Thursday, 17 August 2017

In its Own Way, Right

The face appeared one fine November morning, and gazed at itself as if it had awoken from one hundred years of slumber. The person it belonged to saw and realised the importance of the moment and yet couldn't exclaim because they were sat in a hairdresser's chair, and the stylist was conversing about this and that over her newly washed hair.
At some point between being reclined over a basin and led to a cushioned seat in front of a wall mirror, a metamorphosis or a split had occurred, and with no contortions or twitches, facial or bodily. Was it when the protein boost treatment, that she hadn't requested but later paid for, was applied? For after that, after her hair had been towel-dried, her expression seemed different, wide-eyed, and yet more imp-like than child.
The separation occurring in two shakes of a lamb's tail; quicker than milk and cream, or oil from nut butter. The real face behind the usual mask rose to the surface and, rather than peeking shyly out, brazenly took control. The mask subsided, almost as if not doing so wasn't a choice, as if some agreement, long ago, had been struck, and the moment had to be when she was unawares, so that she would finally see herself, fleetingly, as others see her: the glowing skin, the mischief in the eyes.
The surprise, that made her wide-eyed, would be enough to awaken that slumberous knowledge, even if it at times it fell into a doze, because the coma, at least, would be broken.
But the quiet containment that she wasn't a horror, that at times she 'had something' came much later when the transfiguration to her of her features was less potent, still there yet shared with the usual mask.
And what that 'something' was she couldn't declare to herself in the mirror then, or even when the face chooses to show itself now. Yes, there are words to describe the pallor, the effect, the expression, and yet they only half-explain the realisation of that instant when it happens and the beat it lasts for. The more accurate terms come to the brain when they're not needed and then don't stay or reappear when they are, and so if I was to say that the 'something' was cherubic or a prettiness that had crept over the features that wouldn't be it. It was that and more and something other.
A relaxation in the brow and around the mouth, a devil-may-care look in the eyes. A simpleness that for the most part wasn't present, that the usual mask for no apparent reason often disguised, and yet the face, in its place, wasn't pure innocence either; it seemed, in fact, more mischievous than sensitive or naïve. A puckish expression which having tired of its underground chambers had returned to stake its renewed interest in life-participation on a casual basis, perhaps, in time, working itself up to a job share.
But although this mirrored revelation was caught, the circumstances were far from ideal, for at the height of its reveal, the conversation, already engaged in, was in a two-way flow, which was also in competition with the background: pop music and other stilted conversations going on around as other customers too had their hair shampooed and snipped. The person in the chair had to be sly to not appear narcissistic, particularly since that wasn't who she was at all, and yet this fresh perspective was fascinating, like a view she never expected to see from her apartment but somehow suddenly could.
She wanted to stare, to inch the chair closer to the mirror and examine every pore; touch this fine-looking skin and make sure it belonged to her and not some mirage that would vanish in a pool of illuminated glass, and yet because she was not alone she was prevented, as were her hands which, beneath the black gown, were forced to cling to her thighs. So, all she had were her eyes, which seemed unable to tell whether it was a trick of the light or the simple fact that she was farther away from her reflection. The mirror image had everything and did everything she did: the same shapes, the same contours, the same gestures, and yet was not what she usually saw when she appraised herself before she walked out the door.
The face she glimpsed, and would continue to recognise, was attractive enough, and in its own way, right.

Picture credit: Not to be Reproduced, 1937, Rene Magritte

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Disorganised Notes from the Oubliette

My body clock has gone a little awry and consequently my mind is screwed. It's been darting here and there and everywhere like a dragonfly all day. What about this? Should I do that? Why am I thinking of him or her? I need to go there; I need to do that. What possessed me to respond like that? as if the person I was talking to was an irritating bluebottle or had caught me in a unscrupulous act when it wasn't like that, I was unprepared for that kind of chat that's all. Why? Why? Why? can't I be this or that, laid-back and not so nervy, lively and not so drab. Plain, plain, plain with nothing of interest to say for myself or that I think will be of interest to that particular person. So contained I feel as though I'm turning to stone as I sit or stand.
I am stone with my mind flitting like this through my recent and archived history. Everybody knows you can't undo stuff that's done so why think of it? People, including the merest of acquaintances, ask me questions I hesitate to answer so that my mind scrabbles around in the few milliseconds it's allowed, which makes my answers when given sound weightless. Insubstantial bubbles of air with faint words suspended inside that will drift away with the lightest of breezes. My internal workings cobbling something together which when stuttered or said with a falsetto laugh comes across exactly how I didn't want it to: phoney and furtive.
I have nothing to hide, literally nothing, and yet now it seems I do. A secret life. Mysterious ways. Possibly even a double – one that wears glasses, and one that is bare-faced and sparkly eyed; one that is serious and one that can hold witty conversations, so that if by chance I encounter an unobservant friend, they never know which they'll get.
Some people aren't you know, observant that is. They don't notice small details or perhaps see past them. My point is some places and some acquaintances only know one version of me and not the other, so that if one day I'm the other, the version they don't know, I'm almost embarrassed to appear that way before them, and therefore would do anything to avoid that encounter. Anything, such as ducking behind shelves or suddenly disappearing into a shop or down an alleyway. Maybe that's why in my passport photo I look like a Russian spy.
And yes, you might very well ask why? Why this weirdness? All I have to say in reply is: comfortableness. I'm aware of certain people's preconceptions: if I look a certain way they'll judge me a certain way or behave towards me differently, and worse might draw attention to the fact I have glasses today or are without them. I'm a shrinking violet that's what it is, who accepts compliments graciously but never believes them, and a boring person to boot. Grey like Norman Major, who apart from once being described as such was also once the Prime Minister, and once lived a few roads away from my primary school, and so actually I don't really mind the comparison. I'm the one making it after all.
Still, it's a relief when acquaintances are used to both. It's just with some that transition won't come, so there's always that element of ambush or that sinking feeling when you know you've be spotted. The conversation done and the getaway achieved, you then rehash it and reprimand yourself for not doing it better, or more convincingly. How lovely to see you etcetera. Next time, next time, yet you know if it happens again, when it happens again, it will be exactly the same, though once you'd warmed up you guess it went okay. Room for improvement, hopefully in a room you don't wish to escape from or in one where you've already figured out where the exits are. How daft to judge a conversation on that score?
What must they have thought? Skittish creature. Yes, and more I'm sure. And yet there are times I blame them for putting me in that awkward position, because it ruffles my feathers and they remain ruffled long after, not that they would know that of course. I'd like to think I'd approach them but would I? Maybe if it was a day on which I wanted to be seen and wanted to converse, although even so, I just don't know what truths I might then blurt. 

Picture credit: The Soothsayer's Recompense, 1913, Giorgio de Chirico

Thursday, 3 August 2017


Last October, a novel came into my hands that reaffirmed what I already knew: that answers can change to questions asked again. Again as in some months, even years on, from when the subject was first broached. If you ask again and again and the answer's always the same then you know not to ask again don't you, but if you just accept the first given answer and let the matter drop, then surely as the asker you're doing the answerer a disservice, unless your position as the asker too has somewhat changed. Your feelings are no longer the same or your situation has altered and therefore whatever it was you were originally offering is not available, not on those same terms, which means if you asked again the question put would be different and the answer just as uncertain.
Answerers, if the question's unexpected, can be too hasty in their response, give their initial reaction to a proposal when it might not be what they actually meant, as by doing so they lessen the time they might spend deciding with their stomach a-flutter, their mind in knots, as well as the time the asker is kept waiting.
Whereas no response is either a open door or a door the asker will choose to close because it's unfair. Their life in limbo, always hopeful that one day their appeal will be accepted, until the day they become aware of their own stagnancy and realise they've been taken advantage of, forever kept in reserve.
Some answerers, however, do give the question the time it deserves. They might pause whilst delivering their response, have a affectation that buys them thirty seconds such as removing spectacles, if they have them, and cleaning the lenses, or pinching the bridge of their nose as if a headache beckons, which in turn enables their brain to formulate a reply which would be right at the time of asking. But that's not to say that the answer given would be the same if the same question was asked in an altogether different moment.
Then, there's how it's asked – with what words and in what tone, which should be considered if the question is being asked again and if you believe the answerer, if it's the same answerer, remembers the situation in which the original was proposed. Though if it has been forgotten, then it could work in the asker's favour, but it's dangerous to assume that's the case because in such circumstances the answerer may recall yet imply, for their own purposes, otherwise.
Nothing asked twice or thrice is ever the same, though it can take on a robotic quality as if the asker knows, before it's even been asked, what answer to expect since it's been asked that many times, so that if a different answer happened to be given they might on that one-off occasion miss it.
There are some answerers, however, who refuse to entertain the same question however it's asked, believing that to do so shows a weakness in their character, even if at the repeat performance they felt differently. And there are askers too whom on being rejected once wouldn't dare to enquire again, even if the opportunity was undoubtedly there or their feelings remain unaltered.
Everything has to, in a way, be perfect for it to come together. The question needs to be put favourably to receive a favourable response, and for that the mood needs to be spot-on, and that's not something you can ever, truly, be an accurate judge of. For it's not just the mood of the answerer the asker has to be ascertain along with their own, but also that of the environment where the question will be placed, and will be forever fixed in both their minds if the question popped or answer given is poorly managed in their opinion.
The moment has to be right, for when it's not (for either party) then it either passes with no action taken or someone winds up dejected, which may in future prevent them effectuating the same scenario again or behaving differently. It's always risky even if each are sure of how they'll ask should the chance arise or how they'll respond should they be asked, because anything might occur to throw that pre-thought off course.
People change, as do the answers given.

Picture credit: Cartomancy, 2004, Frances Broomfield