The Secret Room
by Maryse Lariviere

The Hypnotic Show
Kunstverein Toronto,
July 2014

"A script for Marcos Luytens, for him to work with, making use of each story, by Angie Keefer and Tamara Henderson, to hypnotize the audience with those short narratives, that usually lasts some 15 minutes carried by his voice and renditions - it does not follow the text verbatim, actually uses it as a blueprint or a set of hints rather than a precise scenario..." Raimundas Malašauskas

Image credit: Scores for session by Marcos Luytens, (pencil, watercolor) 2014.


You are casually walking home. It is Sunday night, almost ten p.m., and the sun is still up while the moon is low on the horizon. The gold details of the church across the street are heightened by the twilight. The wind suddenly picks up, breezes through the trees lining the sidewalk, and shakes all the flowers up into the air around you. You stop, stand still amidst this delicate fragrant cloud of white blossoms, and breathe in slowly while looking up at the celestial bodies in the dusking sky.

You are filled with happiness, you are smiling, and everything about this moment feels right. For the kick of it, you decide to follow the path of petals drawn right in front of you by the winds. Once you get across the pedestrian bridge lit by these futuristic arches, you decide that the path is now dictated by white reflective pebbles embedded in the black pavement. The curve is steep. It leads you directly to a building covered with minuscule black and white mosaic tiles styled in an intricate houndstooth pattern. You think out loud that this has to be your destination: “This has to be my destination!”

You are very lucky; you have landed right in front of a pub. The main entrance door is wide open to let the fresh air in. Under the low ceiling of the tiny lobby, you are immediately face three doors. Right ahead is the family department: a counter-top cigarette display sits next to a food warmer filled with scotch pies. The bartender asks if you are looking for a carry-out. You choose instead to visit the “lounge”, which seems slightly more posh to you. The left side of the pub, the popular “bar” side, is way too loud and jolly anyways.

The door on your right has a little window with glass polka dots and the word “lounge” painted in red vertically across it. You pull on it gently. It is now fully open but you hesitate to go in because the light is very dim. You blink calmly at the sight of the room; you can't believe what's in front of you. The decor in the lounge is too intense. Everything in the room is red. The squishy carpet, the ceiling tiles, the metallic lampshades, the heavy curtains, the textured wallpaper, the stained-glass windows, the vinyl chairs and the velvet sofas, even the wood panelling is in cherrywood. The atmosphere suddenly weighs heavily on you especially since the place is completely empty, but you feel calmer than ever.

You walk across the room to sit near the illuminated jukebox. It is a Lynx jukebox, but you notice that the logo looks much more like a sphinx with a sun all around it and some sort of pyramid in the background. After leaning against the back of your chair, you look up and finally notice an older gentleman sitting quietly right underneath a model sailboat that rests on the window ledge. He is so motionless, you start worrying that he might not be real. But oh! He makes a move. His right arm reaches for the glass and brings it to his mouth. He then swallows a few gulps before putting the glass back on the table. He looks straight ahead into the void the whole time.

You ring the buzzer next to your seat and the waiter comes to your table to take your order. Meanwhile, the immobile man is now strutting his stuff to the jukebox. You notice he has a giant eye tattooed on his throat. You are slightly irritated by how hard he is pressing on the buttons of the jukebox. He plays a couple of old Roy Orbinson songs. While looking in your direction, he says the music reminds him of David Lynch's films for some reasons. He then sits next to you, very close, too close, way too close, and start reading his newspaper. You ask him if he would like a drink. You are offering, but he replies: “You can smoke and drink for me; I have smoked and drank enough for a lifetime already.”

You roll yourself a cigarette. Your drink is in front of you on the table, so you grab it while you stand up. You go through the “Gents” door, it smells rancid in there, and you pass the toilets to move on to another door. You are now in the back section of the bar. Peppy the poodle comes to greet you. You bend down to pet him on the head. You are mesmerized by his huge puffy hair, so much you can't stop giggling.

Almost immediately, a wood panel in the wall beside you slides open mysteriously. You can't resist entering the narrow and dark hallway. You are quickly confronted by a single door that is attached to two doorways which are together making a v-shape. You hesitate, you slowly become anxious, you can't make up your mind about which door to enter. You close your eyes, and go right into the double door. The room is very narrow, all wood panels again. There is a radio, a flat screen TV, and a gas stove but they are all turned off. All you hear is the hum of the city coming from the slit opening in the skylight above you.

A key feature of the room is its ashtrays; there are maybe ten of them. And of course, you notice the tobacco smell. It is the first time in ten years that you have seen a smoking room. It is of course a hidden one. You savour the feeling of being in on the secret. You sit down on a red leatherette bench and light your cigarette. At eye-level, there are three watercolours hung on the wall. Each of them depicts a black bird surrounded by some greenery. In all of them, there is a huge yellow circle representing the sun. You stare at them intensely for a while. You admire how the paintings are unguarded and free, while wondering about how the art world went wrong.

You take your time to finish smoking your cigarette. You have been here before, but you don't remember when. Once you are done puffing on your cigarette, you butch it carefully in the bright red ashtray on your right. You decide to return to the main room but are unsure how to get there. You hold onto the door keys that are now in your hands, since the doors are all locked. You first go through a door, but somehow you are right back inside the inside that you took inside from the outside in order to get outside what you were outside. As soon as you go through that door again the other way, you get back to the other side.
The lounge is now overly crowded with drunk people. There are people everywhere, too many people. The bartender seems overwhelmed, with his black tie tossed over his shoulder. He offers you a free toastie. You never know when the toasties come, but when you get one, you feel blessed. You munch on it as fast as possible because you hear the bell ringing. Behind the bar, the pub matron has just grabbed a large brass bell by the handle. She starts waving it above her head. The bell is tolling for last call. Dong, dong, dong, dong!