April 20, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

The Tour Pro

By Peter Vilbig
Published: 2016-10-10

I flash my tourist officer badge and take the stairs. I'm three rooms down the hallway when I hear it. Of course it's sex, only more so. If pornography is mechanized exteriorized, consumable sexuality, this is God-in-the-machine shit so wired it's like ether, not exchange. Outside the Jafe's room I dally. These love sounds, as a dew-like film laid gentle on some possible non-fictive heaven sward, filter honey-like into my ears.

Point being, why do I linger. I'm a sworn officer. I'm his Tour Pro. What is not arranged is not real. I'm about to knock but just then a young woman appears at the end of the hallway. She's clearly a damned pageant of old woes, her eyes bitten hollow with sorrow.

She approaches me shyly, and then without warning drops to her knees and unfastens me.

"Sorry, sister," I call out. "I'm on duty."

She begins to tell me her story. I oddly can't feel a thing. The thought dawns on me that I'm at risk of becoming part of a Spectacular Chain. I've heard of them. Those in the room replicating some a priori spectacle (a porn vid, a childhood meme), me, Nata (the name of my interlocutor as she informed me) linked in this endless reflexivity of disposable sensation.

And here I begin to catch a glimmer of real awareness, a piercing of the ultimate non-consumable dark within me, that perhaps this was the truth of the pleasure loops all along, since the thing-itself is always happening elsewhere (in the room, for gods sakes, those svelte sounds), and always three levels of reality: life as we live it which is death, the performances we watch, and the third level, the gutter sucking real world of the elites and their power sumps, and I their diplomat, for regardless of what the Jafe is up to in that room, what has Bitter Ikon, the greatest band in the world, exported if not the power struggles of its elites.

Yet as my Nata tells me her tale of life-wrung woes, I don't feel a thing — though why are those tears in my eyes as she tells. I've read about this dysplasia, of course, how those who suffer it are left to drain away the years sorrowing over 'fate' and other imaginary fables of woebegones. Oh God help me. Yet Nata spoke.

•

Nata: Nata walking with great sorrow in her mind down a nondescript street in the city — this was perhaps not the "beginning" of her story, though it was the "first element," if I am intuiting properly, or did she actually tell it? She was about fifteen at the time, and it would be foolish to say this was a turning point because the turning points had already come and gone. It was late evening, the sky in the east fading to the deepening undersea dark of night and the sky to the west, where the ocean lay, casting up a pale and frothy cartoon blue. The street was lined with shops mostly closed, though light was spilling from some sort of cafι at the other end as well as energetic but possibly soothing music. A few pedestrians were moving along in that languid after-work saunter of the world over.

She was remembering a conversation with her mom, about what she could not remember (and as always with mom a never-ending skirl of amphibologies), and she remembered that her mom gave her really bad advice, and that she, Nata, knew this even at her young age, and knew too, somehow, in a not quite preverbal way, that her mom's love for her, her daughter, had quite literally squeezed out of her, her mom, just about every almost, you-could-say, human quality, and especially good judgment.

Anyway, cut to the chase. Nata's story was the old one. Her father an anonymous conventioneer who met her mom when she was a facilitator at an international trade show. He split for the Argentine or Ohio before poor Nata swam the birth canal for freedom. Her mom's bad fate to have a brother, Boxso. They were living in the apartment — the one they moved to after the convention work dried up and mom was officially declared, based on tax information, a Substrata. Why bother telling it, like something out of Emile Zola. The brother's celebrity gossip site, needing just a few more dollars, mom working her fingers to the bone at a call center. Long story, Boxso absconds, mom leaps from the balcony of their third-floor apartment. Nata, age 10, was quickly remanded to foster care.

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