The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (10 page)

BOOK: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali
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Already one heard the cry, now rending, now muffled, of those disparate preliminary notes which with their perfidious prodding have the virtue of exasperating the anticipation of the imminent beginning of the music which cannot delay much longer.

If this anxious expectation is prolonged indefinitely, the bitter-sweet which each new stridence provokes has the purpose of maintaining each heart, with the terribly delicate torture of its repetition, in increasing suspense on the edge of the great crystal of the afternoon silence which begins to form as the uneasiness spreads through the crowd.

If at this moment the fragrance of linden trees is wafted over you in gusts to add to your anguish, you will appreciate that what may have been merely a touch of dizziness will have reached the category of nausea and your eyes will be forced to show their whites.

In my case and at the age when all this happened, this anxious state, of mind would reach the fainting-point and always resolved itself into a sudden urge to urinate which culminated at the moment when the first inaugural paso doble finally came and tore the evening glow into bloody shreds. A tear impossible to hold back would burn in the corner of my eye, seeming to be the same, as irrepressible and hot, as what I felt was at that very moment wetting my pants. That day the sensation, which took hold of me just as the military fanfare struck its first martial notes, was redoubled by the sudden discovery of Galuchka’s presence. She had just stood up on a chair to observe the arrival of the parade,
placing herself just in front of me ten metres away and on the other side of the avenue.

I was sure that she in turn had just discovered me in the crowd. Seized with an insurmountable shame I immediately hid behind the plump back of a big nurse sitting monumentally on the ground, whose corpulence offered me refuge from Galuchka’s unendurable glance.

I felt myself stunned and dumbfounded by the shock of the unforeseen encounter, a shock which the lyrical impact of the music amplified to a state of paroxysm. Everything seemed to melt and vanish around me and I had to lean my little head against the nurse’s broad insensitive back, a parapet of my desire.

I shut my eyes. When I reopened them they were fixed on the bare arm of a lady sitting beside me who was parsimoniously lifting a cup of chocolate to her lips. The strange sentiment of absence and of nothingness, which seemed to envelop me more and more, formed a vivid contrast to the sharpness with which I perceived the tiniest details of the skin on the wrist of the lady in question. It was as if my eyes, having become powerful lenses, were exercising their amplifying power on a field of vision that was limited, but endowed with a delirious quality of concreteness; and all this to the detriment of the rest of the world, which was becoming effaced in a more and more total absence, mingling, so to speak, with the music which filled the whole.

This phenomenon of hypervisuality has recurred in a number of diverse circumstances in the course of my life, but always as a consequence of the stupor provoked by a too powerful emotion suddenly taking me unawares. In 1936, among hundreds of photographic documents which I was selecting in a shop on Rue de Seine in Paris, I came across a photo that paralyzed me: it showed a woman lifting a cup to her lips; I recognized her instantly, for she corresponded exactly to the image of my memory. The impression of the “already seen” was so poignant that I remained haunted for several days by the magic of this picture, convinced that it was exactly the same that I had seen with such great and strange precision as a child, and which still today stands out with a photographic minuteness of detail among the blurred mists of my most remote false remembrances mingled with lightning images.

I pressed myself closer and closer against the infinitely tender, unconsciously protective, back of the nurse, whose rhythmic breathing seemed to me to come from the sea, and made me think of the deserted beaches of Cadaques...

My cheek crushed against her white uniform, that stretched over the warm flood of her nutritive flesh, became filled with those thousand ants which a long and dreamy revery provokes. I wanted, I desired only one thing, which was that evening should fall as quickly as possible!

At twilight and in the growing darkness I would no longer feel ashamed. I could then look Galuchka in the eye, and she would not see me blush.

Each time I stole a furtive glance at Galuchka to assure myself with delight of the persistence of her presence I encountered her intense eyes peering at me. I would immediately hide; but more and more, at each new contact with her penetrating glance, it seemed to me that the latter, with the miracle of its expressive force, actually pierced through the nurse’s back, which from moment to moment was losing its corporeality, as though a veritable window were being hollowed out and cut into the flesh of her body, leaving me more and more in the open and gradually and irremissibly exposing me to the devouring activity of that adored though mortally anguishing glance. This sensation became more and more acute and reached the point of a hallucinatory illusion. In fact I suddenly saw a real window transpierce the nurse. Yet through this maddening aperture, of frantically material and real aspect, I no longer saw the crowd which ought to have been there and in the midst of which Galuchka standing on a chair ought to have been in the act of looking at me. On the contrary, through this window opened in the nurse’s back, I distinguished only a vast beach, utterly deserted, lighted by the criminally melancholy light of a setting sun.

I suddenly returned to reality, struck by a horrible sight: before me there was no longer a nurse, but in her place a horse in the parade, happening to slip, fell to the ground. I barely had time to draw back and press myself against a wall to avoid being trampled. At each new convulsion of the horse I was in fear of being crushed by one of its furious hooves. One of the metallic shafts of the chariot to which the animal was harnessed had plunged into its flank and a thick spurt of blood splashed in all directions like a wild jet of water dishevelled by the wind.

Two little soldiers fell on the great prostrate body, one of them trying to hold its head still while the other carefully placed a small knife in the center of its brow; after which, with a quick, vigorous thrust of his two hands, he drove the blade of his weapon home.

The horse gave a final quiver and remained motionless, one of its stiffened legs swaying and pointing to the sky, in which I perceived stars beginning to pierce through.

Across the avenue Galuchka was beckoning to me energetically with her arm; I distinctly saw a small brown object in the clenched hand which she held out to me; I could not believe this new miracle, and yet it was true; she was showing me my plane ball! My beloved plane ball which I had lost in the “Discovered Fountain”!
Overwhelmed with confusion I lowered my eyes. My white sailor suit was already blue-tinged
by the deepening twilight, and all spangled with tiny, almost invisible splashes of blood from the dead horse at my feet.

I scratched the spots with my fingernail. The blood was already dry. A warm, heavy air violently exasperated my thirst. The excitement which the brutal and extraordinary violence of the preceding scene had produced in me, and the new situation of feeling myself exposed, looked at by Galuchka, who moreover was motioning to me, all this plunged me into such an unbearable perplexity that I suddenly felt it necessary to resolve my situation by a heroic and utterly incomprehensible act: what I did was to stoop down to the horse’s great face and kiss it with my whole soul on the teeth of its half-open mouth contracted in the convulsions of death. Then I climbed nimbly over the animal’s body and ran across the avenue that separated me from Galuchka. I headed straight for her, but just as I was one metre away I was seized by a new crisis of timidity even more insurmountable than the previous ones, turning me aside from my objective.

I darted into the crowd, waiting with a more and more frenzied impatience for complete darkness to favor a new plan of approach which I had just conceived.

But this time Galuchka herself came toward me. Again I tried to run away, but she was too near.

Mortally vexed, for I could no longer do anything to conceal my timidity, I nevertheless hid my face in my sailor cap, thinking as I did so that I would choke from the strong odor of violets with which it was soaked. A flush of irritation and indignation rose to my head. I could feel Galuchka brushing against my clothes. Then without looking I kicked her with all my might. She uttered a plaintive cry and reached both hands to one of her knees. I saw her go off limping and sit down at the end of the park between the last row of chairs and an ivy-covered wall. Soon we were sitting face to face, our cold, smooth knees pressing one another with such violence that they hurt; our hurried breathing prevented us from uttering a single word.

From the place where we were seated rose a rather steep ramp which communicated with an upper walk. Children carrying scooters would walk up this ramp, and then come down at a dizzy speed on their grinding and horrible contraptions. The menacing din as they periodically came down made us edge closer and closer together. But what was my distress to discover, among those turbulent boys, the red and sweating face of Buchaques! He was ugly, I thought, and I looked at him with mortal hatred. As for Buchaques, he seemed to feel the same hatred for me; he rushed upon me with his scooter and flung himself heavily against my chair, accompanying this act with loathsome little cries and laughs. Galuchka and I tried to barricade ourselves between the wall and the trunk of a large plane tree. She could thus shield herself from the brutal batterings. I, however, who was only half protected, continued to be vulnerable to the malevolent assaults of Buchaques, who after
each interval of climbing the slope on foot would come down again at a furious pace with the sole idea of ramming me again with systematic and growing relentlessness. Each of Buchaques’ departures was for Galuchka and me a glimpse of heaven; we would immediately take advantage of it to plunge back into the infinitely sweet melancholy of our two glances, united in an inexplicable communion in which the most diverse sentiments were born and melted on the threshold of our souls in an unbroken succession of divine ecstasies. Each sudden new interruption of our romance by the clattering onrush of Buchaques on his scooter would only increase the purity and the passion of our ecstatic contemplation and redouble its delightfully agonizing peril.

As if absentmindedly Galuchka began to toy with a very delicate chain that she wore round her neck, but soon she seemed to want to indicate to me with gestures of passionate and malicious coquettishness that something precious must be attached to the end of this chain.

Indeed, under her blouse an object sufficiently voluminous to be guessed at would slowly rise toward the delicate white skin above the low neck line on which my eyes remained fastened, hoping to see emerge what I understood was being promised me. But it did not come, for Galuchka, purposely pretending that her toying was involuntary, would let go the chain which again would slip far down into her blouse with the agility of a snake. After which Galuchka would begin the game all over again, and this time she proceeded to pull the chain up with her teeth, lifting her head slowly so that the object attached to the end of the chain would rise from the well of her bosom and at any moment be on the point of
emerging from her blouse. At the culminating moment, holding the chain between her clenched teeth, she said to me, “Shut your eyes!” I obeyed, secretly knowing what I would see on reopening them. And there indeed, attached to a handful of tiny medals, hung the beloved ball of my deliria! My dwarf monkey! But Galuchka let it slip back into her blouse as an instinctive reaction to the move I had just made to take it. She then ordered me once again and with increased energy to shut my eyes. Again I obeyed, shutting my eyes so hard that they hurt and trembling with emotion like a leaf, while Galuchka seizing one of my hands drew it firmly toward her and slipped it, in spite of my resisting stupor, all the way down her bosom. I felt a button of her blouse break loose and my hand, benumbed by the giddiness provoked by the sudden warmth of an infinitely soft flesh, began to make slow, heavy and clumsy gestures, like those of a drowsy, slumber-swollen lizard.

Finally I seized the handful of burning hot medals among which I could feel the rugged and unmistakable presence of my longed-for ball.

I had not yet had time to savor the miracle of possession with my sense of touch when the grinding noise of Buchaques’ lightning approach again made me violently shut my eyes, convulsed this time by rage.

A bestial blow knocked me off the chair and I found myself on the ground next to Galuchka who was on all fours. In my fall I had torn off the chain, which had deeply marked her neck, and whose white and indented traces I could see gradually vanish.

I pretended to be looking for the handful of medals and the ball under the chairs, but an inquisitorial look from Galuchka made me understand that she had guessed my deception and I handed over to her my treasure which I had kept hidden until then in the folds of my sailor collar which I clutched tightly in my hand.

BOOK: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali
4.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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