Friday, 9 October 2009

The growth of things

The lace curtains are shifting - billowing in and sucking back out again so that they intermittantly, like the drawing of breath, stick to the pains of glass. All this in an unhurried way. It is not of the human hand. But where is the opening for that through-breeze? The top and bottom of each window on this second floor balconied flat, one of several that I can see from the metal cold black bench across the street where I sit in the sunlight, is level to the upper and to the lower beading. I continue to fix my attention to the sway and patterning of the curtain. I want to follow it for some time to see what it is about and really I have no choice because it has got to be that I must know what is making the curtain shift. It is strange, soothing and mesmerising after my long walk.

Just before coming here I had turned a corner having finally got past a dawdling group with a miniature brown dog with three legs hopping and counteracting a tendency to fall over into the road by leaning heavily towards the other side. That side is the side nearest to the wall of  the building where one back leg is missing and which is therefore much lighter and so apt to flip up. Not even a stub is there. What remained is the curvature of the back end of the small furry dog as if it had been rounded off as a carpenter rounds off the edge of a tabletop.

After getting past them and turning a corner where a curved glass window follows the curvature of the street to display period furniture inside the shop, I sit down outside on a fabric dipped chair which has been put there especially. I am aware that there is a well dresssed man in a dark suit inside the shop behind a wooden desk on the phone. I have been carrying shoes in a bag for a long while. I wait; remain where I am as the dawdling group followed by the three legged dog catch up and cross the road at the corner. Then I go into the shop- because I feel a compulsion to-  and it is full of polished stained oak cabinets and curved metal braided setteees with puff leather covers punched and stretched with leather buttons rivetted into place intermittantly. The prices are phenomenal running into thousands. The man is still on the phone, feighning absorbtion. I go out and cross the road over to the bench in the sunshine which is a small enclave nestled into a small fenced and gated square, overflowing with growth. It is as if the area where that bench sits on the pavement side has been cut out and pruned away from the overwhelming growth which has simply been corralled into a slightly smaller area at that point, squeezed in and barricaded there. It is pushing against the outer perimeters now. There is no more give way.

A rotound  man with a mass of dark hair on his chest and shoulders and a large belly completely exposed which is slightly glowing and looks tender, comes out on to one of  the verandas. He is holding a can of beer. I am distracted for a moment from looking at the billowing curtains and following their actions There are many plants climbing up the walls on his veranda all by now with large rubbery leaves and  thick rope-like stalks growing out of giant pots and empty catering tins poking through the frames of the metal brocade work on the veranda railing. He looks both across the road to where I sit and down into the street directly below which is really not that far from him so that people could probably actually smell his breath or perspiration if the wind was travelling in the right direction. Down below in the street running along the length of the balconies people are walking past with bunches of colourful flowers some held upright in front of them like torch beacons and some who are swinging them back and forth from the stems and the scrunched in plastic and paper wrapping like an umbrella loosely folded. Others have them slung over their shoulders as if it were meat brought from the kill. The rotound bald man addresses everyone who passes as he slugs his beer. Some look up, smile, pass a word or two -though two chinese women particulary are quite alarmed and do not now what is expected of them- others simply keep going with a steady stride, never wavering. Certainly not looking. He seems to stand back and witness this, half waving them on with a flick of the wrist that holds the beer can.

Now I see what is making that curtain move in that flat, adjacent to the veranda of the balding man; there's a tiny gap between the upper and lower window panes at first unnoticeable, where they would usually meet in the middle. I do not understand how that gap is ever closed without then creating a compensatory draft at top or bottom. I take out one of my shoes from the bag and turn it over in my hand. A good shoe if a little large. One shoe is always bound to be too large or too small because of a discrepancy in foot size that I have to live with. I put the shoe back in the bag and get up reluctantly. I pass the straight back of a sleek grey cat sitting on its hind legs with it's head bolt upright on top of its erect spine, vertebra on top of vertebra, staring into the piles of undergrowth at the other side of the locked gate. When I move it leaps into that undergrowth between the the metal struts and ceases to be there without missing a beat.

I am walking up the street on the other side of the road from the flats with the verandas and the road seems impossibly long. I am dragging my feet. I am walking in the shadow, passing more people now hurrying in the opposite direction with cut flowers. I feel out of sync. And there is something of the sense of dread in relation to the direction I am taking. I am not wanting to go that way but I am going that way. The numbers of people are thickening. The flowers linger in my view. They are hiding faces, standing in for them. Cutting out large sections of the body which simply are disapearing behind the displays. People are triumphant. They are brandishing their flowers before them, clearing the way with them. Sitting on walls with them. Who would crush flowers? They are wearing them against their chest, heaving bossoms and chest cavities with the  weight and sheer effort of keeping the flowers from crushing one anther; of crushing them. The flowers are rising and sinking with every breath, snatching away the free Co2 from their new hosts. I`m at the begining of the market and it is only going to get worse. I have the feeling that the colours will  be particulary painful today. Right away everything I have just explained doubles and redoubles in thickness. There is a slow motion parade of people in both directions rinsing through one another with elbows and smiles. The stall holders are holding forth their pitches, voices rising and careening like a navigational alarm which pops a figure out of a certain lingering outside of their sphere of operation with an exalted siren sound coming between piped lips that only offers closure like the descent from an abyss when that figure has beeen nudged and primed by this remote vocal sensore into the range of their own stall. Everything is on offer right now. "All that for a fiver". Stalks are slammed and wedged together in one fist then another portion unplugged from the one of many neck to neck brimming vases. Pink pressing in on pink- petals deformed from one another, folded like toilet paper. Rows and rows of plastic high rise pots each with a growth farmed into a simultaneous existance of exactly so high with no recorder information on where it will go next. A woman looks at the stallholder with a bunch of blooming rhodedendrums in every colour imaginable including sea blue, violet and deep sea blue-black at least three months past the time when they should be all dead. Here they are today punched out into mute life- startled and startling- aggresively alive, brushed back and forwards under the noses of the same dazed passers-by as they go one way and then the other way. I am ricochetting from one colour to another, each colour magnified by the sheer excess in numbers. Getting away from one means having to rest in another until I have to get away from that one. So it goes on. They all start to merge in on one another and that's when I know I'm in real difficulty because they appear to be yelping like mad dogs. People are carting around armfulls, forgetting to hold on to loved ones, children, essential groceries. Forging ahead; driven. The crackwhip voices of the stall holders coax and bend that luxurious swath of bodies who are serving the flowers now- overwhelmed by the excess of smell that masks and replaces their own slightly salty smell, making everyone disorientated and apt to bouts of amnesia where they forget the people they know and love. These are heady days and everyone is glorified on this Sunday by these sun adornments. I would like a part of this fierce finger up to the recession by buying something that strictly speaking you don't need (though it may need you) but I can't do it. For one thing the boots in the bag are too heavy and the intoxication is already making me stare blankly into each flower with no ability to speak or formulate requests. That would be o.k because the stall-holders are good at reading between the lines and pressing bunches in on the nooks and crannies of people. But they can sense that I`m in no position to reach for my purse. Deal with money. So they don't even try. A couple pass a stall where I am stopped, not actively persuing choices. More simply given up on the act of walking. "We could buy the tulips for the bathroom. Let's do it . Let's do it now. We can come back and do it." I pass a little further down the market, stop as the crowd thickens to a standstill, and turn around. I walk back through and out, passing the stall and noticing the tulips that the couple were eyeing have gone. I feel a failure not having got anything but I`m already walking too far for there to be anything much to get. Unstead I go into a crockery shop and on a whim buy four white bowls, then four of the same in a smaller size. Everything is loaded down, pulling me down whereas everyone around has these heavy bunches of flowers which leap upwards, the colours giving the impression of vacating the very framework of that plant. There is a certain drugginess to the whole event. I slope off down the road, evicted from the festival. A spoil-sport.

On my way down the road which I travel along with despondancy I pass again the flats. On one veranda, abit further down from where I was sitting earlier opposite the place with billowing curtains, I look up at a flat swathed in vegetation with small tentacles suckering directly in to the brick work and whole rooting systems travelling along the innard grooves where the heavily indented concrete between bricks has created small underhangs between each layering of brick-work. It seems possible too that the root endings and suckers are actually operating like tools to lever away fragments of putty first by draining off excess liquid and then, as the crumbling begins, edging in to a more and more contained location. Clever plants. In the next door veranda there are pots of dry earth with shrivelled stalks sticking up and some spindly leaves turned to carbon.

Again I pass by the rotound balding man still on the balcony. He nods to me with his can and says, I saw you across the road earlier sitting there on that bench but you were too far away to talk to. His belly is wobbling above his tightened trousers and it's then I notice that the hair on his chest grows powerfully around each nipple outwards and in opposite whirlpools. He beams down at me from head to toe. Suddenly I feel a whole lot better.

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