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Opulent Living & Memory


The house was unusually quiet and disorderly but it was a relief to have the place to herself. She’d told Johannes and Mary not to come to work today. She couldn’t face it. She’d thrown a party for her birthday the night before and there were a lot of empty bottles lying around. What was left of the cheese board was warming in the morning sun. She would have felt embarrassed having Mary there, cleaning up. She had a headache from the wine and couldn’t bring herself to go through the elaborate routine of making up her face, and she didn’t want Mary to see her unmade. She never imagined that she’d get to a point where she cared so much about what her domestic worker thought of her. She could barely look at herself at the moment without foundation, let alone have anyone else see her.

The routine was getting more and more laborious since the incident in Opulent Living. She had visited the store to return a cushion. She was browsing through the De la Cuona range when a chunk of flesh dropped out of her cheek. She caught it just before it fell into a basket of curtain ties. It was damp, spongy and came apart softly in her hand. There had been smaller pieces of her face that had come loose over the past weeks when she was in the bath or doing her stretches but nothing close to this substantial. She touched her face and felt an uneven depression below her right eye. Rushing out to her parked car and looking in the mirror she saw that it wasn’t bloody or anything, but clean, almost translucent, with tiny round openings that resembled the pockets of air in a mousse when you break the surface layer and push a spoon into it.

After that day, in order to look vaguely presentable, she’d have to pack the depressions in her face with concealer which meant that she was now getting through a tube of it a week. She had started to order it online as she had begun to feel self-conscious visiting the beauty counter so regularly. The whole thing was becoming very expensive.


The difference between your memory of things that you imagine happened and things you didn’t imagine but that actually happened is not necessarily so great. I know, in the same way that I know simple things, for example, that I am hungry at lunchtime, that there never was a studio in your ear. I know that it isn’t the case that you sit there until I ring a bell. That you don’t then leave your ear (studio) and embody your physical body in order have a conversation with me. I know that you don’t return to the studio in your ear once we have finished our conversation, leaving your physical body for the time being. I know this is not the case but I remember it very clearly as if it were.

I remember your frustration at being disturbed in your studio (ear) and having to re-enter your body in order to find out what it was that I wanted. I remember the look on your tiny face and the slump of your tiny shoulders as you sat at your tiny desk when I rang the bell in your ear.

I know that I was having a kind of awake dream because I had taken a sleeping pill and not gotten into bed straight away. The sleeping pill had started to trip my consciousness while I was walking around and brushing my teeth. The part about the sleeping pill is unimportant here beyond its having created the circumstances that produced the case study for the suggestion about memory that I am trying to put forward.

The suggestion about memory that I am trying to put forward is that even though it didn’t happen, I remember it in the same way that I remember things that did happen for example, that I had a boiled egg for breakfast. So in my memory, wherever that may be, the studio in your ear and the boiled egg for breakfast are archived as if they both happened even though one of them didn’t.

Chloë Reid is a writer and artist based between Glasgow and Cape Town. She received the Glasgow Sculpture Studios Graduate Fellowship in 2017. In 2018 she curated the exhibition To see this story better, close your eyes... at the Reid Gallery.

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