Monday, January 30, 2012

In the deep

Three months after we parted, for three days, I had each day a phone call from someone who didn't say a word. I couldn't even hear their breathing. At first, I wondered whether it was a robot, calling in the hope of being picked up by an answering machine, but they stayed connected for a while.

Who are you? What do you want? It seemed pointless to ask because somehow I knew that they wouldn't answer, and they didn't.

On the fourth day there was no call and I missed that silent communion.

Some days later, walking on the front street of my town, a woman -- a girl you'd call her in less liberated times -- approached me and asked for help.

She did not ask for money. She said, Can you help me? But I took it for begging and walked on. She did not ask twice. I had barely even seen her. All she was, a flash of blonde hair and a white scarf.

I like to think I am a generous person but I did not stop.

A couple of days later, I was walking along the same street and I saw a piece of white cloth across the road from me. Could it have been her scarf? I couldn't say and I wasn't curious enough to cross over to look.

It was just trash.

A few months later I became ill. I did not know what it was but I felt drained and feverish. I visited the doctor, but he was not very interested. He seemed tired and dispirited. I felt like I must be wasting his time. He sent me for tests.

I did not go for the tests. I went to bed instead and stayed there for a couple of days and felt better.

In the woods near my home, birds sang in the trees. As I walked, the sun was refracted by the leaves, bright where it felt its way through. The birdsong lifted me; I felt better than I had for a while. I realised I had been spending too long in the house. I resolved to change things.

But I didn't. It's easier to promise than deliver.

Some time in the next week I thought I saw the same girl from the window of a train but it was going so quickly that she disappeared from view without my being able to get a clear picture.

Or had she even been there? Sometimes ghosts wander in the space that you can only see from the corner of your eye.

I had been having dreams of riding on a horse. I had never done that so I didn't understand the dream but there I was, galloping in some fresh meadow. I could hear the beat of the hooves and the breath that steamed from the horse's wide nostrils. I could hear the birds echoing in the woods as I walked. I could hear my own heart beating, feverish, sweating in a dark night that seemed never to end.

Some days later, walking on the front street of my town, a woman -- a girl you'd call her in less liberated times -- approached me and asked for help.

I stopped to see what she wanted and before I knew it we were kissing among the leaves that fell from the trees in the woods where birds sang and the shards of light threatened to blind me.

I could feel the leaves against my back and drifting across my face. I could feel the leaves in my mouth, the smell of wet earth and the salt from a sea that I could hear but not see.

A couple of days later, I was talking to a friend who was telling me that he had seen you a week or so ago and you were fine and had lost a few pounds.

I did not remember that you even had a few pounds you could lose but when I tried to recall your body, all I could see was arched white skin, and in my ears was rushing water, rain on the roofs of the houses in my street.

There is lightning in the night when I return home but I'm not afraid, although the electric air is lifting the hair on my arms and the rain does not relent the whole way from the station to my front door.

I dry myself with a towel, the rough cotton feels like it may rasp all the skin from my body, and I am thinking about what you would find beneath it.

Some days later, walking on the front street of my town, a woman -- a girl you'd call her in less liberated times -- approaches me and asks for help and I want to say, Hey, I cannot help myself so what can I do for you? but the words echoing in my head sound so crass that instead I shake my head and keep it bowed as I walk away.

Wait, wait, she is saying, but I am wishing it would not be too strange just to run.

Wait, wait, I only wanted to ask...

I am breathing hard. I want to stop and still myself, bring my breath back into my body, enclose everything I have ever released, swallow my existence and cease to be.

All there is is the sound of my breath. Are you okay? All there is is the sound of my heart cascading symphonies of life. Are you okay are you okay are you okay.

I realise I do not know where I am. I have been walking without looking where I was going. I am deep in it, lost in a place I should know but there's no signpost, no clue, and finally I say

Yes, what can I do?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anything I could say to praise this post seems trite. It left me speechless, throat tight with both beauty and pathos.


January 31, 2012 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

A pleasure as always. Thank you.

January 31, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Becks said...


January 31, 2012 at 1:16 PM  
Anonymous knleg said...

It's not often I comment publicly on my son's writing, but I think this piece illustrates what I have said for many years. The publishers who reject his work need their backsides kicking! Keep on Zen - there are enough people reading your blog and getting pleasure to make it worthwhile until the publishing world wakes up!

January 31, 2012 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Looney said...

Stunning. That is all.

February 7, 2012 at 5:09 PM  

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