Sleepingfish infinite

Mirage by Toti O'Brien



I just dreamed of you, Majorana, after such long oblivion. Your dark silhouette cast against white walls, haunting sunny avenues bordered by meager, leafless trees. A black and white movie… or is it a snapshot? It’s a picture but I think I saw it flicker, vaguely oscillate, as if on the verge of action.

On the verge, then obscurity explodes. After all I am dreaming. I shouldn’t forget it. Dawn is close though—when all things reveal themselves, in sympathy with the rising sun. When birds whisper frantic messages to the quasi sleeper, persuaded she’ll understand and remember.

Why did you come at dawn, Majorana? Well, you didn’t quite... you materialized on this sober photogram, out of time and out of nowhere. Pre-existent, eternal, like they say of god. In fact you are about to depart. Where for? It is what they never found out, correct?


In my dream, your wife (you didn’t have one, I know) says you swallowed a fistful of pills, white and round like the particles you were discovering. Those atomic bundles called neutral but not verily so. Were they oblong instead, like projectiles, fuses, missiles? You just popped them, bound to leave this world once and for good…

Besides it is a dream. No one proved you committed suicide, though you sent a farewell note. Then another one saying you had changed your mind. Still that night you disappeared at sea. Body never found. But the ocean is wide and bodies are particles. Easily dispersed… a solution, the most banal one. Is it what you sought?


You might not have died. The proof: here you are at the age when you were last sewn—thirty-two, ripe for crucifixion. Almost. Mid-way through your path—what a cross truly symbolizes. Not old yet, young no more. Unsecure, trapped inside a spiral of pain no one could decode. You came back from Germany ill, depressed, estranged from your family. You didn’t give explanations. Fervent catholic, anti-Jew… it is hard to believe nascent Nazism shocked you. Did you find something else about yourself during your foreign station? Incurable maybe. Something you couldn’t deal with, at home.

Did you take the wrong boat in Palermo’s harbor, that night? You embarked on another crossing, said those who claimed spotting you in South of America (where Sicilians notoriously run, all of them, when in trouble). Did you escape to Argentina? To be left alone. To remain as an icon, a legend you dared neither living in full—nor ruining, or staining, instead.

We don’t know and why should we? Stories like yours prove life plot isn’t linear. Plots have been invented in fact to quench insecurities.


On this pale morning you have come—rather I was brought—to say something.

I confess I’m distracted by a porousness in the air, letting waves of past and future go by. Listening to you requires effort, dear Ettore, and I’m not sure I care. I see lightness as well in your mood, gentle nonchalance… you’re indifferent to our exchange as I am. We are more casual than circumstances would require.

You are taking a step, now, lifting your foot—I see your shoes have been polished, the lacing well done. I see impeccable socks—they make me feel faint, feeble, sore, I don’t know why. Your mom loved you, my dear.

You smile then you climb on a train just about to leave. You hop boldly, then vanish inside. There you’ll further hide behind a newspaper... black and white… color print has not been invented. It is already rolled in your hand, held against a briefcase that has seen better days. The bag hangs lose, deflated… you didn’t bring much with you.

On the door you smile then you whisper an unintelligible sentence. Half a phrase. And you don’t whisper in fact—you shout but I am too far.

Pay attention—you say—to board the right train!

Too late, dear Majorana. Too late.



Then I saw Jeanne (the Jeanne) at a fifth story window… Being in Europe, it was the sixth, for we count ground level as zero. It does not make a difference, you say. Course it does. Why should you subtract a few meters from her flight? Why should you obliterate an ounce of its trajectory, its expanse?

Amedeo didn’t see it. Though she did it under his eyes, did she? She flew into his arms, we’d like to believe.

Did she fly in the arms of nothing, instead? She knew, still she jumped, with a baby in her womb. Is it call abortion when the mom simultaneously kills herself? She also left Jeanne behind—the other one, her daughter. Doubly orphaned in two days, the girl was sent elsewhere, long ignoring her parents’ identity. Two painters: Amedeo and beautiful Jeanne (the Jeanne).


He couldn’t stop painting her. From the parting of her liquid hair, all the way down. Sinuous waves, unstoppable tears, both of sadness and joy. Two symmetrical roses pinning it to the sides, showing her almond eyes—elongated like all of her features. Stretched in elegant lines he captured tirelessly with his brush. Heavy marks pulling down, down, down, as if falling from the chair. Her swan neck, fragile—burdened by the gravity of gorgeous, sumptuous hair.


Gravity is what now disposes of her—quickly, quickly, marching backwards toward the void while the funeral is still bringing Modi to his grave. Quickly and without looking—an impulse. Making death is like making love—a mad rush.

Use momentum, hold your breath, keep holding. Bend your neck as if offering it to the altar. Abraham, Isaac… remember? A god-pleasing sacrifice. Do not think. Obey. Like an altar, the windowsill—ice cold—meets the small of your back. Bend your neck—throat exposed—feel the weight of your hair undone.

A red flame is flashing in space. Forget, Jeanne. Forget.



Lastly I see Pasolini’s body on the ground. Or I don’t, for little is left. Still it made a mark. Small and deep. Indelible.

After the killing broke his bones, the car tires smashed the remnants. How many times did they run him over, back and forth? The police couldn’t count. Many, they said, many.

Were they trying to blot something? What on him could incriminate… whom? They (whoever they were) tried to erase him and it took some application, some grit. They did it as a child would who made a mistake in his homework. With the same clumsy rub, gray marks spread in a halo, page finally tearing.

They tried tearing the page he wrote—word by word, all smudged, messed, unreadable—while they feasted like cannibals on his flesh and blood. But they only managed pushing him deeper in the texture of earth, as for a small thorn they weren’t able to extract. A small cactus, small urchin thorn, pushed deeper and deeper till it gets engraved. A scar in the sands of Ostia, a stain on the beach.

Small, straight, linear… he hadn’t eaten that night. His date did, but he just sipped a beer. I am glad and here is why. Something is yet more scandalous, when a life’s briskly taken and the owner just ate. Something’s risibly obscene in such last nurturing act, last promise of survival, last comfort, last joy. Contradiction is too striking.

You did not eat, Pierpaolo, at the restaurant. You couldn’t. You had to keep alert, in war mode, for obscure reasons. You knew something. Sensed something. Or things simply gathered around you, like clouds casting their mourning shadow.

How much did you know? They said reels of your last movie were stolen—they said you went to rescue them. Did you? You were transiting once more at the edge, where chances are one might fall.

Is the Ostia beach one such place? Outskirt. Harbor. Clandestine exchanges. Well, notoriously. At the edge one might fall. You ate nothing that night.

Your date countered unwanted sex you proposed, he said… unwantedly killing you, breaking you with a piece of wood, like the stick you wished to use—he said—to sodomize him. Later he claimed nothing of it was true. Under terrible threats, alas, he repeated a story he was fed.

Fed? Your date ate that night, at the restaurant where you talked of… You paid the bill. That’s what older dates are for. Younger ones are for pleasure, or to hasten the end.

Did your date drive over your body, countless number of times, hammering your fragmented bones into the ground? Clumsy attempting to bury you, but in fact tattooing a hieroglyph no one could wipe.

They tried hard.

The day after two nice-looking guys sat at a bar, wrapped in camel-wool coats (so trendy) against November’s chill. Outside, where you can enjoy seeing and been seen. Lazily they sipped their espresso, one of them peek-a-booing behind a newspaper, courtesy of the house. “Do you know Pasolini died?” he said. “He died like a whore,” his mate answered. “But he was a whore,” the reader replied. The other giggled away.

Process News

Toti O’Brien was born in Rome and lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Entropy, Bindweed, The Courtship of Winds and Pilcrow & Dagger, among other journals and anthologies.


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