Out of nowhere the landlord told me that my tenancy would be terminated in October. He actually used the word “terminated”. This was clearly a petulant response to the ruined carpet. When I moved in, just over a year ago, there was a thick beige carpet on the floor. He made much of it, the landlord, and said that his “one ask” was that I try and keep the carpet clean. In the event of course he had many other asks, including feeding his cat when he was away and not using his favourite cup, even as my own favourite bowl was used for cat food. Of course, I tried to keep it clean, his carpet, as much as one can. But then Ubu, from the poetry class, asked if I could store some curtains in my room. He’d had to move out of his old flat into a new one with blinds. The curtains were beautiful curtains, he said, and belonged to his dying father. I was caught between the Scylla of a beautiful carpet and the Charybdis of some beautiful curtains. Reluctantly I agreed to store them but they were in fact crawling with moths. These curtains were effectively a trojan horse which I consented to store in my room. Gradually the moths bedded themselves into the carpet and destroyed it, creating little bald patches through which the ridged underlay became visible. The moths turned it into their wasteland. The landlord was “well pissed off”. I had to arrange for the council to collect it from outside the house. I forgot all about this until the very last minute and had to frantically pull up the carpet and move the furniture by myself on the appointed morning. There I was, dripping with sweat on my newly bare floorboards. It looked aesthetically pleasing to me, me who does not like carpets. I prefer minimalism in almost all things. Straight lines and an absence of clutter. The carpet signified for me fuzz, wooliness, the muffling of reality even. So in theory I should have welcomed the floorboards, which made available the principles of construction, so to speak. Carpets I in fact regard as a kind of ornamentation and concealment. An unconventional view I realise. I prefer the work of construction to be on display. Nonetheless, having said all of this, the bare floorboards turned into a nightmare. For the carpet was also the membrane separating me from the kitchen below. This kitchen was the activity centre of the house, where the landlord entertained his many guests. Where he drank and smoked and regaled them with anecdotes, where they talked and laughed and coughed in a phlegmy male way. All of this now took place as if in my own room and there was no real escape or separation. The membrane had been removed and my existence was made raw. In addition, the half-eaten carpet, and then the bare floor boards, departed from their literal presence and became a creeping metaphor which invaded my mind and body. That is to say, that the destroyed carpet could only appear to me as a kind of ulcerous skin, as a rectangle of diseased matter, as skin that had been picked at and opened up, a skin that was then removed to reveal the bare ugliness beneath, the boards, stained and scored with pencil markings, the warm and bland carapace removed and the boards exposed, the boards that would one day feature prominently – broken and splintered - when the house was demolished. All of this prevented me from seeing the literal carpet or the literal floorboards, for they were now heavy with what they signified, they were, in fact, themselves pure signs of these things which I was unable to escape and unable to escape also the invasion of a foreign form of life into my life, which is to say the landlord and his male friends in the kitchen below, like some infernal crucible of smoke, lager and banter.
I discussed all this with Josephine, who I met by chance at Gastro’s. She had been through the mental health system. Of all the people who I have spoken to recently, Josephine is the most congenial. She argued, and quite convincingly, that it would in any case be impossible to perceive the literal floorboards or the literal carpet. The literal carpet would have to be stripped of the name “Carpet”, which overlays the actual carpet, and the literal floorboards, would likewise have divested themselves of the name “floorboards”. It is impossible, or only very rarely argued Josephine, to see things without their names - this is either a mystical or a psychotic experience. The only time or one of the few times we see things literally, Josephine asserts, is when for example we wake in a strange room, disorientated and momentarily unsure of time and place, and an aggressive brown triangle comes towards us and which, before it hits us between the eyes, we recognise as the corner of the bedside table. As soon as we have the word “table” it stops and returns to a stable form. This is the function of names, asserted Josephine, and asserted also that she once had this ability to see things without names and for this she was admitted to the mental health system, at which point we both began laughing, and filled the whole of Gastro's with our laughter.