The Gift (II)

As any addict knows — this writer included — due to the pressure to pass as “normal,” the world splits into two. The addict lives a desolate half-existence, miserably marking time until the moment suppressed desires are allowed to unite with the ecstatic sublime … but just for a moment, before returning to “real” life again. In this way, two poles are created, with only one visible to the outside world while the addict shuttles back-and-forth between them, torn between a misery-filled existence and stolen moments of bliss.

As the addiction advances (“hitting bottom”), even this polarity will begin to break. But until then, most addicts will convince themselves that they’re able to manage this shuttling between worlds. This is how the split quietly becomes a chasm, segregating the “normal” from what is hidden … until the gap becomes unbearable, with no means of escape.

The film described here, directed by Steve McQueen, begins and ends with the protagonist’s captivation: held prisoner by the object of his gaze. (The knot tied around his neck points to the possibility that this might eventually kill him.) The site of this fascination is the subway which threads itself throughout the film, as if his commute symbolizes his life’s journey, tracing the shape of a circle that endlessly repeats, each revolution offering him the chance to make different decisions and to grow. This repetition — where the end returns to the beginning — is emblematic of what Buddhists call samsara, the cycle of life, death and rebirth, which is said to be the cause of all suffering (dukkha). The only “exit” is learning how to overcome the logic of its circularity, which offers an experience of the divine: this bliss, quite different from the bliss of the addict, is called nirvana (“blown out,” like a candle).

This is the process mapped-out in Brandon’s story.

The Split: The Banishment of Desire

The very first image on screen — prominently displayed on the film’s posters — shows Brandon half naked and in a daze, entranced by an object unseen. He appears to be a solitary figure, but muted ambient sounds indicate that he’s not alone. An alarm clock and muffled footsteps indicate a world beyond his field of vision, barely penetrating the world he lives in.

This sound-image introduces us to the fundamental symbol of this film. Brandon’s isolation is presented to us as the consequence of the split of addiction, the submerged part of oneself that’s cut off from the rest of the world. He lives in an another dimension — friendless and forlorn — precisely because he’s not allowed a public existence.

In other words, Brandon represents the desire that is disavowed by the addict, the desire that cannot be publicly acknowledged. He is the portion of the self that suffers from ego’s control, repression, and shame. And because of this, he’s also the part that yearns for completion. But because he has no socially approved role or activity, he lives behind a barricade, denied a full and complete life.

This is how the tug-of-war between illicit desire (the addiction) and the controlling ego (the one who “manages” it) comes to be born.

Without a normal life to be lived, Brandon is the banished figure reduced to a bare-bones existence, signaled by his barren apartment and his similarly barren routine. All that’s available to him is a mechanized existence, a 24-hour loop of mundane activities — absent desire — which we glimpse via montage in the first five minutes of the film.

In the absence of meaningfully interactions with the outside world, Brandon — the disavowed aspect of the addict — is reduced to pure physicality. This is what happens when desire is forbidden — not even allowed to sublimate — his nakedness symbolizing this truncated existence, reduced to the flesh of the body and its anatomical functions.

When the heart, the seat of desire, is reduced to this base level of existence, it can only operate as a pump, circulating blood and passion; in this way, it ensures the body’s survival. But such a devitalized existence cannot be sustained, and will threaten the health of the heart itself, which may explode (from an excess of pressure) or simply fail (due to neglect).

This, too, is a consequence of the split.

But the return of the repressed is unavoidable, a backlash against its banishment, a sign of something vital that can not be contained. This used to be called “acting out,” whereby unbearable tensions are discharged through activity. It is an outward expression of a hidden turmoil that exists within. (Any negative connotations associated with this concept merely reflect a moralizing attitude ignorant of the dynamics at play.)

The dividing lines and mirrored images throughout the film are a visual representation of this split of banishment and its energetic consequences. They illustrate the nature of sequestration and repression, and their impact on both sides of the divide.

Thus, acting-out — like Brandon’s shower ritual — signals something more than the “release” of tension or anxiety. It is also a complaint against the intolerable, a yearning for something beyond his mechanical and suffocating existence.

Only when this yearning is acknowledged and heeded, only then can the addict being the process of reuniting what has been divided and lost.

The Internal Economy of Shame

The other side of the split is Brandon’s “boss,” the part of the self that enjoys a fully embodied existence — the one that maintains a life according to social conventions — while relegating Brandon to a half-lived life. This “boss” is the one who controls Brandon’s existence, the one responsible for his banishment, the one who also dictates when and where he can (finally) come out of hiding for (furtive) moments of bliss.

Since the “boss” is the element of control — the part of the addict that believes everything can be “managed” — he is also the one responsible for the economy of shame that circulates within the addict. It is transferred from “boss” to Brandon repeatedly, from the very beginning of the film. The very first exchange between them establishes this pattern (“I find you disgusting. I find you inconsolable. I find you invasive.”) words that are later relayed from Brandon to someone else, creating a cascade of shame that travels from one person to another.

This is how ego typically responds to feelings it cannot understand. It is how the strange comes to be seen as disgusting (excessive) and invasive (because it cannot be digested or embraced). This dynamic of repulsion operates as much between people and groups as it does within an individual. (It could be said that this perverse dynamic constitutes the unconscious root of all forms of condemnation, aggression, and banishment. It also underscores the importance of its inverse, which is love.)

So, when the “boss” discovers Brandon’s “filthy” hard drive, he lets loose with another torrent of abuse, complaining about “blowing our wad in cash” and the “sick fuck” who spends “all day on that shit.” But in venting his incomprehension, the “boss” remains oblivious to his own role in establishing that dynamic, even while maintaining his stance of indignation. For he is the architect of the split, whether he recognizes it or not.

In the film’s symbolic language, the Screen is the medium used by the “boss” to communicate with Brandon. This is how he exercises his control and how Brandon receives his directions — through images, for example — a control that will remain firmly in place until their relationship is allowed to change. Some images, for example, may be relayed directly through the senses, which happens with all of us, but also through the imagination and fantasy which, for the addict, can be especially dangerous.

So, during the course of the film, Brandon begins to slowly separate himself from the Screen, distancing himself from that “input” as well as the persecution. It is a noble impulse, as he seeks to protect himself, going so far as to throw out the laptop which has always garnered his (usually) undivided attention.

However noble this impulse may be, in the end such a strategy cannot succeed since Brandon and his “boss” are but two sides of the same person. So, when it comes to different aspects of the personality, excision is never a viable solution: ego cannot be discarded or even transcended. What is required, instead, is learning how to put ego in its proper place (i.e., ego is not meant to be the “boss”). And the power to establish a more proper alignment rests with the neglected figure, the one who is banished. Only he (Brandon) can reverse the ego’s perverse use of its power, for ego will never willingly give it up.

This dilemma — and the possibility of its resolution — is presented visually in the vertical line dividing the frame (evident in the screenshots shown above). Each of these represent the split that plagues the addict. So, when Brandon finally begins to distance himself from the boss’s communications (the screen), he will do so by inhabiting the place of the divide itself — signaling his future role as healer and integrator of the split.

But because he has not (yet) understood the nature of his conundrum — the nature of the split that torments him — Brandon will seek resolution in a sexual relationship not imposed on him by the boss, but one of his own choosing. This is a common mistake, the effects of which he soon discovers. For the “liberation” he seeks is freedom from ego’s control and condemnation, not freedom from any and all constraint. (The rules of dharma still apply.)

He also misconceives his split as a (hetero) sexual one, as something to be “fixed” by pursuing a relationship with a woman. But he’ll be mistaken here, as well, since the split is primarily the barricade established between the ego and the heart, and no amount of sexual activity can mend that rift if the internal division isn’t addressed first.

Thus, we will bear witness to Brandon’s confusion and frustration when a woman uses unfamiliar gestures of intimacy, not having made them his own. His awkward fumbling — vigorously asserting himself, then withdrawing due to anxiety and doubt — is a consequence of what could be called the confusion of tongues: each of them using a different “language” for expressing themselves and for seeking connection. As a result, for Brandon, the entire episode ends in exasperation, not knowing why it doesn’t work.

As he withdraws to make sense of this what happened — trying to understand this “failure” — he is posed in front of an empty screen. It will be difficult for us in the audience not to notice that it appears that he’s lost his head.

And in some way, he has. In severing the connection to his “boss,” he’s also lost his usual source of direction (but also shame). So, in an effort to “free” himself from the “boss’s” control, he’s also “freed” himself from the only source of (internal) guidance available to him until now. And without it, he is rudderless, precisely because he hasn’t replaced the “boss” with anything else … hence, the image of Brandon sitting in front of a blank screen: without guidance, without insight, and without a head.

This is the dilemma facing Brandon: desperately seeking “freedom” from the boss, but unable to effectively operate without him. And it’s the resolution of this dilemma — with all its ups and downs — which will carry him through the remainder of the film.

Blood: A Furious Love

There is another figure that e/merges from Brandon’s split. In fact, she makes her first appearance at the same location of his morning ritual activity, emerging from the divide that splits the addict in half. It’s almost as if she’s also been sequestered there. This half-submerged figure is bound to Brandon through blood, for she is Brandon’s sister.

Given the location of her emergence, it’s safe to say that she represents something important about his addiction, buried in the dividing line that splits the addict in two. As a consequence, it can also be safely concluded that she has a important role to play in mending this split and in his healing, precisely because she also lives with it.

And yet, Brandon is unwilling to accord her such significance, despite what may be evident to those can see it plainly on the screen. Instead, he prefers to keep her at a distance, forcing her to communicate by voicemail (since he doesn’t pick up), each message becoming more exasperated, due to his refusal to engage with her.

Hey, it’s me. Pick up. Pick up. …

Brandon? Braann-donn.
Brandon, where are you?
Brandon? Brandon? Ugh.
This is me calling you.

Fuck!

Okay. Me, again. I’m dying.
I have cancer. I have one week to live.
The very worst kind of cancer. Of the vul …

He will find her pleadings intrusive and annoying, even overly dramatic, oblivious to his role in creating this dynamic, including her tendency to exaggerate. But a plastic wristband will silently indicate that her claim about “cancer” held more truth than he was willing to admit.

That night, we witness another dynamic of the brother-sister pair, as Brandon eavesdrops on his sister pleading on the phone, the sound of her voice interrupting his computer time (the Screen). At first, it floats to him as a muffled sound but gradually grows louder, as her pleading becomes more and more desperate. She’s on this edge of hysteria, begging and groveling, caught as she is in the downward spiral of unrequited love. (Who among us hasn’t been there?)

But I want YOU. I don’t want anyone else.
There is no one else. I LOVE you.
I’ll do anything. Please don’t say that.

I love you. I’ll do anything.

I don’t have to go out! I don’t have to go out!

I don’t even fucking WANT to go out!
I can stay with you.


I don’t care. I don’t need anybody else. I love you.
I love you. I love you so much. I love you.

Please. … I feel sick. I feel really sick.

Obviously, she’s one of the few — if not the only one, besides the “boss” — with the power to penetrate the barrier that fortifies Brandon’s banishment. It’s probably why Brandon experiences her as intrusive, since her ability to cross over brings other things — like emotions — that are normally kept on the other side of the divide. Which would explain their hot-and-cold relationship.

Thus, while the split is the cause of his banishment, it also makes it impossible for him to see what’s on the other side of the door. For if he was able to penetrate it — as she’s able to, through sound — he’s recognize that she too is plagued by dividing lines and half-reflections. It might explain the nature of their common inheritance, the “family” to which they belong.

Instead, the door that separates him and his sister, signals Brandon’s unrealized potential as a witness for his sister, one she desperately needs … but he’s unwilling or unable to give.

In this way, the film presents Brandon caught between two modes of communication: the Screen, by which he receives his “boss’s” images of sex, and the Phone (pictured here behind his back), by which he receives messages from his sister, including her unwanted “demands”. While this position may feel untenable — forcing him to choose between one or the other — this betweenness is an important resource, the value of which will only later make itself known.

These two modes of communication — the Screen and the Phone — represent psychic or quasi-spiritual faculties that operate beyond the objective senses. The faculty of sight is associated with the imagination, and belongs to a different order than the faculty of hearing, which might be why Brandon experiences them as in conflict, attuned as he is to one rather than the other.

At lower levels, the imagination takes the form of fantasy (the image on the Screen). When spiritually developed, it transforms into intuition, the instinct of the soul. Buddhists call it prajña (often translated as insight or wisdom) which develops with meditational practice that frees the mind of its biases and illusions.

The faculty if hearing, on the other hand, belongs to a different register. At lower levels, it corresponds with empathic listening, which involves delving below the surface meanings of words to a domain where vibrations and resonances reign supreme. When spiritually developed, this faculty becomes something else entirely. In Buddhism, it has a special utility in the bardo (intermediate states) and is the means by which liberation is achieved through hearing.

But, as long as the “boss” is in charge, these faculties will remain undeveloped, and all dependencies and addictions will remain in place. As a result, Brandon will remain captive to the projected images (on the Screen) and unable to respond to his sister’s pleas (on the Phone).

Collapsing the Split: When Worlds Collide

In the normal scheme of things, the “boss” uses Brandon as a wingman, since Brandon possesses certain skills not available to him (like the ability to “see”). This results from his life of isolation, not fully enmeshed in the concerns of everyday life, which allows him to attune to other matters. He’s good at noticing things, like the color of a woman’s eyes, which goes a long way towards helping the “boss” in his “extracurricular” activities.

In other words, Brandon is exploited by his “boss” who’s unaware that his unique capacity is more valuable than the ability to impress, which reduces his gift to nothing more than a parlor trick. But the “boss” is just one part of the split. These outings allow both of them to escape their (shared) captivity, whereby the “boss” recruits Brandon to fight against a life of boredom and meaninglessness.

What makes this “boss” unusual is the magnitude of the split over which he presides. There are long periods when the two sides are completely dissociated: one side going about his “normal” everyday activities, while the suppressed side languishes, waiting to be summoned. Only then are they allowed to join — albeit temporarily — for some illicit activity (the addiction). But the longer this pattern continues, the more likely the “boss” will come to be seen as a fraud. If not in his own eyes, then in Brandon’s.

So, even though there is a clear hierarchy of authority, the exercise of control is not unilateral. While the “boss” has the power to restrict Brandon’s ability to make decisions on his own, without Brandon’s involvement, the “boss” looks like an idiot and a fool. This will make itself known, first, in the body as a generalized discomfort, as if something was misaligned and had begun trembling or wobbling; later, as a reaction to the first, it’ll manifest at a deeper level, in an urge to live more authentically.

Due to an unusual turn of events, when the “boss” wants to step out on his family, Brandon invites him to come along to hear his sister sing. Even though she’s repeatedly invited him over the years, he’s deliberately avoided it until now. Perhaps he’s tired of the status quo of the split that imprisons him, or perhaps he’s realized that something needs to be done to move beyond their stalemate.

All Brandon’s sister ever wanted was for him to see a different side of her, a different context for estimating her worth. So, once he’s agreed to come see her sing, she can’t help but respond with glee since she now has the opportunity to be “heard” by the most important person in her life.

The song she performs is “New York, New York” except it’s slowed down considerably. By changing the tempo, she also changed the song’s tenor — no longer triumphant — so that it now expresses the desolate sense of yearning they both share.

I’m leaving today …
These vagabond shoes …
Are longing to stray …

I wanna be a part of it …
If I can make it there …
It’s up to you …

In her rendition, “New York” becomes a metaphor for the place they cannot find but which they’re both condemned to continue looking for (hence, the impulse to keep wandering). And the extra beat inserted between lines shifts the meaning of “it’s up to you,” which now comes across as a challenge or an accusation, rather than an expression of hope.

Brandon is visible moved, although he’ll not admit it. Revealing too much would concede ground in their drawn-out war. So, the recognition she was seeking will not come — at least not on this night — since he’s been fortified against such expressions. So, even though she was singing for him and seeking his approval, he’ll stand his ground, and quickly move on to making polite conversation, instead.

This is the form their stalled relationship takes, him seeking to protect his autonomy, she seeking validation, and neither getting what they really want. But shared blood keeps them bound together, even if they never quite see eye-to-eye, as sometimes happens in families. Her strength is his weakness, and vice versa, which might explain why they’re always at loggerheads. (Perhaps that’s why Brandon calls her “Sissy.”)

But unlike Brandon, his “boss” has no qualms about praising her singing, almost effusive in his praise, He thinks she’s a “fascinating creature,” and is eager to get close to her, especially since this was his opportunity to get out of the house.

This dynamic — Brandon’s reserve and the “boss’s” enthusiasm — is precisely how the split is designed to work, with the “boss” taking the lead. This leaves Brandon feeling like the third wheel, since he has little or no say in shaping the course of events. And yet, between the two of them, it’s Brandon who holds the apple of his sister’s eye. He’s the one most important to her, precisely because of his banishment.

But as the geometry of this scene makes clear, it’s the “boss” who maintains this dynamic and sustains the split. And it’s his position as ruler over this division that accounts for their deadlock.

Brandon’s agitation should come as no surprise when the Sissy and the “boss” hook-up later that night, and not only because she’s his sister. Their nighttime romp will not herald the beginning of a new relationship nor will it bring the promise of a brighter future. He knows the “boss” is using her, just like he uses him. The “boss” is already committed to a life that exists elsewhere, and nothing will be allowed to threaten that existence, even if he’s already done so by stepping out on his family.

Brandon will not know how to say “no” since the Brandon-Boss relationship has not been properly calibrated, and these nights out are also one of the few times he’s allowed out of his divided prison. His sister’s involvement makes a complicated situation even worse, as it will have repercussions for their already fraught relationship. But because he’s caught between a rock and a hard place — unable to say “no” but not happy about conceding — he’ll not know what else to do. So, he dons his jogging “uniform” and steps out into a New York swallowed by darkness, to engage in his own ritual for releasing tension and anxiety through physical exertion.

This is how the heart is recruited at its most basic and physical, as opposed to its more elevated capacities. The unchallenged rule of the “boss” reduces the heart to a physical organ, which robs all involved — both near and far — of the benefit of its elevation. Instead, the heart is used for its pumping, precisely because the “boss” prefers it that way, regardless of its consequences for Brandon and his sister, or anyone else.

Later, when he overhears Sissy leaving an exasperated voicemail — this time, for his boss — he’ll find a new target for venting his frustration, a different opportunity for “acting out.” This time, she’s the object of his wrath because, quite notably, his previously lost connection to the Screen has returned, taking the form of misshapen figures on the television. With the link to his Boss reestablished, the words will come more easily and with a an unexpected sting. Having been on the receiving end of his “boss’s” projected shame, it becomes easier let it loose on someone else. (And need it be said that the spoken word is not the only way this is accomplished?)

He’ll call her disgusting for sleeping with a man who is already married, finding her apologies irritating, since that’s all she’s ever done. He feels trapped by her. She feels like a weight and a burden, constantly dragging him down. He’s tired of her drama, and her playing the victim. All he wants is to be freed of her demands and her expectations.

But despite this torrent of abuse, she’ll challenge him saying that their relationship cannot be allowed to come to nothing. She finds the ease with which he cuts her out of his life quite depressing, particularly since they’re family. In other words, she persists because she wants to help. Of all the people in the world, she’s probably the only one who understands the nature of his prison which he’s not been able to escape.

Brandon, on the other hand, will storm out the door, saying she’d better be gone when he gets back.

Alchemy and the Power of “Seeing”

After walking out on his sister, Brandon will find himself on the subway, during which he begins an extended process of introspection. It covers three intercut episodes which, together, constitute the last quarter of the film. While it might not be obvious, this is the beginning of his meditative practice, learning how to train his mind, particularly as it relates to the problem of his split and the nature of his addiction. This is how he transforms the “lower” faculty of seeing into a different kind of Screen, one not imposed on him by the Boss.

A number of critics, however, have described this as Brandon’s descent into “depravity,” particularly since it includes a depiction of anonymous gay sex in a seedy looking club for men. But in saying this, they’ve missed the point of this foray into “darkness,” taking the events depicted on screen literally. For in his meditations, Brandon is reversing the normal operation of the Screen. Now, the images are closer to remembrance than anything else. But this is more than the merely recalling the past. It requires recognizing what was missed the first time around, learning how to “see” differently.

Put differently, this is the labor of integration. of gathering together the split-off pieces of one’s life, fragments created by the addict’s divide. Each of the scenarios that become the object of his reflection are efforts to accomplish this: (1) an attempted seduction that ended with him being beaten; (2) the anonymous encounter at the gay club; and (3) an intense threesome, the climax of his introspection. By revisiting these “parts,” Brandon can use his predilection for fantasy to a different use by reversing the procedure — not by fantasizing about the future, but re-membering the past.

For this “inward” journey, Brandon puts on the uniform he used earlier (a green vest and a hoodie) a variation of his boss’s attire when he recruited Brandon to be his wingman. During this final act, Brandon is attempting to reverse the control previously exercised by the “boss,” uniting the two halves into a single whole. But doing so requires integrating experiences — and emotions — that were previously split-off, denied or repressed.

Some of the split-off parts that Brandon seeks to integrate are half-suppressed memories that have yet to be fully processed and understood. Until their complete assimilation, they only exist as fragments of memory, infused by an emotion — such as grief or anger — which is why they’ve been barricaded.

In this way, Brandon’s labor is similar to what the traumatized work through in therapy: learning how to digest the undigestible by lowering the barriers that have protected them, learning how to tame the buried hurricane of feelings that always seem to return from the dead. This work takes its toll on both body and soul, which is why Brandon looks so unkempt.

One such (unprocessed) memory involved his seduction of a woman already with another man. At the time, he didn’t care about her relationship status, focused as he was on chasing the sublime and offering a piece of it to her in return. Half the joy was to be found in these moments of anticipation, and the pleasure found in bucking the rules of social convention. The “truth” compelling him to chase the forbidden is what summoned Brandon to emerge from hiding. It often translates into self-confidence with a touch of arrogance or even viciousness. For his “truth” carries a certainty that cannot be denied.

The memory to be revisited — and fully integrated — was one such moment, except this time, the boyfriend fought back. Brandon’s humiliation comes not from being beaten up, but from the recognition of his sense of entitlement, and the lengths he would go to to achieve his “high.” The process of integration will recall other such moments of humiliation — and feeling denied — and each of these will also need to be relived and contained, without releasing the tension by acting out.

This is the first stage in the journey of the addict’s heart.

The second scenario comes on the heels of being turned away from a (heterosexual) club, which is how his attention turns to a man standing opposite him, outside an inconspicuous club for men: he could be said to be the guardian of male fantasies. There were no crowds at the door, and neither were there any flashing lights. Just a nondescript sign (“QUO”) which, in Latin, means “whither” (referring to some sort of journey or passage) and “wherefore” (referring to an end or objective or, more broadly, a reason or rationale).

As Brandon enters the club, he’ll discover a sexual wonderland filled with hyper-masculinized fantasies at various stages of enactment, each enclosed in half-open stalls, not entirely private, such that others are still able to see. This is an interior castle, of sorts, although clearly different in composition than we’re sometimes led to believe.

After entering this establishment, Brandon loses sight of the man he was following. So he wanders the maze of hallways, while looking into the stalls of sundry bodies caught-up in carnal activity. Suddenly, he is yanked into a stall by the man he was following. They grab each other in a violent embrace, their mouths and lips pressed tightly against each other …

This pas de deux — Brandon’s trailing a vanishing man who reappears for their final embrace — is, in fact, a tale told in reverse: it is the story of his splitting. It is also the story of the birth of passion (bathed in red). For why else would this scene culminate in two men wearing hoodies looking for each other, in a club catering only to men? With this reverie, Brandon is invited to come to terms with that original splitting, and its accompanying repression, which led to his banishment to a half-lived life.

This is the second stage in the journey of the addict’s heart.

The third scenario takes Brandon even closer to the “beginning,” since it is also a remembrance told in reverse, of another half-recalled memory, this time of (psychic) birth (or awakening). It ends, as all births do, with a cry, a sign of life. But in this case, it comes at the end of a different kind of labor, when the name of the divinity emerges from the lips of the devoted, in a cry of anguish.

This time, he enters a narrow hallway, like a birth canal, leading up to a green door. Behind this door is a sexual experience with two women, one darker-skinned, another lighter, like the two who’ve been the object of his attention during he course of this film. It could be said that this “threesome” is analogous to Sissy’s experience of Brandon’s split, of coming to terms with the two sides of her brother: one public and professional, and another secreted away and hidden.

In other words, this ménage a trois is not some adolescent fantasy, but a form of remembrance in which Brandon learns how to recognize the phenomenon of doubleness, particularly as it relates to the problem of addiction. It also requires recalling himself in “her” presence, the state of his mind and body, as well as his sense of urgency that was overwhelming.

As depicted on the screen, there are subtle expressive shifts that mark the course of his copulation, beginning with the intensity of excitement (often indistinguishable from aggression and anger) with intermittent shifts to frustration. But after passing the tipping point, he begins to lose himself, and the look of concentration turns into something else, giving a face to his own suffering.

It could be said that this is the Truth behind the certainty of his “truth,” and is closer to what he’s actually been chasing. Such is the remembrance of anguish, the yellow hue of this scene signifying the Sun … but also the nature of insight.

This is the third stage in the journey of the addict’s heart.

Resolution: The Power of “Hearing”

As his ride comes to an end, Brandon and the other passengers are directed to the back of the train, since a police investigation is blocking the tracks ahead. Brandon will panic, recalling Sissy’s proclivity for standing too close to the edge of the subway platform. And for the first time, we see him calling her, rather than the other way around … but she will not pick up.

During the course of his reverie, she’d left a message for him, a message he ignored at the time, dismissing it as unimportant, since it carried the familiar tone of her desperation. However, this time, her message was accompanied by a new note, this being a tone of resignation:

Brandon, it’s Sissy.
I really need to talk to you Brandon.
It’s Sissy.

Please, will you pick up the fucking phone?

Brandon, I need you!

We’re not bad people.

We just come from a bad place. …
Thanks for letting me stay.

And that’s when he has a premonition of what might have happened, or what she might have done to herself. It’s almost as if — during his introspections — he’d acquired the ability to “hear” in a way he hadn’t possessed before, as if a new quality of the heart had emerged in him. That’s when he begins sprinting back — no longer running away — until he finds her in his bathroom, her limp body on the bloodied floor.

This ability to “hear” her is a mark of his healing, a sign that the split that has haunted him has begun the process of closing. Fans of Greek-based mythology will recognize the resonances with the figure of the centaur — half-man and half-beast — the best of whom become oracles and healers, when the “beast” has been fully tamed. Such an achievement also figures in the sign following the Scorpion, the sign of secrecy and the sting of awakening. It is in indication that the “inner man” has wrested control over the personality, including (especially) the “boss.”

With the ability to “hear,” Brandon will be granted the ability to perceive his sister differently. And the first thing to draw his attention are the markings on her arm which were always there, but have taken on a new and tender meaning.

And in reaching to touch them and to better understand, bent over in his contemplation of them, the brother and sister will create a different geometric figure, no longer defined by a dividing line or a split.

Instead, Brandon and Sissy will form a triangle, which is how polarity is transformed — and united — in a point above, where their brows meet.

It’s in this way that Brandon finally finds his (new) “head.”

~ by mistified on December 29, 2020.

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