NOTES TOWARD A PERFORMANCE: THE NARROW BRIDGE, DECEMBER 2001

Vajra Chandrasekera

 

We're stuck at the foot of the narrow bridge, trapped in honks and rain and the yellow smell of fuel and the river. Inside the car it's humid and close and the wiper squeaks on the windshield.

 

We just got here and the play has barely begun out on the bridge: this is still Act One, raw id, all base urges and undignified thrusting. I'm halfway through refusing to explain myself to my friend K.

 

—This is about the refusal-to-explain, I say, —We have to be the face without windows.

 

—What about the face without windows, K asks. The studio audience laughs. We avoid giving them cues or looking directly at the camera (which is difficult to avoid, technically, because we can't see into the direction of snidth), but they've learned to track comic beats like watching for enemy submarines on sonar. —What windows?

 

—To the soul, I say,—which doesn't exist, or we don't have them, however it works. We're anatman and it's our cultural heritage to have faces without windows, to refuse to explain. It makes me want to give it an official acronym like R2E and get the United Nations to define it as a proposed norm for interpersonal affairs in postcolonial discourse. Comprehension is not an absolute right and the audience forfeits any entitlement to explanation! R2E! The face without windows!