Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Tranquil Clock


An apartment. The white moonlight falls on each object in the living room in turn. The carpet, the table, the sofa, a bookcase, the pictures and paintings on the wall, a two-handed mahogany wall clock. All the inanimate objects appear to come alive, guests of the unusual white light. A meeting place for reality and illusion. A room invested with life. The minute hand (MH) and the hour hand (HH) of the clock strike up a conversation.

MH: I can't find my shoes.

HH: You're a hand on a clock. Hands don't wear shoes. You need feet to wear shoes.

MH: I can wear shoes if I wish.

HH: If that's the case, what do you intend to do with the shoes?

MH: Go for a walk.

HH: Where to? Am I invited?

MH: Only if you have a pair of shoes. (Pause) I feel a bowel movement coming on. (Pause) No. It's passed. I was thinking of going to see the town hall clock. I believe the clock was made by Dotards & Sons of Liverpool and the bell and chimes by Naysayer & Co of Scarborough. It is said the chimes are beautiful to the ear and pleasing to the soul.

HH: Amazing. How do you know all this?

MH: I heard the mistress of the house conversing. A fine looking woman. She had friends over for lunch. (Pause) You must have been daydreaming? A calamitous thing for a clock hand. They were elegantly dressed and sat around eating cake and drinking tea. During their conversations they talked about the beauty and splendor of the town hall clock.

HH: Indeed.

MH: I listened in polite silence, of course.

HH: Of course. What with?

MH: My ears.

HH: You don't have ears.

MH: How do you know? You can't see.

HH: Irrefutable.

MH: That's a big word for something that can't speak.

HH: And for something that can't hear.

MH: Exactly.

HH: A fine pair we are.

MH: Indeed.

Pause

MH: Do you think it will ever end?

HH: What?

MH: Our friendship? Our existence?

Pause

MH: That's funny. You shook your head.

HH: What's funny?

MH: You don't have a head. Neither have I.

HH: You're reading too many spiritual books.

MH: I can't read and neither can you.

HH: True.

Pause

MH: Do you think we have an ultimate goal beyond our prevailing use?

HH: We are on a road with no sign posts. My soul tells me that you and I have a timeless, ultimate meaning. That is all.

MH: You are indeed wise, even if I don't fully understand your explanation.

HH: You're not alone. We could not exist without doubt.

MH: I'm pleased you are my friend.

HH: It is reciprocated for all eternity.

 *
Reflections: My wife is besotted with her in-car digital radio which she listens to in bed at night. My thoughts become hindered as I gaze at her lying in bed, enlivened by drink, bobbing her head, and wielding her feet aloft in time with the horrible racket coming from her radio. When she exists in this 'self-induced' exile I am forced to confront my own neglected thoughts.

A dreadful and precarious position for a dull, exaggerated creature such as me. When language runs dry the mind is derailed. I walk around the old town square several times without seeing a living soul. They could be hiding perhaps, or pretending to be woodpeckers. I sit on a stone sculpture, brood and doze off.  Not good for the piles, not good at all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Notes from a Cast-Iron Bathtub


The landscape has disappeared behind a curtain of silent, glistening snow. The wind is fierce, chilly, full of mischief. It's approaching dawn. I'm sitting in my small, well-groomed living room. The Christmas tree partially fills the room with a gentle, greyish-blue light: a timeless stillness.

The streetlamp outside glows soft like a distant fire. The cars are all white and the trees are dressed in snow. The pale winter sky protects the silence: a silence that permeates the snowy, icy depths. The scene is compelling and delicate. I think of my mother and father's grave covered in snow, the sparse trees nearby eloquent in grief. My parents lie in cold, unimaginable silence.

The weather forecast confirms the snow is causing mayhem. That is how it must be. I shake my head. One should not dread snow, it gives warmth and deadens the monotony of pale skies. Such days are not lost for they are tenderly captured by one's measureless, evolving memory to be evoked perhaps on a warm afternoon, or evening, when peace and quiet abound. 

I decide to take a bath. The fact that I bathe in my neighbour's cast-iron bath tub with his girlfriend ensconced in its interior causes me little concern. Her warm green eyes, soft hands and calm smile beckon me to join her. I do so with profound pleasure. A hot scented bath with a young woman hardly accrues to bitter disappointment so close to dawn. I make a preposterous effort to shroud the flight of years which has ravaged my body. 

Nicole, her long, silky blonde hair spread over her shoulders, tells me she is about to take flight with another man. Indeed, it is her intention never to be in this part of the world again. We drink champagne to celebrate her good fortune.

'I always leave a man in December,' she ventures. 'I must be alone each January. I adore the fresh air and sunlight. It's vital I recharge my batteries before embarking on each new love affair.'

'Of course,' I reply. Her exceptional beauty justifies my response.

'Anyway, I dislike being in love. The thought that a man would believe I could love him day in, day out, forever, is frankly horrifying.' Nicole understood her power over men, or women for that matter. Yet I knew nothing about her.

'I see a look in your eyes I've witnessed a thousand times.'

'Really?' I say, murmuring, trying to smile.

'There are few moments of true passion and exhilaration in one's life. In fact, most of one's time is illusory and wasted.' Nicole leans towards me. 'How old are you?'

'After sharing this bath ... talking to you, I'm not sure? After thirty I stopped counting. To do otherwise ... well, it seemed pointless, exhausting.'

Her wide green eyes stare at me. They sparkle with desire. 'Everything must come to an end.' Her lips part in a sweet, delightful smile. 'Maybe we should just embrace this moment. I'm a woman, which I see you've noticed, and life is always too short.'

Nicole enfolds my hands softly, pulls me towards her and kisses me. My body rises from the dead.
*    
Reflection:  Even though Christmas Day is tomorrow some people are looking forward with churlish eagerness to warm spring mornings, roads without snow, trains and planes running on time, and going to work in heated expensive offices and shops.

An injudicious yearning to embrace the brash, fast world is visible in their cold eyes, bored faces and weary demeanour. Some people (for 'some' have less discernment than others) fail to notice the immediate radiant beauty around them that will soon fade. It is sombre, yet true, that human folly remains fashionable and contagious, and dominates - to a terrifying degree - the eternal mind of humankind.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Layered Memories & Lovers in a Dry Month


I always ignored my late maternal uncle's irreverent greetings as I had no wish to quarrel. He was a widower with years of richness, unhappiness and loss buried deep inside him. I silently sat in a low-backed, wooden chair taking care to sidestep his intense gaze. As he lost himself in his layered memories I often permitted my mind to wander in search of a different existence. Nothing too extravagant, something more than memorable, something entirely unforgettable.

I imagine a completely perfect man in the company of a completely perfect woman. This calms me. It gives me time to forget what most preoccupies me. The woman and I are both high in spirit and wander in a place where sweet flowers grow. Uncertainty, anxiety, painful surprises and evil cannot creep up on us and destroy our exquisite nature. We candidly grapple with existential questions: 'Why does a species such as ours not possess a well-shaped head similar to that of a camel?' - 'Where are we going?' and perhaps the most taxing question of all, 'Can I afford to pay?'

The woman and I are not fools. We speak of the complexity and stupidity of many things including the question of human love, of fate, of creation, of renewal, of desire. Our walk from the garden leads us to the edge of a splendid lake. The world seems captured in the slight silent water and in our pools of thought. Such moments of contentment last only a few minutes, but are worth hanging onto while they last for they bring me a bolt of happiness.

'You're an odd one. Why can't you make a clean sweep of things? Two children by two different woman and still not married! Your behavior is reprehensible.' Osbert's vitriolic voice jolts me from thought; I sigh, acquiesce and turn my eyes towards his gaunt face. 'I'm senile, worn out and have savage dreams,' Osbert exclaims. 'There's nothing left for me to discover in this world. Nothing.' I like Osbert: his intense thinking, his distaste for human ignorance, his mood that can toss like a leave in spring, his contempt for pity, his acceptance of growing old.

Osbert remained active until his demise; sometimes taking a bus into town and a taxi home: the downside being that he stole the vehicles and picked up passengers on route for no charge. I usually had to post bail and collect Osbert from a police station. He lamented, at times: 'Why is my hair snowy-white? I don't even like Christmas?!' And while I was driving, 'A fine boat you have here. Goes at a good pace. In this mist it's hard to tell where the shore starts or ends. How can you see?'

*
Reflections: I was the only boy to drop out of college because I was pregnant. The psychoanalyst said I was obviously starved for attention and fabricated the pregnancy to skip class. When I give birth she jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge. An observer believes her last words were: 'I'll never eat kangaroo meat again'.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Narcissism & How to Dine with a Noisy Eater and Survive


I met an ex-girlfriend yesterday afternoon. At first I thought it was a stranger who had approached me, then I discovered it was Arabella. We eat in a sleazy bar where the women drank beer and the men danced. The longer I gazed at Arabella's face the less I understood what I was looking at.

Life doesn't prepare you for instant confusion, how to think rationally under duress, or how to dine with a 'noisy eater' without wishing to push their face in whatever they are eating. Arabella looked weary, her face damaged by alcohol. She kept flipping through missed calls and messages on her mobile. This tore me up. And to think she was once the prettiest girl in the village.

Appalled by her appearance and behaviour, and devoured by my incessant need to naively judge others simply out of boredom and conceit, my mind went into overdrive. Recalling our short romance reminded me how irrelevant it was.

After some small talk she turned to me, her hazel eyes ready to shed tears, and said, 'Do you remember the afternoon by the river? What images and sensations does it provoke?'

'A fear of rats.'

'You're teasing me. It's the passage of time, emotional currents, fish, men in nylon thigh waders, fishing rods ... '

'You have a great memory, and, if I may say so, a great imagination.' Her self-inflated snobbery and constant preening made me wonder how we had coexisted in a past now entirely dissolved.

'Do you notice anything about me?'

'You still radiate mindless malice when you're not the subject of praise.'

'No, silly. I'm wearing the same skirt!'

'But you were nine, I was ten! You must be approaching sixty!' (I knew Arabella was fifty-two now.)  

'How do I look, and be truthful?'

I lied as best I could. It seemed to satisfy her desire for assurance regarding her appearance. For a moment I saw the smile of a young girl when she was nine, who enjoyed picnics, butterflies, cats, playing the piano, inventing funny nicknames, and mimicking teachers. I didn't disclose to Arabella that I was wearing the same old underwear, which, in their simplicity, remained tight, just like my finances.

After we shook hands and said goodbye I missed her.

*
Reflections:  Scientific experts believe that human beings have about 7,000 facial expressions at their disposal. My wife wears an incessant expression and her resemblance to Colonel Rosa Klebb, the fictional character from the James Bond film From Russia with Love, is uncanny, let alone disheartening.

I try to forget that my wife keeps her 'cocktail party' face (along with other faces) locked in her dressing table. Sometimes you can hear the faces talk for hours: mostly about make-up, beauty tips, parenting, and irritable bowel syndrome. Thankfully, I have my Sooty glove puppet and the darkness.