P believed himself to be “the first agent of the last revolution”. If anyone asked what his real job was he would always answer with the same response: first agent of the last revolution. No one knew what he did for money, though he was always dressed in a good white shirt, dress pants and jacket. He could be an editor, some “creative” work without any demands or pretensions of art. Not a business type, not really. But no one knew. Whatever he did for money was not considered work for him at all. In the bar he’d buy a few drinks for himself, taking time with each one and a few cigarettes. Usually he’d notice a girl and buy her a few drinks, talk for a long time, and often leave with her. Never with the same woman. If he’d left with someone and saw her again he’d smile, say hello, and talk casually about a few things before excusing himself. This part of life, which so many other men and women spend so much time under the spell of, writing about, advertising, longing about and loving the details of appeared to be simply an easy exercise for him.
What sustained him were other interests entirely, and something that very few people understood. Most assumed he was joking when he’d say, “It was a good night, I had a few drinks and left with the keys.” A jest or euphemism. We’d assume he ran off with someone’s wife. This is because our assumptions have a very basic set of rules, and P lived outside them so completely that his strangeness was invisible to us.
A few redefinitions are necessary then, to the words and the rules. When P said he “attended a party” this meant he visited a house currently unoccupied, presumably because it’s owners were out for the night, a holiday, or something similar. Always a very expensive home, the most upper of upper class. He preferred the high-rises along Central Park, but, and I have no reason to doubt him or believe him, the mansions of Beverly Hills and villas of Nice were all within his arena. When he said it was a “good night” he meant he successfully broke into a house, no one was home, and no authorities were alerted.
During such a break in he would never steal anything. He would never break a window to get in, always obtaining keys or alarm codes from doormen, buying off janitors, house-keepers and gardeners. The wealthy, he observed, are often so comfortable that the source of their comforts becomes invisible. People who maintain this comfort move largely unseen and unnoticed through their homes and lives: maids, hair-stylists, secretaries, cooks, all are allowed access and degrees of trust simply because of their low-position. They perform various duties, all considered inviolate by the wealthy, and must do so without disruption or a hint of their existence when unneeded.
When P said “the work went well” he meant that he’d successfully undone this cushion of invisibility, he’d made a mockery of the bourgeoise life. As the first agent of the last revolution he would typically do the following: enter the house, smoke a cigarette while examining the decorations, perhaps appreciating a piece of fine art, find the liquor cabinet and make himself a drink, usually a martini or scotch. He’d sit in a chair and say something romantic to himself, that his was the work of a slave against mere employees. He’d remember the woman the night before who took him to bed because of what she thought were interesting, but unbelievable, stories. He’d write a few phrases on pieces of paper, with stationary found in a desk drawer or by a bed-stand, and leave them under a pillow, or a family portrait. Specific instances varied within the uniform purpose: to leave subtle reminders that someone had been here who did not belong. Someone had violated the space of comfort and punctured the walls which keep the world, the violent, hungry, lusting real world, out of the home. Sometimes he’d merely leave the cigarette stubbed out in an ashtray, or only a haze of smoke in the bathroom. He’d lay in the bed for just long enough for it to be noticeable that someone had done so. On rare occasions, “divine nights” he called them, he’d bring a woman with him under the pretension that this was his home, and they would make love on the fine sheet of another’s bed.
We could say what he left were clues, for his work was the inverse of a detective. His work was to make detectives out of those who prefer not to look, who spend large amounts of money to not be involved with worries about the world. A cigarette butt here, a ruffled bedspread, clothing slightly out of place, a painting tilted as if to be examined, jewelry neatly re-arranged. His work was to create questions in the mind of those who don’t question and in this way to violate the inviolate sterile space of those who have removed themselves from the world. P’s most central belief in this regard was that cruelty came most easily from those who held themselves aside the world in which there is death, who function under the too-easily maintained illusion that death is a fiction belonging to the realm of starvation, slavery, poverty, or napalm melted faces, scabs over the eyes, dogs tearing at the limbs of blasted children, the murdered refuse of the maquilladoras, of serial killers, of the rape victims dropped from latin american helicopters, of simple stupid happens to anyone very easily violence. By making detectives of billionaires his inserted the seed, long buried and forgotten, of this banished fear. Detectives, after all, are those who must (for they are driven in the hearts to do so, pursued by the devils of knowledge and chaos) look into the dark hearts of the world. He made sufferers of those who lived in decadent denial of suffering.
When asked how effective this “work” was P did not know. His religion, he said, dictated that he never revisited the scene of the crime, and his work, because of its nature, never made the news. It was quiet work, unseen and nearly invisible work. Thus it was maintained merely by his belief in the work. P was the cause, embodiment and totality of his work, though it stretched through multiplicities of actions into impossible corners. His small touch at each place was enough to fuel endless stories, even one act one time would have been sufficient. The possible reverberations of a cigarette in the bathtub of a CEO were a thousand lives and novels for him, and the discussing such possibilities were the only times I ever saw him close to excited. His eyes would close a little bit, the cigarette would stay a little longer from his lips while he wondered aloud how, just how, John ______ would explain to his much younger wife, to his daughter, the presence of this cigarette. Another man would have taken the step that follows so easily and written novels, but P did not. The actions themselves moved the world enough, he said, and it was not necessary to narrate actions already occurring. The goal of art and revolution are the same, which are to create what does not yet exist, or to create the space for a possibility of something new existing.
This requirement nightly satisfied he would relish the scotch in his glass and turn to a new woman, speak to her for a long time, and walk out the door arm in arm.