Monday, March 29, 2010
Attempt at the Reconstruction
of a Portrait of Khanoom P.,
(Draft I, Take 1.
(The attempt at the reconstitution of a portrait of Khanoom P. is rooted in a sincere—and obsessive—desire to know… and understand the piano teacher practicing in the city of Tehran in the years 1974-1979. It is an attempt at the piecing together of perceptions and images, of desires and memories, of sounds, of fragments, of impressions, of sensations. At the grasping of the fullness of a personhood. Or…
(Draft I, Take 2.
(The attempt at the construction of a portrait of Ms. P. is founded upon pillars of solitary contemplation and of silent peering, of sudden rushes and flows of images called, perhaps mistakenly, memories. Founded upon deliberate design of methods for the acquisition of information, also: conversations, enactments, dialogues and polylogues, research: all contribute to the redrawing of the contours of her life. One that, I have come to understand, merits special study and analysis. These various elements molded together will inevitably provide insight into her life path, into the many decisions and acts that led to the events that shall not yet be revealed.
Khanoom P. always looked at you and said: Een tchemhayé ahoo-ro ki dadé bé tow!
This is all she ever said?
Not all, but what I remember.
What else, what else do you remember.
Not much really, just that she would always comment on those big eyes of yours. She really liked you, a lot, that’s what I remember.
And I: this anecdote is all that I actually hold on to, and, in fact, may have concocted as a ‘memory’ based on my mother’s countless re-telling: how Ms. Patmagrian always gently and with much passion asked: who gave you those big deer-like eyes…
The attempt at the writing of the portrait of Khanoom Patmagrian is inscribed within the overall attempt at writing the revolution. Which? The only one (I often joke). I was among those displaced during the Iranian revolution. Among the only children of it—. Its wildness and unrealness. Its madness and delirium. Child of ruptures and metamorphoses. Child of osmoses and landings in unknown lands and fabulously whacky territories. And O so much more so much more O O.
The attempt at the construction of a portrait of Ms. P. is thus another among the endless attempts at implanting solid cores, re-rootings, re-routings. Complementary, in this case. Thus, the image of Ms. P., the piano teacher, known only through the one dimension that defined her for me. She becomes a prism: through which certain events can be perceived. A construct, around which the chaotic goings-on can be anchored, analyzed, written. Thus—
The attempt at the reconstruction of the fullness of K. Patmagryan becomes an attempt at the reconstitution of the image of all those who have had only a small presence in our lives. How each of us only a flash of a presence for the other. How each of us merely a… To re-integrate into the fabric of one’s life, the forgotten. How to reclaim their importance. To perceive them in all their glorious multidimensionality. Their complexity and their layers. Not just the piano teacher anymore. Not the piano teacher at all, perhaps.
For those who see in the presentation of the notes, the drafts, the re-drafts, the chronicle of the telling, a theory of writing in motion, I say: not quite, but almost. Conjecture: the attempt at the reconstitution of a… portrait (is it? –) of Khanoom P. is nothing more than another excuse in theorizing the writing of portraits. Ms. P. has no special place in my heart. She is merely a signpost. An iteration of a way in which the analysis of the transformation of memory over time can take place. Maybe not even that: not even on memory. Nothing about how each time the scene is thrust upon one’s mind, one’s being, it is seen and lived differently, and thus how there is no memory as such, and certainly no special care for Ms. P. Nothing really to do with Khanoom Patmagrian. It is launched after the consideration of the Armenian presences in my life, heightened by the uncanny assistance at the piano player’s session at an ungodly hour in an underground (literally) bar in New York City. Circumstances. Chance.
(Draft III, Take 1
The room (I): I can only remember the rug—and a thin woman. Skeletal hands. Distinguished, quiet. Classy. Formal yet friendly. Fingers on keyboards. The piano in the room. Something of a parquet floor, I reckon. The way the thin frame walked across the room. Almost hearing the sounds again now. Almost.
(Draft III, Take 2.
There is the piano player at the bar. Frail, thin. Beard. Piercing eyes. Dark hair. Not why he set out to be a piano player, surely. But maybe yes. Who knows. Hey hey piano player man. The desire to shout out. Go up there. Hey hey, piano player man! Go up there and tell him! Tell him you appreciate his style! Tell him how he’s making you think of K. Pat! Go!
The portrait concluded (its first phase, one could imagine), will the new images again be enlivened. Will I cease to have flashes thrust upon me. Will I continue to write her name, continue to change the mode of referring to her, change the spelling of her name even (why is it ‘i’ and not ‘y’ and vice versa anyway, I wonder). Will I continue to refer to her. Think of her. Dare I say: remember her.
I must re-write Take 2: or, how the attempt at the reconstitution of the portrait of K. Pat. is an infinite, eternal, attempt at the writing of.
(Exercise in mnemonic and monolingual futility? Incomprehension and identity? It seems to me that the notion of exile and the—
(Unfinished sentences… Unclosed parentheses… (Right on. Stop them! Stop the stringing along of words and blank spaces!) Not just the attempt at the construction of the portrait of Ms. P., but the chronicling of, the narrative of, the impossibility of completeness of any portrait. Of the writing of any—
(Draft IV, Take 1.
The room (II): is where I took piano lessons. Without really wanting to, without even being particularly good at it (although, not so bad either). Just went through the motions. Then—
A man, bent over as the door opens. Takes a step and enters. A woman, working, gets up from her seat and goes out: on the wharf, a group of people awaits, every day, for the body to wash ashore. They do not know that the reports of her death are faulty. That, in fact, she stands there, among them, not of them, untelling.
(Has she passed away. Is she… Her sister: “Ms. P. was a refugee. She was holding down the fort. She was great at acting. She was…”
Her cousin: “Patmagrian was not really a musician. She only taught for a while to eek out a living while she waited for her father, who had been imprisoned. She had never shown much talent. She never really studied. She…”
I continuously fashion new tales around her. Rather: begin the process of creating stories, yet dutifully stop. Interviews and conversations—and then tales. The instinct to fictionalize is halted though, through some dubious self-imposed ethical imperative. The banal articulation of the attempt at drawing an accurate portrait, perhaps not of her, but of the memory of her personhood in relation to myself, is felt more urgently than any extravagant tale-weaving—of the highest merit even.
(Draft IV, take 2.
The room (III), The rug (I)
I’m sure there was a rug on the floor.
A Persian rug?
That’s all we ever had there.
What about the colors, the design. Do you remember it?
The rug (II)
No, I don’t remember any of it. I swear.
Just that there was a rug?
Yeah, just that.
How can you be sure then. I mean, how do you remember that? How can you be sure there was a rug?
The rug (III)
The texture. The feel of the home. It’s cozy. Small, cozy. There was a rug, I’m sure.
Not too big though, no?
Not too big.
(Draft IV, take 3.
Thus, the reconstitution must take the most enigmatic of forms. And it must transparently trace the stages of its own becoming: the modalities fashioning its creation. The whispers and the notes. The hues. The voices. The interruptions. The tones.
In the movies, the adult version of a young child hovers above the scene. Follows the action unseen. Silent gaze. The piano teacher instructs the child to replay a portion of the score. Instruction on the placement of his hands. The flow. Instructions on. The adult hovering smiles at the nervousness of his young self. Knowing his lack of enthusiasm. How he carried on though. How he forged forth, unwilling to disappoint. Haalaa een yekí: the instructions again. Did you practice it? The question. The young version anxiously answers that he has. The adult overlooking the scene at the doorway cannot hold back anymore and takes a step forward and intervenes—aloud, but softly. He says: he practiced it only once, twice, maybe. He doesn’t like to play piano. He likes you though, and he doesn’t want to disappoint you. I think… I think he doesn’t want you to think that his not liking the piano is in any way a reflection on you.
In the movies, the thin and classy Khanoom Patmagryan turns around and smiles at the man speaking softly to her with the young boy seated next to her on the piano chair. She says: who are you?
(The attempt at the reconstitution
of an image of Ms. P. is a nothing more
than a despaired attempt at
creating a portrait of the self.
A fragmented portrait.
The eternally fragmented unfolding portrait of the self.)
(Postface: from the autobiography of Ms. Patmagrian
I was born in Tehran. My father worked in factories most of his life. He worked hard and tried to make sure we received a great education. My mother stayed at home. In school, I was shy and withdrawn. I read a lot. I played by myself. My musical talents showed early on. Detected and cultivated by a teacher. She urged my father and my mother to allow me to pursue music. They were eager, anxious. They wanted me to succeed. They were not sure I should. I continued. When I was twenty-two, I was engaged to a young man. I was not in love with him, still only focused on my music. He was older than I was, but he was wise and generous. He told me once he knew I did not love him. Imagine, at the time. No one ever talked about love. And… No man would ever… In fact, I should correct myself… He said: I know you do not want “to be with me”. I did not know what to tell him, but he was right: I did not want to be with him. To the great consternation of my parents, he called off the wedding. Then,