I re-encounter the incised apple indirectly, in the mirror-image. Glancing across rows of burnished half-pint beer glasses, their reflections bounced back and forth on opposing glass surfaces, it is on display: residue from an earlier foray into bar preparation, when my back was turned to Carlsberg drinkers and finickerty Guinness drinkers, who verily pour the black stuff down their loose necks, bemoaning English tourists and proclaiming Welsh authenticity (‘I was born here! Gallaf siarad Cymraeg!’). One of these men is prone to bouts of contemplative silence in which I imagine he conjures his wife from the dead; their wedding band still loops his ring finger. The men speak in hushed sweary diatribes and their eyes, in particular: luminescent blue orbs, inching melancholically towards the cataracted film of deep-set old age. They are all gone for their day-drinking apnoea between breakfast DTs and early evening piss-up, and my eyes touch upon the apple directly, having turned my back to my anamorphic reflection amongst a congregation of whiskey, rum, vodka and gin bottles.
The hole in the mealy flesh of the recently sliced apple fills-up – activates – a conjugal space of visual and corporal, the libidinal affect of which is the flooding with blood of certain erogenous body parts. Gripped by abject disgust, nausea spreads from my solar plexus, at the core where energy is discharged: at the nexus of desire and its discrepant machinations. A heavy internal suction, a sense of descent in the manner of cupped hands scooping the interior of visceral surfaces and depths, and down into the other-interior surface of my vulva, applying pressure there – in the place that can be, has been, filled and emptied-out. The pressure swells like a bruise, imitating arousal and the weighty sanguinity of menstrual tissues. Does my perineum twitch? Does serous fluid coagulate there in the moist crack of underneath in that fissure? Disordered senses ascend from the centre into my throat (the precise location where my friend experiences a phantasmatic triangular ‘shape’ precipitating the gagging reflex). All of this touching without touching; the psyche and the body coming into contact in the register of desire, desire’s underbelly, desire’s inversion, where the touching is enacted on membranes of the interior that are also touched surfaces, mutable flesh and regurgitated memories of having touched, touching.
The apple hole and I enter into a relation that is proximate to a pre-conscious anxiety around form and category, pleasure and revulsion. We are touching across unstable borders.
Reverberations pulse low down internal organs: guts against rectum, rectum against vaginal canal, all pipes and openings in contact. Erotic revulsion emerges via a string of recognitions throughout the digestive tract – this chain of contacts, this non-consensual touching of the organs, touching without agency or complicity – from mouth to rectum. Release me. Evacuate this… sickness… I have transformed the world… and I (my mind, my body) rush forthwith (ocular sense being privileged over all other instincts; taut with anticipation) to the cavity that unwound me from decorum tolerance or elision… and I stare into the apple hole, touching it with my eyes and resisting the inexplicable urge to touch it with my hands, my mouth.
The psychic-corporeal vector determining my body’s response to this contact fills a charged spatial state of arrest at the edge of almost-yielding. The perineal heaviness I experience when I gaze on this hole manifests the cognitive interpolating force of arousal, which is a pre-determined conjugation (a touching, itself) of accumulated energy with a pre-instinctual bodily co-emergence, experienced by consciousness on a highly contested psychosomatic territory. Arousal is ‘being awakened’ in the sexual and non-sexual sense; corporeal movements of arousal touching cognitive indecision and coupling with unconscious flow from the corners of the interior that remain for the most part marginal and guarded by the censoring sentinels of consciousness. Other contacts prior to my encounter with the cut apple / the exposure of this gape rush into the space of this tense desiring alliance, permitting the foreclosure of self-censoring by way of bodily affect. The apple hole and I enter into a relation that is proximate to a pre-conscious anxiety around form and category, pleasure and revulsion. We are touching across unstable borders: being gripped digestively by this touch, awakening to a rising heat: inching towards the sort of touch that undoes.
It is the opposite of desire; it shows itself as arousal. One thing, two things: opposite, the same.
The apple’s hole, or the apple hole? The hole and the apple are indistinguishable, I know; the apple is transformed by its hole into a disgusting object (I will not / cannot ‘eat around it’; that would necessitate a literal touching, a potential proximity that would negate this whole text, would de-eroticise the desire to abate, to hold back, to touch without touching or being touched). Erotic fascination is generated by this hole (by my contact with it): the whole reduced to naught; the cavity is a passage to nowhere. The apple signifies the marring potential of touch; fruit is (by nature) vulnerable to rot once its surface membrane is penetrated, pierced or compressed. My corporeal response is being held at a site of erotic tension, as a stiffening that describes a shape around the thing and my dialogue with it (literally monologous, and yet, a communication that I sense as collusion). Fear and dread awakens me and the register is instinctual. An internal organ manufactures a mucoid globule that is discharged by muscular pressures that originate from the gut and are, therefore, psychically cathected to the bowel, to peristaltic squeezing, to exit-mode, to the urge to defecate and the urge to fuck. To draw in, engaging a vacuum; to disgorge, engaging contractions that are evacuative by design. Both are excitatory as well as being quotidian.
Nausea, brought forth by revulsion as seepage, as excess, ascends into my throat from my urgently churning stomach, which is oscillating beneath the quivering epidermal landscape of my flesh, and spasms there. I retch; there seems a fist there braying to be freed, constricted by my taut throat. It is retentive and shares with the rectum a contractive muscularity, tautening and releasing. Desire and resistance collide in a seizure, a tense duality that displays the pulsating border on which everything is decided, cognitively, corporeally. I am now holding it and it is vertical, a penetrating object, a spasm and a shard that is hurriedly festooned with nervous arousal – an arousal that is the mark of the ineluctable.
It is the opposite of desire; it shows itself as arousal. One thing, two things: opposite, the same. The churn and shooting piqued nerves are carriers; my adrenal gland is tumescent and secreting lactic acid. I imagine it globular, revolting as an apple hole. A hole at the core: displaying the rotten hollowness of the interior.
Given to reposition into the fold of Eros in every (object-)relation, I inscribe the tension between the apple and me libidinally; its genesis is an obscure strand of erotic fear, dread and longing in a singular, contained (and yet bursting at the permeable seams) iteration: my body, its mutability, touchability.
The hole is a deep black void, to be sure, but it is also atrophied at its circumference – saturated by encroaching putrefaction brought about by contact with nothing more than the air : drawn in, sucked into the flesh: banalised mutual-intimate-touching. I look into a void that is framed by its own decay. The frame is inseparable from the object it frames; the enclosure is inseparable from its boundary. And I am sickened by the browning, its descent into the core of the void, which is also the core of the fruit. I feel this disgust mainly in my intestinal region, which incorporates the genitals and the lower digestive tract. I look into the hole and wonder if it is the nexus of revulsion, I think about holes that are libidinally charged, even – oral, anal, vaginal – and others that are nonetheless sites of sensual receptivity – nasal, the ear hole, whose auditory function and morphology seem split in a way that other holes manage to synchronise form and function.
The brown hole of the apple, this browning beginning to spread into the pale, moist, grainy flesh of the unmarred fruit, is more and more rapidly proximate to the anal-vaginal. The ‘brown hole’ is euphemistically anal and furthermore, implicitly, by virtue of being isolated and therefore fetishised, a cavity that is charged by erotic curiosity and lascivious longing. Unlike the labial, which is symbolic and the aperture of a largely desensitised corridor into the body, the rectum is a chasm that is excessively sensate. In any consideration of the arsehole, I return to the Barbie pink, early 1990s bedroom of a sexually precocious adolescent friend, describing the pleasures of anal penetration to my teen-virgin self, excitedly and also matter-of-factly: ‘It’s like shitting backwards.’ That one can be touched internally throws me. It throws me out of the orbit of touching by the other, into auto-erotic touching, which being ouroboric reveals none of this dread: the ouroborus consuming itself in an endless cycle of oneness and regurgitation.
Paradise is limited by the permeability of its borders, and the impasse is unsteady terrain.
I am yielding to associative symbolism and slippage from corporeal memory and corporeal immediacy. This is the place that cannot be translated into language. The attempt to articulate the nothingness of absence and the somethingness of aperture renders my body petrified, a stone, rigid and mute, as if to contain the unspeakable melting sensation of my interior. It is a zone of illegibility that points towards a conjunction with Eros. By Eros I invoke an accumulation around the mark of desire and the territory of productive undoing, beyond morality and the categorical: something miasmic and incoherent, generated by the conjunction of the body (corporeality) and the unconscious (pre-cognitive). It is generated in the fusion, which is both chemical and psychic, and processed by the sense organs both internal and external. By Eros I invoke the indefinable by virtue of morphology or material reality. I invoke, with Eros, the affect and movement across boundaries and levels of legibility, translatability, mutability and apprehension. Apprehension, the seizure of touching, holding-back, is the desire that consumes itself in the mire of chaos. By Eros I also invoke the impossible, the aporetic and a passionate impasse that is also a fulcrum. An impasse that opens itself up, like Eve’s apple opening up the threshold to Earthly humanity after being banished from Eden. Paradise is limited by the permeability of its borders, and the impasse is unsteady terrain.
Passion and pathos are etymologically linked via the stratum of suffering and endurance, connected to Christ. The meaning, ‘strong emotion, desire’ is attested later and derived from the Latin passio (to render the Greek pathos). Later still, the sexual sense is rendered, followed by ‘strong liking, predilection’, which is the attenuated version commonly used today, attenuated by its negation of an inherent ‘negativity.’
Passion and pathos congeal in and around this hole, this cleft in an object that is intelligible to me, that I would place into my own body and consume, the thought of which is suddenly abhorrent; I can’t eat the apple. Passion and pathos constellate around the contaminated/contaminating potential of what is accused of being rotten and is displaying its decay. The scopophilic register ensures that I maintain my coherence, in the process of embodying a controlled unravelling, controlled, in the sense that the ‘I’ remains uncorrupted. My sense of identity is held in tension at the conjunction with potential collapse, disordering and contamination by this other, to which my relation is one of (violent) objectification.
Unlike Snow White, I refuse to touch or bite the apple. Is she thirsty, desiring, or easily led?
The voyeur is a narcissistic thing, guided by distancing that never crosses over into entwining with the object of curiosity. ‘I look at you and feel sick with envy’ for I am locked-in at the borders of a slipping bodily/psychic unity, which nevertheless remains intact; the risk of invasion and/or incorporation into the (body of) the other produces ‘fascination’. For Freud, ‘curiosity [in relation to what is concealed] seeks to complete the sexual object by revealing its hidden parts: this pleasure in looking [scopophilia] becomes a perversion… if it is connected with the overriding of disgust.’ The Freudian detour is beset with problems around the mark of normal sexual aim(s), and the drive to isolate, objectify and fetishise. In troubling the question of borders between subject and object, I eroticise a complicated self-other affective relation that is incontrovertibly libidinal.
Unlike Snow White, I refuse to touch or bite the apple. Is she thirsty, desiring, or easily led? Am I sated, gorged, self-loathing? Refusal of the gift is considered bad manners. In spite of the pleasures afforded by potential loss of self, the orgasmic letting-go counts as a formative erotic experience. In The Labyrinth, the Goblin King promises a flavour of worshipful adoration that is the stock-in-trade of adolescent fantasy (mine was far more explicit than this: a sadomasochistic dungeon in which the power – to abstain – is mine, and my suitor is literally caged, lying in wait for me). ‘Love me, worship me… let me rule you… I will be your slave,’ are delectable utterances displaying the hallmarks of a universalised sub/dom gendered-dynamic, simultaneously pleading and offering, operating on the level of the wistful and the gravely serious subject of burgeoning feminine desire that is the artery of fairy tales.
After tasting the poisoned fruit (a peach), desire thus aroused (awakening), Sarah trips out of labyrinthine reality and into the mise-en-scene of an erotically charged masked ball dream sequence in which visual and phonological data is displaced and reorganised as Lyotard’s ‘great ephemeral skin’. The body and sensorium are spread wide and incorporated in successive waves or throbs whose woozy motion is the dizzying sensation of being at the conjunction (the point of contact; a register of touch that can be a site of complicated desires) of conscious and unconscious. A quotidian trance state, a corruption of self by one’s own desire, a tug-of-war in the register of bodily unity and its vulnerability to disordering by the interior (the distinction of the two called into question by the ‘immense membrane of the libidinal “body”’).