One Smashed Window for Every Divided Soul
One Smashed window for Every Divided Soul is, perhaps, the weirdest of the Inferno trilogy. It is also my favorite. Rather than being a straightforward tour diary (though there is some of that in here), it is a sort of fabulist memoir featuring the comings and goings of a mysterious figure known as Cat, or Mr. In the Hat–a creature who is a bit less Seussian and a bit more Behemoth from Master and Margarita, but mostly nothing like either one of those characters. Aaron makes use of many forms to tell Cat's story–letters, journal entries, court transcripts–and along the way tells the story of various refugees, artists, criminal hearts, and divided souls. And lots of waltzing.
When I was 17 or 18 (who can remember?), I went to see World/ Inferno with some friends at Reggie’s in Chicago. One the way there, I tried to flick my clove cigarette out the car window only to have the wind blow it back into the collar of my jacket. As you know, those things stayed lit, so I had a cigarette burn placed perfectly along my vertebrae. I kept lightly touching it to felt the sting again, until the next activity took my mind off of it.
We got there early & parked on a free side street a few blocks away. This was the essential location for taking part in a chicago tradition: illegally drinking on the street. We stood in a circle , half leaned up against the car, & mixed up a jar of gin & tonic. Each time the jar made it around the circle, we’d toast something like, “To being young, fast, dangerous, & hard to catch!”, or “Gin & Tonics all night long!”, which we were taking very seriously. The jar would then be refilled with an unknown portion of the two liquids & passed along.
This is where I ran into trouble- I was a newbie trying to keep up with a bunch of 22 year old goths, & no one drinks like 22 year olds. I realized that I was too drunk & my stomach was too sloshy to keep it together & dance inside the venue. So, I took the most reasonable course of action- I excluded myself to the alley where people had been pissing, leaned up against a ledge, & forced myself to throw up. While all of this happened, a friendly street rat sat near my foot & gave me a sympathetic (probably hungry) look. It was nice to have a little guardian.
A sip of water & a cigarette later, I was right as rain. We went inside & had a lovely time clinging to the pipe around the stage the whole time. During a break in the music, as Jack strolled to the side of the stage I was slumped over, I said as casually as I could, “Hey Jack- play ‘Cats’.”
I was jazzed about this song. I had worn my favorite shirt, which was covered in little black cats as a luck charm, so I could hear this song.
But, as this point in time, I was basically a big smear of hair and drugstore goth make up in an army jacket. So he said to Francis, “What was it that he..or she just said? This is the problem with talking to the audience- you get your genders all confused.”
To his credit, I was unclear on that at the time as well.
And the band didn’t play the song, because that’s not how setlists work.
But, all these years later, I feel like getting to illustrate these books has been almost as good.
Thank you for liking my scribbles, & thank you for reading my friend’s words,
“You know what swung it? After he explained he was in trouble, and looked at each one of us with those massive green eyes, he noticed a guitar and told us he could sing the blues. That’s just what he said. ‘I’ll sing you the blues. They’ll hate that,’ he said. Who would hate it, or why, I never did figure, but it wasn’t really for me to know. And man, these weren’t like any blues I ever heard before. I remember it like it was yesterday: ‘The Kissing Blues.’ It sounds a little silly, but he meant it, serious as death. He sang of himself as an ‘alchemist tramp.’ I always assumed it was some kind of translation error, that it was a profound statement in his language, whatever that was. But it may have been just two words that sound catchy together. He finished the song and we all just sort of looked at each other stupidly, amazed at this creature who had wandered into our lives. Except Jack. He was rarely surprised by much of anything, at least in my experiences with him. Jack started debating with Cat and interrogating him as if they had known each other forever and were newly reunited. Let me tell you about Jack...”
* * *
On the back of a bar coaster, otherwise unmarked:
It’s a gang of tough seagulls, bullying all the other birds, stealing bits of people’s sandwiches off of beach blankets. They’re snapping their wings in time, like they just flew out of seagull West Side Story. It is a beautiful immigrant story of gull-crossed lovers. These guys are going to be a massive hit. They don’t follow any of society’s conventions.
* * *
The friend—enemy continuum: It wraps in on itself. The intimacy required of the truest friend is equal in intensity if not identical to that of the truest enemy. The most harm can be inflicted upon those best loved, and the greatest healing applied to those most detested. What makes an enemy detestable is the absence of or affront to what makes a friend beloved. The difficulty comes in whom is to be forgiven. The arguments to forgive the friend are easy: maintenance of a valuable relationship, making oneself feel they are exhibiting positive human behavior, granting license to the recipient of forgiveness to begin forgetting. The arguments to forgive the enemy are fairly easy as well: closure of an open wound to reopen distance, making oneself feel they are exhibiting behavior which renders their moral position higher than the other, writing off a harm as insignificant enough to be forgivable. But there is a great giving of ground in both instances. The unforgiven harm festers into a grudge, and might eventually scar over as a scabrous edge to a personality. It may also foster a kind of compassion in future, analogous situations, which may be desirable.