tekst

Misconceptions

Stefaan Dheedene

Alice Evermore

Early one morning in September of 2002, Andy found himself flying low over the city of Berlin. It was one of those mornings when the sun was shining in a removed, late summer way, sending the first crinkled, brown messengers of autumn along the Havel and into the congested bowels of the city. It was another morning identical to any other. Andy gently rode the breeze above the city without a care in the world. He swooped and swerved through the morning air, sometimes coming down close enough to smell the perfumes and laundry detergents of those in the street. The rush and hurry of what Andy saw below contrasted with his own listlessness, though he found it all to be infinitely fascinating nonetheless.
At a certain moment Andy started to feel lonely up in the sky all by himself, so he decided to dive down through the asphalt and enter the underground subway system. Doing so, he penetrated a side street near Tempelhof and then continued following the network of tunnels until he came to the nearest station. There he saw a few dozen persons, scattered along the platform, awaiting the next train. Andy invisibly drifted in between them, once again inhaling a strange potpourri of scents, which ranged from nicotine to propane gas.
At the far end of the platform, Andy saw a peculiar man holding a wrinkled shopping sack. He was slightly obese, perhaps in his early fifties. This man stood slightly apart from the other commuters, allowing the sack to dangle next to his knees with a somewhat discouraging emptiness, while he stared at the station wall in a very curious manner. After orbiting the man's head for a moment, trying to read his chain of thoughts, Andy casually slipped inside his cranium. He found it odd the way that the man studied the wall, as if he was an avid admirer of subway tiles or simply someone completely lost in thought.
Once Andy was settled deep inside the man's visual cortex, he realised that the person was occupying himself with a host of optical tricks, pretending the various tile patterns on the wall to be the elaborate borders in a sort of imaginary board game. His eyes singled out, then focused on the multitude of minuscule streaks and chips that covered the white-tiled wall, separating them into specially assigned regions within the borders. Andy followed the man's optical nerves, as they divided the different fields within the wall of tiles, choosing what smudges were to go where, as he mentally rearranged the tiny scuffs of visual debris into an order he found more pleasing.
The odd little man even went so far as to image that certain portions of the wall contained a virtual depth of several centimetres. In fooling his brain the man gazed for so long at one particular area of white tiles (set apart by a bordeaux-coloured trim) that his model-making memory actually came to perceive the scrutinised portion as being receded. Within that shallow cenotaph was a new section was created, a subdivided perimeter where only contents from the periphery could go…

Later that same day Andy made his way over to the United States, where he decided to visit the city of Denver. It was early in the afternoon there. A kindergarten class was in the middle of having their art lesson. Andy landed inside the cluttered classroom, sitting down on an opened windowsill, watching a young teacher instruct her pupils in the drawing of a car. Using a piece of chalk, she made a nice, large three-dimensional perspective rendition of an automobile next to a tree.
The group of students then set about making their own pictures of a car. A little girl, named Jodi did her best to make a car as nice as the one the teacher had drawn on the chalkboard, but something wasn't right. Once finished, she looked at her effort in comparison to the one on the board. The one drawn by the teacher looked much more realistic. Jodi wondered what she had done wrong. Her wheels were lined up next to each other, while those on the chalkboard seemed to behind each other.
Andy swept over to Jodi's shoulder and regarded her drawing. He pressed his ears close to her hair, listening to the thought impulses that raced like lightning, only centimetres away. While following the child's confusion, Andy picked up two groups signals; one from the cerebral cortex, which rationally tried to configure a car using the pencil in her hand and the other from the limbic system, which attempted to will the tires into a three-dimensional perspective.
Jodi ultimately saw her drawing as a clumsy sort of cart, with uneven wheels and a too small passenger compartment. Cavorting with the little girl's frustration, Andy imagined what it would be like to enlarge Jodi's drawing into a three-dimensional form, while keeping its two-dimensional state intact. The ambiguous object would then rend itself as an entirely new contrivance, one with an innate, coded definition, though in fact completely independent and impossible of fulfilling its meaning.
The little, visual misconception would speak a language of outlines and symbols striped of their context. Before he left the classroom, Andy wondered what sort of things Jodi's car would have to say should it be able to converse with the one drawn by the teacher on the chalkboard?

By the end of the day, Andy had worked his way around the globe, coming to rest for the night in New South Wales, Australia. Reaching the city of Newcastle, he approached a long, flat modern building not far from the coast, with five wings jettisoning out from a central area. This star-like structure turned out to be a local rest home for senior citizens and disabled war veterans.
Andy went inside the abundantly beige building and began aimlessly floating down one of the long halls. The smell of urine was even stronger here than it had been in the German subway earlier that morning. He passed by a sad, grisly assortment of old men and women, their wheelchairs parked random about in the hall, like unattended children.
After he had worked his way back to the main portion of the building, Andy saw a large dining room, decorated in the most unpremeditated manner, not too unlike the kindergarten classroom he had visited in Denver. Floating over plastic water bottles, smelly diapers and suede lounge chairs, Andy stopped beside a very old man, who sat alone next to a window. His name was Mickey and he was ninety-nine-years old, with his one-hundredth birthday only two months away. Andy looked into the elfin face next to him, watching a string of silvery drool work its way down onto a cotton bib loosely tied around the neck. Mickey was still, practically motionless, his brittle fingers rested gently upon his lap as he stared out the window, fixing his eyes upon the glass pane and not the images beyond it.
Andy noticed that Mickey was looking at the reflection of the dining room's lights, as they shined on the windowpane. Because no one else was nearby, Andy spoke directly to him.
"What do you see, Mickey," he asked?
The old man turned very slowly in the direction of Andy's voice, his lower jaw hanging partially open. He had understood the question, but saw no one there to have asked it.
"That's the two moons," replied Mickey in a shrivelled, weak voice.
"You see two moons out there?"
"Yes…see, those two moons," nodded the fragile man.
Andy looked at the dining room reflection on the glass, seeing Mickey's two moons. From the front reception a radio was playing an old Guy Lombardo song from the 1930's. Mickey listened to the singer's voice coming from the speakers behind him. His eyes now fell upon a small, porcelain statue, which set on the same table as Andy. The statue was a cheap replica of an 17th century French musketeer. Mickey's eyes held it tight, seizing the figurine's eloquent pose, his ornamental plume and indigo boots.
Andy saw in Mickey's eyes the connection between the singer on the radio and the porcelain figurine.
"He's singing that one…" smiled the old man. "He's singing that song…that little man."
"Yes," replied Andy, "he sure is."