"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Friday, 1 January 2010

27. “The Guy Knits! No Wonder You’re Upset!”

"I probably gasped aloud and watched that hot air of mine momentarily warm the faces of complete strangers. Sunlight, burning bright in my stomach, seemed to scorch a multitude of paths through me and out of me. It was wild, golden, tempestuous, and deliciously sore. And two days before the start of a new year too, and here was a new beginning for me, coming in nice and early"

Oh! I just remembered something else in life that I’d like to condemn and damn: the illusion of momentum that cars give you. All that spurious broom! and vroom! and nee-ow! and brr-brr-brr! and phwoom! And all the while you’re stationery inside, but you feel that you’re hurtling forward – and not just physically, but mind and soul and emotions too. And heading towards some destination – inner and outer identities in sync, everything progressing, and that longed-for goal getting nearer all the time, for once. Oh, for once I'd like it to be true! For once? What a great deception it all is! The body moves – but there lies, and ends, the momentum. The rest of the stuff is a great big bogus broom-broom, if you ask me! A great phoney phwoom!

The day that I set out to meet with James started out with so much promise too.  My car had been surrounded by snow for days and with the engine refusing to start up. Moreover, with no phone, and therefore no way to tell James that I would be unable to meet him to give him his corrected knitting, I was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by misfortunate. Yet when I turned the key that morning, I was stunned to hear the engine start up, and even more stunned as the car eased over the bank of snow before me. Amazing! Extraordinary! For such a thing to happen to ill-starred, doomed, haunted me!

Within minutes I was hurtling along the country roads away from Mordan House, heading towards the neighbouring town and my rendezvous.

Hurtled? What the hell is it you drive again?

Yes, I know I drive a Punto, but can’t you use your imagination?

That’s a lot of imag-!

Jeez, just pretend that it hurtled, will you!

Everything passed by like metaphors for things in life. Bends in the road were internal difficulties to be negotiated skilfully; trees that whizzed by gave me the sense of moving further towards something natural, and away from artifice and show; road signs were intentions spelled-out, clear, definite and achievable; the people I passed – walkers, farmers, labourers – were like real people I’d known, and I was leaving them behind without much thought; pylons and street-lights were those impediments that have towered over me in life, ready to inhibit progress, but I dived in and out of them unnoticed; sheep were my sheepishness …

Oh, I think I know what the bulls were! Your life’s been full of …

…Well, okay, maybe! Maybe you’re right, and maybe the bulls were all my bullshit! And the crows, sitting on fences, were the scavengers in my life, all those people stealing from my soul then taking to the air …

Don’t forget the pigs: the number of times you stuck your fat old head in a trough, and then felt really, really dirty afterwards!

Uh, well, hm.

Anyway, when I arrived in town …

Town? You done with the animals? But you never mentioned cocks! Or rat-catching farmhouse pussies! Do they have beaver in Scotland? You didn’t even say anything about wild tits! Hey, surely you’re not going to forget about the birds and the bees altogether, now that’s just..!

Anyway! When I arrived in town I felt full to the brim with expectation. No, overflowing with the stuff. Expectation everywhere! There are events like this, where every failure, every ridicule, every humiliation, every brutal and agonising bone-snapping fall, drops away as if they were all only ever comprised of nothing. And hope – or rather the belief that this time is already different – seems to illuminate every atom of self and air. Nothing is of the past. None of it even exists. All is now, and now’s ability to tumble forward, creating only golden newness and a golden future. That’s how I felt. The energy – of course, and the nervousness, yes! – was exhilarating. I probably gasped aloud and watched that hot air of mine momentarily warm the faces of complete strangers. Sunlight, burning bright in my stomach, seemed to scorch a multitude of paths through me and out of me. It was wild, golden, tempestuous, and deliciously sore. And two days before the start of a new year too, and here was a new beginning for me, coming in nice and early. Radiantly early! I’d missed this so much I could have cried now that I had it back!

"Everything passed by like metaphors for things in life. Bends in the road were internal difficulties to be negotiated skilfully; trees that whizzed by gave me the sense of moving further towards something natural, and away from artifice and show"

What? Missed what?

Hope, silly. A premonition of love, stupid.

Oh, yes. Yes, that.

I knew exactly where I was to meet James – after all, I’d rehearsed it so many times. I parked where I knew I’d park. I walked the path I knew I would walk. I almost took the number of paces I presumed I’d need to get me to the front door of the café. I even walked in the manner that I’d rehearsed – not just in my head but in reality, up and down the ground floor corridor of Mordan House! I saw the door – the colour was the same, the handle in the same place, the ‘Open’ sign bobbed as I knew it would as I opened the door, and a bell rang mildly and daintily as I entered the familiar atmosphere of heat, smells and chatter. Of course I had pictured faces that I knew, sprinkled around the café but in places where I’d seen them before - yet, all of a sudden, the momentary realisation that all was not as I had imagined made me feel a little giddy and a little sick. I knew none of the faces, and everyone was sitting in seats that I had imagined occupied by other people, or had envisaged entirely empty. The waitress was one that I had seen before – all pulse and breath and bloody well walking about and stuff - yet not the one I had conceived. It was all so uncontrolled by my imagination. Entirely free. And the flagrant rebelliousness inherent in all of these gentle, mild, inoffensive and perfunctory little acts felt like an assault. Like a multitude of barely apparent slaps. The littlest of shoves. Teeny tiny attacks upon me. But forcefully received, to the extent that I felt instantly bruised.

"I trembled. I dripped away inside – second after second saw more and more substance melt and disappear. Wax turned entirely to wane. I felt black inside, but a wash of black, all uneven and patchy, but so obviously the same woeful and wanting shade"

How must I have looked? Quesy. A tad feverish even. Certainly a bit on the faint side. It was indeed how I felt. I took a seat. Seat? I took the wrong seat! I faced away from the window. Away from the window! I was supposed to face it! I looked around me furtively and uncertainly. Jeez, I was supposed to have taken 'Villette' out of my bag and been nonchalant and unconcerned, and preoccupied by my own inner blasted bleedin’ life! I fiddled with my fingers. Calmly laced fingers, they were supposed to be! Confident fingers, for Christ’s sake! I left my coat on too, feeling too jarred and too suffocated by indecision to formulate and carry out the action. On? I left it on? Sweet bloody hell! So what about the blouse, the necklace, the upper-arms, the shape, the colouring, the contrasts, the fabric, the wrists, the bangle, the sheer white cliffs of lovely neck, Stephanie bloody Fey, the slight openness of blouse that revealed the delicate transition from flatness to swell, the whole overwhelming and artistically perfect effect? Jesus, effect, woman, effect! And what else? Ah, yes, I chewed on my bottom lip. Uh, hello! Licked lips, remember! Licked! Flip this bitch over, I give up!

And I did give up too. I don’t recall at all trying to recover my position. I trembled. I dripped away inside – second after second saw more and more substance melt and disappear. Wax turned entirely to wane. I felt black inside, but a wash of black, all uneven and patchy, but so obviously the same woeful and wanting shade.

"He looked like his knitting, and I think this is probably why I loved him. He was colourful, yet subtly so, the colours layered like beds of differently shaded character, but all was a touch ragged, knotted and unpicked in places, unshaped, dropped stitches everywhere, but with a direction pushing on in each soft woollen knitted thread of him"

I guess I needn’t have worried though. James never showed up. Not at any time within three quarters of an hour. Not at any time within two pots of tea and one piece of homemade carrot cake. Not at any time within one chewed lip, one picked nail and a couple of harshly tugged locks of red hair. Golden red hair too! Underneath the hat that I hadn’t found the strength to remove.

Well, little irritating voice? Haven’t you anything to say to all of that?

Yes. The guy knits. And you’re upset about what exactly?

Well. So. Anyway. I finally slipped out of the place. 'Slipped' being the appropriate word. I left more as if something slippery had eased me out of the door without me being able to resist. No decision, just a happening of sorts. As I headed back to my car I saw a shape that I recognised in the distance, walking beside another shape that I didn’t know, and both heading in my direction. There were spots of sleet in the air and a blustering wind, so most people had their heads angled towards the pavement. I stopped and held my head high, straight and true, as I recognised the distinct shape of James. He looked like his knitting, and I think this is probably why I loved him. He was colourful, yet subtly so, the colours layered like beds of differently shaded character, but all was a touch ragged, knotted and unpicked in places, unshaped, dropped stitches everywhere, but with a direction pushing on in each soft woollen knitted thread of him. Something was taking a direction and sticking to it – it was apparent in his stubborn but suspicious eyes, in the angled set of his head on his limp shoulders, in the uncertain yet wide swing of his arms - like there was a knitting pattern somewhere in his head, and he was trying hard to make sense of it and follow it. As for me, in my head, just like in my bag, I had and saw a piece of knitting that was just perfect.

I stopped, and the pieces of the world moved around me like a mobile above a baby’s cot. He got closer, closer, closer. He got up to me. Me, stationery; him, full of momentum. He began to move past me. All that moved with me was my neck turning slowly like a weather vane in someone else’s breeze. I murmured an infantile and apologetic “Hi”, in neighbouring town-fashion, and he walked by having given only the smallest, gruffest grunt and glance in my direction, also in something of the town's fashion.

The woman beside him just continued talking and he just continued listening. She wasn’t young, she wasn’t old. She was just there and, surprisingly, I didn’t give her much thought. But she didn’t strike me as the issue. The issue was that I could see and sense the entirety of James’s momentum speeding away from me, body and soul. While I stood still. A mere weather vane, made specifically to register another’s climate. He'd forgotten about the planned meeting and forgotten about me.

As I said before, you might want to think about the cock as a metaphor!

"The issue was that I could see and sense the entirety of James’s momentum speeding away from me, body and soul. While I stood still. A mere weather vane, made specifically to register another’s climate"

But why had I thought that everything was going to work out? What was that thought that I’d had all morning? I’d known it before, many times in my life. Yes, it’s that sense of being looked down upon, it’s that projection of expectation onto a conjured-up illusion of external presence, divine presence, or at least a dead presence. And that’s all it was: an illusion conjured up by me! I’d done this so many times before! Years of it! Every time, when I’d looked at things in this way, I can recall looking up at the faces that I’d imagined to be there, and realised that all that was there was muteness. My own hopes fooling me again. There was nothing there. And, look, I’d done it again. Again!

Again? When will I learn what a bloody great deception it all is!

I’ll say this one more time: the guy knits! If he was my man, I’d be upset too!

God! Just leave it will you! Lay off me, whoever you are! Just not now. Please. Just not now.

So. I drove home.

This time the metaphors were nice and apt. I was heading backwards from an illusion that I had merely moved towards in body, returning to the dark and empty reality that was my home. No illusion to be discerned there! Overhead, clouds pooled their resources, locking arms and setting their faces against a flawed world. I gathered in all the muscles of my face and grimaced, a tight-fisted wall pitched against the damage inside. Heading back to an empty house and an empty New Year that I needed to steal myself against in order to endure it.

But as I parked the car back outside Mordan House, it was the voice that I suddenly found myself wondering about. No, not a dead astronaut’s voice, and it wasn't any kind of conventional external voice that I was hearing either, but the italicised voice that had been with me so much of the day. It seemed almost physical, rather than fantastic. And oddly familiar. But whose voice was it? Whose voice?

1 comment:

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

The boy I had lunch with in high school knitted. I'm sorry now we lost touch. I'm sorry you were stood up.
BIG Hug and warm regards,
Simone