The only thing I got as far as picking up from him was that he was Malaysian. He had long black hair with platinum-blond highlights in, warm bright eyes, and beautiful high-fashion facial features that were nevertheless prominently acne-cratered all over, especially on a pair of perfect high cheekbones. Here in the club he’s dressed with stylish flamboyance and a certain flash and trash, like a whore on Jalan Raja on a hot Kuala Lumpur night in Fashion Week. A thin silver earring hangs from each ear, and the word “Virginity” is tattooed on the honey-coloured skin of his left shoulder in the same script as the name on the bracelet. Inhabiting the femininity of his slim and delicate body with a simple, quiet and sensual pleasure, he reminds me of sunlight and moves with divinity.
Here he’s in his element, much more than on the street. Hosting a club night, it’s clear he is a natural. Just within the time we take to cross the room and approach him, he has mixed in all directions. Tied to no one, he succeeds in connecting with everyone: faster than quicksilver, light as air and never once intrusive or demanding, he yet reaches somehow into every person’s presence, one to one, and draws them out and upward like a chime through the strobe-lights. Riding the crowd, he electrifies the dance-floor with effortless charisma, in tune with the dirty hard electro playing, as he lights up the faces and the spaces in between them with the bright sexy flicker of his presence.
But here’s a rich crevasse, for me: I see how you were several hours back, at home, when you settled down to watch Sound & Vision. As Alaia’s voice welled up, you sank to the floor and sat immobile, gazing at the TV screen. Silent tears sprang forth and ran down your cheeks. For hers was a song that had echoed in your head since early childhood, a song with untranscribable notes, without a name, which you’d treasured in yourself as yours alone … but here it was without you, for all the world to hear, paired up with that beautifully alien face on the screen. Somehow Alaia had discovered it—but how? It had always emanated from forbidden lands of cruel sun and sweet sensual nights; and it poisoned with bewitchment of yearning and delirium and glimpses of sublime bliss, ensuring that the real world would always, ever after, fall short. The first time you’d heard this song, coiling like the vapour of a scarlet wine throughout your head, you knew it was forbidden but ignored this of course. Often since then you’d heard it carried on the wind, in the fevers of the deep small hours, blown across a hundred years to land in you. It always sang of sweet dark and sorrow and enormous love, unearthing ancient things within yourself while it played.
And always joining this song, from your childhood onward through the years, every time it welled from your depths or echoed off the folded hills of the night, there would float up, several seconds after its opening, that face, Shigem… Oh, that face: yes, you know the one, I think. It’s this face, my own, upon the screen you watched tonight, in its soft unearthly lighting and the smooth coloured make-up that you saw on it—the first time you witnessed it projected without you, in the outside world, for all to see. So large had it always loomed, for you, that it seemed to float upon the sky, its gaze ever fixed on a point above your head that you couldn’t quite reach. But its gaze from the screen today looked at you, and you shivered to be looked at thus, for nothing of yourself could you hide from it. Somehow I’d embodied it. How? But there it stayed, on the screen, in all its melting permutations, with your endless private song wrapped divine around its lineaments—a shatteringly magical conjunction that floored you. Every last thing in you it saw, accepted, knew, without expression. “You’ve got everything,” you mouthed at me onscreen, in silent passion. This face, you saw, was all you really needed to know now, and all the rest would follow. It’s the only game in town, so to speak, despite the anguish of your knowing you will never be inside it. Along with Alaia’s song, this face has lived in you since boyhood, Shigem, and will remain in you till death. It’s majestic and familiar—rich and inevitable—powerful and beautiful—addictive and eternal!
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
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