In her bi-weekly column for Document, McKenzie Wark writes of the gap between the body and the body’s image of itself—and how they merge on the dance floor
Here it comes. We’re committed to this ride, to the end. Choices were made. Regret grips me. Why do I do this to myself? I could be home, hate-watching The L Word again.
Here it is. We’re rolling. Jenny and I are at Flounder, which has taken over an abandoned rollerskate rink in Glendale. It’s late morning, there’s light trickling through a leak in the ceiling. It’s a hard-dancing crowd. The floor a swarm of black and silver, like writhing eels.
We’re at the back, near the bar and coat check, up on a platform, like volunteer go-go dancers. We did molly this time, just for a change. Molly and techno are a classic pairing—the champagne and oysters of raving. I was fond of it back in the ’90s. Lately, it’s been more about shrooms and ketamine. Not too much—supersizing doesn’t make it better. Sometimes, we rave sober. Or “California sober”—weed doesn’t count, right?
It’s always the kick-start moment with molly where I regret it. When the motor just starts its high idle, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t regret it for long. It seems like a cognitive registering of that unspoken language of the body—it’s a way of intimating that it’s going to be in a different gear for a while.
Different in a good way, mostly. It’s like there’s the body, and there’s the body’s image of itself. For me, the image gets distorted—and even when it’s not, the image this body has of itself is reduced, less than itself, less than it can be. On a little molly, the image starts to expand to fill the contours. It closes the gap where this body falls short of itself.
“It’s strange that the soundtrack that works so well with this feeling is techno, the most repetitive of popular musical forms.”
It’s the drug talking, but everything feels fresh. It’s strange that the soundtrack that works so well with this feeling is techno, the most repetitive of popular musical forms. Those beats spin on, four to the bar, hundreds of them passing, thousands. Then a change—a twist, a sonic event, yanking at the body like a sharp left turn.
The image of the body fills to the boundaries of the body, then spills over it, like a wash. I’m the type of dancer who likes to close her eyes and get lost, alone in the music, alone together with those around me. Not now. Now, I want to dance with Jenny. I park my crotch against her ass. She cranes her long neck back against my shoulder and we kiss. We’re merging. Hot, liquid mix.
To be human is to be at the whim of impossible, incompatible yearnings. One of which is to be free from the tyranny of singularity. It’s so much effort to stay within this membrane. So much so that my body image shrinks from its own interior surfaces, most of the time. Just for a little while here, what this body wants is to not have to keep shoring up its borders. The flesh, too, can get lonely.
Maybe complex, body-bound organisms like humans regret the turns evolution took to make us. Maybe flesh longs to be more like a sponge, like a cooperative mesh of cells, with no organs, no tissues, open to the sea. Or maybe I’m just on drugs, and longing to make of these moments, when Jenny and I connect—through feelings or fucking—into the whole of existence. But then it wouldn’t be special, these thousand beats where these bodies press and blend, like sponges interleaving.
In everyday life, walking down the street, or eating a burrito, life seems all a matter of separate things that sometimes connect. My body walking is separate first, and then connecting to the sun above. My body eating is separate first, and then connecting to the burrito. At Flounder, this morning, on molly, dancing up here for all to see, it all seems the other way around. It’s all just degrees of things connecting. Nothing is really separate. Universe as cuddle puddle.
“To be human is to be at the whim of impossible, incompatible yearnings. One of which is to be free from the tyranny of singularity.”
Even on drugs, I think too much. It’s a common problem. New York is full of thinky people who made their neurotic brains work for them, so that they can make rent. The thinking doesn’t stop when work is done, so what to do with these detached, cogitating, agitating bodies? Here we are, blasting them with drugs and lights and sweat and techno. There are worse things.
We’re buying bottled water, four at a time. It’s my turn, so I hop off the platform to get more, trip, and topple into a coat rack, which dominos into the next coat rack, and the next, like a Charlie Chaplin bit. Everyone around lends a hand to right them. I’m trying to apologize but laughing too hard. Fortunately, the coat attendant is a friend. They say, “It wouldn’t be Flounder without a little chaos.”
In line at the bar, attempting to check back in with consensus reality, I’m getting looks from the two girls in front of me. I’m down to just my skirt and boots, top tied to my handbag, infusing the already dense air with my own drug-scented tang. I give the two girls a little smile, which they seem obliged to acknowledge. It’s Flounder. This is a time and space where gay rules apply. If you’re not tits-out—and off them at the same time—well, honey, that’s an unusual choice. But we will respect it.
Back up on the platform, rolling again. Here comes the shoulder. I can feel it in my jaw. I hand Jenny a stick of gum and take one for myself. Hold on for the downhill run. It’s less fun, feeling the image of the body shrink back from its frolic out beyond its skin.
It will take a while to wind down. There will be some hanging out with rave friends in the chillout area. There will be the walk home in the bright sun, hand in clammy hand. There will be post-rave sex, where flesh pleads its needs. Maybe a bath together, and fresh fruit, and water, lots more water. Draw the curtains and retreat to bed. Talk like lovers talk. Sleepless, edgy rest.
“Hey, let’s hate-watch The L Word.”