Sunday, 10 November 2013
Some things it is impossible to think. They dissipate and bleed out all the colour before they can even be noticed. There is this background buzz that rarely approaches. And on that day, with the lost limbs of fatigue, I had spent some time in the library beforehand, scanning over the illuminated texts that rose like sulphur and gold into a luminescence that seemed both there and not there. Figures shimmering and blending in the shadow -light, rising up from the page and settling back down but not quite synchronised with the surface page; somehow tumbling and bubbling back up like the pockmarks, cuts and sears of contorting plastic in the dying embers of a once fierce fire. I`d been with the children before and they too had danced, creating sinewy passages out of the stoppages and constraints of real objects borrowed in to the realms of tragic and heroic sorrow and regeneration; tunnels and passages, ramps and plateaus, enclaves and rays of sunlight. I played two chords onto the guitar over and over again and yet this repetition was marked out by the children themselves- their stops and starts, hesitancy's and forward thrusts; up,down, in, out, form side to side and and in the knotted formation of these opposing strands, a rotational leaning that was a meeting and a coming apart in a single gesture.
I had let the the bicycle roll me over the buzzing Euston road. It had continued to trail along side-streets, stopping and starting at random in the pockets of traffic that buffeted one another like gusts of wind, nudging and nearly touching, accelerating and suddenly halting, frightening and passive at the same time. Then I`d noted how the bicycle had rolled its way into the park. Well, not really a park, for it was a cemetery with gravestones whose white reflective surfaces were blanched white, the etching of names and words, only slight rivulets like the channels that run across our finger tips giving us our unique identity but read by no one.
They are there but not there- irrelevant but brought into play in any kind of forensic investigation or criminal case. But on this particular day they played no part at all.
Rather I took my self to a bench, letting the bicycle roll to a halt and propping it against the back then slumping down so that this old planked wooden bench seemed to encapsulate me on that sunny Autumn day. There was the statue of the pink lady, her features scrubbed and erased by centuries of weather systems that had buffeted her and the other stone ensembles where once this graveyard was on the periphery of London town, a good ride out from the business of the time which did not then touch this solitary field of quietude and death. Now the trees were mature and vast with trunks that five people hand to hand could not close a circle around. And the falling leaves spread out on the wet grass were like dappled patches reflecting the agitation of light and shadow in the trees up above with their impossible branches held at horizontal angles as if defying gravity, knotted and bent , bifurcating and splintering in their own excess, with rivulets of growth. Now the leaves, darkening to brown, were losing their grip and disengaging from the living wood to go their own way towards decomposition.
I sat quite still some distance away form the path that spiralled around a waterless basin with stiff taps that one man tried to get some water from. But with no luck. Around the loop of this stone basin, people from opposite directions gauged a passage of least contact, so that some went one way and some the other, like train tracks splaying apart before re-converging further along the way. This meant that by a careful atunement to speed thresholds, there was no meeting. This took skill and coordination on the part of strangers who carefully felt one another in the dynamic passage of this movement that they for this instance, shared.
I sat unable to focus on very much; more aware of the slures and accelerations in this chain of events, then on any individual with features of their own.
Then a figure approached. He had been sitting several benches away and remained simply a darkened patch in the background shadow somehow dissimulated into the dappled rays of light and dark all around. I did not raise my face to his until he was right before me, standing an arms length away, a man in dour clothes that offered up no colour even in the direct hit of the sunlight. And he had left a pile of stuff on the bench from where he had started out, as if the bench was truly his home base and he had no other- just this crumpled heap that was his bags of belongings and now this outreach extension, no less clear in demarcation- a random haze- that had gathered itself almost as if by falling, into this coincidental stance of a body before me. I don't remember his expression and his age seemed unfathomable. Had he had grey hair or dark? I don't know. Maybe a scraggly beard but am I making this up with the formation of this story in mind?
In any case he stood before me and there seemed to be this hesitancy that was both there and gone in the duration of a split second and yet tumbled and lent itself to every surface shape in that cemetery- the trees, the stones, the pink statue and the passing figures around the basin. All these were there and not there- soft hazy shapes that provided the occasion for this approach. But I do remember a strange sense of him observing me and yet me not really knowing what was there at hand. Then he asked me the time and in the command of the words my wrist was already drawing closer to my face and I mouthed the words "Two-O-Clock". This gesture tumbled into his own gesture in which he extended an arm and released into my hand a small bottle that he had been holding firmly in his palm. Perhaps he said "Do you want this?" and perhaps I said "Thank you" but It is hard to really separate out the gesture and the words from one another because they seemed all of a part- more like a simple reflex or a ripple that comes before thought and has no intention outside the deliverance of an act or a completion of a circle.
Then he returned to his bench and sat back down amongst his bags. I held now a small plastic vessel of liquid yogurt in my hand which the label said was flavoured with banana and mango. I turned the vessel over and over examining it, then putting it down ion the bench at my side, staring off into the distance through the leaves, onto the path. Then glancing back around at the vessel I took it back up in my grasp, turning it, reading it, the pale light liquid with just a hint of yellow rocking back and forth like a lazy tide in its milk-bottle containment. It was sealed with a blue plastic lid and, like a forensic investigator I tested the seal to see if it had been opened before. It had not. Again I put it down on the bench next to me and looked off into the space at random leaves on the grass and at squirrels busily picking up objects and drilling small cocoons into the damp earth in which to deposit them, then scattering up a tree as a dog suddenly approached as if out of nowhere.
I glanced slowly along the line of benches. The man was sat there but he was not attending to me. He was in his own circuit of references and seemingly taken up with his own concern. This released a kind of small space inside me and taking back up the small yogurt pot, I broke the seal and quickly brought the rim of the container to my lips. I had been thirsty and the thick white liquid refreshed and soothed me. I felt it going down my throat and settling warmly in my belly. It felt too good and I quickly put back the blue lid turning it counter clockwise and putting the drink back down on the bench. I began to wonder if perhaps it was poison. Maybe there had been a way to make the seal appear unbroken. Maybe this drink had already been tampered with and I was in the middle of a terrible experiment on someone else's terms. I again glanced over to the bench and the man was just sitting there, attending to his own concerns as before. This indifference gave me some hope. Slyly I made deft contact again with the bottle, like an alcoholic who covers the bottle with her hand and takes fast greedy slugs before pocketing the bottle or hiding it in the depths of her overcoat. I felt the beautiful sweet and creamy liquid sliding down my throat and a sense of well-being poured over me like honey lit up by a sudden breakthrough of sunlight. I felt bathed in this sweetness. But again it appeared all too much- too absurd that this down and out should give me this milk drink with no strings attached. I began to feel sick and my breathing started to halt, to feel caged in in the bracketing space of my chest and clenched diaphragm, so that I was sure I would spit up this drink as so much excess mucus that was defiling the passages of breath so necessary for life itself. I felt this as I scanned the pathway. Who would witness this great wrong done to me? Who would also witness the shame of my own mess-making as a counter-flow to this unwarranted intrusion?
But nothing happened. I stayed on the bench. I occasionally picked up and put down the small yogurt pot, taking tiny sips with pursed lips and succouring the flavour as a bee finds a drop of nectar in the last flower of the waning summer. And finally the pot was empty. I placed it back down at my side and I felt to get on my bike and pedal as fast as I could out of that park and back into the floodgates of traffic and noise, the vibrations and pulses of a thousand footsteps that in waves and shifts crossed a terrain without really noticing the interruptions and the opportunities that at another level were attended to with careful precision as if by a scorned lifer that could not talk about itself or remember having done anything at all. But I stayed sitting there on the bench for some time so that the event of the yogurt pot came to meld into a thousand other details that came and went in this patterning of autumn sunlight and haze. Then dropping the empty container into the rimmed opening of a nearby bin, I took my bike by the handlebars, glanced and breifly smiled at the man on the far-away bench and sat squarely back on the saddle of the bike. In the blink of an eye, there had passed a brief acknowledgement; a gesture given and received as the man met my glance. Then again I was on my way, the man still sitting there on the bench surrounded by bags in that 17th century cemetry in the midst of an unstoppable metropolis.