Disconcerting Nether Regions

When I was a small child, insatiably curious as ever, whenever I was handed a toy- whether a doll, a plastic elephant, a fluffy teddy bear, an Action Man or a mouse, I had a habit of turning it upside down to give it a quick check-up between the legs. Out of natural curiosity I wanted to ascertain if it was a girl, a boy, or as was usually the case, something other: a neutral creature, or a neutered creature like Barbie with her plastic smile, her streamlined rabbit’s nose ‘down there’, or Action Man with his disappointing featureless mound. At least you could work out which gender they were supposed to be, in their own, coy way. It made little sense to me that other toys had nothing at all, not even a bum. In that case, how did they poo when they needed to? I suppose my fascination with nether regions has continued into adult life.

So it’s no surprise really that I would notice and fixate on two related sights glimpsed in the barrio recently, one of them earlier this evening, the other a couple of weeks ago. Walking down to the plaza from my house one afternoon something propped against one of the trees lining the pavement caught my eye. It was the naked bottom half of a shop dummy. Otherwise intact, it appeared to have been severed at the waist: the  inanimate victim of some conjurer’s trick with saws and boxes gone horribly wrong. It was leaning against the tree, abandoned along with a formica table top and some crushed cardboard boxes. The legs were shapely and there was no moulded hilllock between them; it was a female mannequin, or what remained of her.

The observation might have ended there had I not spotted ‘the legs’ again on my way back up the street a few hours later., and found myself mildly disturbed by the sight. She had been abducted and brought down nearer to the Babylon of Plaza Lavapies, almost onto the corner of it. The displacement suggested a group of lads ‘having a laugh’, a bit of joking around in the street with a bizarre found object. But after whatever high-spirited jinks had taken place, ‘she’ had been thrown onto the floor, cast down in the gutter, and ‘she’ now had a large, round, jagged hole punched open between the legs. As I walked back up my house I tried to work out ‘who’ first of all- who would feel the need to do that to the torso-less bottom half of a mannequin, but more worryingly, why? What for? Why kick a hole in it, and why specifically, there? You may find it laughable that a random sex-crime against a moulded piece of plastic could trouble anybody, but symbolism isn’t symbolism for nothing.

And this evening, on my walk to Atocha, down Calle Argumosa, to get to my private evening class, I spied an eighties throwback- a thing I don’t think you would ever see in the UK, and I’d hoped not to see ever again after the first time, which was in the late eighties. It was while living in El Carmen neighbourhood, just past the bullring, which was a quietly residential area then, the classic backdrop to Almodovar’s ‘What have I done to deserve this?’: towerblocks, the motorway bridge over the M30, dusty parks, lively local bars and old ladies out walking. Now the same sight was following me down the street, surely this shouldn’t be allowed? A dog, crippled by age, or maybe its back limbs crushed or amputated in an accident, walking with its front legs, while its back legs were supported by a low, two-wheeler trolley. Its elderly neighbour dragged it along cheerily on its lead. The wooden spoked wheels looked like they had been cannibalised from a children’s go-kart or buggy. As this decrepit half-animal, half-trolley wheeled and limped past me I asked the same questions as when I had seen this the first time, thirty years ago. Is this an act of supreme devotion on the part of its owner, or of extreme, egotistical cruelty? After all, it’s just a crude kind of a wheelchair, isn’t it? But surely a vet would not suggest this as a solution to the dog’s loss of both hind limbs, would probably advise another, more final one. And not wanting to get down to the nitty-gritty, but obliged to nevertheless, how did this dog poo? How did it sleep? Was it unstrapped from its unwieldy trolley at night, or did it sleep collapsed forward onto its paws? Would the dog rather have died or was it happy to have been kept alive? It didn’t look very happy. It looked as though it was clapped-out and fed up, literally on its last legs, and there were only two of those.

Unfortunately I cannot answer any of these pressing questions: who kicked the fanny out of the shop dummy, or how does a trolley-dog take a dump? And could this be made into a zen puzzle: is it worth asking a question you know you will never get the answer to? All I can say is I have retained my child-like powers of observation and desire to question everything. Metaphorically I am still turning eveything upside-down to get a good look at its goulies.

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