art, Boty, clinic, midlife, music, words

BUM

story of a man with two brains

THURSDAY NIGHT IN THE WINDY CITY. A solo Kendrick Lamar dressed all in black steps onto a giant stage. His two-hour headline opens with a celestial male chorus:

I hope you find some peace of mind in this lifetime/I hope you find some paradise

An earthy female counter chorus responds:

Tell them, tell ‘em, tell them the truth….

Tell ’em, tell ’em the truth. The female chorus insists.
Tell ’em, tell ’em, tell ’em, tell ’em your—

I’ve been goin’ through somethin’ replies Kendrick. One-thousand, eight-hundred and fifty-five days. I’ve been goin’ through somethin’

Kendrick Lamar, Mr Morale Tour, 2022
hip hop superstar with arrows in his back

I’ve been going through something…

In the summer of 2022, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and young women who poop combined for an unexpected moment across social media. From TikTok to Instagram, influencers and meme slingers revealed their personal struggles with bowel elimination, intestinal pain, gas, bloating, and, basically, farting. Raising awareness through the ‘IBS-hot-girl’ banner, young women posted about life with a complex gut condition. With sixty three million views on TikTok, hashtag IBStiktok pointed up the reality, according to Insider magazine: ‘that all hot girls constantly fart, burp, bloat, and suffer from constipation and diarrhea…’ As styled #IBS sweatshirts circulated, popping up here and there, in New York’s Times Square a huge billboard declaimed Hot Girls Have IBS.

I’ve been going through something…

Also through the summer of 2022, each Sunday he woke at an early(ish) hour to go peddling on his bike across the brow of the windy Northern city, from east to west, up and down steep hills and in and out of high-speed ring roads, all the way to a playing field behind a secondary school, where he and numerous other mid-lifers – some with period names like Norman, Marcia, Janice and Steve – came together for ninety minutes of walking football.

The version of walking football their group follows permits players no more than three consecutive touches, no tackling, no shots, no passes above head height, and, obviously, no running. Walk as fast as your legs will carry you, but one foot must be touching turf at all times. If both trotters leave the ground simultaneously, then you are running (as Eadweard Muybridge’s pre-cinematic zoöpraxiscope demonstrated with its dancing galloping horses of 1880). Running is a rule breaker. Three strikes and you’re out.

The game is unisex. One woman, determined to get stuck in, has appointed for herself the tactical role of tight marker. She selects an opposition player and stays close, tracking them up and down and around the pitch with impressive determination. She sticks to one opponent at a time, but also rotates the players she pursues, often including him. Glued to his side for spells, she goes wherever he goes. This brings up unexpected issues.

Some Sunday mornings, he’s out the house so fast, waving the wife farewell, and getting onto his bike in haste, there isn’t the time for a meaningful session on the thunderbox. Without a morning elimination, there’s an increased chance of a fart at the football. (It’s a basic physiological fact: not a moral failing.) But what to do about his tight-marking woman?

Whenever he feels the inner vapours gathering, he tries extra hard to lose his marker, to remove her from his personal zone. Often in making his escape, heading for an empty strip of pitch, he breaks into a semi sprint, and the ref blows up immediately at this blatant rule breaking – walking football, no running allowed.

#hotgirlswithIBS

Smash cut from his northern playing field to the other side of the world. On a balmy faraway evening, a young influencer emerges in a summer dress of shimmering strips of fabric revealing a glowing tan as she crosses the outdoor terrace on the top floor of a luxury hotel: hashtag #hotgirlswithIBS

From a distance, the hot girls with IBS trend is a work of ‘premise fiction’, where one extraordinary proposition takes hold of a narrative as most everything else continues as you’d expect. Consider Christine Olivo, present on Instagram with @myIBSlife, but who also TikToks copiously on coping with intestinal blight. Leaving the bathroom toting a jumbo pack of loo roll, plus air freshener, a semi-smiling Olivio supplies an ironic caption on the hook: ‘When one of the queens is crying over a guy that couldn’t handle her hot girl stomach issues.’

‘Hot girl’ advocates promote a ‘bloating positivity’, positioning intestinal gas and ‘natural functions’ as constituent elements of modern ‘femininity’. ‘Haven’t pooped in over a week,’ a ‘hot girl’ reports via a constructed selfie also starring Rihanna, ‘but my bloated poo-filled belly is coming in handy for tonight!’ He stares long and hard at her photo. It’s hard to get to the bottom of how a ‘poo-filled belly’ might prove handy. Not from his experience.

The IBS truthers on social embrace the formerly gross, deriving a transgressive boost detailing bowel matters in public – loo habits and loo content, over and over. Your head doctor might wonder if such repetition indicates a psychic block: that patients almost luxuriating in their symptoms suggests a deeper-level failure to work things through.

The no-shame ethic driving the growing visibility for IBS might also link to the wellness and body positivity movements, with its normalising language reclaiming corporeality – including bowel movements. A body politics that dovetails with strands of feminism today: ‘women [are] claiming their right to not only poop,’ writes Australian lifestyle magazine Fashion Journal, ‘but to do it loud and proud as a hot girl… smashing the patriarchy.’

But what is IBS anyway? While patriarchy takes a pounding, he pings a few search terms out across the internet…

Bacteria vs Psyche

Between twenty five to forty five million people in the United States complain of digestive upset. It is more common in those under fifty, and more often affects women than men. While symptoms vary, typical issues are gas, bloating, cramping and constipation and/or its obverse.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional disorder without identifiable cause. There is no visible damage in the digestive tract, no explanatory X-Ray for a medical consultant to show to their distressed patient. And while there are several suggested treatments for IBS – from exercise to yoga to CBT, to mindfulness and hypnotherapy, to diet change (food & mood = kimchi + sauerkraut), to cannabidiol, acupuncture, or a suite of meds from GI agonists to anti-depressants – for now IBS is a condition without a verifiable cure.

No. Cure. Two big little words. As he types them he rewinds to many years ago and the first hospital consult with his original Dr Gut.

How can I help?

My gut’s a pain. It hurts.

Yes?

I get this stabbing inside and I’m held up all the time.

Dr Gut is small and round and quite senior. He nods his head with its halo of luxurious speckled hair and takes out a fountain pen. Tell me more.

There are days my stomach takes over and sort of rules my life. From here he elaborates on the tummy takeovers and the grisly symptoms. His face disarranges itself, losing its smile as he sighs in defeat. I often think that given the choice between getting my belly fixed or someone gives me a million pounds…

You’d take the belly fix?

He shakes his head at Dr Gut. I’d still choose the million. But it would be a close thing. I mean anyway, you’d hope some of all that money could pay for a cure.

Well, you’re not going to need a million pounds, says a confident Dr Gut – a leading, much-garlanded expert in the field. We can do better than that.

The glorious gleaming confidence. He remembers the words, the brightly lit room, the anatomical wall charts and medical waste bin, the humid aroma as reassurance wafted across the desk from medic to patient. He recalls the promise of rescue caused his tormented tummy to leap up and down, delighted. Finally, some certainty, a saviour – Dr Gut would make him better.

So what do we do?

Well…

But before they get to the fix, Dr Gut takes off, heading out on a ranging ramble as he fills out some of the backstory. Way before, in the nineteen seventies, when they first ‘really got started on IBS’, says Dr Gut, the condition was considered a psychiatric disorder best treated using anti-depressants. Dr Gut believed this then: ‘That IBS was a symptom of depression. But this is no longer the view.’ The idea that the brain ails and in this way causes the stomach to be unhappy has fallen into decline. Better to consider IBS a two-way disorder of the gut-brain axis – where the nervous system impacts the gut, but also, in a complex feedback loop, the gut affects the nervous system. ‘Is IBS all in your head?’ Dr Gut muses philosophically, staring at the nib of his pen. ‘Well, yes, IBS is in the head, if you can accept that the head is also in the stomach.’

Amalia Ulman

The notion of digestion and psyche being intertwined isn’t new. In the classical period, the Greek physician Hippocrates asserted that all illness began in the stomach, while the surgeon and philosopher Galen labelled the gut the ‘second brain’. In 1621, Oxford academic Robert Burton wrote Anatomy of Melancholy, identifying an agitated digestion as the source of ‘windy vapours’ dispatched to the cerebrum, ‘which trouble the imagination, and cause fear, sorrow, dullness, heaviness…’

The gut teems with microbial life – a multi-billion superabundance of viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae collectively known as the microbiome. Despite a long history observing the interlacing of stomach and brain function, the gut’s microbiome, as a dynamic interactive ‘theatre of activity’, was only properly described in nineteen eighty eight. Until then, the microbiome, weighing in at over two kilos, was the body organ we never knew we had.

Gut bacteria in the microbiome play a key role in digestion, while also helping with the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that contribute to the regulation of our brain chemistry. The brain, stomach and microbes interact in part via the vagus nerve. What happens in the vagus, however, doesn’t stay in the vagus, but affects the emotions in various interesting ways. Lab experiments demonstrate that moving gut bacteria around actually transfers the blues. Microbes taken from people with depression have been injected into mice, who immediately changed their behaviour – no longer taking pleasure from sugary solutions, for instance, as mice normally do. Subsequent lab experiments with rats show that if their vagus nerve is severed the usual affects of gut bacteria on brain function immediately cease.

Studies of the interplay of tummy bacteria and mood – loosely described as ‘psychobiotics’ – suggest a better gut culture could counter anxiety, depression and various psychological strains. As he types away, he thinks of his belly, of the recurring fight or flight response going on down there, slicing and piercing pains daily for almost two decades and a search for a fix that’s taken him to unorthodox places doing objectively comical things. Last winter, he stretched out flat on his bed every Thursday evening after work, listening on Zoom to an out-of-town hypnotherapist. Close your eyes, she said softly. Imagine your consciousness rising up and leaving your body behind. She urged him to levitate, she did. Go hover six feet in the air and find his inner calm. Was floating in space ever going to make a longstanding gut-brain disorder curl up and vanish? The wads of cash frittered on hypno, when he could’ve been saving for a poo transplant.

Because this could actually be so straightforward. Psychobiotics points to fecal transfer as the future medical prescription for an ailing gut – possibly. Analysis by Zoe, ‘the world’s largest nutrition-science study’ indicate that each one of us has a unique gut quite different to the next person – with an ‘eight to tenfold variation in individual insulin, blood sugar and blood fat responses to the same meals.’ With guts so varied, it’s considered likely that we can tweak the bad gut bacteria impacting an individual’s mood by shipping in another person’s good bacteria, and make it all better.

Fecal transfer could occur via injection, nose, or possibly through anal inserts. He suspects his preferred mode of fecal transfer would be injection. And if he was sat on a big enough pile of spare cash he’d already be researching private clinics for his bespoke psychobiotic upgrade. In this scenario the future looks bright. But there are other ways to think on IBS – a gut condition that occurs most frequently in low-income populations.

Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome in fact largely a social disorder? Social environmental studies theorise illness as often something greater than the body’s mechanics malfunctioning, with poor health linked to numerous stresses – ecological, chemical, social, economic, psychological, historic, and political.

In the New York Times, Dr Danielle Carr takes against the mental health crisis post-pandemic being ‘framed as primarily a medical problem… rather than a political crisis with medical effects.’ Carr elaborates: ‘If someone is driving through a crowd, running people over, the smart move is not to declare an epidemic of people suffering from Got-Run-Over-by-a-Car Syndrome and go searching for the underlying biological mechanism.’ Instead, look beyond the individual biological body, or processes of medicalisation, and ‘stop the guy with the car from running people over.’

While Carr advocates a broader view on sickness, where a good life might possibly make for a better gut life, baseline treatment for IBS continues to focus on the body. Zoe Science and Nutrition list a short inventory of need: good diet, less booze, exercise, improved sleep, and a pet. Dogs, it seems, are good for digestive health.

Still Life with Apples, Paul Cezanne (circa 1878)
Still Life with Apples, Paul Cezanne (circa 1878)

The original Dr Gut never reached the part with the guaranteed tummy cure: something only alluded to now and then during a trio of comical consults. Approaching the end of a long career working in tummies, Dr Gut had transformed into a windbag, gassing about the times he was on daytime TV, or caught up planning his coming retirement. Should he keep a bolt hole in London, Dr Gut asked his patient with the twisted gut, or go all-in on a place by the sea? If there’s to be a bolthole, did his patient with the twisted gut think Victoria, perhaps?

Yes, the patient nods. Good for the train station.

Dr Gut smiles. Exactly.

And then yesterday, Dr Gut came back to him. Arriving into Kings Cross, looking out the window at the new builds, Dr Gut’s pleasant face flutters into view, seizing his attention for a spell, whispering, don’t worry, we’ll fix that tummy. But Dr Gut’s dead. (He doesn’t believe in ghosts.) And his unhappy stomach continues: right this second, sat on a toilet at Tate Modern straight after a long visit to the Cezanne show, here in this moment as he waits for something to happen.

For several years, the Members Lounge at Tate conferred access to a suite of upscale facilities. But his membership lapsed and today he’s down with the grunts. His tight and dim-lit cubicle has a black door, black wooden side panel, two walls of small silver tiles, and a coated cement surface running beneath his red trainers out under the raised door. In this bog barely fit for sensitive art lovers, he hunkers down for a long stop. It takes less than five seconds for the smart phone to emerge.

During the early stages of a diagnosed gut-brain disorder, patients are encouraged to develop a close relationship with their eliminations. To peer into the bowl at the formation of their deposits – consistency, shape, colour – using the Bristol Stool Scale for a reference guide.

The Bristol Scale maps eliminations on a spectrum of one to seven. Are you a hard or soft option? Many patients studiously journal their eliminations. And then they realise that a journal won’t make your gut ache any better and they get out their phones instead. This is how we live now. But also any loo trip without distractions is risky. He could sit quietly, try getting mindful, staring into and beyond his red trainers. But a good screen scroll, lols, memes, and plenty of points of view, is a much better way of keeping his thoughts out the basement.

Thoughts in the basement, where dark matter rises, are like: Is this all there is, your body a continuously failing delivery chute? Dirt is material displaced. It’s elementary (Alimentary). This, yes, this, is this it – half of the day with your pants round your ankles, physically gripped, waiting for something to happen? This is your life? Your fundament(al) condition? Uh-uh… Say nope to basement thoughts. Life with IBS goes better with distractions. Gaze at your phone. Just keep an eye on the clock. (Obviously do try to be aware of device safety and good phone hygiene.)

Ten, fifteen minutes scroll past. He types away in Notes against a backdrop of generic restroom racket – spring-loaded doors with super squeaky hinges swinging shut with a bang. Basin taps gush. Hand dryers scream. Men coughing and pissing. Children shriek. Two teenagers discuss trainers and Basquiat. As conversations in several languages roll by he’s up to maybe twenty minutes, time barely registering, but knows he should be getting off now. Share the convenience. Stop with the waiting. And yet waiting is the core situation for the gut-brain disorder. You can’t polish a turd. You also can’t force one to go fast. Twice someone has tried the cubicle door. One half-hearted effort, but the other an insistent bid to get in here and replace him. He shouts back Occupied! preparing to quit. But plainly there aren’t enough lavatories to go round.

Is talking toilets beneath us? Would a high-blown thinker, a Zizek, Ahmed or Butler, ever do a deep dive into restrooms and theory? (The historian Keith Thomas wrote about the Fart in Seventeenth Century England.) There is a long view currently itching to be written: The Rise and Fall of the Public Convenience. He googles-up some stats outlining the ongoing carnage in numbers. In the nineteen eighties, the New York subway provided approximately fifteen hundred toilets, but is currently down to less than seventy five. A BBC report from 2016 reveals that seventeen hundred and eighty two public toilets closed in the UK in the previous decade; and that half of London’s municipal public toilets were permanently shuttered. From 2010 upwards, local councils struggling under austerity could either sell their toilets and the land they occupied for millions, or continue spending hundreds of thousands they didn’t really have maintaining services, some of which were no longer legally viable. While municipal authorities are not legally required to provide toilet facilities, disabled access is statutory. Refitting the many Victorian and Edwardian conveniences built below street level to provide disabled access was too costly, forcing their closure. Deceased subterranean toilets have reopened as mini gyms, card shops, bottle shops, copy shops, as well as estate agents with fine-detailed Victorian tiles, and waxing stations with brass period fittings. There are also several daytime cafes, where if you ask nicely, they might let you use their toilet.

The Attendant, 27A Foley Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6DY
The Attendant, London: Once a Victorian lavatory, now serving breakfast, brunch and lunch, featuring marble tables previously used as urinals.
Ladies and Gentleman, popular North London cocktail bar
Ladies and Gentleman. Popular north London cocktail bar

A large portion of public facilities installed in recent times are automated pods. Unattended toilets where you worry you’re not locked in properly. Or locked in all too well, unable to escape without making a scene, and definitely late for your meeting. People in need of a toilet when out and about – which is all of us, basically – are encouraged to make for shopping centres, or coffee chains like Pret, Costa, Nero and Starbucks, where often you must buy a coffee before they will give you an access code to their toilet. And behold the bleak state of so many pub toilets; or the grisly, dark hutch at the back end of the cafe and its broom-closet dimensions, the discoloured seat a block of ice. And you’ve barely got perched and already someone’s knocking to get in and, the horror, only now do you see the empty loo roll dispenser, having just passed the point of no return. ‘Too much is claimed for authenticity, wrote Hilary Mantel, ‘Illness strips you back to an authentic self… but not one you need to meet.’

It’s not all grim always. Good public toilet experiences do occur, like warm blue skies in spring, becoming lodged in the memory as a database of viable public conveniences accumulates. Department stores, free galleries, a few good libraries, pubs with side doors allowing furtive access, evading the rigmarole of explaining, or having to beg for access. You also register online and get an IBS ID card and Radar access key. Maybe you find yourself near a reliable train station, safe harbour for an emergency pitstop: Liverpool Street, stops on the Jubilee Line Tube extension, Denmark Hill. So you get out the Radar key ready for some relief. But what is this? The loo shut for lockdown and never opened again.

It’s a long-term logjam and a long time back since loos were sent to the end of the funding queue. The solution to toilet shortages is not beyond reason. In the longterm absence of public investment an obvious answer arises: socialise all toilets. Legally mandate public use of private loos. Start with businesses, shops, the workplace. Please, can I use your bathroom right now? I really need to! And the sales assistant says a mandatory, sure. But go broader, dream bigger pitching a utopia of humanely supporting our universal need. ‘During the night I have a dream in which I join a subversive organisation called the Socialist Lavatory League,’ writes theatre critic Kenneth Tynan in a diary entry in 1973. ‘Its purpose is to bring all private loos into public ownership. Everyone will have the right to use anyone else’s loo – which will mean the end of private peeing. The dream wakes me up giggling, but on consideration I don’t think it is all that bad an idea.’

With an Apple I Will Astonish Paris (Cezanne)

Tynan was the first person in the UK to say ‘fuck’ on TV. (A planned provocation from 1965.) And Tynan convened the bawdy theatre revue Oh, Calcutta: the title punning on ‘O quel cul t’as!’  - ‘Oh, what an arse you have!’ in French. So, that’s toilet dreams, potty mouth, and arse appreciation. Tynan commissioned Pauline Boty’s artwork BUM, that heads this blogpiece. Boty painted BUM while dying of cancer in 1966. And then she was forgotten. So much of Boty’s work got lost she will never have a big ticket retrospective at a place like Tate, which he’s quitting now, as he heads further along the Southbank, off for the short walk to the British Film Institute (BFI), the full river swaying, the air gas-flavoured as the daylight drains from the sky.

Grown man on a bog crawl, he comes to the BFI through the side entrance. Past the cafe, shop, and the film library, up the stairs, taking a right at the mezzanine and continuing along the gallery, arriving finally at a favourite concealed toilet. It’s the London Film Festival this week. He’s come to see a film about displacement. The venue is buzzing but his secret convenience remains calm. This is a toilet you can rely on. Spacious, big and bright, the better-appointed facility yanks his thoughts upwards into a loftier headspace as, in a rare gear-change, and in the interests of narrative inflexion, the smartphone stays put away in his pocket. Instead he flicks through the booklet from the Cezanne show.

Mont Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cezanne (circa 1904-06)
Mont Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cezanne (circa 1904-06)
Jordan Max 200 Men's Shoe - Red
Jordan Max 200 Men’s Shoe – Red

All those apples and pears and water jugs by Paul Cezanne; the artist’s repeat depictions of the Provençal landscape. Between 1904 and 1906, Cezanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire more than thirty times. There are several impressions of Mont Sainte-Victoire at the Tate show. He looks closely and looks away and back again, and for some moments can think only of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the mounds Richard Dreyfuss is compelled to make again and again as he prepares for the aliens to arrive.

Cezanne’s repetition drive is irresistible. During the ninety minutes at the retrospective he returns repeatedly to Mont Sainte-Victoire in Room 8, to gaze again upon the limestone cone with the flat head.

Plainly Cezanne was going through something. In total Mont Sainte-Victoire features eighty times in the artist’s corpus. His eyes drift from the booklet to his red Nikes. Caught up in the notion of seeing the world for real, would Cezanne wish to paint his red trainers, paint them on repeat even – seeking to encapsulate their essence? Thirty, forty times? Or his grey backpack hanging on the back of the cubicle door? The extra-fine perforated titanium fabric and slate side panels with white elasticated pulls. Backpack and trainers – things outside of the painter’s head, apples that Cezanne positioned himself in front of – so to scrutinise in a recurring effort to apprehend their actuality. Their actuality, however, is always particular. Each time Cezanne contemplates these red Nikes, or the Provençal mountains, he observes from the interior of a singular human nervous system, this thing or place inside his brain whenever he gets out his brushes.

Story of the Man with Two Brains

Tell them, tell ’em, tell them the truth
sing the chorus
Tell ’em, tell ’em, tell ’em, tell them your….

He sits in his BFI pit-stop waiting for an outcome. Time is a scarce resource. So long and so often he sticks around awaiting an outcome. Suspended in a corporeal zone of confusion there are times it’s hard to differentiate the body’s longings, between a wished-for elimination and arousal amid the straining desire for relief.

This probably counts as TMI – Too Much Information. But when the hot girls decided to spill, the rules started to shift. After years keeping the abject hidden, finally the repressed edges out of the anxious half shadows towards the light. He feels it is time to get to know his second brain.

Love is the seductive experience of coming to understand another person’s mind. But does getting to know your second brain generate affection? So far, he’s not feeling enamoured. Through this gut-brain odyssey across the years, IBS has always felt like the uninvited character lodged deep inside. An autonomous depressed anti-hero from a returning story, with the genre yet to be identified.

What type of tale is the story of a man with two brains? This is not a love story. His gut-brain disorder is far from a cheeky romcom. Though often well suited to pure comedy, there’s more to his gut than fart jokes. A battle rages inside but this isn’t a war movie. Despite being quite histrionic, melodrama fails to capture the abject, while tragedy is far too cosmological for a twisted stinking tummy. The strong temptation is to classify events downstairs as horror. But which horror?

Body Horror’s a plausible candidate. The hero haunted by rank, gurgling innards. Heaving, exploding bellies. Dualism at war – the second brain in the role of a malevolent force feeding on the host body.

Or is IBS an example of Elevated Horror? A malign incursion freighted with social subtext. It Follows. Get Out. The gut the scene of an uprising, the return (once again) of the living dead.

And Folk Horror? A curse that reaches back centuries into pre-history, pre-science, pre-sense. An animistic fear of supernatural forces we just can’t shake. Alone, late at night, upstairs a floorboard creaks. Our nerves squeal, it’s a ghost! Our tummy cries fight or flight? But I don’t believe in ghosts, says Reason, struggling to keep up.

Could his best sub-genre be Ontological Horror? Not jump scares, not disgust, just the isolated subject looking into the toilet bowl at a cold indifferent universe reflected back.

No, horror is too neat with its well-worn tropes. The story of the man with two brains, he decides, is a classic mystery, a complex conundrum, a crime story of pure existential noir featuring two loners in conflict: the cop and the crook, the hunted and the hunter, the duelling pair each other’s flip-side – brain versus brain.

While ostensibly a hapless victim of the first brain’s fixations, the second brain is no innocent, and no fool. The second brain knows its role in a macabre dance that could run and run, becoming a series of novellas starring the troubled leads at odds in the mist of a stubborn discontent.

sometimes, the gut is just too much

This is not the narrative Dr Gut relayed several years ago. This isn’t how the wider literature describes his toilet situation. Stop thinking of head and stomach as separate beings, says current wisdom. Think brain-gut axis. Embrace the materiality of existence as an holistic network. But he’s not persuaded. Adrift in a holistic blob is not the state he’s in. His twisted gut leaves him feeling split, one divided in two. Lodged in his self, he believes he is the sovereign owner of his own subjectivity. And yet the story of the man with two brains unfolds without his conscious creative input. He is merely a spectator, like the rest of the readers, wondering what next. Praying for a happy ending.

And he dearly believes in his happy ending. The gut-brain disorder stabs and stabs and stabs away in the lower intestine – angry, insistent troll. The belly blows up like a basketball, some days getting so tight he yearns to take a prod to it, puncture the taut dermis, just get some fucking air out. Always wanting to eliminate, but never going clear. Waits and leaves and comes back again. Waits, then waits, then leaves, only to return. ‘Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes’ (Had to have a Waiting for Godot quote.)

But it is this outsider perspective, the capacity to think outside the thunderbox, which suggests to him that not all hope has passed. While the denouement for the man with two brains is still to be revealed, he believes in transformation. (He thinks he does.) His dead father told him years ago of his own particular gut-brain disorder; and how one morning his belly simply quit hurting. His dad woke to realise the vicious cycle had ended. This could happen. There are tales of change and settlement. He’s been going through something. Resolution can come to him too.

Final words from Kendrick: Fun Fact: I ain’t taking shit back *

Kendrick Lamar in a fish tank, Mr Morale Tour 2022
Kendrick live in a fish tank

And as Kaput heads off for his winter holiday, that’s all for 2022…

bright-coloured cruise ship

* Savior, Mr Morale & The Big Steppers (2022)