The Dalian Panoptic Follow story

Valentino Valentino -

«I left on her eyelids my lightness my prairie o f memorizing fish I quasi bird» Saravia, great poet. At the house of John Damario, we all agreed with the surrealistic conception that his wife Lucrecia, an exquisite painter, gave to his painting. Ever since a very long time ago, she had decanted by the anarchic Dadá, and she was now feeling, as she expressed it herself, an infinite adoration for Dalí. Even John Damario, dominated by his characterized reverence, had bought a dalian painting, which I always considered, even though my knowledge about the canvas is limited, as a bad copy...


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The Dalian Panoptic

«I left on her eyelids

my lightness

my prairie o f memorizing fish

I

quasi bird»

Saravia, great poet.




I do not understand it yet.


At the house of John Damario, we all agreed with the surrealistic conception that his wife Lucrecia, an exquisite painter, gave to his painting. Ever since a very long time ago, she had decanted by the anarchic Dadá, and she was now feeling, as she expressed it herself, an infinite adoration for Dalí. Even John Damario, dominated by his characterized reverence, had bought a dalian painting, which I always considered, even though my knowledge about the canvas is limited, as a bad copy, which he disposed to be hang in the room, together with other of his wife’s productions. For John Damario, who was not a painter but a clerk converted into bourgeois, and lately into art critic, the exhibition of the painting appeared magnificent, and he even revealed, presumptuous, that the piece had cost him endless mishaps and gastric tribulations, despite that due to his singular sagacity, he had been able to obtain at a bargain price. With that work on exhibition, the endless evenings were not to be belated. And precisely during those tedious reunions, John Damario’s incipient genius –who boasted of possessing a severely critical narrow viewpoint, within which Warhol and Borges, those anarchists of the plastic art, occupied the top of the pyramid– exhibited his startling magic for vanishing people. As expected, my moods also succumbed to such enchantment; since then, I began, progressively, to postpone my visits to the house. In the last reunions, in clear deference, but really a pretext for my definitive distancing, I extolled that virtuous paint:


“Only the extravagance of Dalí and of his oniric cosmogony are capable of achieving such spiritual frenzy!”, I burst out with a pretended applause, tempering my impatience on the painting’s plasticity. I cleverly suggested a prompt appetizer.


Half an hour later, after some drinks, I departed with a see you later.


Without estimating it, my absence lasted seven long months, prolonged by the evenhanded attentions of other camaraderies; in an act of unconscious villainy, I hardly phoned a couple of times and never visited him.


Yet, a wintry October night, after attending mesmerized the triumphal representation of the The Assassination of Jesus, by La Fragua Theatre, I bumped into John Damario. I spotted him in the distance, somber amongst the populace. Mortified by the reconsideration of my deliberate distancing, I decided to greet him, timidly. By an impulse of manliness, I dragged my feet to his encounter. I fabricated then a pile of extraordinary excuses. However, the populace continued denying me his presence, frustrating me, and John Damario drifted away, he departed. Thus far, a something, perhaps taciturn, changed his permanently circumspect disposition. Furthermore, he seemed a querulous being, bewildered, gone, but at the same time he maintained in that continuance a kind of suspicion, between doubt and sorrow. This unexpected situation led me to the conjectures hall. I deduced, certainly, that my absence had not been the cause of that condition, no. Same impression that induced me to ascertain what had happened to the friend.


Two days later, I decided to visit Fidelia, a mutual friend, so that she interceded for me at Damario’s house. I pleaded her that she made it casually, within some opportune commentary. We agreed that I would visit her later to know details about her embassy.


“You should go to see him”, Fidelia said nebulously. “He’s ill, very ill. It appears that Lucrecia abandoned him”.


That put me on guard. The following weekend, I visited him.


“The culprit is Esteban that petty painter”, John Damario groaned bitterly. “She, my Lucrecia, she abandoned me for that ruffian!”.


“What! What do you say!”, I exclaimed, perplexed. “Lucrecia abandoned you!”.


He assented nodding; still, I could not believe it. Bursting with rage, and to save the honor of the friend, I decided to seek the painter in question, Esteban, to settle the scores.


“You will soon have news of that wretched Esteban”, I comforted him.


My surprise was superlative when I met him. I found myself with an old man not younger than eighty years old. My animal instinct was appeased by the old man’s serenity.


“Ah! John Damario”, answered the old man. “Yes, now I recall the one of the panoptic. He is the owner of an extremely beautiful absorbing painting. Never anyone, believe me, friend, no one, would resist that fantastic power. The first time that I saw it, I felt that I could never leave it”, he said, while expounding himself with abstract appraisals about the painting, but interrupted by my insistence, he reckoned: “Yes, I visited the house often during some time. Lucrecia is a beautiful person. By the way, it’s been a long time since I last saw her, do you know anything about her?”, he concluded asking me.


I replied some crap to him and left troubled by the sudden encounter. John Damario had lied to me, and dishonestly I suspected him. Something was happening. The doubts overwhelmed me. 


Trapped by my businesses’ pressure, I let time solve the issue. I continued trying to communicate with Damario, but he was not even answering the phone. “I will go to visit him”, I resolved a December day. After some inquiries, I went to Damario’s house with the hope that Lucrecia was back or even that John Damario would tell me, happily, that everything was fine as before. However, John Damario was not home. I deliberated. Finally, I considered that this condition was propitious for me. And to be sure, I knocked on the door several times but did not obtain reply. Then I decided to enter the house by a false door in the cellar. Nothing had changed, and the house was the same as so many times I had seen it before. I toured it room by room, to investigate. In the hall, the Dalian painting was still hanging. “How strange, I thought, if Damario was so annoyed with Lucrecia, he might have already taken down that painting; it was so intimate for both.” And this painting, so loyally complaint with crazy surrealistic doctrines, is really extraordinary. They say that Dalí painted it during those times in which he assured that he painted only in full moon so that his soul would not be robbed. It contains all the oniric force of the genius. Even though it rather like a collage, a technique too advanced for its time. In its lower part, on the background, an army salutes the Capitol; and it has, superposed, some strokes of orange paint that go around the whole painting creating a beautiful mosaic of cold and blazing colors; some worlds oscillate in the painting; horrific figures float freely on a wide horizon; a virgin carries a child in her hands; in the center there is a great eye –and this is a especial detail– an eye that has a mirror as pupil. This last detail has, according to Lucrecia, the power of abstraction.


A noise that sounded in the corridor brought me back to reality. John Damario!, I thought, and escaped swiftly by the same place where I had come.


That night I sank in expectation. I reflected. Lucrecia had disappeared without a trace and John Damario had lied to me. What to infer? They were the perfect couple: the intellectuality and the effort in structure. Infidelities? Jealousy… the evenings? That’s it, the evenings; Damario then would be right.


Maybe some verbose intellectual might have seduced her, but, why would he mention Esteban, the painter, an old man that cannot even hold up himself any longer? I continued without falling asleep. I slept at daybreak.


In the morning, after an all-nighter, I decided to confront the matter: it would be John Damario himself who would clarify it.


“It is the painting”, he said, with a glimpse of confusion. “It is the painting! In it… the angels and the demons…"


It did not take much time to notice a neurotic influx in John Damario, all tremulous. My fears ten folded.


“What do you say, Damario?”, I queried, perplexed. “Painting, what painting? And Lucrecia?”, I grumbled, out of control.


“That one!”, and he pointed directly at it. “…The eye, the eye!”


“Come on, Damario, wake up!”, I said, restraining him by the shoulders.


The situation was distressing, alarming. His unintelligible words were misleading my reasoning. With my senses back, I opted for calmness. I calmed him, and carried him to the bed anyway I could.


“Rest”, I advised him and left towards the hall.


I leant upon the divan; I was exhausted. My thoughts, as lunatics in a madhouse, revolved over stupefied. “Maybe he becomes himself again later”, I considered. I rested my eyelids. I speculated. The last words that Damario uttered were about the painting. What to think, finally insane! And thus, he would have been capable of any thing including, crime! No, that I recall Damario never was a violent type, never. And Lucrecia?


Maybe she might have escaped from him, since in that hallucinated state –seeing fantastic things even in the paintings– he would have become unbearable. But why? Jelousy? These bourgeois, the simplest things suffice to complicate their life. However, something escapes from me, yes; this cannot be so simple, here is implicit something else. The Painting, what does that piece have? Yes, an infinite value, an utmost estimate. The sale arrangement, a dispute… the separation.


Let us see what it has.


I faced the painting. I stared at it. There was the great eye and I concentrated on it. The eye, the great eye, the eye of the abstraction, the enigma, “what nonsense!”. And then, to my amazement, it happened: the great eye abstracted me, and the universe that we know now, seemed finite to me. The ethereal at the disposition of one unique imperative will, mine. From my hands emerged, at my whim, entire worlds, forms, beings, things, space, time and destinations, that my will governed, and all in only one point. I was almighty! Time laid dead in a languid clock over an infinite horizon, populated with floating mountains. There was Lucrecia, radiant, waiting my resolution. But then the monster appeared, a gigantic eighteen thousand head beast that would contend with me. “I don not fear you,” I shouted, “You are not even stronger than I am”. It opened its countless mouths and, below the twinkling in its thousands faces, came a horrible scream, so terrifying, that frightened me; it plunged upon me, stuck its sharp teeth into me, and I released a horrendous scream in pain; I was defeated; the beast devoured me gradually, in an eternal agony. My last vision was of the eye, the mirror in the pupil of the great eye.


“Raymond!”, I listened; then a question: “Are you all right?”


It was John Damario that had recovered. We both still trembled. I raved. “It is the eye!”, I shouted, horrified.
John Damario hushed. Lucrecia was forever gone.


And chaos clouded my sense. I left that room running, astray, taken aback. There were several days in which the recollection of that power soured my thought. Now, through Fidelia’s remarks, during her visits to the sanatorium, I found out that John Damario no longer lives in that house and that the painting has disappeared. In truth, it has been all a pity.


And I still do not understand it.



The end.



[Author’s words: Thanks to my friend Santiago Franco, whose noble efforts made possible the existence of this work in English language].

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