster than running in, and it is surely advisable, then, to include at once the reason for the rage of Skates at Moise. I shall tell it badly but I shall tell it as best I can.

About two years ago, the artist-teacher Tony Smith referred favorably in a lecture at Hunter College to the work and character of Moise. The reference was to the effect that the purest painter now painting was a child of God called Moise and that she was enduring an existence impossible to sustain because her primary excellence in her vocation, the purity and austerity of it, made it psychologically impossible for her to exhibit during her lifetime. This reference to Moise and her work was noted by a friendly acquaintance of hers on the staff of
The Village Voice
and it was printed, the reference by Smith, in that gazette. Moise did not refer to this reference, never, but it was the first bit of real encouragement which she had received and it had, I infer from her announcement last night, made of Tony Smith of Hunter College and South Orange, New Jersey, and the world of Western Art, a God to Moise.

I feel a bit of confusion coming on me and if I were on a plane there would surely be an announcement: “Please fasten seat belts, we are about to enter a bit of turbulence.”

(I've never been on a plane but “the living nigger on ice” was often on them and he told me of these announcements which always amused him so that he would howl with laughter at them, he told me.)

Now I have got to discontinue this thing for a while, even though I never ignore the possibility that some inadvertence, a sudden subway of sorts, may stop it permanently in its tracks as Mr. Eighty-seven at Bellevue.

Rest, breathe, recover if you can, the cry is still
En avant
.

BOOK: Moise and the World of Reason
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