A deserted warehouse.
This is where the Red Joans gather.
It is the same deserted warehouse, again and again, an exact replica, that serves as the meeting-place for all the Red Joans. The warehouse is a desolate shrine to recursion, its soul a cross between an attic and a crisis.
Sometimes the warehouse is situated on a pier, sometimes in the industrial bowels of a city, sometimes at the edge of a pasture hemmed in by hills that gossip in green untranslatable whispers.
Wherever it is located, inside the warehouse there are stacked tiers of unmarked crates. No one knows what the crates contain. They might be empty. Empty, or filled with contents, it makes no difference. The crates are stage props, part of the warehouse’s set design, sequential blocks for building ambience.
There are several high, rectangular windows, mostly blacked out. The edges of the windows have been darkened, yet there is a mottled frost, a calcified milkiness that obscures any clarity.
The walls of the warehouse are papered with calendars, reflecting different themes from different eras. Sports, swimsuit models, cats, horses, astronomy, movie stars, and on and on and on. 1972. 1945. 1980. 1963. 1959. 1988. And on and on and on, all the years randomly aligned, side by side, a mass-market continuum.
There is a man seated on a rickety wooden stool in the far corner. He is a security guard named Al—wherever the warehouse, and whenever—the man is always Al, and he is always asleep on his rickety wooden stool, snoring, his clefted Adam’s apple bobbing metronomically up and down, his plain blue-gray cap tipped back, hands resting on his doughy paunch with his hands looped into his belt.
You, Al, are presently dreaming of one of the calendar girls from 1977, Miss May, a buxom blonde in a cherry-red bikini, arched on her knees in the powdery white sand on some island beach, the turquoise ocean shimmering crushed crystals in the background. Miss May’s gaze is provocatively direct, just as it is in the calendar, her squinting engineered for sensuality, as she hopes to cajole whoever’s looking at her to surrender to sexual thoughts, thoughts of sex in a glossy paradise with a woman who every man is scheduled to desire, and for some unfathomable reasons she desires you, Al, you who becomes vigorously responsive, as you watch yourself lock bodies with Miss May and the two of you crumble into the silksoft sand like dried flowers, with the crystal-coated turquoise ocean shimmering behind you, its surf pounding an appropriate rhythm for romance under the sun.
Al’s dream will pass. As others will come, and pass. There is a lolling cadence and register to Al’s dream-life in the warehouse, and the thing is: Al never awakens. His position in the warehouse—snoring, asleep, dreaming—is fixed, he is the warehouse’s rigged constellation, a doped part of its architecture, same as the unmarked crates.
When the Red Joans gather in the deserted warehouse, they ignore Al, or perhaps don’t see him at all. At best, he qualifies as a fuzzy object situated on the periphery of their vision, at least, he is an empty stool caped in shadows.
In the warehouse, the Red Joans move in tandem, a filial symmetry to their collective motion. They often speak as a webbed choir, their voices strands beaded with clusters of overlapping words. At times this generated a spectral stereo-effect, and when their words fluently melded and unified into a level monotone, they registered the “We” which spelled out their highest aspirations.
Try and imagine countless deserted warehouses, each the same yet different, containing groups of young girls, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, each different but vying for sameness, and if you possessed the talents of an omniscient eavesdropper, you might hear waves of audio that would organically coalesce into a wall of sound, echoes circulating in a heat-prickly orbit, all these voices creating an aural tapestry that was at once epic and fragile.
There, in deserted warehouses, the Red Joans, hydra-headed in their subordination to the Phoenix, gathered under bleary lighting the color of dirty egg yolk, with the mildewy scent of aged wet cork lingering in the sedentary air. There they will talk about things that no one will ever hear.