This short short with a long long title first appeared in the first edition of Not Your Eyes in June 2013.
Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare
(‘If you don’t swing, don’t ring’ — inscription on the door of the Playboy mansion)
Emile de Burgh upends a red cup full of his guests’ cigarette butts out the window and gives a tap to loosen the ones that stick. It is either them or him must be flung from the sixth floor tonight.
When he gets into one of his states he tries to focus on what’s right in front of him and stay out of his own head — touch is the best way, smell is good too. With his back to his party he fingers shapes in the air conditioning fog on the window: a stick figure house and a pair of wilting palm trees.
The room is lit by paper lanterns, a tip from a satisfied patron in Sapporo.
Emile can always rate his success as a bachelor by the electric bill–as he only ever turns on the air conditioning when he’s entertaining, and the same goes for the space-heaters in winter.
The floor is tacky under his boot heel. He washes the floors on Tuesdays and has a cleaner in once a month.
He earns his living—his gym membership, his boots, foosball table, single-malt collection, sound system and vinyl library, his linen, and occasional cocaine with corresponding glass coffee table–by oil and canvas, a craft that takes him transatlantic frequently enough that when he told you he can’t next Friday it was because of an opening in the familiar ‘Shoreditch’ rather than ‘London’ in general.
With superlative reviews in the Guardian, the Evening Standard, and Le Monde’s arts and culture supplement, finally, someone in his generation to be hopeful about, tilts on the back two legs of a bar stool at the island in the kitchen — with Cheyne Leach in his ear about what he got up to with Lianna Fowler last weekend at Nina Stump’s beach house–one boot heel hooked on the rung of the barstool, the other keeping balance on the floor. More cynically the best buy according to the newsletter of one Manhattan auction house, has switched to coffee after two Yamazaki 12 years (neat).
An English girl, his third Kaitlin since Christmas, plays the barmaid at the island until all the ice is gone.
Five foot ten, twenty-six year old non-smoker, moderate drinker, sipping a Sumatran organic blend in a souvenir mug from Amsterdam’s highly over-rated Sex Museum, returns the barstool to four legs and grounds himself by way of the turpentine on his fingers and the tug of a career-long headache from a chemical sensitivity to his materials.
Over at the glass table Cheyne Leach’s plus-one picks at a coffee table book on Tibetan butter sculptures–the forms of Buddhas and bodhisattvas meant to dissolve to puddles of colourful lard in the daylight–with one strap falling down over her sunburn.
The panic came on this afternoon when he took the skewers out of their marinade. He tried to follow them into the oven but his legs were too long to close the door behind so he hosted a party instead.
“Just like a goddamn kid”–the critic Regina Gormley noted the last time she came up for drinks–today he got sad for no reason and took it out on his pretty pictures.
He washes the floors on Tuesdays and has the cleaner in once a month. She gets the flakes of scrambled egg out from around the burners on the stove.
A triptych for that same collector in Sapporo, the one panel he was going to turp anyway; broken frames punched through canvases, splinters all over he might have told you to watch out for, a puddle of colourful nothing like the bodhisattvas and lotuses.
‘An installation for the August show in Cambridge (Massachusetts)’ proposes his agent who takes his Lagavulin 16 year (with soda) and hogs all the pretzels.
‘Butter Sculptures,’ Emile de Burgh dubs the mess on the floor in the north facing window, the symptom of his state.
‘Butter Sculptures’ the women and men toast.