The ‘Throwing-Away’ Spell (On Pornographic Realism)

Daniel O’Reilly


Discarded to the floor; desire discarded, and loved no more –

Billie opened her eyes, nose freckled by sun, teeth white still from youth, an engine of jostling pistons and electromagnets silently pressing their need, emitting fields of attraction into the local area network. She rolled back into a ball momentarily to enjoy the warmth of the duvet before rising to make coffee, her back bristling as though she were, for only an instant, a pangolin, transformed. The mind was transformed, if only for an instant, and the day would now continue; but only once the coffee ritual had been correctly observed –

Grinding light brown beans in the cylinder, cracking and splintering under pressure of the molino, the resultant melange aroused a stiff Billie who would be conscious all the time – consciousness itself arousing her desire – consciousness, an auto-aphrodisiac. Conscious people turned her on.

“My desire is the ‘throwing-away’ spell,” muttered Billie between twists of the shaft on the cylinder, grinding subtle acids for the cup’s fullest sensate power, the crack and gentle pressure of the mill calling to mind those huts in Ethiopia, (but also, I believe, in Rwanda,) in which women performed that same rite since very ancient times, and to the great satisfaction of their assembly gathered to receive the offering, (but most especially for the elders, elders who still today almost live to see such rites performed properly – neatly, and with precision.)

“I have passed another night; another night, and I did not die – I have another day to spend watching leaves fall to the ground in the park; the dry brown forms skitting and skirting where the milky-warm wind carries them – to the dusty floor littered with rot and lottery tickets.” Billie unscrewed the bottom chamber from the cylinder and dumped its contents into the steel siphon before dripping scalding water onto the sandy grounds. Little rainbow-coloured bubbles rose and burst on the surface, and a ruddy trickle emerged from underneath, steaming. Now it was the aroma, tendrils arousing memory, and Billie was inaugurated into the ritual state –

Returning briskly to the bedroom, ready to observe with proper etiquette the drinking stage of the ritual – and the subsequent arousal of surplus desire, she whispered hotly into the pillow:

“My desire for you is like laying hot tarmac on gravel, and then pressing down hard. My desire for you is like the Treaty of Versailles, if left unratified. My desire for you is like monks abandoning their practise of worship and taking up cannibalism instead – and using only very blunt knives and forks for their feast. My desire for you, far from pure, like tainted streams of pollution, the promises of politicians, the tax arrangements of the Cayman islands, obscure. My desire for you is like our thing, but said in Italian. My desire for you is like never admitting a fault, and never being wrong. My desire for you is like a siege-engine boldly erected against inadequate battlement defenses, and the castle forces hastily assembled to repel it. My desire for you is like the collapsing Morandi bridge, the vast hunks of concrete and twisted rebar, and death. My desire for you is like death –

“My desire for you is like the dead village I once visited in dead of night, somewhere due south of Rome; a region nestled amid sparsely populated hills – a portal – colloquial tongues and minor provincial customs, accompanied by the crack of the woodchopper and the smell of the first wood fires of autumn. My desire for you is like the stray dog that followed me yesterday, and the day before yesterday; it’s mannerisms, it’s gait, it’s matted clumps of hair and colonies of parasites. My desire for you is like corroded metal rods inside the structural ‘I’ beam, cracking and bowing and about to give in. My desire for you is like the patina of sebum on lank, unwashed hair. My desire for you is like the Israeli missile shield. My desire for you is like wearing a dead person’s shoes.

“My desire for you is the ‘throwing-away’ spell – but only if observed correctly, only if invoked correctly. But our culture obviates such spells. Who should request such spells as to arouse desire and, in so doing, banish spectres of capitalism in orgasmic convulsions of sobriety – the sobriety of mountains?”

Jordi elicited convulsions of his own, purred underneath the blanket; there would likely be no action this morning, but there would still be the morning itself, and those unforeseeable arousals of consciousness that accompany the rising of the sun, the gradual whitening of an inky blue sky, venus lurking tranquil above indigo mountains and other rapidly vanishing stars. The first streaks of grey-yellow over the Mediterranean. Jordi would no doubt be moved by the sudden aroma of the coffee, that arousal, that desire –

Looking from the bedroom window of the rented apartment over at the ancient fisherman’s houses of El Cabanyal, at the labyrinthine streets lined with majestic, yet crumbling edifices, where laundry draped over a decrepit balcony signifies the presence of squatters, characters move quietly through small, cold alleyways which are silent – save for the noise of a church or social club closing for the night – and the dim lights of the graffiti-emblazoned crackhouse on the way down towards the harbour evokes rare spirits indeed.

“People rarely make eye contact here, so one always feels like an outsider.” she mused, recalling the way her cheerful manner on the street of greeting a passing individual had been uniformly met with a stony refusal to engage, as though refusing eye contact here was just a local adaptation, “But I don’t criticise. This is just the way of things here. Perhaps there is a sensible reason why nobody wishes to acknowledge the stranger.”

The building adjacent was a bold, rococo-styled house covered entirely with ornate, patterned tiles of Andalusian origin; concentric stars in blue and mauve glaze set into a stark white background. Fancy baroque trim and architraves exaggerated already tiny windows, and a small castellation running along the front gave the impression of a rather tiny, but nevertheless pretty, castle. A small (now dead) tree had grown through the roof and, before its demise, had severed the electric cables gathered in an unseemly mess on the pole out front, casting ghastly and quite stark shadows on the already uncanny façade. The electric supply had not been repaired since the death of that tree – whenever that was.

The house itself, standing almost alone on what looked to be a bombed-out scrap of wasteland littered with shopping trolleys, rubble and broken bottles was perhaps one of the smallest houses Billie had ever seen – despite the grandiose architectural gestures which only impressed the curiousness of the scene still further. Upon closer inspection, and to her surprise she noticed that there was not one, but in fact two houses joined together – the aforementioned small rococo house, and another ‘house’ thing connected to it, from behind. The other ‘house’ almost looked like a growth, or an accident, lurking, creeping out from somewhere between the other buildings and taking them over, a stealthy embrace; she could see the way it had been built on an even smaller plot than the first, on an otherwise completely useless patch trapped between all the other houses, but unconstrained by the boundary had actually crept up and over the low roof of the first house to occupy, (whether consensually or not,) the whole surface area of both houses with a relatively large terrace. Billie thought she saw a figure sloping along the walkway created by the connection between the two buildings, but she could not be sure. Certainly, there were comings and goings. ‘Just like Jordi and I,’ she thought; ‘lonely, isolated, yet stacked-up somehow and falling over one another.’ And – she supposed – the closed disposition of the residents was reflected by the five different locks on the street door to the apartment.

As she sipped at the brew, draining it, Billie observed mental echoes from the last thing she said to herself swirling around in front of her mind for a time and she also watched the effect those words had over her body; the origins of that desire was itself a story, and yet not so. “A story is a small thing held in the hand – not a sculpture exactly, or a piece of attractive ceramic pottery, or even an organic growth – partly beautiful, partly terrible. Certainly it is not something useful like pliers, rice flour or investment banking. But indeed, a story is something held in the hand, to be looked at from different angles, to inspect the curious details and wonder at why this thing should have come into being as opposed to having been left unsaid altogether. And so much has been left unsaid, will be left unsaid. It is the way of things.” 

And Jordi moaned in irritation at the chatter, sleepily insisted from behind his beard that today, he would indeed be turned-on by talk of such fading architectural details – and of the stealthy embrasure of neighbours…


Daniel O’Reilly is an independent author, philosopher, publisher and media artist living in rural Catalonia, Spain with his wife, daughter and sausage dog Dexter. His current project is [archipelago] – an independent small press producing avant-garde fiction. Daniel has published short fiction in the ‘Bengaluru Review’, ‘Defunkt Magazine’, and ‘The Room’ Journal of African Surrealism, plus poetry and theory in the ‘Cutbank’ literary magazine, ‘Roots-Routes’ magazine and ‘The Dawntreader’ literary journal, and currently produces handmade chapbooks of surreal literature and other experimental forms of writing in his current home of Spain. He founded The Unstitute online art lab and artists’ co-operative space with wife and longtime collaborator Marianna in 2011, and screened original video art in competitions and exhibitions in over 22 countries worldwide.
Visit the [archipelago] literary project on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/DanielOReilly