I stood staring at the map of the underground. Colours, lines crossing and points of a compass confusing, after half a bottle of wine and by artificial light I was somewhere between confident lost. Jack said this way, Alex that. “Take the tube to here with me and walk the rest”; my City-app-map sent me the opposite way entirely. Lines closed and signals failing I was headed somewhere and as I marked the stops on the pink line above my head, a man stepped onto the yellow poled carriage, a leash grasped with his life, a blonde guide on four paws on the floor before him. As he took his seat, he clicked his teeth and kissed the fur forehead that showed him.
He takes his phone from a cloudy, well pocketed sandwich bag. Equally aged, he taps the keys, making that now-retro bleep of non-touchscreen messaging. I glance across and, nestled in his palm he writes ‘I love you’, sent with a couple of capitalised crosses to a name I didn’t quite catch. He glances up, smiling, his eyes reflecting every bit of sentiment he shared with his wife, friend, lover, mother, partner; whoever they may be.
Are you watching, or are you taking part, are you experiencing?
The words of Marina Abramović danced through my head whilst reflecting on my experience of her 512 hours. I’m on the fence, during those hours spent in the white walled rooms at The Serpentine Gallery, taking everything in. Sound, silenced, muffled through the headphones cocooning my ears. Eyes, intermittently closed, part in meditation. Am I watching? Am I taking part? Am I alone? Are my thoughts my own?
The early evening sky glowed amber, coloured by a sinking sun. She burnt, setting into a cover of clouds to light another landscape. I drove through dusk along the motorway, singing to myself and an open window to the quiet of the roads. Silenced only by a squirrel, his fur unmarked as he lay on a cold, tarmac road, already his grave.
I lean my head against the window, cold to my cheek. The countryside, with her grey skies and water-fed fields of green grass quickly pass. A lady to my right reads today’s newspaper, folded in half as she plays origami with the pages, whilst the manta king the seat in front repeatedly taps the keypad of his Samsung smartphone.
The days of summer are dropping, like the flies falling into the cooler days of August.
Land became lake in the first downpour of Autumn.
The soft gristle of a pencil, grey against the beige of a blank page in a old but unused notebook, whose corners are creased from their meeting with rain.
A spoon intermittently clinks against ceramic; milk silently splashes paper and the chewing of breakfast cereal resonates from my jaw.
The sounds of morning, otherwise silent (except passing aeroplanes overhead).
"She has wings, my child, born with wings she was."
He smiled as he put his emptied glass of water down next to the screwdrivers on the hallway table. We’d spent an hour or so talking about immersion heaters and broken boilers, between the tales he shared of his disabled daughter and a wife lost to a cancerous battle four years prior.
"There’s no parts", he told me, "no manual to fix it". We were jumping between electrical speak and his profound snippets of a life-well-lived.
Then close your eyes and drift softly into the embrace of black, dreamless slumber.
Through the open window wafts sugar laced, baking cake mix from a home across the road. In a moment, I’m taken back to being seven years old, stood in my Grandmother’s kitchen, cheeks sticky from licking the bowl of raw cookie dough.
We laughed, like siblings should, a shared humour misunderstood
of any sense of sensibility from others of different blood.
On the pages of Dali’s early years, an unknown hand underlined entire paragraphs, enthusiastically made illegible notes to the blanks of the paper and exclaimed YES! to the words she’s (for I presume, with the lick of led, a woman’s wrist) read across the chapters recounting Salvador’s creativity from teens to twenties. As the pages to the left of my thumb fall heavier than those to the right, the penciled notes become less frequent, until corners are no longer creased and markings cease entirely, leaving a life only half (un)read
From where do you come, unanswered and missed call, with your unknown digits and silent ringtone. Are you but another prerecorded message; even so, why not speak after the beep, next time.
I’ll wait behind the moon for you, he said, some years before a fatal last breath.
And still, she stands by the window when the curtains have been drawn, stars cocooned around her.