Guernica – Pablo Picasso
This whole place is white. Eggshell white. There’s not much else to be said about it. Not much else, because it’s just a room —and there is hardly anything in it. Not yet. Far better to start with the absentees in any case; in rooms, life, and everything else, that which is missing can often provide the greater presence.
First, there are no windows here, so we are not privy to the weather conditions. And as there are no windows, there are no blinds, and consequently no slashes of sunlight cast upon the floor. There are four walls, one ceiling, wooden boards underfoot, and a table. The walls keep the ceiling up, and the ceiling keeps the walls down. The floor is there for walking and for the table to rest upon. The table is a device for people to sit around, for this is what shall happen in a short while. And as they come, so shall they bring chairs, for they know their own comfort. And comfort is enough —for now.
Bringing her life along, yet making sure to leave it behind, Sam enters through a doorless space. Hi, Carl, she says, once he has squeezed in after her. Hi, Sam. This is not the most inventive of introductions, and these are not the most engaging of people, it has to be said. But this is how it goes in a place like this. This is how it always goes. And it’s enough.
Dave, next. Like Carl and Sam, he has a monosyllabic name for simplicity. Some of these people, as we shall discover, have monosyllabic brains, too. Hi, Carl. Hi, Dave. Hi, Carl. Hi, Sam.
One-by-one, the seat-bringers surround the table until every space is filled in this, the eggshell room in which they will chat. They all have names, and we will come to learn them; whether these people will learn anything about themselves is largely dependent upon confidence, contemplation, and foible.
Bill is entrant number seven. He gets right up in Sam’s face straight away and yells, LIKE ME! But Sam doesn’t want to like him yet, having only just met the guy.
Even after he shows her his private collection, she finds him hard to like. Especially after he shows her his private collection. Managing a half-polite semi-smile, she ferrets herself away into a corner of photographs: images of cats, food, guns —and guns’ results. The latter doesn’t matter; that sort of stuff only registers with people who care. Ferreting away doesn’t seem to matter, either. Not to Bill. What is he supposed to think? The girl is clearly playing hard-to-rape. Pfft —she obviously wants it.
Girls, man. They want it
All of them. Bill knows this, so he backs Sam into a corner and up against a version of herself. She’s fuckable, he thinks. You’re gorgeous, he says, even though he doesn’t know her from Eve. This is not to be considered creepy in the slightest; women are well-accustomed to compliments, and as such, should appreciate every last one. Bear them all with fortitude and a little bit of gratitude, they should, for they might never know another. In any case, there are far worse things to be worrying about than the odd catcall or thirty. Girls should get a grip and worry about serious matters such as the environment or climate change or —wait: strike that. Reverse it. Girls should never worry their pretty little heads about serious matters such as the environment or climate change because those things are not even real issues anyway, and even if they were, they should certainly not be addressed by spoilt brats who should be at school where they can look forward to a bright and wonderful future —it’s so nice to see!
In the next breath, and after a good ol’ cup of covfefe, he mentions his height —it’s a whopper of a number. Huge. In fact, this number of ultimate and almighty bigness means PRAISE MY ENORMOUS PENIS but she (the silly girl) thinks he’s telling her how tall he is. Ha!
Unsure of her options now, being that she has always been taught to welcome attention from men no matter how vulgar they are because it would be rude not to and people would consider her unworthy of a second glance and she must always explain herself and her behaviour and her face and justify her choice to wear make-up on it because everyone knows she looks better without it and she must regularly apologise for her weight and shape and the clothes with which she adorns it and she must respond with kindness and a wink to every comment from Every Man Ever otherwise how else will she find a husband and how else will she ever become a mother or feel any sense of self-worth whatsoever and who would even look at her twice let alone want to mate because look how ugly and inappropriately burdensome she is, she hands him her coerced thumb. It is up, but her eyes are down.
Happy with that for now —but only for now— the man sits his arse down with the girl’s digit held aloft for all to see. He didn’t have this much luck with the previous one, who is not in this room. She was a proper pig. A pig who had refused to praise his celestial diamond-cut throne-dwelling penis of golden gloriousness so he’d made sure to tell her how fat and ugly and worthless she was and said he hadn’t meant it when he’d called her gorgeous, the fatuglyworthlesspig. He’d made sure to drive the point home with sharpened words. He’d made sure the pig knew he considered her A Fat. He’d made sure the pig knew he considered her An Ugly. That was all she was, and that was enough.
Now, the group sit ‘round the table not quite knowing what to say, so, being default-weather-talkers, they discuss the mundane. Anyone notice the rain last night? It was wet. They offer equally dull gusts by way of response, including but not limited to the wind (it blows, man) and the ambient humidity which is frizzing all the female hair (a look which is downright unattractive and puts a man right off no matter how otherwise-fuckable the bearer) before they move on to the next topic: films.
John’s favourite is ___________, and the other men agree. This makes them look cool. It makes them look clever. It makes them look educated. Ann, though (oh, Ann, when will you learn?) says ________ is the best movie ever made. She enjoys it and it brings her happiness. But this makes her look stupid. The others laugh and mock, and mock and laugh. She takes off her face and hands it around for the others to witness the parallel blue streams of her twilight tears.
Seven eighths of the room’s inhabitants enjoy a long-running TV show (no, not that one). The odd man out does not. But, as his opinion is crucial and must be shared with the others, he takes a big brown ice-cream swirl of a dump on their enthusiasm. That’s enough, that’s enough.
Next, their favourite author. Dave really enjoys _________, of whom nobody in this room has ever heard, but who is somebody everybody pretends to know. Lucy, though, has a bit of a thing for ________, and happens to have upon her person, at this table, in this room, a copy of the latest novel. She approaches her neighbours in turn and fans the pages in their faces. It smells nice (it’s a book —of course it does). But ________ is considered a joke even though she consistently churns out best-sellers, making money while she sleeps the most enviable slumbers that reek of happy Saturdays and extended middle fingers.
Four people fall to the floor and roll about on it, laughing. The reader is as stupid as the author and they know it, so they want her to know it, too. As she is laughed out of the room, the remainers agree on one thing: no pineapple on pizza. Next, a related topic comes up. Neither John nor Ann would be found eating anything that ever had a face, or that which came from anything that came from anyone who ever had a mother. This is a red flag to the proverbial because plants feel pain, too. But it’s the one about the animals being grateful (as in they should be) that gets on Ann’s tits. This weighs heavily on her everything, and she voices her concerns —silly girl.
Dave can’t be doing with this nonsense. Stupid girl, having an opinion; this place has no time for outsiders. With one click of his fingers, he banishes Ann from the room.
The six insiders are still on the subject, and John holds up a photograph of a piglet. It’s tiny and wearing a onesie. Isn’t it cute, he says, and it is not a question. Bacon, someone else says, which is not only hilarious but entirely original because nobody has ever before had the sheer genius to come up with such a thing. What a wag!
People are stupid. So stupid, in fact, they can no longer sit down, as they no longer have arses, having laughed them off at the side-splitting comment about thinly sliced pigmeat. But John is his own enemy —he goes on to hold up a dripping red foetus even though nobody had asked to see it. And now, there are five.
Sam, who is clearly gagging for it by now, frames her face and shows off her freckles. This time, it’s Carl who’s taken by her fuckability. She must only be doing it for attention, he thinks (and says, to the others). He’s right, they think. You’re right, they say. But there is a thing, and the thing is this: she knows she’s attractive. This is strike one. A real woman should never be aware of her own beauty unless she is describing for men her shaven netherparts or the effect of shower water on her breasts; drips and beads of H2-Oh, I’m so horny. Otherwise, she should consider herself quite the moose.
Strike two: she’s wearing a cosmetic mask. She’d look much better without it, and the chorus tells her so via a bollockful of ugly voices. Strike three: she displays herself in another frame now, but this time her tattoos are on display. Females should not be permitted to darken their bodies with ink, for the sake of utter fuck. Have they learned nothing?
It’s obvious what’s going to happen, too —she’ll be in town, or at the mall, peacocking all around (well, pea-henning, to be more accurate), ugly ink on display for all to see, and she’ll be the one to complain when people prod her! You can’t go around like that and not expect to be touched. You just can’t. Pfft —girls should be happy in their natural skin, and that should be enough.
And sure, she could come up with excuses. Shoddy reasons for wanting to look like an ol’ slapper. But it doesn’t matter that she feels good about herself, finally. It doesn’t matter that she’s escaped years of abuse, finally. And it certainly doesn’t matter that she’s found confidence and embraced self-expression and is now experiencing if not self-love then self not-hate, finally.
But who cares, because tits. Who cares, because lingerie. There are no question marks here because there are no questions, only judgement and condemnation. She is clearly asking for it, having brought it on herself via wardrobe and demeanour, so one of the men gives it to her. It doesn’t matter which one. One is enough.
And now, there are four. The man stays, because he was only doing as nature intended. And, as we all know, boys will be boys will be boys will be boys will BE BOYS BE BOYS BE BOYS BOYS BOYS especially when females encourage and insist upon causing the eruption of their volcanic ballbags. If only the weaker, infinitely useless sex would realise they are there solely for the pleasure of the penis, the world would be a much calmer place. Silly girls. Silly, silly girls. Pfft.
It’s just Carl, Bill, Dave, and the one-girl-left, now. I’ve forgotten her name, because she’s unimportant. She’s just a girl. A girl in a roomful of men. A ballsack of masculinity. A murder of testosterone. A girl with skin unlike their own, and with a sexuality and gender far removed from theirs.
They make a bet to turn her, although they regret not having asked her to do a duet before Sam’s departure. She’s sure to have gone for it, too, lesbianism not even being a real thing in any case. It’s all just play-acting. They love putting on a show for men, they do.
In a way, they kind of pity her. It’s a threefer: she’s worth less than them because she’s a girl. She’s worth nothing to them because she doesn’t like cock. She’s worth less than nothing to them because she has dark chocolate skin. Or is it mocha? Gravy? Caramel, maybe. They aren’t quite sure which foodstuff or drinkthing to use to describe her, so they settle on ______. It’s a word they haven’t been able to say until now, and they sure are pissed about it. Why should _______ be the only ones who can say ______? It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.
It’s fine, though, there’s nothing to see here. No racism here. There can’t be; they each knew somebody who used to work for someone who had a cousin somewhere whose best friend’s paperboy’s uncle’s teacher’s sister’s dog walker’s hair stylist’s boyfriend was a ______. Oh —and they liked that actor in that film. The one who’s always mistaken for the other one because they all look the same. And there’s enough black performers in any case. And as for them getting their own superhero movie? Pfft —one was enough.
Now, they touch her hair. In turn, each man grasps a strand and pulls it to fuckdom come to see how long it really is. Handsy people have hands and they have the right to use them, gosh darn it. Wow! How does it coil up so tight? It must be difficult to get a comb through. I bet it was a bastard when head lice were doing the rounds. Why do you all smell of coconut oil? Give us a song, I bet you have a great voice. Next, they ask where she’s from, and because she gives a stupid answer like Liverpool or Cape Elizabeth or Manchester or Nova Scotia, and because she is clearly stupid, they have to explain no, originally. And why do you wear sheets on your head? Why do you have an Anglicised name? You’re so exotic. I’ve always wanted to try it with a ______.
As they try to cure her with their insatiable, irresistible handsomeness, they flag up a concerning discovery between her legs. This makes her a fourfer, now. With her quartet of unworthiness, she’s erased from the room. She’s not even worth turning; she’s not even a she, for fuck’s sake. Since when did pink, white, and blue make the colour of a woman?
With her exit comes her replacement. Jane comes in on wheels and with electronically enhanced ears. How do you people manage to have sex? Does everything work? Is it all in proportion? What’s wrong with you? These questions are not spoken but yelled, for she is OBVIOUSLY A BIT DENSE. Her husband must have married her for the cash because they clearly rake it in with disability benefits. Scroungers, the pair of ‘em. Either that, or it’s a case of pity; he cannot love her. Not in the proper way —the only way: between one man and one woman. I mean —look at her. She can’t use her legs. Scrawny little atrophied things, they are. That’s hardly a turn-on in bed, is it? What is even the point of her existence? What is the point of her?
She retreats; she must be too weak to stay.
Another girl takes her place. A knocked-up, beaten-down girl with only antacid for company and seventeen weeks to go. She should have held her legs together, they say. She’s on her third husband and fifth tit-sucking parasite so they’ll be burying her in a Y-shaped coffin they say they say they say they say THEY SAY THEY SAY THEY SAY they tell her what a terrible role model she is —or what a good one she isn’t.
Funny thing is, though, this is the same thing they tell the ones who do keep their legs closed. The same thing they say to Women of Choice. The same thing they tell women, period. Oh, periods —yet another subject on which they have words. And once those words are spoken, being that the female form belongs to them for purposes sexual and legislative, they mutilate their argument via a certain type of explanation reserved only for their gender (someone should totally come up with a catchy term for that).
But yes, girls need everything spelled out and underlined and yelled at them, such is their stupidity. Men, though, men are a blessing to the thickest, most stupid of doom-brained females. It is those men —these men, right here—we should all appreciate. Poor souls, experiencing sexism —nay, sheer hatred all the time. Fucking feminists. I mean —did you catch that Scouse Bint the other day, shaming some guy just because he sent her an innocent message? Those things are private, for Satan’s sake. Did he give his consent for her to take that screenshot and post it for the world to see? Did he bollocks. A simple, innocent request from a complete stranger offering her a role in his movie along with a gaggle of other redheads —she should be flattered.
Poor men. Poor, poor men.
As they contemplate everything they’ve just witnessed, everything they’ve just heard, every ugly girl and every memory of every fat girl they ever had to endure and every lezzer they had to try to cure and every disabled girl they wouldn’t fuck even though they should be grateful because who else would have them and all those not-even-female-girls who dare to call themselves women even though they have a dick and how dare they because there are only two genders which is something everybody knows because nature and science and GOD, they cry as one, holding and hugging and wiping tears away from a breakage of broken faces. But it doesn’t last; they quickly collect themselves and man up. There’ll be none of that, none of that. There are better, worthier girls out there. Girls who will worship at the Altar of the Enormous and Almighty Penis without question.
One of them says let’s have a fight and is immediately met with a flying fist. Much better –a violent bandage to bridge a sappy wound that’s been bleeding estrogen. The trio get into a scuffle, enjoying every punch, hook, and scratch –no, not scratch, too feminine. Strike that. Every Thump!
They fight, and they fight. And then they fight some more. But besides their own collective, there is nobody left to pass thumbs and hearts around, so they can neither seek nor receive the oxygen of validation.
It’s no surprise they’re pissed. Pfft —fucking men-haters, with their refusal to cook a decent meal for their husbands or sweep up after their boyfriends. Bloody lesbians with their anti-men stance. Bloody man-hatin’ feminist lezzers, the lot of ‘em. How do they ever get wet enough for penetration? They’re such a passion-killer, those dykes, they put the dry into misandry. A good helping of cock would cure them. One cock would be enough.
Hearing the red flag of commotion, the proverbial animal bounds into the room. Like a wrecking ball of cartoon meat, he bowls over to the three men and stops still before making any sort of contact. He looks not so much wrong, as unright. It’s as if he’s been written by Picasso or painted by Burroughs.
So fragile are they that a single breath from his ringed nose is enough to floor the brittle trio, who shred into shards and fall down, piece-by-piece. Down to a floor upon which they can no longer roll, laughing. Down to a floor upon which they sit, now, shattered smatterings of bone china so white and so fragile that even a single pfft from a whispering nostril was enough.
Job done, but retaining unspent aggression, the bull begins to back away into the nowhere and the everything outside the room. There, where it is not so contained and not so white, we get a closer look at the anime meat of his fibre. He’s made of a non-exhaustive list of real men, birthed by and bathed in estrogen. Fighters. Champions. Feminists. Gay men. Men assigned female at birth. Black men, brown. Tall men, short. Round and thin and young and old and masculine men and feminine men and …women, holding up the rear. Women, leading from behind. Gretas and Lindas and Catherines and Jessicas and Allegras and Erikas and Sheilas and Angelas and Lisas and Lizas and Emmas and Pixies. Nicola, Nikki, Peggy and Pippa, Renee, Laura, Brooklynne, Betty, Toni, Larissa, Sloane, Zoe, and Cate are here. Priya is Jennifer is Shana is Sheri is Georgina is Sandra is Tanya is Thana is Sarah is Marie is Roberta. They —we— are all made from the same fabric. We are enough.
The bull needs to break something down, and fast, so he selects the fourth wall. The fourth very white, very fragile wall. From there, a tiny voice from a tiny reader: not all men.
Del Toro sees the red flag again. We bound over. There are smashes, shattering, shards. Unfixable, unputbacktogetherable. No words have they; no power, now. We brush the shreds into the eggshell arena where we lean over their fibre and offer a selection of thoughts and prayers.
Now, the sediment of misplaced sentiment rests where once sat a girl —in a room; a white, fragile room. There’s not much else to be said about it. Not much else, because it’s just a room —and there is hardly anything in it. Not yet. Far better to start with the absentees in any case; in rooms, life, and everything else, that which is missing can often provide the greater presence.