Dorian Morozov

Définition de détergent


Détergent ; nom masculin : Ce qui nettoie par dissolution des impuretés ; ni de manière meurtrière ni génocidaire mais un objet qui a néanmoins pris les vies de tout ce qu’il n’a jamais rencontré, et leurs histoires, toutes sur un chiffon humide. On reconnaîtra sa figure quoi que l’on aille - dans le marché, les rues - ses yeux qui clignotent jusqu’au point exact auquel la lumière qu’ils avaient reflété est brillée sur eux. On pensait que l’on l’avait vu, mais hélas, ce n’est qu’une autre courbe, un autre cou, une autre face souriante qui ricane quand on la touche et lui révèle les secrets les plus profonds que l’on possède. Ah, mon amour, comment j’ai besoin de toi maintenant ! Tu m’as bien convaincu de ne jamais être effrayé de la vacuité de la vie, de l'accueillir, de la languir telle que la seule chose qui me reste n’est que tes phéromones et un endroit humide qui va sécher. Essuie-moi de mon histoire, du banal au formatif, du café matinal au sang versé. Je ferai tout mon possible pour garder ta mémoire, et je fêterai ton départ, car ta présence n’est qu’un rappel de tout ce que je déteste, tous les souvenirs de ce dont tu m’as libéré. Je dors sur ton parfum.


My Father’s Students’ Instructor Comments


1. Very knowledgeable on course material and is very effective at communicating ideas and engaging with student questions


2. Professor Alcala is amazing! Even with this being an 8:30 class I look forward to and enjoy it every week. I appreciate the somewhat informal class setting and encouragement for students to share ideas during lecture.


3. The workload in this class is phenomenal. Focusing mostly on the lectures and letting us have most of our time outside of class be assignment-free is really great. I definitely am learning new things in this class but so far I’ve not stressed about getting my work done yet. High praise from someone who is constantly stressed. Thank you :) 


4. Jose is the best in the business. Amazing professor and he makes every class he teaches exciting and less stressful.


5. I wish that grades of the assignments were uploaded quicker, just to see what I need to do to improve on the next assignment or just to know what my general grade is in the class.


6. Please allow future students a grace period of at least 10 minutes, especially for earlier classes at 8:30 in the morning. Over 80% of NJIT students are commuters and students can not predict if construction or car accidents are happening in a big city like Newark, sometimes happening 5 minutes outside of campus. We are racing against people who are trying to get to their jobs, I spend more time on the road than actually being in the class.


7. Thank you for being a great and understanding professor.


8. Professor Alcala is very passionate about the course and the material he presents to the students and I appreciate that very much. Look forward to take him in other courses he teaches here at NJIT. This is honestly my top favorite class this semester.


9. He talked about and mentioned sex at least once every class. I can see that he has a perverted mind as sex is always on his mind and uses it as examples somehow connected to design. He also has the spirit of the antichrist. For the first two whole months at least, he talked negatively about Christianity, but never talked bad about other religions. He said blasphemy things such as, “when we create objects, we make them in our image because we are God.” He also said Jesus is a myth and the Bible is fairy tales. He is clearly anti-Christian in the things that he said during class and clearly mentioned that he is against Christian values in my other class. Because of this, I was extremely uncomfortable in his class and many of the things he said hurt me in my spirit. I have the Holy Spirit in me so hearing these things are nearly unbearable to the point I wanted to get up and leave class. He said so many things that are far from truth so I see he has a spirit of deception in him as well. Very sad to see a lost and confused soul. I was also extremely fearful of him finding out that I am a Christian because it seemed like he has a lot of hatred towards Christians and I didn’t want my grade to be effected by his opinions of my religion. I could have and should have reported him, but I didn’t. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the entire world and being in this class with a professor talking shit only about Christianity and not other religions proves Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and life, and the only way to the Father. All other religions are false worldly religions and because they are already false, they aren’t attacked like Christianity is. Another thing is that I was late to class only once by 6min because I was stuck behind a truck on the highway and the public safety messed up the entrance to the parking garage by forming 2 lanes. So professor marked me late. But professor himself was late at least 4 times to class, and other students are constantly late and later than me but marked present. When I saw a student who came to class 8min late but marked present, I mentioned this to professor. Professor said that some students drive to college. I replied, this student lives on campus, I drive to college. Then he said he is being tolerate so that’s why he marked the student present when he was even later than me (and is consistently late to class). I replied, “So you’re not tolerate of me” because I’m a Christian (and at this point in the semester, he knew I am a Christian). So there is tolerance to other students but zero tolerance for me. So since then, I was afraid to arrive late to class even by 1min so I drove 75-80 mph on the highway while eating breakfast in the car to make it to class in time. But then when I would be at class on time or even 10-20min early, professor would wait 10min after class is suppose to start because so many students are coming in late but he marks them mostly present until about after the 10min mark. Then when class is suppose to end at 9:50am, he keeps going in his lecture. But I have another class at 10am in a far away building. So when I get up to leave, he pointed me out. I told him that I come to class on time and I need to leave on time to get to my next class on time. But besides all this, he is knowledgeable in design, form, cultures, and has good attention to details.


Application for Stern School of Business


As encouraged by animal rights activists over the course of the past decade, it has become increasingly common to see on an evening stroll man’s best friend strapped into harness-like apparatuses in lieu of the traditional collar due to the reduced strain they inflict on furried necks as their owners tug on their leash so as to pry them from the pissed-upon/in/off pole/bush/Pole with which they’re so enamored. Though there is an indisputable truth to its enhanced safety and comfort, one must nonetheless ask oneself: do we really owe dogs anything, let alone safety and comfort? These beasts that we as a species beat into submission, the betas of their lupine pack—tools in the garden shed of humanity, hoes with a beating heart. Our treatment of these animals has grown far too kind and has in a way reversed the roles such that it is man who is subservient to dog. We have become the literal and figurative hand under the anus of canis, waiting with bated breath for a turd to fall into our palm. Have we strayed so far from our noble origins that we should feed and pamper these creatures as if they were our own kin, simply for existing? I suggest that we reclaim our position as master, and it is under this precedent that I present unto you my product.


A leash ought to remind those tied to it of the tethered nature of their existence. With every tug of the rope should come alongside it a painful jolt of remembrance. Attached to the end of a long reinforced cord of blunt plastic is a small oblong device with a button that, when pushed, releases two wings that triple its width. This allows the device to enter a space from which it cannot exit after its breadth is expanded. The entire device is then slathered with a puréed mush appetizing to the canine palate. Added to this smear is a natural laxative that prompts near-immediate defecation. When a master wills to take his dog for a walk such that it does not defecate in his house, he feeds the device to his canis and ties the other end to a secure point. After a brief moment, the dog will expel the device from its rear end; at this point, its owner will press the button on the device with a gloved hand, thus preventing it from re-entering the anus from which it was pooped out. The result is a leash that travels the entirety of the dog’s gastrointestinal system and permits the master to lead his dog by a cord that emerges from its own mouth. The beast will not tug for fear of pain, and will heel to each of its owner’s commands. For every time it dares yip for a walk, for every transgression against the man who controls it, for every privilege its master affords it, it is domesticated again and again and forevermore; a cycle of humbling pain reminding it of its place in the hierarchy of things. The handle with which the dog’s owner leads it can then be detached so as to allow the cord to be fully digested and expelled.


My Good Friend Louis Wrote This on the Bus and Then Sent It to Me


The myopic ramblings of a 20 something year old: "Yeah we get it the worlds shit and you work until you die. Now put your vape down and go look at some flowers or listen to birdsong you infantile bastard, there's so much to enjoy in this landscape if you'd stop staring at your dirty fingernails. You've got it so fuckin' easy man, the only thing thats difficult about your life is the fact that youve been spoon fed since birth."


The myopic ramblings of a 90 something year Old: "You arthritis ridden prick you've done nothing with your life. You're sat here being fed cereal like you're 5 years old again, but you've not got the curiosity or joie de vivre a toddler might 'Ave. Argyle clad bastard. Drop down and give me 20."


The myopic ramblings of a Michelin starred chef: "I need one bass one aubergine and two spinach, hurry the fuck up. Now."


The myopic ramblings of an ex-marine: "I can remember when my grandmother would make me supper on a Monday evening and it was so delicious. My parents would be away and she'd look after me. I can remember eating the best boiled potatoes and this amazing French onion soup."


The myopic ramblings of a maths teacher: "What's nine squared? Yes Gareth? Eighty one, correct.”


The myopic ramblings of a man who has so little to give the world yet he wakes up each day nonetheless: “I don't feel much when I'm close to you, Clarissa, really I don't. I can remember feeling surprised. Surprised when you first offered me your body. Your young, pale body, all those years ago. But now I'm bored of it, god fuck I've been bored for fifteen years. I wish you never had aged. I wish you were the same teenage girl I fell in love with, all pathetic and mine. I wish you weren't wrinkled like a grape and calloused to the thought of ever changing for the better. You're a worthless rat and I wish you would change. I don't like the way things are. I don't like the way anything is. God fucking damnit I just want to go back to the way things were fifteen years ago. Please.”


The myopic ramblings of a sous chef: "Yes chef. Two hallibert chef. Yes chef."


The Communitarian Communist


The structural dynamics of families as they manifest differently across the world are an underappreciated mirror into the ideological and cultural profiles of the regions in which they are represented. The significance of the link between the two is in some cases so profound that to acknowledge it seems at times almost conspiratorial; the notion that the predictability of one’s environment in the formation of all that constitutes an individual—and eventually his community—can be yet further reduced to the family in which he was raised leaves a suspiciously Freudian aftertaste in the mindmouths of those who consider it. And in many ways it is just that: an ideological fetish, a malignancy of unconscious trauma that spreads across the innocent heart of a child.


Take, for example, the authoritarian family structure, characterized by the strict rulership of a father over his nuclear family which is then bequeathed in its entirety to his eldest son upon his death. Within an authoritarian household power is neither diffuse, nor transient, nor partial; power is held just as arbitrarily as it is inherited, and position is not determined by merit as much as merit is received along with position. A child raised under such dynamics will thus learn two things of the world: that authority is a single point from which his community obediently spreads its roots, and that this authority is to be accepted regardless of the nature of its establishment. It is perhaps unsurprising that every noteworthy fascism throughout history has come from the very same parts of the world dominated by the authoritarian family structure. The Nazi regime in Germany, Franco’s nationalist stronghold in northern Spain, the imperial Japanese empire, and the birth of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy all have their respective origins in countries—or in certain regions therein—whose familial traditions have historically followed an authoritarian format. After all, the successful ascension of a fascist to the leadership of a given nation is contingent upon there being a cultural biome hospitable to it. A country whose electorate was accustomed to absolute power at home during childhood will be naturally supportive of a candidate who proposes the same on a national level.


The proliferation of the communitarian family structure in Eastern Europe in particular has lent itself tremendously to the spread of communism throughout the region. Like the authoritarian family, the communitarian household has at the top of its hierarchical structure a male whose power is uniquely his. His father no longer being alive, the eldest male has authority not only over his nuclear family until they reach adulthood but over all those of his sons until his death; as such, communitarian households often have three—if not more—generations living under a single roof, with the wives of each of the patriarch’s sons moving in to maintain the home. Upon the death of the eldest male, each of his sons split and establish their own households so as to preside over their respective lineages. This, as with the authoritarian system, creates a latent fear of the absence of all-encompassing arbitrary power within the unconscious minds of those who grow up under the communitarian structure, but it also establishes therein a unique fear of fracture: that the trauma of having been forced to part ways with the other branches of one’s paternal family tree with whom one shared a household is something that must be accounted for through a proactive push toward unity within the community. The intrapersonal complexes that come about as a consequence of the communitarian family structure fall neatly into the ideological framework of Marxism—that unity and a common drive toward the good of the community must be maintained and that such a system ought to be overseen by a single fixed leadership.


It is worth noting, however, that the traditional family structures that at one point numbered eight in total have, to varying degrees, experienced a steep decline in prevalence due to the advent of globalism and widespread cultural exchange. The Anglo-Saxon tradition of the absolute nuclear family, whose only difference with the authoritarian structure is its equal distribution of inheritance among children, has largely taken the developed world over. The deep-seeded … of the traditional structures that once gave foundation to a given region’s homes still carry profound cultural and political relevance, however. Iran, for example, began a trend of cultural westernization during the mid-20th century of its own volition, of which not the least of whose components included a gradual transition out of the traditional familial structure and toward the more progressive nuclear family. This shift, though well-received by the Iranian populace, was considered by the United States to be insufficient without a political system behind it. Whereas on paper it would not be unreasonable to suggest that a government be more reflective of its electorate, history has illustrated in full color the degree of instability that has stained Iranian politics since the American installation of a Shah thought to better suit Iran’s novel ideological trajectory. Iran, in spite of the cultural revolution it had at one point set upon themselves to start, is now closer to what one might expect its traditional family structure to have produced than when it was actually the standard.


Though these underlying ideological leanings that manifest themselves from beneath a novel western familial framework are based upon the centuries of tradition behind them, it must be considered, too, that these traditions had their origins in context, and that they are not beholden to a certain region but to the contexts under which they first appeared. In the case of a community undergoing neither an ideological nor familial shift, this context is the family structure itself, which expresses itself through an ideological medium before reinforcing the same family structure that provided the basis for its existence in the first place. This is a cyclical reinforcement that can only be broken by forced intervention, as was the case in Iran. In the case of a community that is either actively undergoing an ideological or familial shift or is on the precipice thereof, however, the context—or the incitement of change—is a family structure that differs from the standard in the region wherein the shift occurs, which then expresses itself in differing ideological predispositions among those who grow up under them. This, in theory, would then result in the products of the novel family structure continuing it by raising their own kin in accordance therewith. This family structure can either be literally different, as in structurally opposite to the norm, or different in practice, meaning the structure is not itself different on paper as much as its effects on those raised under it produce outcomes expected to come out of other familial structures.


One example of this quasi-simulated family structure is visible in that of wealthy nuclear families in the western world. Have you ever noticed that the children of rich parents disproportionately trend toward Marxist ideological leanings than those of poor or middle-class families? In many ways, though on paper it seems as though the family structure under which wealthy children are raised is the same as the absolute nuclear system of their less affluent peers, when examined one can see many parallels to the very same communitarian system that has historically produced communism in Eastern Europe. At the head of the family is the father, whose power over the entire household comes as a result of his income and provisions for the family. While it could certainly be argued that this is a justified power dynamic, the status as breadwinner of the father is nonetheless considered arbitrary among his children (children will, as a rite of passage, resent authority). This, coupled with his children’s belief that their own work and business endeavors are futile in the shadow of their father’s success, creates among them a resentment. Additionally, just as the death of the father in a communitarian household splits the family into different branches headed by people who are insecure in the arbitrariness of their own power and instills a fear of fracture in its members, the death of the father in a wealthy household creates a similar split and inheritance of arbitrary power—in this case due to the inheritance of his will, for which the children did not work—and a similar fear of fracture and propensity toward unity. It is this that separates the rich from the not: among poor and middle-class children, there is no fear of fracture considering there is often little to be inherited and thus nothing at stake sufficient enough to divide a family. Thus, the modern wealthy absolute nuclear family carries the same implications as the communitarian family, and the plight of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is mapped onto that of the children against the father.


Fido in Paradise


Let me tell you a story, now, about a boy from a stupid shantytown in a faraway land of which you’ve never heard. Time there was a supine dog that rose only to chase its own tail before conceding to anatomy and resting its chin on its laurels. Splayed across the lush basin were the ragtag makings of houses, built from corrugated somethings and telephone wires and foils of all sorts, that sat proudly behind the small greenish yards encased in chicken wire where the ragamuffins played with their pipes and alloys. Inside, mothers fumbled over great iron pots of stew as they chattered away with their tin-can phones sandwiched between their ears and shoulders. They talked about their lives and their children’s and their husbands’ and of changes in the weather, though they had no metric by which to measure them. Just before sundown, all the fathers of all the children would emerge from the foliage with their winnings and file back into town to return to their roosts for supper. “Hello, neighbor!” he would say to his neighbor as he passed. “Hello, neighbor!” his neighbor would say to him. Upon seeing their fathers’ hastened homebound strides from afar, the children would abandon their pipes and alloys in an overgrown corner of their small greenish yards, rush into the kitchens where their mothers offer sawdust and other garnishes to their lumping bowls of stew, and frantically prepare their tables for dinner.


The boy was certainly no less disposed to such evening rituals than were his peers, much less to the morning or afternoon ones. His face puckered with relief as his father swung the plywood door open. He hovered awkwardly, frozen and panting, over the utensils he’d so haphazardly strewn across the table. This was a sufficient greeting for his father, who soon thereafter commenced his own evening ritual: swollen lips planted themselves upon those of his wife, a hearty hand ran through his son’s matted locks, legs shifted and bent round the table, and rhetoricals were tossed blindly before the first spoon of night landed in the bowl. It was brown with goat meat. The goat that yielded the goat meat had been hunted three days prior in a clearing eight units northwest of the village, the father reminded his family. His parents’ banal exchange of small talk lost the boy. Such normal and respectable people as you and I might have suggested that the couple had been married far too long for such trivial watering hole chatter to consume their only intimate time together. Perhaps if he had known any different, the boy, too, would have scoffed at their lovelessness, but he took it as little more than a tacit cue to allow his ears to tune to the squelch of the unfinished meal before him. A fly scampered down the side of his bowl and eagerly rubbed its hands together before the murky shoreline. The shifting of a finger catapulted it upwards, and it landed in the boy’s ear, and it explored his cavity, and it fed on the sticky orange sap before tracing halos around his head. Droning, droning… focus falling from left to right and left again…


Chaos erupted in the form of a splitting crack, and the boy’s eyes darted up from their transfixion to meet his mother’s. A familiar droplet welled in her whites and fell down a cheek from which the pallid silhouette of a hand slowly faded. Her sharp, stuttered respiration broke the silence. She rushed to clutch her bruise, interlacing her own fingers with the digitate markings on her face as though she were holding hands with an extension of her husband. When the ringing in her ears ceased to mute his aggressions, she let out a disgusting wail, and he angrily dragged her into the room where they all slept.


There was no boiling blood to inspire the boy to jolt in after his mother in some sort of thespian exercise of filial commitment. There was no quiver of a finger yearning for the ivory knife that flirted with him from the kitchen counter. There was only embarrassment, for he knew nothing else, and the boy spasmed carefully through the dining area and out the front door so as to not cause the dirt floor to creak.


Spurred forward by a realest terror, the boy decided to run away. The activation itself of the fight or flight response is always contrived when done consciously. Instead of representing a beautiful homage to the human mind—from its rabid commitment to the survival of its vehicle to the interminable extent of its love—it represents a pathetic blood-and-thunder masquerade of barbarism when any degree of active participation is involved in a process that should be instinctive. It is an artificial, anthropogenic rendition of man’s obligation to his biology. The result is something like a play: convincing or not depending upon the actors’ talents, but forever contained under a fixed ceiling of authenticity. The best scripts are performed before they are written, one could say. In this sense, the boy’s reaction was his magnum opus. He hadn’t the slightest clue as to why his legs propelled him forward; his mind processed no abject fear, for what he had just witnessed was by all means normal, nor shame, for to him his mother knew no greater object of passion than her husband’s flying palm. Violence and shrieks and the slamming of aluminum frames are all objectively bad, as he recognized quite well, but they registered themselves in his young mind as little more than unfortunate and inevitable preconditions for something spectacular. For love. It was neither a blind allegiance to his gut nor an awareness of why it growled that carried the boy forward, but rather something ineffable that lurked within the gray abyss between the two. But he nevertheless continued ever onward.


The boy’s house was on the outermost ring of the circle of dwellings that composed the village, on the end opposite to the single footpath that marked the only way out. As he navigated the metallic debris that paved the encampment’s roads, the boy heard the echoes of ugly, primitive, stupid sex. Of utilitarianism and the clanking of couples’ unoiled parts. He heard the last gasps of a civilization with a bedtime to catch and the delicate whir of burping babes on their mothers’ bosoms. The sounds faded as he entered the clearing around which the huts had been assembled, which contained a magnificent tree that no one dared fell. If the sandy bark of the great baobab of time that sits squarely in the center of the village were to have a mouth and ears and eyes, know well that the innermost primordial ring into which one swings his ax would tell no different a story than the feeble peel of its youngest shoot. It was older than the oldest wiseman and hid twice the wisdom in each one of its leafy synapses. It was older than the planet. It was not older than the stars under whose glow it quietly observed the world slumber, but it had observed them wax into dippers we know and wane from dippers we don’t. It had witnessed one thousand endeavors like that of the boy, of which all ended the same, but it nevertheless issued no more warning than a windswept bow of its branches. It smirked as he approached the mouth of the wild.


In its nocturn, the imposing jungle roared a cacophonous roar of buzzes and hisses and snarls. The boy had never ventured farther from the village than where he was; to do so was a privilege afforded only to the community’s men. The verdure to which the boy had grown accustomed had been painted black, and dim dots of red and yellow blinked at him from behind tired leaves. He tread carefully through until he could just hardly see the shimmer of burning midnight oil on the early morning dew and laid himself between two kind oaks, not daring to go any farther. With his nose buried in his shirt, he fell asleep to the lingering scent of his mother.


The Fatherland Went Out to Buy Cigarettes


A young man steps out for a long walk to clear his mind and is found in southern Italy two weeks later with his antenna (penis!) out and in search of a signal from God. What would have become of this schizophrenic freak if his pilgrimage had led him down cobbled Roman footpaths instead of along an infinitum of asphalt? If his frequency had been received by Jupiter instead of deflected by Gesù? Exile and excommunication, perhaps, but more likely distinction; after all, only those who are heroic enough to throw themselves off of their balconies today could ever have been so madly genius as to pen Genesis in yesteryear. The very foundation upon which modern civilization now stands dangerously askew was drafted by deranged minds and built by tremored hands. Chinese-poured pavement now weaves between hills once mounted by Lucy. The sons of Sumer dance to orchestral gunfire while her daughters weep at each misplayed note. The Athenian air which whilom carried mighty triremes with its gust has been replaced by glues and paint thinners.


Jesper Kold


My feet smelled bad at 4:30 in the afternoon. It happens: you wash yourself in a communal shower and forget to wear sandals therein only to have your nostrils pierced by the spectacular scent of festering fungi upon removing your shoes after a day of walking. Though science has progressed to a point at which such sporic settlements can be neatly done in with little more than a couple sprays of antifungal shoe spray, it hasn’t, however, developed a means of slowing time (unless you count amphetamines, of course). Left with a choice between allowing full colonization of my shoes and potentially missing my train to Barcelona, I surrendered my measly belongings to the Portuguese woman who manned (hah!) the front desk of the cheapest hostel in Madrid and dashed, sans phone, toward the aptly-named Gran Vía whereon I knew I could find the solutions—one open-toed, the other aerosol—to my problem. I had no problem doing so: to my delight, I’d barely managed to shed a bead of sweat by the time I found a budget sportswear store directly beside a pharmacy and made haste in purchasing the cheapest sandals I could find before running round to describe my symptoms to an amused pharmacist. With my newly-acquired foam chanclas, prescription foot unguent, and Funsol-brand “Canesderm Pie Spray” in hand, I swiftly returned to my bags, blasted my shoes with sweet-smelling noxious fumes, and continued ever-optimistically onward despite Google Maps’ having blankly told me that, upon arrival, I’d have all of three minutes to navigate Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha for the first time, find my platform, and board. I should have taken my ten-euro duffel bag’s zipper breaking within the first five minutes as a sign of what was to come. With my tattered bag in tow and a trail of fungal odor left in my wake, I managed to pull up to my train just as it had begun pulling away in derisive deliberation—its passengers casting sympathetic glances through the airtight windows that stood between them and a pungency from which they needn’t ever learn they were lucky to escape.


Defeated, I lugged my belongings to the station’s café and braised myself in a pool of sweat and sunlight at an outdoor table, where I sat hazily tending to a soggy tuna sandwich. Through my blurred eyes crossed and mind keenly unaware, I processed a heather-grey figure roll through my field of view and stop at the table before me. I focused my retinae. He kicked an empty water bottle into the wall. Just as was this action, his appearance, too, was so cartoonish as to cause me to question whether his existence was actually anything more than a symptom of heat stroke: his pale, rosy complexion had been turned comically grayscale by plastered soot as one would expect of that of a chimney sweep, his hair had been slicked neatly back and held with several months’ worth of sebum, his torn sweater was marked with stains from every genus, and his blue eyes shot confidently forward, in stark contrast to his posture. I finished my food and rehearsed a gesture of generosity between bites.


Could I buy him anything? A tea, a biscuit, a sandwich? I prayed he wouldn’t ask for something I couldn’t afford—not because I couldn’t afford it, but because I’d imagined him to be humble and I didn’t want to be wrong. He proved me right by stumbling over his words, not due to inebriation but to lexical shortcomings: “Do you want me to buy you something?” No, of course I didn’t, but thank you. A relieved look washed over his face as I took note of his clearly-not-Castilian accent and switched to English. “Can I buy you anything? A tea, a biscuit, a sandwich?” I asked. A beer—I shifted uncomfortably—or a coffee. No milk and three sugars. Please. Having already begun mentally enumerating a list of questions to ask upon my return, I coughed words of acknowledgement and asked if he’d look after my bag before ducking inside for two coffees: both black, one with three sugars. Through the window, I looked at him looking at not my bag, then to nowhere near my bag, and finally back to not my bag. I nevertheless knew that he would do anything to protect it.


Jesper Kold commands respect. He’s aloof but not condescending; he’s eccentric but impressively skilled in socialization; he has much to say but isn’t afraid of long silences; he stares fixedly at you with one eye more squinted than the other in a manner neither intimidating nor bullying but one in which a good teacher might reassure her student that she’s a friend. One can tell by his intelligence that he’s special, just as one can tell by his modesty that he knows it. Having left his hometown of Århus—a sizable city on the Danish mainland—several years before in pursuit of a career in art which he, himself, admitted was idealistic (but nonetheless doesn’t regret), he eventually found himself in Spain’s capital. His financial situation is volatile, as he relies solely upon whatever he can pocket from his creative endeavours and various odd jobs. He likes it that way, said he, but he appreciates the coffee, as things have been slow ever since the pandemic started. Out of intrepid curiosity, I did my best to swing and to dance and to usher the conversation in such a direction that would prompt him to detail the nature of his homelessness (or reject the notion thereof altogether) so as to spare me from crossing unwritten social boundaries, but no such thing came. In its stead, I happily fumbled my way through a discussion of topics I’d have otherwise been able to talk about with ease if not for both his aptitude therein and his unnervingly- and dishearteningly-seamless employment of artistic jargon throughout. He, like my good friend Louis Gardner, is one of very few people around whom I feel ever-so-wonderfully like a kid again: looking up—both literally and figuratively—to my parents and consuming their omniscience with infantile awe and without a grain of salt. Despite Louis’ youth over me, and despite Jesper being no older than thirty, the two share an intrinsic, ineffable wisdom which transcends age.


I felt the sun swivel from one side of my face to the other as our conversation hit the two-hour mark. He never once motioned to adjourn or apologized for having taken up so much of my time—as I would have done out of guilt if I’d been in his (probably less-foul-smelling shoes)—of which I was quite proud. Jesper Kold uses a laptop he found to make music on a pirated version of Ableton Live. He shared with me his SoundCloud account, spelled “Q-S-I-O-S—No, ‘X,’ not ‘S’: Q-X-I-O-S,” which can be found by clicking this link. He carries in the front pocket of his nondescript gray “New York” hoodie a tired leather notebook, which he flipped through—revealing flashes of detailed sketches and divulging technical brilliance—before stopping at a page containing nothing more than a vapid outline of a soccer stadium whose seats’ perspective had been swapped so as to make the one furthest from the viewer the largest (and vice versa). “I’ve been experimenting a lot with stuff like this lately,” he said coolly. He cared little, one could see, about what I thought of his work or even that what he showed me was representative of his disposition. He would sit as unabashed and unperturbed as ever while I analyzed his œuvre, regardless of whether I had sung its praises or screamed bloody murder.


The reflection of the setting sun in a nearby window sobered me to the evening’s old age. As we exchanged goodbyes and cordial assurances of fated reunion, and after I’d given him the remainder of my cigarettes to replace his collection of half-smoked butts, he raised a finger and brow in unison. I set my bag back down. “By the way,” he added, “I was checking the statistical report on my SoundCloud the other day.” I nodded. He then proudly stated, in a manner which harkened back to his brazen exhibition of his shitty sketch, that all ten of his viewers from the month prior had hailed from the United States. That, coupled with his having just befriended me, is reason enough to try to scrounge enough money to hit New York, he said. “Plus, I have some good artist friends out there,” he added. “You might know one of them—God, what’s his name? Julian! John Lennon’s son. He’s a good friend.” He’d already shed a toothy grin and repeated his farewells before I could even piece a question together. I arrived at my hostel fifteen minutes later to discover that my feet no longer smelled.


Sex and Assault in Oman


Without a shadow of doubt, Oman’s capital city of Muscat has the worst, most mismanaged system of transportation infrastructure I’ve ever seen. Having just completed my first-ever round of European fashion weeks, an arrangement to meet my friend Niccolò in Iraq in a few weeks’ time—coupled with my stubborn frugality—drove me to find the cheapest-possible route from Paris to Sulaymaniyah. Though these such stinge-driven journeys have, as I will soon detail, brought about extremely valuable experiences (whether for good or for bad), they’re admittedly completely unnecessary complications whose acute stress and fatigue often lead me to question whether they’re actually worth suffering through so as to save a measly fifty-odd bucks. My plan to get to Iraq was as follows: take a budget flight to Vienna, a bus to Bratislava and to Budapest soon thereafter, a train to the Transylvanian village of SighiÈ™oara, and finally a sleeper to Bucharest, whence I would then fly to Dubai for a suspiciously-low thirty-eight euros, stay there for five nights, and board an Iraqi Airways flight to Sulaymaniyah. Try doing that during the pandemic!


Even without a threat to global health and wellness to use as an excuse, I nevertheless managed to further complicate my plans through a sour concoction of good old-fashioned adolescent lust and general ineptitude. I started off on what must surely have been the best foot possible in my having missed my flight to Vienna (the very first leg of my voyage, mind you). Through my innate charm and learned ability to MacGyver my way out of most situations, however, I was able to finagle my way onto another flight, free of charge—but not before spending the night amid the omnipresent fluorescent lighting and beeping Selecta machines of Charles de Gaulle Airport. All then proceeded as had been planned until I was forced into forfeiting my trip to Transylvania so as to stay in Budapest for another day; having gone clubbing with newfound hostel friends and subsequently losing said friends with neither battery left on my phone nor any remaining sobriety with which to navigate myself to bed, I approached two girls—in a bout of inebriated confidence—pleading to use a phone. I digress: I ultimately fell deeply into infatuation with one of them (who I remember went to Cambridge but whose name, ironically, I can’t recall) and had developed a bond so gloriously banal that it drove me to go to Keleti station with the sole intention of watching my train chug away without me.


The next diversion came soon after my arrival in Dubai. It’s strange: all throughout my middle school career, I had this “crypto bro”-esque obsession with the obnoxiously-superficial wealth of the United Arab Emirates and a burning jealousy for all of its residents. Whatever lingered of this fascination dissolved into the country’s artificial seas before I could even visit them, though. The streets were completely devoid of any people or culture whatsoever; its luxuries, I realized, were available only to those who could afford them; the visible masses of South Asian modern-day slaves on whose backs the country had been built formed a depressive fog which clouded one’s view of the city which may otherwise (but likely not) have been positive; and, if that weren’t enough, temperatures regularly surpassed one hundred and ten degrees. I had had enough. The morning after my flight had landed the night before, I took the metro to Al Rigga station, purchased a round-trip bus ticket to Muscat, grabbed a bite to eat, and, without a semblance of an idea of what to expect, climbed aboard to start the ten-hour journey.


Awaiting me in Muscat was my first run-in with the city’s aforementioned absence of infrastructural integrity. We rolled into the transport agency’s parking lot just as the sun was rolling into view; at 4:00 in the morning in an obscure industrial neighborhood—with my heavy bag, bump-induced lack of sleep, and SIM card-less phone—I had absolutely no clue what I was meant to do. Luckily, the bus driver came to my rescue. Through a mix of his broken English and my broken French, he offered his ancient first-generation smartphone as a means through which to find my whereabouts and get my bearings and then kindly drove me to a nearby McDonald’s that I’d decided would be my best bet. It wasn’t. My savior had no sooner pulled his old beige Toyota onto the adjacent highway than I realized that the McDonald’s wouldn’t open for another five hours. The problem with Muscat’s infrastructure lies in the city’s age: having been established as a trading port centuries before the invention of cars, and due to its historical absence of horses and horse-drawn carriages, streets were seldom wide enough to accommodate cars, and, as such, a network of highways were carved into whatever space was left. Henceforth began an exhaustive, hour-long hike—along a rush hour-charged road whose sides were (almost patronizingly) cushioned by strips of sidewalk and immaculately-maintained flowered lawns—in search of an open store or restaurant in which to charge my phone and figure out where I’d be staying that night. I eventually happened upon a lone Starbucks surrounded entirely by empty parking lots, and, after I’d charged my phone to a sufficient degree and found my accomodation, I set back out to the overpass to catch the bus. See, that’s the problem with Muscat’s transportation system: due to their size, buses are limited almost exclusively to highways, meaning carless commuters need to wait mere feet away from the speeding Ferraris of the Omani oil moguls in order to hitch a ride (on buses which would often pull over, sans warning, onto shoulderless highways to let passengers in; needless to say, their rears were in tatters).


The remainder of my stay went surprisingly well. Don’t get me wrong: Muscat is a city in shambles—the capital of a corrupt absolute monarchy whose population is comprised of barely twenty-five percent native Omanis who rule over over the nation’s imported laborers—but it nonetheless maintains a degree of surrealism therein which gives it an endearing-yet-guilty charm. By the time I had but one night left before my return to Dubai, I’d exhausted my visits to all but one of what could hypothetically be called tourist attractions: the Mutrah Corniche, upon which a sizable fort had been built several hundred years before. Having seen no other options, I made my way to the Mwasalat stop across from the cheap hotel in whose pool area I had accidentally locked myself the night before (after thirty minutes of panicked knocking in uniquely American fashion, my calls for freedom were finally begrudgingly answered by a man whose wife I’d woken up therewith). As I was waiting in the one hundred and fifteen-degree humidity with beads of sweat cascading onto my damp shirt for my bus to putter along, however, a familiar old beige Toyota parked itself in its stead. Its driver’s side window rolled down to reveal the same wise visage, draped in the same traditional masar headdress, as those of the man who had driven me to McDonald’s just days before. He smiled and gestured for me to come closer in a way whose intimacy implied that we’d met. We hadn’t—he simply carried an uncanny resemblance to my bus driver—but, regrettably, it took his offering to chauffeur me to my destination, his locking the doors immediately after I’d gotten in, and his gently stroking my inner thigh to goad me into second-guessing myself. I shifted in my seat so as to convey discomfort. “Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly, “this is normal in Oman.” Though naïve in retrospect, I was inclined to believe him; the Western stigmatization of physical intimacy between male friends I was indoctrinated into believing was universal was shown to me to be unequivocally not when, during my two months in rural Ethiopia—a country whose unwritten social code has a zero-tolerance policy on homosexuality—I discovered it was commonplace for pals to hold hands or even link pinkies in a display of platonic affection. In the case of my bus driver friend’s doppelgänger, however, this was not the case. In spite of my having shown my malaise through every indirect means possible, he continued to caress my thigh, moving ever-downward, his thumb stroking my skin. I told him to fuck off and pried the lock peg up despite having been on one of Muscat’s dastardly highways going upwards of one hundred kilometers per hour. He locked the door, all the while reassuring me of my safety. Having managed to pry his hands from me, we soon approached a traffic light which had just turned yellow, and, likely knowing full well that stopping would end in my escape, he burst forward at a speed exceeding that of which I had assumed his shoddy car was capable in an unfruitful attempt at passing on time. Upon his failure thereto, I quickly unlocked and opened the door and stretched a leg out into the static motorway, to which he didn’t take kindly and decided to grab my arm. I turned to face him, pushed his neck into the window, exited the vehicle, and scurried off toward the sidewalk. We had been driving in the direction opposite to the corniche. I left my headphones atop the passenger seat.


Having exhausted all of my patience in Muscat’s bus system and population of middle-aged men, I decided to execute my touristic plans on foot, which, despite the resumption of my heavy sweating, eventually proved to afford an ineffable catharsis. Though the Mutrah Corniche was itself unmemorable (or perhaps I’d just grown jaded throughout my travels), I carved a little message into whatever blank space I could find on the fort’s walls and allowed the adrenaline of my experience to carry my feet southward. For what must have been three hours, I strolled the narrow pedestrian corridors of Muscat before eventually finding myself at the W Hotel and passing as one of its guests so as to access its private beach, where I sat in banal pensiveness for a bit before electing to call it quits. So, in an exercise of unprecedented confidence, I then walked assuredly into the hotel lobby, asked the concierge to call a taxi to the fish restaurant next to my accommodation—to which he shot a confused look—and asked that the cost be added to the tab of room three hundred and eight. It worked.


After several minutes of awkward silence, the concierge uttered a few words into the phone in Arabic and gestured for me to make my way outside. I got into the passenger seat and began what persists as the strangest taxi ride I’ve ever taken. Though things had started out relatively normally—we’d exchanged polite greetings of salam, he’d asked me where I was from, etc.—they grew increasingly strange mere minutes into our journey: with my eyes passively screening the dim surroundings, I noticed from out of the corner of my eye a screen flick on in full brightness. Having glanced over out of concern that he’d been texting while driving (I had theretofore had my fill of disastrous car rides), I saw for a moment the image of a full-frontal vagina in all of its glory before he shut his phone off and the car once again became dark. Minutes later, and without a word of acknowledgement, his phone was on and he was browsing the same material as before. Despite the day’s unfortunate automotive history, I decided to ignore his salacity—after all, who was I to stand between a man and his pornography? No amount of reluctant acceptance could possibly have prepared me for what I heard soon thereafter, though: as if pictures of female genitalia hadn’t been enough, he decided to play, at full volume, the entirety of a video of a hijabi woman getting fucked in the ass that he’d downloaded—yes, downloaded—onto his device. What I found funniest about the situation was his having held his phone by his side, as one would in high school to avoid detection by a teacher, as if to pretend that the woman’s moans weren’t clearly audible. Being myself, I naturally tried to record the scene with the little battery I had left on my phone, but was met with a stern look and a single word: “no.” I returned to Dubai the next day with a libido as low as it had hitherto ever been.


Today and Other Days


I have a distinct memory of having been a five-year-old unable to sleep. It was as though I’d been trying harder to look primed for slumber than to actually fall thereinto: my knees tucked unnaturally into my hands clasped, my left ear buried in my pillow, and my right taking eager note of each change of tone in the otherwise unintelligible conversation held softly in the room adjacent so as to not wake me. Fed up with my persistent wakefulness, I turned Tata to face me. “Tata,” I whispered, “I’m going to force myself to remember this moment. Tomorrow, and every day after, I’m going to think of this moment so that it never goes away.” This was, as I would eventually come to realize, hardly a bad idea (as corroborated by my having maintained the very memory wherein I conceived of it). In fact, I’ve employed its help many times thereafter to ensure that I would crystallize a memory—albeit sparingly due to its limitations—by merely stating, whether aloud and unabashedly self-referential or in a tone more akin to the murmur that started it all, that I would. This paragraph exists as an experiment: a written promise to myself to retain today’s happenings. I’m going to force myself to remember them. Tomorrow, and every day after, I’m going to think of them so that they never go away.


I stood, leaned slackly against the discolored wooden fence which separates us from the Siena, after having just filially relapsed. The young yonic plant, whose wide leaves had sprouted anew in the gravel before me just days before, nodded knowingly at me in verdant passive-aggression, having heard of such moments from its progenitors. Feet shuffled behind me. In an instant, I walked back to my house, walked back home, felt the weightlessness of one thousand inhalations of unfiltered Chesterfields in my face, walked back to Papa’s house, and blinked as an Ottoman bullet clipped my left shoulder. She loves me so much. The feeling is mutual, and I pray she never ceases to worry about my dirty mouth, even though I use it to eat every morning. It was at that point that the homeless shelter across the street began its weekly orchestral processions and that my cyclical reversion shifted from its brief stage of catharsis to that of profound misery and self-disgust. I vow to never again refuse another of her embraces—nor his, for that matter. I will henceforth feed on each cacophonous clash of trumpets and trombones and every undulation in our road toward whatever it may be that I am afforded before the former reaches its song’s conclusion and the latter its inevitable bifurcation.