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The Dummy and I

* Irina Ionesco, Untitled

(It is hard to pick a more uplifting one out of Irina Ionesco oeuvre. Sacrilegious or not those pictures seem to most viewers, the well-known fact of the photographer casting her own daughter in several provocative shots will certainly rankle. The world in Ionesco’s photography is the chilling and bleakest folk tales that are recklessly mistaken for the perfect bedtime stories. Glamours, however, can still be conjured from the characters’ vampire-esque or mummy-like portrayal. Dressing glamorously as many other characters, the little girl stands coyly beside the furnished table. Mr. Rabbit with his back facing the viewers- a tale-like tea date between the two endearing ones suddenly turns into an unfortunate interval of a jilted love.)

I carefully dress my dummy before setting out our venture. Such venture has become a quotidian matter, but what it has gradually grown into is something that, like a sudden inpour of sunbeams, befuddles me initially and thus nudges me out of my own age-old house. My dummy and I will loiter about the vicinity, showcasing our enthralling ability of presenting a farce. Those rounds of repartee seem, to the riveted eyes of the audience, more like a revelation of my ingenious skill in ventriloquism.

Little do the people notice that such is far from any crafty tricks of ventriloquism, but the dummy actually speaks itself. If only the raggedness of the dummy’s manufacture did not contribute to some slight dullness of the jaw’s motion, the dummy can articulate each word fairly accurately. My companion is thus, without doubt, possessing a soul that makes it contrary to its wooden veneer. Quite a wily soul, too, in hindsight. Stories of the dummy’s wrongdoings can be rattled off like lists; stories that only I bear the witness and confidence; stories that all people are uninformed of their background. I can recall once when the dummy asked me to place him on the trunk of a tree when we passed by the beautiful garden. I did what he told without a shadow of incredulity of the dummy’s underlying intention. After thoughtlessly exposing itself to winds and sunshine, the dummy resolved in ogling at the approaching knots of well-dressed ladies. A whimsical idea blighted my companion’s mind to electrify the ladies of its furtive presence, so another command passed down on me to chop the trunk right when the ladies walked past. My conscience rumbled tumultuously beneath my servile reaction, which saw me calculating the time and distance needed so half the trunk could land successfully on a handful of pretty heads. We both succeeded anyhow, I forgot to include the time required for the trunk to break, therefore an interesting scene was presented with the dummy poising itself miraculously on a droopy trunk, and the ladies beamed at us and lauded our performance when passing by, completely unscathed for certain.

The dummy since then has scolded severely of my failure to coordinate, while I continue mulling over any well-elaborated scheme to end its life. The relationship between my dummy and I, if anyone was yet informed of our history or was interested in knowing, is far from the hackneyed love-hate between rivaling siblings. True that I do see and feel for the dummy as my flesh brother, but the deception, known only to us, renders our vaudeville a labour of love that seems almost impossible to extricate. The dummy will stare straight into my eyes when I am plotting in my head some vicious masterplan, and chuckles, “You sure know you are not here without me.”

I begin to suspect my dummy’s unwillingness to play my dummy. I am made to bear its interminable ramblings whenever my sedentary activity intrigues my companion so, but when being outdoors the dummy insists dropping his jaw and staying mute, doing sheer justice to its temperament and the materials that made it. Regardless of how hopelessly I beckon it or beg it through telepathy not a single word is uttered. Our audience at length cut down their frequency and then grows sparse. People leave disapprovingly before a trail of shrill, most diabolical laughter is within their earshot. The dummy sniggers also when we are home, without much avail of the day, sniggers even more uncontrollably when it sees my desolation. I keep my calm and bide my time.

There is an old pendulum in my house with which the ticking grows unbearably louder when the world retreats to its quietude- such is an equilibrium that should not be disturbed. Or, to be more precise, I forbid anyone to disturb the encompassing noiselessness, save only the ticking of the pendulum. The dummy is dumb enough to make its snigger parallel to the rhythm of the ticking. A subterfuge is thus most fortunately granted, be it too rudimentary or not, and I keep my last trace of patience as I wait motionlessly after forty-one ticks. I break my dummy eventually. I even make sure that its mouth is split and fractured so that no word of evidence can be uttered.

I stare into the mirror after finally retrieving my long-lost freedom. My heart is not in its proper place; I can feel the steady pulsation between my gnawing teeth, but truthfully my heart sinks even lower. Every particle of me resonates with an encore that is robbed of its salient sound. I almost imagine I am dreaming when I next see the sight, of my mouth extending and splitting into a sinister contortion. Before I even notice and check myself I am uttering out those words, “You sure know you are here without me.” I can finally hear him now.


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