Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Room FULL of Skeletons

My flesh has been whittled away by time and decay as has my companions: Agnes and Anne. There are others here, but I do not know the fictitious names they were given. None of us remember what we were christened. Our real names taken from us along with our clothes and possessions. Funny, that I can't recall what letter it began with or the sound of it on my own or my mother's tongue, for I did have that: parents and siblings; a well-thought of family, unless I'm lying to myself. Who can say when all are gone? I only survive, as do Agnes and Anne, because my bones, once entombed, were disturbed and now I cannot rest.
Peace had not come to me in death because I hadn't died of natural causes and so a part of me lingered, but upon being dug up, the core of me was forced back into my skeleton like a smoker taking a desperate drag on a used cigarette. Greedily inhaling the nicotine and coolly exhaling a wisp of curled smoke. It was a shock, I can tell you, re-entering my skull like that, through my sunken left eye socket.
Some of you may be pondering how I'm able to communicate in modern language? Well, I shall tell you...I'm using a bored writer. She was just sitting here, not doing anything when I found her, although her mind was certainly busy. She seemed to be in-between stories which was perfect, and of course for my story to be understood it needed to be somebody who could translate my old-fashioned colloquialisms. And she's kind of quirky. A blue stocking but more than that. Scholarly, but edgy. Not much to look at, but then looks change and fade, and carry the least importance.
Through this vessel, I now talk to you.
Where was I...?
My bones dug up from their tomb were lavishly re-dressed in such fine splendour, the likes of which I'd never seen in my earthly life. My family were humble. Poor. We belonged to the lower classes. We made our own clothes or wore hand-me-downs, and could not afford burial ground, hence my suffocating chamber. Suffocation you might think is a word for a life brutally and intentionally extinguished, but I assure even though physically I was dead, my soul felt choked underground. It was strange to feel so shut in after living above, and my soul could still feel all that a human could only these sensations came in crashing waves. One on top of another, the sort that a modern surfer would die for now.
Forgive me for I keep losing my thread. It's been so many years...more years than you could possibly imagine.
As I was saying, dug up, I was re-released but weighed down with jewels: precious gems in my eye sockets and a gold crown. My skull felt like a pebble being thrown to the bottom of a dry well. Unbelievably light, yet mystifyingly heavy. I still wasn't free from my painful early death and now there was this humiliation. And because the essence of who I once was was still attached to this broken body, it meant I wasn't privy to confidential information. I hadn't transcended completely. I had been adrift...unable to access other levels.
I can't tell you where I was displayed or to which country I was sent to, although I do believe it was somewhere in Europe, but I can tell you who I was renamed for: Anastasia, a student of the Apostles Peter and Paul who was tortured under the reign of Nero. A falsehood of course, but then I was in no position to disclaim it. A couple of centuries may have passed before that trickery was discovered; I honestly couldn't tell you as souls have no defined concepts of time. But what a scandal when it was!
Back to the here and now: dishonoured. A fake! In a cold, damp and dark storage room with numerous others. No rest, no escape. My skull separated from my skeletal frame, as are Agnes's and Anne's.

Picture Credit: Pyramid of Skulls, Paul Cezanne

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A Most Unlikely Couple

In Japan, there are two characters who can occasionally be seen walking hand in hand. Their names are Sadness and Resentment.
A most unlikely couple, but then love has proven countless times that opposites attract. Some obviously don't need sameness in another. And this was how it was with the two of them, but if you are the kind to judge by appearances alone, then you would automatically think: What a mismatch!
Sadness had an aloof, yet elegant beauty, which she somehow managed to retain no matter what age she turned. The real beauties, I read Leonardo da Vinci once said, are always sorrowful, a little downtrodden, and Sadness was certainly that. She had a fixed woebegone expression and physically drooped as if she'd had no cover from a deluge of rain or spent too long under a baking sun. She modelled a haunted and famished look: slender bordering on skinny, lank, shoulder-length hair, and under-eye circles. Her mouth and almond-shaped eyes were permanently down-turned as if she was immersed in some private agony. A look that said she hadn't known joy and wasn't concerned about trying to find it. Quiet and reserved, she lingered everywhere: on street corners, in shop doorways, on park benches, sometimes sidling up close to others merely passing the time of day, but yet she never engaged in any form of conversation.
Resentment, on the other hand, was a brash businessman. A stockbroker. He could silently fume, but nine times out of ten preferred to show or air his grievances, and had an insatiable appetite for complaining. He was always wronged by someone or circumstances. Someone had stupidly bumped into him spilling his coffee on his freshly pressed dry-cleaned suit, never mind that at the time he was hiding behind a section of a newspaper. Every day there were instances like this where another person was blamed for their clumsiness or lack of consideration. A person could tremble under his steely gaze as he verbally attacked them. And he wasn't exactly a man you would care to look at. There was something in this appearance that was disagreeable. A sweaty set face, a large, rubbery mouth, and a pot belly that grumbled from beneath his buttoned suit jacket. His penchant for hostility meant he wasn't in the best of shape, but that of course was not his fault.
How these two came to meet I do not know, although I can conjecture. Perhaps Sadness was trapped by Resentment's laments, the only listener to his protesting voice; or maybe on a day where Resentment was silently fuming, Sadness sidled up to him. All I know is that somewhere in the course of their lives these two became firm friends.
Were they lovers? Possibly. A no-strings, casual fling perhaps underpins their non-dependent relationship. They can spend a whole two weeks together, then months apart with no noticeable effect. When they meet next they pick up where they left as if there had never been a separation.
Sadness was immune to Resentment's blasts of bitterness, which were not usually directed at her but to other people, and if he ever did demonstrate this towards her his criticisms were like oil to water. His words were contained within a watery vacuum. But she liked his combustive energy and listening to his self-important tirades. He didn't demand anything of her. Resentment was fond of Sadness for these exact same reasons. He could say whatever he wanted and she never seemed to take offence or had once, since he'd known her, asked for an apology. He could be his most dissatisfied self with her and that was very pleasing. She was a good listener and he was drawn to her quieter energy.
Where you'd think there'd be a power struggle or an interplay of tears, sulks and hurtful words, there was none. Sadness and Resentment's lifetime of grief made them the perfect companions.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Spaghetti Night

I was watching a pan of spaghetti boil one evening pondering Haruki Murakami's liking for these pale golden strands of durum wheat when there was an almighty thump on the ceiling. Those bloody kids! I grumbled, why can't their parents get them to play quietly? Is it too much to ask? No consideration! The same goes for those who run their washing machines late at night, bang windows and doors, or naturally have heavy footfalls. The joys of communal living. Twenty-first century flat dwelling.
My complaints were something of a monologue that mirthless evening. A speech I made where I was the speaker and the audience. Reclusive people do like to talk to themselves. Reason and rant, hold debates with themselves and fictional interviewers, or bite back at live TV and radio presenters. They have a burning need to rationalise their opinions even if the words they speak will only be heard by their own ears.
Believe me, it can be quite exhausting. A distraction to pass dark winter or long summer evenings. One thought leads to another, which can either be like an invigorating morning hike or a gentle promenade after dinner.
As the cooking water frothed, my thoughts belly-flopped to wondering when my threshold for background noise had become so low. Too sensitive to sensory information that's your trouble, I told myself, as really these flats are well insulated. You rarely hear other people's televisions or stereos. Hmm, but that's just luck, I ventured back to my opponent.
That's how it goes, this game of tennis. One voice mutters a view and the other volleys back a reply. Sometimes I refuse to start play altogether. Play is rained off , the court covered over until I feel like reasoning or ranting aloud.
I much prefer playing tennis to chess. Squash is too violent! And ten pin bowling is only for when you want to smash fanciful, largely impractical ideas; give yourself a good talking to and bring yourself down from a sea of clouds. Sometimes dreams are just dreams, a pearl you'll never see emerge from an oyster. Not all dreams are meant to materialise, the pearl is not the prize, it's the anticipation. Actually living the dream is rarely the same as it is in your imagination.
Tennis is all bravado and banter. Ten pin bowling is grounding. Chess is intellectually agonising. Deceitfully strategic. A game drags on forever and no side is ever completely satisfied with the outcome. It's militant: new thoughts ambush you after a lengthy pause and so the internal debate simmers, then rages. It doesn't care if it takes you prisoner and subjects you to inhospitable conditions. A whirlpool mind, a churning stomach, insomnia.
All these mind games have a way of filling in, killing time. Immersing you in a place when time carries no weight, no meaning.
And somehow play always commences on a spaghetti night. I forget to pay attention, leaving the spaghetti to its own devices. A habit-formed meditation. My mind drifts, but my eyes observe the straw-like strands soften and slither into the pan. The water bubbles furiously... Until I suddenly realise that I haven't once stirred to prevent sticking. I grab a fork and swish the rubbery spaghetti in the steamy water. Nowhere near al dente and I just caught some clumping. A lucky save! Don't you just hate eating lumps of gluey pasta? Four minutes more and it will transform into pale, soft strings to be sucked up with a satisfying slurp or looped round the prongs of a fork. Add a little oil, lemon and black pepper, and some jazz, and there you have it, your own Murakami dining experience.
How far can you go in bringing an author's art to your real life?
Because you see, I fully expect to receive a mysterious telephone call from a woman with very neat ears to ruin my spaghetti night.