After Feint (2017) As a part of I am crying, a collaboration between Jimmy Nuttall and Nicholas Smith.
Terracotta, stoneware, timber, enamel Firstdraft, Woolloomooloo 2017
Musk I remember
By Liv Koh
I’m in the surgery. What do they call it? Waiting room. I’m on the stage, behind the curtain. I’m stage left, depending on where you are seated. I take my seat, I mean my place onstage beside the others. I wait for my number to be called. There’s a row of chairs that make a kind of semi-circle that can be rotated and used as the amphitheatre in the Greek play on Thursday nights. I wish I’d got that part. I sit with the other patients, trying to remember my line along with the other extras. Some of them are sandbags positioned upright and covered with coats and hats from costume. The lights in the surgery are very bright, flooded. I start to sweat or sweat breaks out behind my ears, where the glands are - the hot spots where my pink scarf is and beneath my coat. They call my name. At least, one of the extras looks at me and I take this as a signal to properly enter the scene. I must’ve missed it which is a shame as I would like to know the name of my character. A nurse stands there silently holding a clipboard. I walk up into the front right of stage and pass by silently. I walk through the doorway also used as a proscenium arch on Friday nights. Despite this tawdry connection I feel this as a totally different set and the panic stings as I realise I wasn’t concentrating. I could be in the wrong place. I hope this is my scene. I take off my coat and scarf and place them on the chair where I sit on the diagonal, beside a desk facing the doctor and the audience. They’ve already started the dialogue. I chatted to the doctor briefly backstage before curtain. The worst conversationalist. I reply:
‘It’s like going to a new place that you’ve never been… but it’s like you’ve not?’
‘Like a nostalgia.’
‘Yeah, there’s a nostalgia to it all…’
‘A loss. An unknown. Are you running? I’m sorry, I’m doing that thing where I’m interrupting you.’
There’s a pause.The doctor leans forward and presses hands and fingertips together, elbows on knees.‘If you describe your symptoms we can establish patterns through the problems that reoccur,’ matter of factly. ‘Like how a seer describes the feeling before a vision, they can sense it like electricity in the air before rain,’ I don’t remember this part of the script. ‘It’s like before you get a cold, and you feel unwell. Where do you feel it? What happens?’ Silence. ‘You look troubled. Sometimes you have to put in this much effort if you want to get to the heart of the matter.'
As they’re talking I realise I can’t remember the last line, my last line that signals the scene to end and the curtains to lower, a short time before they’re brought up for the Ballroom Vignette. Fuck. The doctor turns the pages of my file and from this angle I can see each page marked with the stamp SEXUAL COUNSELLING. I didn’t know they made them up that long. I thought it was a naturalistic style set but the doctor lights up a cigarette, blowing almost in my face. The smoke runs up my nose and waters my eyes. Improvise.
‘Sometimes... some times I. Wake up with marks… on my arms, my cheek and my neck.’ I say this stupidly like an uncertain patient. The doctor raises their brow slightly, eyes widening as if to say this is unusual or what are you doing?
‘Yes,’ I continue ‘it comes out in marks across my body, usually when I lie on a pillow or on the sheets? It leaves a kind of indent.’ A distinguishing feature. I forgot my line, what was the line?
There’s something moving inside the computer
There’s something moving inside the stadium
There’s something moving inside the cove
‘Are there any other long-standing symptoms?’
I watch a real fly land on my file and crawl over initials written in a loose hand that say GAD. I remember the flies that landed on the cows at the property - tail flicks mean move on. Flies forming a ring near the water near the eyes. Musk I remember, comes from the secretion of a male deer for scent-marking and is an important ingredient in perfumery. From the Sanskrit for scrotum. Uhm is this what it’s like to dissociate? I say:
‘It’s like a heat, in my belly and lower, the heat comes between my legs, a burning sensation.’ We are moving inside the sentence. Flooded. I say my last line. ‘Doctor, I love you.’