A morning coffee:
That’s how you feel, peering into the ephemeral crema that dissipates into the eerie blackness of your cup. It’s 9:30, and around and around, the addressor can’t hear the addressee, and the falcon is in the wind with the falconer stroking his receded hair with his leathered gauntlet. The gramophone encircles the gyre, screeching to a hay of music, desperate for the needle. It hisses. It reaches a climax; an eruption of transitory vapours pours out its neck into the cool air.
— “Who ordered a flat white?”
A figure comes, collects their order and leaves, a petal stained with the soot of stolen labour fading into the early shadows of city life.
But you’re still here, aren’t you? You allow the scent of hacked down, pulverised, pulped wood to coat your nostrils. You are coupled with the screaming Dies Irae of a thousand, not some incommensurable symphony of dead and dying cells. They find their way down your throat, strangling the alveoli, thick tendrils penetrate your inner organs, finding their way into your genomes, rearranging the bases, you’re mutable down to your biogenetic base. Your fingers trace the embossed letters, an anthropocentric palimpsest; all books are if you think about it. We, “the human penman”, ascribed our discourses onto the already discursive page – a composition of glue, wood, and a trillion lines of codes, base-pairs, protein structures etc., that make the page, well, a page.
These oaky tendrils rise, dissipating as quickly as they formed, your chest contorts, the inter-costal muscles stretching, wheezing while the diaphragm relaxes, curls up into an abused ball. Air is forced out, and the tentacles vanish, leaving a lack, an absence, commonly mistaken for bitterness.
— “White Americano?”
Another figure comes, collects their drink, wrapping their hands around the disposable cup. It’s cold, they’ll have to walk briskly; it’s that kind of cold where your breath stains the air with a smoky residue. The kind you’d pretend it was as if you’d have smoked. Of course, now you smoked for real. An inkling scratches your very soul; it’s ingrained itself into you. Funnily enough, nicotine does have this imprinting effect on you. You vaguely remember something your genetics professor spoke about in college. Epigenetics? You really are mutable at both your biogenetic sense and the proteins surrounding your base code. Winding and unwinding, the histones go round and round like a helter-skelter. Therefore, is this scratch for a cigarette natural? It’s like the great Daddy Marx said, capital is a vampire, an insatiable predator; the cigarette is simulacra of the virus; it’s everywhere disdained but not banned. It replicates and depletes while you smoke, spreading its ash on the street. The urban landscape sees more ashfall than snowfall now.
Ah. A cigarette, the prototype for post-truthism, a weaponised cylinder poised to perforate the absolutism that reigned from the enlightenment. There’s a reason it’s smoggy today; cities have become cigarettes, emersed in their own carcinogenetic pollution. Just as big Tobacco weaponised “truth”, big Oil and gas similarly weaponised this “truth”; it’s an uncomfortable truth, you think. You long to be on the other side, across the street, over the hedge and into golden pastures of a never-existing nostalgia.
Outside they’re all there, bustling around, living free, tapping away, speaking away, avoiding traffic, speaking out, hitting traffic. Always going, always stopping, but never present, never here.
But you’re still here, right? You take a sip. Slowly, laboriously three yellow-stained fingernails wrap their way around the mug, lifting it up. Careful now. You mustn’t disturb the crema, your only boundary from total annihilation.
— “One Oat-milk latte and one iced Matcha”
Two figures go to collect their product; there’s a humorous exchange as both go for the same cup, then the lovely response of “sorry”, “sorry”. It’s times like these when one can marvel at the beauty of human interaction. Their awkward laugh at each other as they leave the shop.
Time is really slogging slouching today.
You stir it around, collecting the crema, its concentrated ephemeral colour coating the back of your spoon. Raising it up, the silver tones fade into dull, confused vapours — one end cool, the other hot. A funny little binary is present. Up, Up, and Up you go, into your mouth. A concentrated bitterness deposited on your tongue like moraines at the mouth of a glacier, the purist deposits of caffeine. This experience, at least to you, is unique; and I suppose it is. You are you and nobody else, but drinking coffee has the same experience for everyone, right?
You’re a material actant in an immaterial phenomenological network. You laugh; the Phenomenology of Coffee, is pretentious enough for a college paper, but it probably wouldn’t get past peer review. Kafka, Satre, Abe, and Murakami, all loved their coffee. What is this academic obsession with coffee? You glance at your watch; not long till the lecture, 20-30 minutes maybe. So some more time for introspective coffee-thought. YES!
That’s what you can be, the eminent coffee-power thinker, each cup twinkles in its nascent agency. Each bean, from child labourer to underpaid student barista, tells a story that has a vibrancy. A vibrant narrative, one that is pulped, roasted, and dried before being pulverised into a fine powder, ready to undergo a 200 PSI procedure. Then into a disposable cup that’ll fill the earth, the coffee comes from the ground but leaves it immaterially alive in all coffee lover’s bodies. Just as the cigarette methylates your DNA, the coffee becomes part of you. The human-coffee cyborg.
You chuckle to yourself. Ridiculous. Of course. A fantasy, a dream, an imagined discipline. One that holds a mirror up to the now ever-broadening PostHumanities. Braidotti hopes the PostHumanities will have its own as a buffer to neoliberal late-stage capitalism. Dreams and desires fleeting like the electrons dancing in cables around you. Just as light splits in a prism, so too does the humanities. But who’s to say that that desire can’t exist all around us in nexuses of sub-atomic particles, strings, quarks etc. You can’t really remember your physics. Poor old monstrous Humbert Humbert, are his desires imaginary fantasy of a perverted mind? That was today’s lecture’s title. You knew it was a little controversial, but so too was Nabakov; we must bask in the hazy legacy of his contentious prose.
— “Soy-milk latte and a Macchiato”
As you have guessed, dear reader, some more figures will come to collect.
— “Soy-milk latte and a Macchiato, anybody”.
Nobody has come to collect it yet. Your head scans around the room; probably some student wearing headphones, you think derisively.
– “Shit, yes, that’s us, sorry! We forgot what we ordered”
The couple waits in the corner by the bins, engrossed in conversation. They looked in love. You rack your brain for an Auden quote on love or even a platitude from Shakespeare in Love. Sadly, all that comes to mind is “You’ve got to hide your love away” lamenting at the Beatles’ melancholy, you return to your drink.
A good book should always be present-to-hand, within arm’s reach, by your bedside cabinet if possible — however, not Rigout’s revolver-like book, something that has meaning to you. When you peel back the cover, expose the naked pages to harsh light, some scream, some tan, some fade like tears in rain. However, there’s something libidinous in opening a book, peeling that front cover, stretching its binding. “Open the great ephemeral skin”. Turn the yellowed pages past the pubic fur of the embossed ink. You. Everyone. Everything is a bit like this gratifying experience of reading. Layers on layers of palimpsest codes, proteins, organs, and organ systems compose your body.
Therefore, let us begin to open the body and go through its parts to find the secret. The secret is hidden in plain sight, visible but invisible to us.
9 hours later
You’re a sack of meat hanging in an abattoir, meat hooks attached (metaphorically speaking), rusting metal spikes entering your shoulders, severing nerve endings, cutting muscle fibres, tendons in through one hole out the other. The mortician reaches above, pulling down their microphone.
— “The time is 5:37 P.M., and patient, sorry, subject “Untitled” is here awaiting autopsy.”
Teeth, 28 and a half, he reads out. There are three and half in a bag; his finger points to the filmic prisoner in a metal container on the table. Trapped in plastic, resigned to rot away, homeless. He traces his finger in the mouth, relishing in the body’s statuesque rigidity, small valleys of enamel, landslides of bacteria, calcium deposits, along with some lead deposits, finally, a Hovis crumb; like a pebble in your shoe after a day in the beach, it’s still there lodged between two molars. You know, it’s kind of funny, it’s stayed in your body longer than you. The starch has hydrolysed, amylase unravelling its coils into gluconic hexagons. Sweet to the taste, sweeter than honey. It’s lodged in the mouth, but you can’t taste it, can you? You’re dead, but your body isn’t yet. The microcolonies of bacteria, protists, parasites from undercooked pork, virions, and fungi between your toes. Every multi-cellular, single-cellular, and non-cellular has a wake. A feast, a tribute to your body, you have become a banquet.
They removed their latex-gloved hand; three strands of saliva stretch from their glove to your mouth. Your body yearns to be free, to leave a rat on a sunk ship. They trace your face; your skull is still mainly still constructed.
— “A slight crumble in the jaw.”
You’re their toy to play with, but they don’t have any real agency over you.
Every molecule of your body is ripe, full of boundless, energetic energy; they twinkle, celebrating in their soon-to-be decay. It sends shivers down the mortician’s spine, tiny spikes that prick but don’t bleed. Neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, an eerier liminality occurs.
9 hours earlier:
The secret is about to be told; the congregation waits in eager silence. Open the great ephemeral code, you declare.
You’re composed of lines and lines of genetic codes, eukaryotic systems, pathways in symbiosis with the prokaryotes in your gut; histone proteins folding and unfolding, revealing your secret identity, your genes now editable; metabolic networks secretly working against you, stopping insulin production, your stomach stretches, it’s roomier your duodenum thinks; your liver is releasing ADH, alcohol dehydrogenase, glycolytic enzymes; biopathways are encouraging your existence to cry, to feel joy, to ejaculate seminal spectres of serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine; search the archive! Read the library, immunoknowledge; you’re an encyclopaedia of damaged cells, prisoners of war, synaptic networks, fibre axon terminals, and large dendritic trees.
You are manipulable at the level of our biogenetic base to the extent that human nature is not fixed; it is a space-temporal delusion.
Your existence is nothing more than a spatial-temporal delusion. Your anthropocentric agency reigns supreme!
— “Black americano”
Good choice, you think, it’s time to go now. Pulling open the ancient muscles, your legs begin to walk towards the door; still deep in thought, you cross the street.
You join them. You stop traffic in a way, and it’s over, and your body is in the morgue.