The word "potpourri" means "container of things that can be poured out," usually a mixture of small things, such as a potpourri of flowers or a potpourri of mixed beans. I first used the label for my file of segmented parts of my own illustrations, such as skies or heads, which might be re-usable in other of my images. Afterward, I used it to mean my mixed bag of works for my blog. -Roberta

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Old Enclave Folkadir - Part I by Roberta SchulbergGoro

Roberta SchulbergGoro
Started - September, 2007
Finished - March, 2010

The Old Enclave Folkadir

I. Motion

As if there were a world. As if it could be met. As if there were a congruence between a rag of a newspaper and a rag of existence. There is no congruence. There is no hope. There are only lies.

As if there were a congruence between an idea about living still traceable in the architecture of old buildings and the remnants of a world, now fossilized, which still exists in them. There is no congruence. There is no world.

The scene through the apartment's kitchen window is a drab ostentation. The mummers on the pavement below move awkwardly, seeming to take stage direction for their exaggerated motions in flagrant missions of display, straining to appear to onlookers as icons of a still living world. But they don't convince; no world is evident or evoked. No people really live here.

From the hallway near the kitchen, the exit door opens to an outside balcony which leads to the elevator and stairs. Along this walkway there are sometimes other residents who "Hello," nod, and move on. Encounters are seldom and brief. Words, rarely spoken, are courteous but hollow, without warmth, at times garbled. Despite the close proximity of the apartments, residents here don't really know each other. Gestures toward friendship cause flinching reactions of withdrawal as if to imposition; further attempts result in peculiar actions being set into motion with the intention of turning sociable forwardness to preference for distance. This is done in oblique ways such as repeated placings of generous unannounced gifts of salt-free spaghetti in its own organic water on the doorstep or, with stiff smiles, trotting in hasty passbys while handing packages of chocolate-covered hot peppers through the not yet fully opened door. The few people still co-existing here do not accompany one another but are careful to display only intentions of goodwill.

In the short time it takes the elevator to reach the ground, the mummers observed through the window have become phantoms. The cars in the parking lot suggest the presence of people but the yard is still and along the face of each building the tiered walkways are empty. A narrow pavement connects and surrounds the twenty or thirty multi-dwellings of the enclave, now mostly untenanted. The greenery along the face of each building is sparse and sickly. The grounds' caretakers, who slip in and out almost unseen and never heard, regularly replace the cropped scrubby bushes with the same kind of cropped scrubby bushes, scrupulously maintaining the landscape, but without relish. A brief walk along the pavement finds the solarium, a remaindered amenity on one of the harsh, graceless spaces between buildings. Peering through the gate, the activity seen is welcome relief, a lively beckoning indicating that in this place one can find company and conversation; acquaintance can be established here. Past the gate and inside the hundred-foot square fenced in area, four or five noticeably energetic, garrulous figures, spread out around the small dipping pool, call to each other sociably as they sit or stride among more sedate loungers reclining on deck chairs. The vociferous sunners have a vigorous air which, whether chatting from a deck chair or wading in the dipping pool, sets them apart and marks them as pivotal. Strutting like actors trained to make themselves conspicuous, they hold the spotlight through the sounds of their voices. Although their volubility is directed towards one another as to a group of friends, it is obvious that they intend to be overheard by others around the pool. Like that of most people, their patter is filled with cracker-barrel such as stories of their nephews successes or discussions about local restaurants or ratings of television programs, all with a genial chattiness that seems to invite participation and does sometimes include others at poolside although usually most of the other loungers quietly recline, absorbing the sunshine. After listening for a while in eagerness to join co-residents in conversation, there slowly begins to be perceived in the speech of these glib performers a studied wariness of the impromptu. It becomes disturbingly apparent that the attraction of homey gregariousness was merely a first impression. Their speech sounds noticeably contrived and gives an impression of hearing slick performance, not extemporaneous conversation. The firmness of individual identity usually sensed in a speaker's groping attempts to set hooks onto reality through conversation cannot be perceived through their chatter. Their talk holds no quirky details of actuality of lived life, only a travesty conforming to preconceptions of what people would say in such a situation, a realization disheartening to someone come onto the scene hoping to find the conversational interchange of new acquaintance. Gabbing like been-arounds and seen-it-alls, they stumble onto topics less familiar to themselves than to a listener and reveal through bluff and fudge that they are pretending to be who they aren't, from places they have never been and talk of things they don't know about. Through time I have witnessed that starting a new discussion or developing a new topic with one of these cynosures can cause abrupt intervention as if to an alarm. The enclosure suddenly might be found to require emptying for repair of the plumbing, or a distant shout call the flamboyant speaker to an emergency, or the microphone blares an announcement of an impending dangerous storm, causing the loungers to scatter. The improbable but actual intrusion ends any further discussion. Any attempt to begin a conversation with a less conspicuous lounger is a call for one of the manipulating talkers to convivially walk over, join in, and gain control of the conversation. The chitchat discretely started by unobtrusive sunners slips away unshared by them and the conversation is redirected. Why some of the sunners permit the intruder to take the lead in their conversation is unclear. Maybe because some of them are themselves functionaries of these grounds. The manner and method of the speakers, besides hiding the truth about their actual lives and the world they live in, make it evident that they don't regret not hearing anything anyone else might have to say. Whatever the facts about this puzzling enclave, it maintains advanced resident control, although obviously lacking in subtlety and finesse. Focusing on the players' demeanor, they can be observed to consider themselves as unquestionably above the naiveté of the others present, as being in possession of unchallengeable worldliness in comparison, and as justified in being confident that onlookers cannot see through their affectations. They have developed a panache which implies, "Observe how we, conventional, humble, no different from you and the same as everyone else, have masterfully rooted in the very world you people believe is in evidence around you." After having listened to them for some length of time, each of the role players seems to be personally without a past or present, as if brought into being for the purpose of creating such contrived scenes, arrogant without ego, secure in obedience to their unspoken mission. Although it's likely that they are endowed with greater trust and stature than the mummers, they appear to share the same purpose to present a façade, to falsify actualities. Mostly, the monopolizing players-of-parts scant the onlookers and one can observe the players' annoyance at the continued presence of the uninitiated for whom they are constrained to act, those required to accept the busy attention of conspicuous displays of concealment regarding the truth about this elusory situation and about the players-of-parts themselves. The hollow-spirited players do not hide scorn for the ingenuous at their rim. They despise the comparative weakness inherent in their autonomous individuality, yet they enjoy attempts to weaken them further. Their domination is strengthened by at least one other startling tactical employment. On occasion their chatting tosses out a quip which contains a concealed humiliating insult alluding to something known uncannily of an unidentified target who, recognizing the reference as connected with himself, registers a rising dread and visibly shrinks in withdrawal. Fear has been instilled by intimation of secret gatherings of personal information. The players disdain the outsiders' claims to private, individual histories, self-regarding "selves," unlike the team of players enacting the conspirational complicities of the stage of "no-life-of-one's-own" and "our lives are representative of everyone's life," who are so surely and securely, so knowingly, so one-of-the-bunch, so arrogantly yet collectively, conformingly, humble but not weak.

Except for the few actors in such briskly spun scenes as at the solarium, the grounds of the enclave are starkly bare of people. Sometimes a figure flits to the foreground and disappears as one continues to walk along the pavement. No one greets. The hot sun bakes but the heavy air is soggy with dampness. A few cars pass on the narrow winding road adjacent to the walk, but the heavily tinted windshields conceal whoever is inside. No passing automobile ever opens a window to reveal a neighbor or to offer a lift. On one of the longer sides of the rectangular perimeter of wall and bush which surrounds the old housing development, at each of its two ends, exiting paths abruptly enter onto a broad, impersonal, dangerous speedway of onrushing traffic. It is along this speedway that one reaches the nearby merchant center where necessities can be purchased. On the opposite side of the rectangular perimeter there is no egress beyond a thick tangle of tall impenetrable shrubbery. The cement walk circles around and through the grounds to lead back to the start. No large expanse of space is visible and the enclosure encases only the stillness of cemented buildings, the empty, portentless, uninviting walk, and the bushes which on one side display through their gaps the road of heavy traffic.

Little can be determined about nearby communities which, as one enters them from the speedway, appear as untenanted as Enclave Folkadir. Several times a day a bus on the speedway carries it's few passengers to the civic center ten miles away, a town surrounded by major roads and in size no more than half a mile square. It is beautifully maintained, has a very modern aspect, and is pleasant to walk through, but except for guards and a few other key personnel in the official buildings, it seems as abandoned as the solely residential areas. A local newspaper purporting to be news of all communities within the paper's distribution area, not far from its (undisclosed) office address, U.S.A., is delivered before dawn to Ma'am Driftwater, the apartment's owner, and placed on a table just within the living room entrance for the use of anyone who enters into the apartment. None of the reported events and no events anything like them have been witnessed in this location. None of the people mentioned by the paper are known in Folkadir. Murders make front page headlines often. Multiple reports of sexual attacks on girls in public are frequent, the accused rapists counter-accusing the girls of wearing their skirts too short, inviting rape. Bishops of the Catholic church have been accused of homosexual enticement of high-school boys who are considering life in the monestary. Trials of the infamous offenders are held by consensus of opinion in newspaper surveys. Pages labeled "Society" are filled with reports of awards for knowing the well-connected, and reports of divorces by famous husbands of dependent wives with children who become homeless or with reports of women who receive millions in alimony after divorce, leaving their string of formerly rich husbands penniless are frequent. Seldom are headlines about politics. Discussions of national policies are avoided. Reports of elected or appointed state-wide or local officials being forced to step down from office after being accused of behavioral scandal are regularly presented as politics-as-usual. Local political involvement for which approval is shown is extending invitations to luncheons. Traffic accidents occur. There are banking questions regarding an unprecedented number of home mortgage foreclosures due to growing numbers of business bankruptcies causing loss of jobs, columnists suggesting as a remedy the institutionalizing of government financial backing and funding for new mortgages to spur the housing economy along with reduction in taxes. There are regular sections of sports, of entertainment. At present, computer games are "thrusting their way into the central economy." The communications of the newspaper, attempting to create a frightening ambiance of threat and foolishness in the description of local surroundings has little effect on those within the household because that described world is experienced as undiscoverable anyway. The forthrightness of the newspaper's reporting of the supposed facts, as of other of the enclave's displays, is soon doubted.

In the shallow-depthed porch-like back room Ma'am Driftwater sits alone. No one has visited for a long time. No friends run in to offer a drive to the market. No neighbor knocks to share local news. The apartment receives only those people who are paid by Ma'am Driftwater for their services. I'm paid room, board, and a small amount of cash to do kitchen work. In my distress during the era of displacement and economic overturn Ma'am Driftwater, a distant relative, offered me this position and I am the only other person, besides herself, to live in the apartment. Although we had known each other earlier through family get-togethers, within this household Ma'am Driftwater refuses all conversation and shows no concern except as required for practical household reasons. Other workers who enter the apartment perform their work quickly and leave just as quickly. Almost no words are spoken. Except at her meal and bed times, she sits all day in the porch-like, open-windowed, non-air conditioned, tiny glass-encased room, its interior entirely visible through the broad sliding doors separating it from the livingroom. A television, which she watches during evening hours, and a telephone are in that room. The glass expanse of its outside wall faces a large artificial pond adding its sogginess to the already heavy humidity of the surroundings. Despite the need for air conditioning in this sweltering climate, she makes it clear that the expense of air conditioning is not a benefit to her. I am the only other person to live in the apartment, and the air-conditioning is included in the agreement for room and board as pay. Across the pond, the windows of the identical buildings on the opposite side are sometimes lit at night, but no people can be seen through them. The view of the pond, narrow stretches of grass between pond and buildings, and the buildings themselves holds no one. Fishing is not allowed; pamphlets of rules are delivered monthly. At seasonal intervals maintenance men driving power lawn mowers are briefly seen through the back window, but they don't live within the enclave, their voices aren't heard, and they quickly disappear from the grounds. Turning from Ma'am Driftwater's glass-doored room to face the opposite livingroom wall and its open passthrough to the kitchen, one can see along the full length of the kitchen to its window in the front wall. A walk through the hall into the kitchen and one can look through that front window to see the mummers on the pavement below.

Part II - The Old Enclave Folkadir

By Roberta SchulbergGoro

II. Parlance

All day Ma'am Driftwater sits silently alone in her glass-encased room which, like the other rooms, is heavily decorated with memorabilia china knicknacks, ornate decorations and elaborately framed vapid paintings. Rare verbal exchanges between us do not amount to conversation. An infrequent attempt at a word in passing results in a silencing look of rebuke from Ma'am Driftwater and even involuntary facial expressions in reaction to the minor occurances in the household are inhibited by her flashing eye of disapproval. Existence has been made crimped and painful, normal spontaneity thwarted, discourse averted and a solitariness worse than ordinary aloneness enforced.

The walls of the apartment encase an isolation, a sense of emptiness, an absence of the common exchanges and enterprise of household community but they do not surround a silence. A continual murmur of babble floats through the rooms. Words in sotto voce and in crescendo form and ride on volumes of air. Squadrons of voices, each squadron specifically recognizable by topic or style of sound, interchange in re-occurring turns of swelling and dwindling gusts. The sounds, no more than an inexplicable odd word or phrase coming from an indefinite location once or twice a day at my arrival, have lengthened and compounded. The voices are flagrant in emotion, vitriolic, damning. Teams of speakers pronounce in riddles, jeer inuendos, or taunt with obscure messages of ambiguous non-communication. Some are chorales of dully repetative metronomic moaning indicating mind reading powers by verbal mimicry of thoughts. These carry along with them subordinate voices, a self assured vassalage filling out the sounds of the lugubrious chorus with shrill insults and jeers. Picking up claims to familiarity only by listening to the sneers of the mimickers, they add above the mimickers' turgid undulating sounds a staccato of snickering taunts regarding particular characteristics of the distressed, lumbering mover through the room. The engulfing sound never includes dialogue or conversation, not even among themselves. The voices don't reason. They do not acknowledge any questions, ignore statements and provide no clue to the original cause of their obsessive stalking. They offer no information beyond their present observations and they clarify nothing. I have not been able to discover the mechanical source of the sound as it follows from room to room, even outdoors, but it's clear it has no trouble in focusing on me, who is to them somehow a tangible presence. I am clutched in an impalpable labyrinth of hatred.

I almost never mention my jottings to Ma'am Driftwater who allows me use of one of the household computers, and she seems quite genuinely tolerant of the way I spend my free moments, but putting my thought on record arouses the hostility of the voices who, on general principle, approve only embellished docility, compliments, and fear of authority from someone caught in their net. They claim the right to censure actions and mete out penalties, the acceptability of any activity judged and delimited by one simple measurement, the amount of its immediate provision of service. They condemn my having concerns outside of cooking, washing, and general servitude. Typing requires a mental fight, a struggle against the threat and hostile racket filling the room. The intruders connect to the computer and tamper with my personal files. They slip deriding comments into paragraphs as I type and cast infantile offensively "smutty" words or graphics onto the screen in an attempt to turn me away from use of the computer. Groups claiming religious authority become enraged when images of people appear on the screen, accusing of sacrilege at witnessing depictions of humanity in images whether religious or not. Attempts to reach connection beyond this entangling web brings only despair and the internet appears to be narrowing, localizing to a nowhere. When using a computer in search of contact with co-respondents having answers about this disordered vortex, the invisible assaulters substitute obviously false and sometimes silly documents and histories for requested references. They grunt hatred, snarl invective at every word, shout expletives to interfere with thought. They threaten me with forfeiture of life as penalty for continuing computer search and notation and when angry they give evidence of their ability to carry out their threats. They have revealed that they can cloud the mind, obscure thought, even freeze it in intervals of absolute stillness. They assert close personal acquaintance and a right to give me orders, an acquaintanceship which is one-sided, presumptuous, and derived from powers belonging to a separate region of existence distant from and unknown to me. Their possessiveness, their claim to the daunting right of intrusive castigation is a conundrum. Uniting into a jell of hostility, they fling any kind of blame, as if in merging together they can be confident of being too strong to suffer counter blame or accusation. They never discuss themselves. It's possible the individuals forming the swirl of repetitive, mechanically metronomic yackety chantings of hate and vilification do not even know each other, have never met, and are brought to a focus out of a miasma for derisive purposes, their own worldly spaces secret from each other. Both Ma'am Driftwater and I are silent about the phenomenon and I am uninformed about her awareness or perception of it. When did such events have a beginning? When were such technologies made possible? Are events like this everywhere and I a latecomer to awareness? Are there other people pinned in other eddies? Does government authority know of the phenomenon's existence? This reaction of mine, of silence, might be general in a totally encompassing climate of intrusion. As they advance and dissipate one can hear their voices thrill in expectation that their sport and frenzy will wear away spirit and mind. With bludgeon-like assaults, they deride present ills swollen girth, poor complexion, loss of one's charm to the opposite sex (a strangely chosen mockery in a clamping horror, but one often repeated), insinuate that I am a castoff from my people and never again to be known, and taunt with the peril of impending death which they hope to exact from the distance of their own claimed never-to-die world. Although they do not condescend to converse, they blame for my disregard of them throughout the day when there actually is no other recourse but to ignore their continuous drivel, giving attention to other things and other thoughts. They are pack-like in abusiveness, gang-like in their amusement at being able to attack without penalty. Sometimes a solitary voice among them seems to come alive with a protest or opinion of its own, as if to create a dialogue, a conversation, an argument, but then, disappointingly, it merges with the vague and hostile jammer and drone, conforming to the dampening purposes of demoralization. Through days, months of prolonged oppressive chanting one senses their impatience for completion of their goal, the diminishment or end of a human spirit as they hurry themselves to carefree futures, released from further need of effort in their corrosive mission. And meanwhile, at rare minutes throughout each day, piercing through the voluminous, turgid, undiscussed din of background hum and hammer are the distinctly sharp, perfunctory words of those within the apartment: the announcement of lunch, the receipt of a mail delivery or, as a passing pleasantry from Ma'am Driftwater, a report of current weather conditions easily visible through the window. To any other statement or query Ma'am Driftwater's response is, "What?" When repeated, she responds with, "What?" Again and her response becomes, "Why am I putting up with this?" The conversation has ended and after the first few tries such a course of effort is not likely to reoccur.

In the small windowed room where Ma'am Driftwater sits, there is a television situated against the wall opposite her. Ma'am Driftwater watches it every evening as it blares its messages, replay after replay, above the modulated hum of the raging voices. If it were only for its volume of sound, the television, unlike the newspaper, could claim major influence on those who live in the apartment, but besides its loudness, Ma'am Driftwater is rapt in its messages and even the maelstrom of voices seems to slow and quiet its remarks in order to hear it. Unlike the newspaper, the television news cabled in to the enclave concentrates heavily on foreign affairs. Newscasters in remarkably wistful, dramatically sentimental tones announce new gigantic wars whose causes match the incitements of major wars of the past two centuries. The wars, redrawn and regurgitated from past examples, now all take place in the other hemisphere in a succession of unconnected foreign nations with newly renamed geographies. Commentators preserve for the listener the attitude of "it can't happen here," but suggest that we should be intervening or assisting there, smug propaganda urging the right of democratic rule to act against the internal decisions of foreign governments when not approved by our values. According to television reporters, the primary focus of America is and should be Israeli Zionism, the secondary interest the turning of every other nation into a copy of the U.S.A, replacing other governments with one like ours by sending our soldiers to other-hemispheric foreign lands to protect other peoples from their own governments requiring of us huge outlays of money and a terrible expense of life with no gain to ourselves but the correction of error in foreigners. No major plans for future development of the nation or locally are discussed except for over-taxation complaints, medical insurance dishonesty issues and the stock political phrase, "our children's children" used in connection with the advance of civilization toward a peace gained from winning other people's wars for them. The commentators, in the year 2008, lament the low pay of teachers in the public schools which are now nowhere to be found, and argue the technological feasibility of finding new oil digs to solve the gasoline problem. In an exaggerated and unconvincing effort to create an impression of spontaneity, commentators interrupt each other and stridently shout opinions as if in heated debate, hoping that loud and insistent yelling will impress listeners with the aliveness of their contemporary authority on topics long outdated. Presentations are based on verbiage carried over from a barely understood earlier time and a difficult, strife torn, broadly reflective, and ponderously contemplative U.S. past history is extenuated into a dangerous, inanely thinned pablum.

Included in the enclaves cabled-in programs are "educational" television games offering excited contestants a chance to win unbelievably enormous sums of money, worrying listeners about whether Fort Knox has been raided, the banks' greenbacks falling like confetti. Programs of trivial how-to's, imply the audience's inability to do the least elementary thing without step-by-step, complicatedly expanded and pensively delivered sets of directions. Simple, every-day, universally routinely-managed home and household chores are pontificated to the housewife (who, like elementary schools, are also nowhere to be found) and to the correspondingly simple man of the house who learns to read the label for the words "strong repair bonding" (quantities available for purchase by phoning the number on the screen) when buying glue to repair household furniture and knick-knacks. Later in the evening this is followed by programs of old trite songs of sexual capture delivered in the singers' personal style of distortion and loss of meaning through use of insipid enhancements or convoluted ornamentation which emphasize the singer's "originality". Besides games and tunes, there are, on the light side of T.V., a few situation comedies. In these playlets the measurement of worthiness in men is wealth for purposes of power, and in women, virginity. Even wifehood is a slide into loss of virtue. Nevertheless, girls of any age take no interest in anything besides "dating." Boys are always in trouble from catering to girls. Mothers are always in the kitchen. Fathers always have important jobs, although the camera doesn't focus on the job, but on the home where fathers do most of the speaking, their patient voices patching up the mistakes of their silly wives or daughters. Boys are mostly out of the house getting into trouble caused by someone else's silly daughters. The 1950's television character "Our Miss Mainstream" of young, robust unmarried feminine fortitude," is no longer enduring singleness in a woman's hotel, searching for suitable employment in a tough city. Her counterpart is now portrayed as a man-hungry trapper fallen to a luxury high-rise in Miami who discusses with her female roommate her choice between accepting, as a Saturday night adventure, a date with her former husband (in town for a business convention without his new wife) or encouraging the interest of one of her more recent, more-or-less enthusiastic boyfriends. The canned laughter makes it clear that viewers of this comedy are encouraged to congenially and lightly accept these sorts of non-virginal actions by the leading character since she has overcome the weighty negatives by the redemption attached to her (1) being acceptably silly, (2) having substantial independent financial security, (3) not competing for jobs.

After these early evening entertainments, the night is filled with the booming sounds of television religiosity. Shouted orations insult either the audience or the religion the "ministers" claim to profess with such messages as, "God's blessings of prosperity and good fortune will be rained down, now, listen here, on everyone, yes everyone who in faith accepts Jesus' death on the cross to save Christians from any, and I said any, punishment for their sins." Or regarding Judaism, "The profoundly serious mildness of the Jews, God's one-and-only "Chosen People," has exposed them everywhere to oppression by the less devout and more frivolous, not only in Europe, but in America where, in accordance with the uniqueness of Jewish probity, Jews lift themselves above the surrounding prejudice and rise, each and all together to blazing success. As a relief for Jews' sufferings caused by prejudice, television bible experts and television pastors urgently recommend collection of special monetary funds along with the organizing of emergency military support by the non-chosen Christians for the purpose of Jews' acquisition and transfer to territory in the orient, bringing on the glory of Jesus' second coming to all people, including Jews who, after they reach their promised land in the orient, will convert to worship of Jesus. Since it's unlikely that normally reflective minds can accept such attitudes as officially sanctifiable or realistic, one suspects that the forceful, loud, and emphatic declamations, intended to convince naive listeners of the earnest sincerity of the duplicitous "reverends," are calculated to cause antipathy, turning listeners toward disrespect, even contempt, of congregations belonging to other, quite different, world religions sharing the same name.

The nerve-wracking distortions of U.S. culture and attitudes refracted through what seems to be an alien lens of scorn expresses loathing for a hypothetical audience presumably lulled into assurances that such the hollow, the mindless, and the arrogantly interfering is their own remembered world of the U.S. still remaining intact or, on the contrary, to convince some who may be unfamiliar with it and just passing through to become it's active adversaries. It's clear to the listener that the commentators and the ministering orators of churches the "ministers" secretly scorn, accept themselves as living in a world of understanding quite beyond the flattened one shouted about so loudly and insistently to the audience. In an arrogance of the politics of pretence, they flaunt a self-satisfied pride in their creation of a world in which no one lives, in which no one has ever lived, in which no one can live, is blatantly unreal, but which they have assured themselves they have made convincing to an audience with cognizance far beneath their own. In this domain, "Punch-and-Judy" media professionals generally suffer from the delusion that everyone else is stupider than they are.

Walking through the apartment from the kitchen to the living room carries along with it the complaining gaggle of scolding kitchen voices transmuting word-per-word and voice-for-voice into the racket from Ma'am Driftwater's television on the other end of the apartment. Close approach to the sliding glass door finds the two sets of speech have reconformed into a unity, a television voice adding indirect reference to some minor happening in the kitchen or hallway minutes ago or to some object carried in hand through the hall, the voices managing to find something idiosyncratic in the uneventful moment for purposes of "coincidental" mention on the screen. An errand's traverse of the apartment completed, a withdrawal from the glass doors and view of the television screen, a turning back toward the kitchen, brings the reverse untangling and retangling of merging voices until the whirl again concentrates on the kitchen-style barrage, with a canned guffaw, a tuneful note, a current catchword reaching from the television in the other room through the tightly interlaced rat-a-tat-tat of complaints in the kitchen.

The sense of emptiness caused by the unanswerability of the verbal assaults circling the air, the hostile blather from the television, the limitation to infrequent routine remarks increase the weary listlessness caused by desolate isolation from conversation. I can find no way to reach beyond the enclave's communications abyss to genuine responsiveness, to the generous effusive spontaneity of authentic discourse beyond media fabulations and false polemics, beyond television examples of social life occuring nowhere, presented condescendingly to all and by none accepted, delivered with winking glances toward other baskers in condescension who, though aware of its scorn and deceit, help promulgate it because it contributes to their fantasy of being among the rare cognoscenti, among those not taken in by it. Honest confrontation and encounter has surrendered. Triviality grasps the environment, evasion grips all utterance.

And meanwhile, Ma'am Driftwater sits silently in her glass-enclosed room. Once in a very great while she turns she says, "It's a different world." Never once has she smiled. I don't smile either.

The Old Enclave Folkadir - Part III by Roberta SchulbergGoro

by Roberta SchulbergGoro

The old Enclave Folkadir
Part III - Sentience

I was swept to this house remote from my original home of crowded streets, smiles from passersby, and shared community by the necessity of finding sustenance during the turmoil years of neighborhood displacement and job scarcity. Three years earlier, I would never have believed I'd consent to a position or residence so far from the bustling world I knew and now I cannot find my way back again. The world is breaking apart, receding like an expanding universe thinning by the mechanics of inertia, vacated spaces becoming abyssal gaps of separation, an encroaching vacuum insinuating, taking possession. People once known fade away, unexplained, into the emptiness. Bit by bit past associates are lost, contacts missing, telephones are reported "no longer in service." The curtainless windows of neighbors' apartments reveal empty rooms and the buildings of the enclave, once containing residences inhabited by the taciturn, are now filled with abandoned apartments become completely silent. The speakers at the solarium, instead of becoming more familiar through time have, one-by-one, retreated into the abyss, the solarium bit-by-bit deserted, the few remaining plastic-strung chairs grimy and overturned with lack of attention. The quality of the still-maintained sparse greenery has fallen from dullness to despondency. No one crosses the little bridge to the gazebo. The meeting hall, before ignored, is now locked. The nearby dangerously trafficked roads continue on to razed, deserted ones leading nowhere.

My walks through the grounds of the enclave have become less frequent, finding there only rare occasional, unfamiliar figures who answer my greetings with mechanical remarks and quick withdrawal. Within the apartment, the unceasing dull yacketies of floating complainants drone on as they have for months, the resulting reaction permitting that offensive swarm a sense of victory over my attitude of disregard by their having caused its replacement with blunted unresponsiveness. Escalation of threat has been continuous since my first hearing the voices and there has been added to the manifold grimness yet other dismal dimensions. Articulate but silent unseen beings cryptically call attention to their effectual presence. Objects, light in weight, have moved without apparent cause. Cups have slid across countertops. A dish sponge, placed on the flat ledge of the sink, with insistent repetition rolled, as if by minor shoves, into the basin after having, several times, been put back in its place on the ledge. The original cause of the disturbances hounding this castaway enclave being unknown, there is no way to know whether the unreported, unregulated, technologically advanced actions of the intruders derive from a single or a multiple threat, or whether the unexplainable movements originate from the same point as the voices. Besides sounds and displacements there are indications of unheard and unseen footed entry into the apartment. Food prepared for myself and placed in the freezer was mysteriously removed, reappearing weeks later in the same place, the container and its contents still perfectly fresh. Some small keepsakes, of no monetary value, placed on a cabinet near my bed disappeared between night and morning. Its apparent the intruders want to create the most effect with the smallest of detectable acts, eager to cause anger and disruption by having me confront Ma'am Driftwater regarding these incidents of disappearance. But there are other events less easily explainable than merely attributing them to pranks by Ma'am Driftwater. Unmomentous events requiring the carrying of heavier objects than Ma'am Driftwater could manage have been staged by unidentified tresspassers, calling attention to the probability of spatially close but unmet presences. A very large sack of old potatoes was put into the nearly empty refrigerator potato bin of the locked apartment during an outing to the foodstore by Ma'am Driftwater and me. The large cache of old potatoes, unexpected but left in place in the bin, caused a smelly rot on all the new ones before the damage was realized. This might have been intended to cause a casting of blame on me, as cook and kitchen help. The unobserved comings and goings in such minor mischief warns of the major harm the intruders might inflict if they decide against restraint. A more ominous event was the displacement of a beverage bottle standing on one kitchen countertop suddenly shifting in space and appearing, not there, but on a second countertop along the opposite wall, a transference which occurred while I was, according to my own awareness, awake, active and present in the room. This apparently innocuous manoevre of hide-and-seek, attempting a playfulness and in itself comparatively unthreatening, suggests menacing capabilities, among them the possibility of their closing-in physically for attack after cutting off the consciousness of inhabitants. Perhaps these unseen, close-by and materially active trespassers, invisible, but leaving traceries along the rim of an abyss, are themselves victims, local people controlled from a distance, suffering cutoff of their own consciousness' and at risk of suffering penalties for having performed questionable acts of which they have no memory. These occurrences can never be discussed with Ma'am Driftwater who imperiously avoids all conversation.

The workday in the apartment is long and the week sabbathless, but the duties of the house are light and do not, alone, explain the daily morning fatigue, the waking to an ethereal space which seems itself a thickly stuffed quilt of nagging, achy sleep wound round and round muffling the morning arising. Throughout the night pain causes awakening to hear murmured threats of death or worse before being allowed release again into disturbed slumber. The voices forewarn of pain and crippling which they seem, at least in part, able to bring about. Body dysfunctions which cannot be attributed to "psychological" conditions follow after threats. Aches are attached to censure for minor household mishaps and to complaints of laziness, lack of effort, conceit, and headstrong defiance. Diseases are aggravated by their disapprovals. Hunger or morbid lack of hunger, nausea, distortions of the senses, are applied by their word as quickly and easily as a brushstroke to a wall. Dawn can bring miserable awareness of a dreadful physical change having taken place during the night such as the thick hairy covering of my arms and hands, lasting for days, which I awoke to find one morning and the coloration of my body quartered into brown and white, for weeks particolored like a jester's costume. Obesity was delivered right in the middle of the day as I suddenly slumped and stupified. I became shorter and swollen almost to the extreme of inability to move, ache replacing elasticity. The cure of lesions and almost normal slenderization achieved through the health efforts of months, upon the anger of the voices, instantly changed back to a replay of aggravated obesity and lesions. Extreme morning exhaustion has caused me to wonder whether my body, unconscious in sleep through most of the night, had been exchanged for another more mistreated one, with one not having slept for days. Yet, in spite of pain, torpor, and worry, one must rise to the day's activities. The day's duties must be performed and the quotidian respected. Slow, limited movements cope with the requirement, lifting the lethargic pained body, repositioning the straining frame a leg lift at a time, clumsily arching the arms and back moment by moment throughout each day of the unbroken week's seven long days of fragmented hours until bedtime with no assistance or relief from chores when ill. Slowness of movement brings rebuke from the voices and askance looks from Ma'am Driftwater, causing frequent insinuations of my not earning my keep, threatening with possible ouster now that there is nowhere else to go and no one to go to. The persecuters neither acknowledge nor condone any argument besides their own and there is no way to encounter or confront powers and authorities of justice beyond these performers of hidden, secret, savage actions upon the helpless.

The voices "saw something" beyond normal barriers, their remarks giving proof of their capacity to witness anything in the enclave. With an attitude of salacious raw arrogance they use this faculty to indulge degenerate desires to impose extreme debasement. As if to prove the futility of their victim's continuing with breath, they comment as they watch defecation, they hound while witnessing a wash in the shower, they accuse of shamelessness because washing and elimination continue as they look on instead of the suicidal disaster of not at all. They attempt to ensure, as long as there is life and memory, a continuum of suffering from having been subject to their scrutiny. Multiple voices insult with charges of perverse lack of femininity because there has been no witness to a seeking out of a male for sexual connection. They blame abstinence from sexual activity as a guilty denial to others the satisfaction of their natural requirements, blaming autistic self-centeredness for the refusal to offer oneself as dutiful sexual sacrifice. Their remarks reduce the person to the level of body organs and suggest that someone so alone and unlikely to be sought after as I am ought to put myself to use by providing bizarre sexual entertainments. They counter what they consider acts to avoid embarrassment by inflicting shaming comments in hopes of provoking violent reactions of mortification and frenzy, exciting for them to watch. It's hard to fathom what sort of people accept for themselves a code of action permitting themselves participation in such degradation of others. It appears to me that these enemies are not so much personal enemies as enemies of humanity in general, lawless toyers arranging human event for their own entertainment, spreading it to view as an amusement, something to laugh at or as a rallying call to those who, from behind safe lines, would join to rail against an observed helplessly floundering specimen of humanity. The attackers saw something and used what they saw in an attempt to create scenes of chaotic frenzy in a pinioned target, but while clawing through a tunnel to escape bondage one doesn't worry about the mud smears or one's appearance. If there's a frenzy, it's a frantic fearing that one's world is captive, all the people in it being brought helplessly, aware or not aware, to a controlled end. It’s a frenzy to find the ways and means of survival while struggling to reach the other end of the tunnel to life in the world of one's people if there is still such a world. The unidentifiable nameless enemy saw something.

All the while the dense streaming wall of dull chanting metronomics spews it's insults and casts its apportionment of maiming and death; "death," pronounced by the whipping circle of sound claiming to be from a world holding prospects of living forever. But through that thickly knotted and snarled belt there are intermittent piercings, widely spaced rents, gaps of passage through which words objecting to the assault sporadically pelt and spill. Evanescent strains of uttered protest against the attacks are heard and then not heard and then heard again through the more continual din obscuring opposition to oppression of spirit and mind. Sometimes I hear, in fleeting moments, possibilities of meeting, acquaintanceship, and sometimes I hear snatches of intentions of community among those finding a way to touch. It may be from these voices that, sometimes, despite the cordoning, I receive some practical attentions from a distance as mysterious as the source of the menace. When ill and in pain I sometimes sense curing rays. Threatened harm is sometimes mitigated or turned aside by words of some protective power opposing injury. A silent presence, making itself known to me through its actions on the computer, obstructs interference with my entries, the only activity in this situation to be of interest to me beyond the kitchen work. These voices of benevolence also saw something. They saw assault like a stormy turbulance attacking innocent mind and afterward the effort of resilient mind to re-shift to the self-possessing rhythms of its own spirit. They who were not enemies saw something and they saw to something. They made what effort they could, through threat and furor, to assist, even if they could manage only an infrequent word of hope. Yet, in the continuing repetition of injury, the emotional effect has been like being offered a last meal before ending in a void. Although real hope is welcome assistance to endurance, there has been no actual fulfillment of hope and the insistent beat, beat, beat continues. Can full human life ever be reached from the snare of cultural lies, unearthly pointless warpings and hatreds which grip these surroundings in a peristaltic funneling toward an abyss? Could there be a path to an active life in the world after passage through a vacuum? A heavy weight is on my spirit. With eyes clear and face impassive, there is within my chest a continual tearful crying. I have been ensnared and I now no longer know other places to which to run. I am held within a space of nowhere.

The routine of the household has remained constant, probably a bracing requirement and something Ma'am Driftwater strictly insists upon. Hours are as they began. But now, in the evening, suddenly, before work can be finished, a consuming exhaustion descends and envelops my being, wrapping it in a heavy sleepiness, weighing down my eyelids as I struggle to keep awake. Straining in pain and unnatural fatigue to complete the evening's most necessary tasks, my mind bends toward the supporting stretch of my cot where I can give way in release to the soundful silence of the night: the exclamations of the television just barely heard through the space under the door; the low nightly murmuring attack of babble; the din of illness in the ear; old familiar voices calling my name as I drift into dream; nocturnal oblivian.

Disturbance; awakening; shouts at the rim; at the selvage sounds of fear; implosion from a further world.