The Stranger or, Is Being a Female Anathema to Being an Absurdist?

It is Friday.

Nobody had better wake up and talk to me for at least an hour.
Except for the fetus, who could do me the courtesy of a few freaking kicks so I know it’s not dead.

But onto my treatise:


Ladies, check all that apply:

☐ Art and nothing but art —Nietzsche (a paraphrase?)

☐ The absurd joy par excellence is creation —Camus

☐ I prefer myself to eternity —I forget

☐ I don’t feel guilty asserting any of these things

☐ I am lying

☐ And, loading the dishwasher! How well the coffee cups line up. A job well done!

☐ Sisyphusean, thy name is woman


To file under: ‘Fuck This Stomach!’
At the coffee shop and can’t find my wallet.
Must therefore empty bag and its unhygienic contents onto counter (which they won’t wipe down afterwards either).

There’s Queneau’s Elements of Style with the tiny naked contortionists on the cover spelling out (what? RINBLF? Was I supposed to understand this?)

Counter girl, looking at the Queneau, cooing: Oh, is that a mommy & baby exercise book?
Could her voice be any louder.



I made great headway on my treatise on the train to NYC on Tuesday but now I can’t find those notes.

I don’t know what to say.
So here’s a story.

One day, Albert Camus knocked on La Bustiere’s door. La Bustiere was in her pink leopard print armchair. History cannot know the deep chair-thoughts she was having. For Albert Camus was weeping.

He had had an upsetting telegram. There he was, waving it before La Bustiere’s face in quite a fashion, yelling, My mother has died!

Histrionics, proclaimed La Bustiere, who was always too languorous to roll her eyes.

But she assented to Camus’s request to climb onto her lap and curl up there, and while she did snort one of her famous La Bustiere snorts when he asked if he might remain there while she knitted (knitted! really now), she let him remain.

When her Thursday lover walked in, she quickly and expertly tucked Albert Camus beneath her muumuu (will history ever appreciate how adept and professional La B was), and then demanded of her Thursday lover that their lovemaking occur that day on the armchair.

Nine months later, Albert Camus was reborn.

When the nurses asked La Bustiere if she wanted to hold him, she said, Him?

Albert Camus began to cry. That was when La B knocked him on the chin. Come on, she said, Dos Passos it, kid.

And before La Bustiere abandoned her Camus baby altogether, she said:

You’re lucky, Albert Camus, that you came to me on a Thursday.  Another day and my whim might as easily have been to kill you as to give birth to you.

From a distance away in the hospital corridor, it must have looked as if La B were caressing his face instead of slapping him, for history remembers her as a very busty & warm-hearted woman.


They said not to get too stressed or the fetus will come too soon.
I told them how Daniil Kharms was born twice, how the first time, they pushed him back in and how maybe they can do that to my fetus when it tries to come.


5:53 in the a.m.
The homunculus won’t stop banging around the apartment. He’s waking all the children of the world with his homenik movements and how will i get any work done on my master plan of becoming the first female absurdist if i’m taking care of child #1?

It’s 5:57 a.m.
I may as well be efficient and say I stopped now ________________.
The next-door neighbor just coughed loudly in our driveway. I will kill him.
Stopped now _________________.

6:00 a.m.
The sprinkler system of the condo complex to the left of us just turned on.
I am still here.

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 8.37.25 PM


Another day.

‘A man is more of a man because of what he does not say than what he does say.’ —Camus

I never do say when I’m angry.

Maybe it’s not a real fetus I have in here but a hate baby.

Here I am, strolling down the street, coming upon an old woman parading her tiny dog. She smiles and points at my stomach. When are you due? I smile demurely. Is it a boy or girl? I smile demurely.

And after the prosecutor has ordered my execution and subsequent autopsy, people will say, She was so pleasant and the whole time she was simply a hate ravioli!


Ok, time to get to work.
But before—for the record:
I renounce lawn sprinklers!
I renounce lawns!

And when it’s my turn to mow, I do it in my best brassiere.


Can a female be an absurdist?
Absurdity: The situation is compared to another situation, and the comparison reveals a divorce.  (paraphrase of ?)

And now to a point!


It’s 6:something.
All are awake. I am done.




I am not alone again today.
They said it might help the panic and also the anger if I spent more time engaging with the living beings in this apartment.

I am following their prescription, but doubt they understand how complicated my case is.


—If the living beings swarm about me— they keep wanting their arms massaged and their mouths filled with specially roasted flax seeds— then I cannot write this treatise.
—And if I cannot write this treatise, then all I have in my head is panic.
—And if I’m alone looking out the window and the other beings from this apartment are away, then this treatise sits on my lap, and I look down and stroke the notebook’s arm absentmindedly, and have an impulse to roast its pages, and panic is very good company.
—Or else I am alone and angry about things I am determined to keep quiet about in order to be more of a man, and so I explain at length to the three goldfish in the bowl my anger.

And the worst scenario is now! All are here, awake, in the next room, quietly pursuing their own aims, politely not a-swarm, and I miss them!
The missing is painful.

And I am panicked because soon they will leave and I will be blessedly alone.
And I will be alone.

And now— it is true!— I do not make this up—
one is coming towards me— I am being entreated— this angers me—

The comparison of this situation to the one of a moment before reveals a divorce, no? yes?
Shake if no, nod if yes—

I have no room to do.



Another day.

This morning, peeking at the neighbour’s paper, found this photo:

Donald Hall’s home belonged to his great grandparents and was built in 1803

Donald Hall’s home belonged to his great grandparents and was built in 1803

The end.



Instead of trying to prove in the abstract whether females can be absurdists, how about proving it by examples.

______________________ (still thinking of good title): An Anthology of Female Absurdists

featuring the work of

—Yoko Ono?

(must come back to this)

(maybe ask Kate)

Maybe steeping myself in the Kharms’ book.



Another day.

There was once a man on whom the government spied. He didn’t have a phone, or a television, or a computer, but still they spied very successfully on him. He didn’t have a car or even a satellite positioning system, so he was unable to go anywhere, but still they kept very good records on him. Not even a fever thermometer or a weathervane! Of course no windows in his house. But you should have seen the dossier they had on him. What’s that? How were they able to infiltrate? That’s easy. His sperm. Thanks to nanotechnology, his sperm were all in cahoots with the government, and once he got his wife pregnant, the fetus became the main government surveillance agent.

At the moment of conception, one NSA operative was heard to proclaim, ‘And we’ve got boots on the ground!’

But the question is what did he do that was so unpatriotic?

And if he never left the house and talked only to his family, how did he commit these treasonous acts?

No, that is not the question, on second thought. On second thought, the better question is, What will he name the baby?

It will be very difficult, difficult for him to choose a name that does not scream ‘Guilty!’


…Kate does not like this story.

Like/don’t like, fine, fine, fine. But was it absurd?



Almost 6 a.m.

Absurdity as the rate at which things happen. The faster, the more absurd.


A test at the dr’s yesterday: ‘Push this button every time you feel the fetus move.’

If you say so.

Had to go to the therapist’s right after the dr’s to discuss the stress/panic, and
1) was panicking about being late
2) more scared of the therapist than the fetus and
3) also the fetus never moves anyway

Pushed button every time I felt a pang of stress.

The buzzer went off.

Nurse: ‘That was fast!’


Plus the article about the play about Susan Sontag’s notebooks.
The actress kept piling up all of the books that Susan Sontag said in her notebook that she wanted to read. Faster and faster she piled the books.


Nope. What is that?
That’s not it.


Tons of birds just went by in a V. They were hurtling along, like they were on an October agenda. It was just, just July 2nd, and now it’s autumn outside. The summer was that fast. I lost all that time. What happened to the book I was writing. What happened to the baby.

'All the sentences…equate to the same thing, as do all of the absurd man’s experiences. Each one stands on its own and projects the others into the void.'

‘All the sentences…equate to the same thing, as do all of the absurd man’s experiences. Each one stands on its own and projects the others into the void.’

But didn’t Simone de Beauvoir type, if not actually write, all his sentences?

(And so what if she did?)



Routine, routine, get up, scrape the coffee scum off the pot with the longest fingernail, do this, do that, Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri what momentum! what meaning my life has! Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri again again then the set collapses and voila.



a petite case histoire


I forgot which person I am supposed to be today.

And while I slept, the calendar hanging by the open window knuckled under the wind’s pressure and collapsed to the bedroom floor, obscuring the date and my corresponding identity.

If this were a Tuesday, I might ring for the maid, have my toast brought to me, and inquire of her who I am supposed to be. But if it is a Thursday then I am the maid and the tinkle of the bell will only cause me great anxiety and make me slap my own cheek for being still abed in sweatpants instead of busy around the house.

I forget which day I am a cobbler— those days are complicated days, because if anyone asks on those days what I do for a living, I say I’m a shoe-contemplative, in order to sound more white-collar (for the cobbler in me longs for some kind of greatness) and then they’re apt to think this means that I’m a thinker, a person whose job it is to look down and brood, and when they make this mistake I usually affix my right elbow firmly to my side to hide the cobbler’s tool belt, though in truth, I am proud to be a cobbler— it’s a nearly obsolete job— very romantic— nearly no one gets his shoes fixed anymore— even the well-intentioned bring me no business— a woman came into my shop just last week with flipflops worn to nubs— cheap styrofoam things, the cheese curls of shoes, thinking they were worth fixing.

I raised my eyes up from my shoe bench. Madame, I began, then stopped. It was the maid. That is, it was me on another day.

How do these overlaps happen? And why are they becoming increasingly common? Better organization in the calendar system isn’t as effective as one of my persons had hoped. And which slovenly person left the window open during a storm so that the wind would blow the entire calendar down!

Or was that intentional, was that orchestrated by the Monday person, whose name I do not know and whose job is kept secret from whoever I am today. I often suspect the Monday girl of closetiness.

There are underlying strata and the Monday girl is trying to bring them out! Or else— she is trying to subsume them. Will the face I see in the nightstand mirror soon have the same surface day after day? Is the Monday girl laughing at the rest of us? And if today is Monday? I wouldn’t put it past myself. This confusion is perhaps a symptom of the perfection of my art.


…why is no one in this story pregnant with something?



Another 9am
Status report
Child #1 is away
All quiet on the fetus front
Homunculus saying his affirmations in the attic

Now where did I put the treatise.
Alright then.

Might as well fold the towels so that they are ready to be unfolded.


Later that day:
The Russians: ‘The absurd is reality.’
Tell my towels something they don’t know.



It is 3:54 am and I am watching my neighbour across the way wash his dishes.
Senseless mimicry!
Glass partitions are the special pet of the absurd.

As a committed absurdist, I keep goldfish.
Their bubble blowing, their embouchure eating, their quaint zigzagginess.
It may feel real to them, but from this side of the bowl—

And from their side of the glass partition!
The other day I happened to be near the bowl while ranting,
And there they were, the three of them, eyeing my hand gestures, my frantic arm-pumping.

‘I’m here, I’m still here, and I’m free!’

English to fish translation: ___________________________________


Rip van Tinkle
Friends, neighbors, pets: I will now sleep for 800 years and wake up with wisdom and a Donald Hall beard.
Except that in 45 minutes I will need to pee.


To file under ‘FTS!’
Things not to say to me even in all innocence:
1. How’s the goldfish bowl?
2. Is this how you spell bulbous?


So the fetus did try to make an early entrance.
I was able to stuff her back in and help her regain fetus status, but not before she made a few requests:


—She would like to be Russian
—She would like to be male
—I am to remember that she can hear me talk and thus stop interjecting inanities for the duration
—For example, she elaborated, when watering the basil plant, she prefers that I not say loudly and brightly to absolutely no one, ‘Basil!’


Going to pop this treatise out by Tuesday.




5:17 am

Petite and unapologetic confession:

Only a few weeks left to secure some real principles.
The homunculus has them, but doesn’t share.
Child #1 and I have kind of let it slide, principles-wise.

There’s a protest at Brayton Point. Kate’s going.
I did put ‘protest’ on the calendar but now can’t remember what it is for or against.
Nuclear power, fracking, gov’t surveillance?
Cell phone towers!

In Brazil last week, people took to the streets to protest bus fare hikes.
I was lamenting aloud to no one
(English-to-fetus translation: Basil! Basil!)
(English-to-goldfish translation: _________________________________________)
about how the Brazilians have all the principles and how there are much worse things going on here, how we should be taking to the streets!,
…when I reminded myself that there was a bus fare hike threatened right here in my fair city—
‘Town Hall Meeting this Tuesday.’


Please. I can’t go to a public protest.
Have you seen this stomach?


I mean nothingThere is no hope










It’s Friday.
Four more days till Tuesday.
It’s 6:46 am. I need to make it till 7.
I have to go to the bathroom, and even there, I will not be able to avoid the fetus’ surveillance.


You know, fetus, Daniil Kharms hated children.


petite play

scene: a woman’s prison

woman 1:              What are you in for?

woman 2:              I was raising my child in a meth lab.

woman 3:              I sold my child to a migrant farming family.

woman 4:              I told my child that the mold on her corn on the cob wasn’t really mold and she ate it and died.

woman 2:              Did you get your refund on the bad corn?

woman 4:              No, store credit only. I used it to buy some cucumbers.

woman 1:              What big cucumbers they sell in stores nowadays!

… the end.


Remembering the disgusting moment at the faculty dinner as we all took our seats when I felt the need to announce to nobody in particular, ‘I’m starving’  (‘Basil!’) and the male professor gave my stomach a significant look and said, ‘You must be.’

No, buddy, there was no inner meaning there.
There’s no inner meaning anywhere.

Numero uno obstacle to becoming a female absurdist: because one harbors, in a central region, ovaries, feti, etc., people are always presupposing one’s utterances have an inner meaning.


I have no principles! I’ll probably go to a pool, not the protest.
I mean nothing!


Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri
Here let me fold you a towel so that you can unfold it
I need time to think please don’t give me time to think
The goldfish in their bowl
Divorce, discrepancy
The stage set collapses

Did de Beauvoir ever ask Sartre ‘where is this relationship going?’


Here’s what I’ve figured out so far. You can skip the whole chart.

The French absurdists Perceive facts but do not grasp their meanings for there is no meaning to grasp
The Eastern European absurdists Perceive facts but do not grasp their meanings though there are meanings, distant and inexpressible, to grasp
The Russian absurdists Perceive facts but want to kill their meanings with error & accident, for perhaps there is some(Interruptions from other humans since trying to finish this sentence: two)for perhaps there is some(three!)(on the verge of four) (moving on)
The would-be female absurdists What big cucumbers they sell in stores nowadays!


N.B.: Probably none of the really good writers would consider himself part of any group and certainly the label ‘absurdist’ is inappropriate, misleading, etc. etc.


Silly me!



The fetus is now 3 lbs. If it tried again to escape the uterus today it most likely wouldn’t die.

But what does that mean?
Should it be born?
Where is this relationship going?

With a major weather catastrophe imminent, the homunculus thinks it would be tidier if the fetus just stayed inside so that the same flood or fire that kills me can also wipe out the fetus simultaneously.


Semper ubi sub ubi
Always wear underwear
(a clean pair!)

A hole in my bucket


The #1 Female Absurdist
a petite story by The #1 Female Absurdist
Once a female had a pen in her hand and a notebook in her lap
and a fetus in her uterus and a homunculus in her apartment
and a child on the arm of her chair and No! The child did not ask her a question about life’s meaning.
The child said nothing important.
There was a coffee stain on the windowsill.
And what else?
Some packets of flower seeds.
But they’re not important.
Nothing is important here.
And nothing happened this morning.
Except that I changed chairs.
Now I am in the corner
to make it harder for the apartment’s inhabitants to see me.

…is what she wrote.


The Solution Is Out of the Question
And now he’s offering to make me eggs.
That is very nice, so nice, he’s sweetness almost all the time.
As a matter of fact I’m starving.
Eggs would be wonderful!
And with spinach too! I certainly need the iron.
But I’ve shaken my head before the offer was even out.

  1. I too closely resemble an egg to eat one without an all-consuming self-consciousness.
  2. Feed me, love me, leave me alone!



The ingénue Cathy Selden stands behind the curtain.
Lina Lamont stands in front of the curtain.

The audience begs Lina for a song.
The conductor asks, ‘What will you sing, Miss Lamont?’
Cathy Selden (whispers): ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
Lina Lamont: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

L.L. has the most hideous voice.

Conductor: What key?
Selden (whispers): A flat.
Lina Lamont:  Ehya fleeeeat

…This is mine & child #1’s favourite moment.
Try to sound more important!

…This, friends, is a vital tutorial in absurdism: the curtain an image of divorce, Lamont’s manner of pronunciation a kind of—-


(That was The Bra, interrupting)


a petite fable

One Tuesday a woman took the elevator to the hospital’s 6th floor to give birth.
The doctor looked at her chart.

Well, he said, the fetus is still very small. From the ultrasound it’s hard to say whether you’ll give birth to a 3-lb baby or a 30-page book.

The woman bit her lip.
Which is the least dear, she asked.

The doctor looked down at the chart.
Well? she said.

Then the doctor started crying and clicking his pen.
Goldfish, he said.
With your insurance, the only thing you can afford to deliver is goldfish.

They sent me—her!—This is a fable—home with three goldfish in a bowl.

Everyone except the doctor was very happy happy.
Happiest of all was the doctor’s mother who had always hoped he’d become a fisherman.




Found an index card with some treatise research in the cushion of this chair:
‘When it is absolutely necessary to allude to a preceding sentence, the author uses words like ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘then,’ and ‘just then,’ which evoke nothing but disjunction, opposition, or mere addition… The world dissolves and is reborn…’

Also found some unchewed gum.

—The man was leaving. There was the downstairs door. Return, she thought. Return, embrace me, lead me away from this chair and to the bed at the back of the house.
—If he tries to do that, I will be annoyed and recoil, she thought.
—Hello there, laundry.
—Today: wash clothes for impending fetus.
—And if the fetus pends too early and dies, how absurd will this task of laundry seem then.
—How many men have I dated who quoted ‘There are words that mean nothing. But there is something to mean.’
—Beard-support systems. NSA moles. Future enlapped-catters. You’ve all held me back.
—I want to be free, dear blessed necessary entanglements;
I cannot write with interruption;
Interrupt me;
The wind came & blew apart the clothes’ neat folds;
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri;
But two more Mondays would mean the fetus could be born undangerously;
But the homunculus is charting three more Mondays till the apocalypse;
Fuck this stomach;
Anthologies of work by female writers who write about having children, I also detest;
Bo-ring says The Bra;
I like only flowery plants;
Have you seen my neon pink maternity wear;
Did you know that basil plants flower;
Elements of the Hittite!;
It will be hard, in this new neighborhood, to walk around with ahusbandandtwochildren;
I love them very much and what nice old trees here and how mortifying.
—Perhaps we could all cut off one leg each and then limp around the block. That might save us from such mortification. Or maybe we could resolve never to promenade without signs.


—Or if I lost them all in a senseless accident
—Or if I lost them due to the perfect cause & effect of my own personality defects
—Then I could walk around this neighborhood with a perfectly preserved sense of self


The fetus has submitted a list of utterances she might make upon the occasion of her birth.
The list was pushed through my belly button in an envelope soaked with amniotic fluid and marked, ‘For your consideration.’

1)          Plaudite, amici, comoedia finita est
2)         Cease! Suffering is irremediable
3)          Fuck this mystical shit
4)         At first a little joy, then a chain of sorrows
5)          Maman died today *
6)         Thus begin I hunger, sex, and the succession of day & night
7)          Thou mayest no longer be a man, not for thyself, only for others
8)         The solution is out of the question

*yup, funny, but if I die in childbirth guess who’s going to be stuck folding the towels

The fish watch me.
My rants, my handwringing, the senseless mimicry with which I dress, coffee, laundry, drive to work, murmur to other humans—all from behind my glass partition. I am absurd to them.


If someone would explain to me the difference between a chickadee and a sparrow,
I would let the rest go.

But that solution is out of the question.