Thursday, December 24, 2015

Notes from a Cast-Iron Bathtub at Christmas

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 a small moderately groomed living room. The Christmas tree partially fills the space 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 that the snow is causing mayhem. This is how it must be. I shake my head. One should not dread snow for 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 an absurd effort to shroud the flight of years which have 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 and 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. Nicole's 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.' She understood her power over men, or women for that matter. And yet I knew nothing about her.

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

'Really?' I say, murmuring and 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 and troublesome.'

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 gives itself up to pleasure and rises from the dead.
Reflection:  Even though Christmas Day is tomorrow some people are looking forward with an ill-conceived eagerness to warm spring mornings, roads without snow, trains and planes running on time and going to work in heated offices and shops.

This delusive yearning to embrace a brash fast world is visible in their cold eyes, bored faces and weary demeanours. They fail to notice the immediate radiant beauty around them that will soon fade. It appears that human folly remains fashionable and contagious and dominates, to a terrifying degree, the eternal mind of human life. Quite disheartening, really.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Origin of My First Name & Ronald Coleman

I am sitting in a chair thinking of my name, how it came about, and why well-manicured fingertips usually belong to people who wear velvet knee breeches while taking a bath. I'm studying a photograph of my mother laughing, her joyous mood apparent. She is sitting in an armchair in the back garden; I am resting on her lap. She is shading her eyes from the sun with her right hand and looking straight into the camera.

My mother is cheerful and so am I. The armchair? Impossible to tell. I remember asking my mother the origin of my first name. She told me I was named after the English actor, Ronald Coleman. Naturally, he was indecently handsome (my mother preferred him with a moustache), well-mannered, impeccably groomed and statuesque. He took care to preserve his looks, of course, and it worked its charm on my mother. He often played an autumnal and amused romantic.

My distress was compounded by my mother's insistence that he possessed a beautiful speaking voice. By contrast my own voice had yet to take shape. What chance did I stand against Ronald Coleman, who could switch on surface charm at will? I lay in bed at night tormented by a man I had never met, nor ever would. My life had been thrown into despair by images of a charming, intelligent and 'indecently handsome' movie star. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that nature has not been generous to me either in terms of my build, my face, or my speech. 

As one gets older, however, one understands the ambiguity and the need to distrust images. The faces of film stars and beautiful people still haunt me, but in the darkness I pay little attention to their features. They are destined, like me - and those I love – to the same destiny. This thought does not bring me solace, only anguish. 

Nevertheless, my mother and I spent precious afternoons watching b/w reruns of the film Random Harvest which was released in 1942. A part Ronald Colman played opposite Greer Garson. I had never seen such a beautiful woman on film or television. Everything seemed simple, yet fantastical. One day, I would miraculously encounter Greer Garson, propose marriage (she would implausibly accept), and Ronald Coleman would be invited to "our" wedding - much to my mother's delight, of course! 

A recent study, conducted by Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal, on how your name has a profound effect on how serious you may be taken by others is not to be published in the foreseeable future. In a statement, the publishers, Donski, Donner, and Kebab, said the Doctor's name was unpronounceable (even by the Doctor, himself), had no appeal, was too long, and - combined with his bumper-pad hips - made promoting the book analogous to flying to the moon in a garbage can. If the Doctor, however, is willing to adopt a reasonable pseudonym there remains a chance the book will still hit the shelves: mostly by those foolish enough to buy the book.

Reflection: Some people underestimate the importance of living for the moment. Most things of value tend to be of a transient nature: laughter, joy, love, happiness, family, friends, good health and memorable encounters.