Day 81: the shape of my midlife crisis

Well, it’s serpentine, obviously. Whoever is writing this plot has a serious weakness for the serpentine line. In fact, I’d say it’s a tad heavy-handed. I mean, first those hyacinthine, ripply locks, and now this??? In such close succession? It’s a bit much.

Oi Author, are you listening up (or, rather more probably, I fear, down) there? You don’t need to lay it on so thick. [1]

But I’m sure my pleas will fall on deaf ears. So back to you, dear readers. [2] What is this, you ask? Don’t scroll down! Serpentine line, remember? Let it unfurl in due course.

So, indulge me in a thought-experiment and all will be revealed. What are some things that a duck-rabbit might do at (and following) a jubilantly drunken dinner (G&T; Pimms; red wine; red wine; red wine; port. Dr. F, don’t blame me; blame Englishness) at the house of the lovely R, and her husband, the incorrigible Martinus Scriblerus?

Well, it would be mere speculation, but if I had to spin out a hypothesis, I’d imagine that a duck-rabbit might do the following:

  • Smoke a cigarette, which it has not done since New Year’s Eve in Berlin in 2003 when it was locked in a bathroom with the delightful Onivas.
  • Rashly swear to accompany Martinus Scriblerus to a tattoo parlor and get matching tattoos of this:


  • Not only make this pledge in speech, but further affirm it in writing with an unequivocal YES!!! when Martinus texts (“Tattoo. 5th June”) to affirm said commitment later that night. [3]
  • Upon getting home, be sober enough to wash face, remove contact lenses, and brush teeth before going to bed, and yet not be sober enough to actually master the act of getting into bed. In this hypothetical scenario, the duck-rabbit would think to itself that it had successfully gotten into bed; but although, in the most basic sense, it had, it would have failed to execute the maneuver properly, inserting itself, not under the top sheet, but between the wool blanket and the duvet, leading it to toss and turn all night muttering, “sheets … so … scratchy … must be withdrawal from alcohol poisoning … or possibly itchy skin first symptom of lung cancer resulting from one cigarette … must investigate on internet first thing tomorrow … ”
  • During fitful, itchy sleep, dream that it took two bottles of Chanel perfume home from R&M’s house. In morning open purse to discover two bottles of Chanel perfume! Squeal audibly in delight at this miraculous actualization of its dream! [4]
  • Upon awakening hungover and with (literally) cold feet, don one sock even though both feet are cold, because it seems too challenging of a task to locate the other sock. (Note: am still wearing only one sock.)
  • Laugh out loud to itself for several minutes at the idea of a duck-rabbit getting a tattoo of a squiggle from Tristram Shandy.
  • Instead of reading for tomorrow’s seminar, spend long time thinking up the most up-one’s-own-arse (oruboros! Ultimate serpentine line, no?) tattoo one could possibly get. Come up with idea of a Magritte-like hand drawing the Tristram Shandy squiggle on a duck-rabbit, which is itself drawn on the front (back) of a Necker cube, which is balanced precariously on an infinite chain of turtles.


[1] To butcher Monsieur Jacques Le Fataliste, who thinks everything is written up above: “tout ce qui nous arrive de bien et de mal ici-bas était écrit plus-bas.” I can’t remember French well enough to know if that’s actually how you would say “down below” in this context.

[2] And speaking of how dear you are; I am sorry, loyal subscribers, for posting so much and clogging your inboxes. I don’t expect you to keep up. I’m certainly not.

[3] Note, however, that the unequivocal YES!!! was preceded with an are-we-really-going-to-do-this? wobble, which Martinus instantly quashed with an emphatic, “fuckin right we are NO BACKSIES,” the use of the phrase “no backsies” (despite the duck-rabbit not having heard said phrase for approximately 30 years), triggering, in almost Pavlovian fashion, the instantaneous conviction that reneging on the oath was now completely futile.

[4] For the next week, I am going to alternate wearing these two scents. If you happen to pass me in the hallway and find your nostrils tickled by a delicious waft of je-ne-sai-quois that inexorably pulls you, Bisto-like (another serpentine line!!!), into my orbit, do let me know. Cheers!


3 thoughts on “Day 81: the shape of my midlife crisis

  1. martinus scriblerus says:

    It will not surprise you, though it may horrify you, that I had, for some years before settling on the serpentine line, wanted a tattoo of the word “word”. This was to be rendered in an acutely compressed history of pre-anglo to contemporary script; the first half of the “w” to be runic, the ascender of the “d” to be in tiny tiny 1s and 0s. It was designed to put maximum torsion on the word/image and create as much defamiliarisation as possible. This I planned to get on one of two places. Either on my foot, owing to utterly asinine ideas about foundations. Or — even more horribly — circling my wrist so that the word/flesh thing was literalised and to torque up the defamiliarisation an extra notch by having the tattoo be never visible from one perpective.

    So, when you think if the serpentine line shortly to be adorning you, remember it could be much, much worse.

  2. And I thought I had identified the most up-one’s-own-arse tattoo possible!

    But you win. A tattoo more worthy of a withering eye-roll, a smirk, and even a snort, I cannot imagine. And yet, it is also quite brilliant in its exquisite embodiment, down to the very last detail, of a particular phase in your formation as a literary critic, a phase, when, doubtless, you were completely insufferable. Lest I seem harsh, I would argue that ALL of us academics-in-the-humanities-types have to go through that same insufferable phase (indeed, some of us never leave it!). Like puberty, it is necessary but ugly. I am happy for us both that neither of us have bound ourselves to committing this extraordinary design to the flesh! (Though I am, also, sad, in a more selfless way, for the countless others for whom the execution of this design would have doubtless provided many hours of mirth.)

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