Maybe just a few -but more likely no one else- were more ingenious than the one who liked to call himself: “the man who makes things contrariwise,” or the “retropoietic man”, or the “inversafacitor” and other wacky names typical of Classical construction and tradition.
He liked to propose himself as an alchemist, inventor, visionary, artist; completely unknown is his identity, though.
He was used to preparing a hard, perfect –perfect!- egg, depriving it of the shell, before boiling it in water. The immense difficulty was to keep the egg shape in the absence of its natural container, or it would have been a banal poached egg. He did it!
When he had guests at home, he offered stuffed eggs and said nothing. They looked normal boiled eggs with tuna and mayonnaise, no one noticed anything, nobody could see anything abnormal -the greatness, the perfection was there-; But how much ignored work was behind that apparently simple plate! The eggs were soon finished, nobody praised them, they were just boiled eggs after all, but hours and a thousand resources and wits were needed to prepare them. He was triumphant! Nobody said anything about my perfect eggs!
The conservation of energy was to be respected, the required dose of it had to be applied, but he had found a way to cross a door -each door- inverting the normal sequence of events, the three typical stages of which it is composed: open it, go through it, close it. He could open it, close it, and then go through, or go through, and then just open and close it, he could even manage to close an open door, go through and then open it again.
Thresholds and locks had been his first love, and his youthful obsession. He knew all about them, all their secrets. He also claimed to know the exact number of working doors, keys, and padlocks present in the world at any given time. But sometimes we have to believe he was full of crap. Who could check that?
What secrets could a door carry within? One thousand! Millions! He would respond with enthusiasm. Every door, even most banal, in an office! Nobody realized it, but the concept of “door” was one of the most complicated in the world, together with the concept of “cup”, and the strongest and most important of world culture (again with that of “cup”), it was a pillar of concepts, and a fascinating one. And he would find the way to get lost, perhaps, in tedious descriptions of each particular peculiarity and specificity of one door over another. Materials, grain, paint, hinges, handles, rusts, woodworms … what a bore!
He turned the knob, pushed the door, passed through, and only after that did he open the lock, then he closed it again and sealed it behind himself. Done! As if he had followed the normal procedure. The result was normal, in fact!
The lock clicked as soon as the key entered it, the bolt was released after the key had been turned from the outside. One of the secrets -he said- was to apply with the fingers the exact amount of effort the lock resistance would require, no less, no more, exactly that amount; at that point, there were other tricks with which to linger, but the most important part was definitely done.
He claimed to have built a castle from its demolition after abandonment. He lived there; it took years, though. In addition, he had arranged it upside down, with the cellars in the attic, the garret under the ground, and he had a dungeon in plain sight in the attic. Such was the level of disguise that those who came in would never suspect being turned around, as was told in the Middle Ages that the Australian men would live, to be sitting in armchair with their feet fixed on the ceiling, the light head dangling down in the void, and even less that the flames of the fireplace were burning pointing down to hell and, moreover, producing good oak chunks out of nothing but black ashes.
He cultivated buds from already blossomed flowers, he painted brand new canvases from cut ones, or immaculate ones from some already painted with exquisite craftsmanship. Yes, he loved Lucio Fontana, Kandinsky, all futurists, but he did it backwards, from a conservative position.
Art was one of his favorite “pastimes”, every one of them! He produced white pages from a thousand thoughts and confused notes, and before from perfect novels that would have made every girl fall in love, set every boy on an adventure, made every grown man reflect on life. He created and then “deconstructed” everything into nothingness. Empty pentagrams were the ultimate result of complex and beautifully orchestrated symphonies. Banal pieces of clay were drawn from vessels so beautiful that they would have fooled the most experienced connoisseur of the millennial Chinese tradition.
At his departure, dozens of complicated books with empty pages would be found in the library, and so forth, dozens and dozens of booklets in the appearance completely void, next to the piano, a room full of apparently never used canvas, and nobody could have suspected that all those things were the final stage of works of art, and all magnificent ones.
Perhaps he was one of the greatest talents of all time, and of course, the most multi-faceted, even though he defined himself in an excessively modest way as only an “amateur”; his home was terribly bare and empty, the echo rang in it, but it also repeated the words backward. It was, however, full of meaning and beauty; who would be able to understand it, anyway? Nor grasp the secret of every omission and lack of complexity of the place, which was so studied, from already complicated situations, and had been realized retouching trivial gestures intricately to paroxysm and spasm, and inverting each stage and process of making in labyrinthine details. What a man!
He had complicated the ritual of tea so much that his preparation in icy water, heated in the opposite direction, infused upside down, before coming out of the tap, with filters turned inside out, teapot backwards, sugar crystallized from the already dissolved one, milk poured before the infusion; and even before taking the cups out of the shelves to contain it, would take hours, so many headaches and such a cost of means, energy, and labor that he had lost all flavor and relevance… the tea itself. But that was a perfect tea from every point of view! Indistinguishable from a normal one.
Even his cat jumped backwards, so he had taught it. In solitary, the cards were “de-shuffled”, otherwise they would order themselves spontaneously from the ace of hearts to the king of spades each time. Chess was played only from the finals with five pieces backwards, all the games ended in the eternal draw of the beginning, but what interesting and witty combinations in the meanwhile! He did not love checkers.
He was secretly satisfied with himself, but he did not let this transpire: “to be satisfied with himself is the apotheosis of the lack of taste” -he said- “is the first of the vulgarities and the last of the worthlessness” … or vice versa: the first of the worthlessness and the last of the vulgarities. He did not even show that he was aware of his greatness, except in his rare notes, here and there inflamed by flashes of unbridled megalomania, which was somehow justified, for once; only from there, we know his history.
In real life, however, he had no vanity; his joy was intimate, and it consisted in being able to hide among the many, among us, the inept, never noticed in spite of his immense genius and its extravagant estrus; he had been able to go completely unnoticed, and –the fact that made him most proud- without leaving the slightest sign in the world, without having transformed or improved it in any way. No one ever noticed anything, not even that almost every move and gesture of his were so damned complicated and impossible, in their own way all “artistic”, though their result was never, never and by definition, intended to be absolutely nothing special.