That moment in an old film when a double (diluted by light) departs the body of a character who just died and drifts out of view. As often as mind has room I fume a failproof lookalike who strolls about town. Oh, the places she has seen! Priceless when fancy factualises for a wisp of time. A caper on my scooter – first in a year, or two. Almost called out – look at me! – like a child riding her bike without stabilisers on. Hung a while on armchair at the bookshop twenty doors from mine, tried a little conversation. Turns out a semblance of normality is quite a strain.
In a matter of minutes home and supine again. Slept in clothes that night, entwined with spectre. Days later the idea of a repeat seems preposterous, but: elsedom was achieved, momentarily. Blue plaque please?
A milestone to report, minor, momentous: one evening last week I was able to watch – wait for it – half of Channel 4 News. In the living room. At 7 pm! Usually my paltry energies clock out late afternoon, but for once I was not in bed, far from sleep yet eyes ramming shutters down and ears sucking on radio dials like a babe on mother world’s breast. So: a mile pebble. A yard, inch, meter, thousand leagues mite, not repeated since, alas, but hope floods in through the tiniest of cracks.
And rushes out through great man-made gashes: the news that day concerned the fire at Grenfell Tower. The horrendous death toll (still rising) explodes my brain because, in the wider scheme of things, fire safety costs copper coins. How did we come to allow such contempt for people to reign decision-making? What if such callous denial of really very basic care becomes the norm? Words matter: social – once ethical, inclusive, humane, suddenly has a demeaning slant. We must reclaim it. We can never get over this.
First sight this morning: a lip of light around drawn blinds. Open window, lasso out to catch at clouds, at words: bath, read, write.
Former self was dawn’s creature, bickered with the birds and figured minutes might be hours might be days. Nor did she count. Books in bed, predating; once upon a time we wolfed them down, nary a nibble now. Brain is trussed with ticker tape, its constant crackle wearies. We read, we try, and pages petrify – headstones where doors swung wide.
When we’re the slightest bit awake we ache with hunger, lust for learning, visit sentences we loved, were bruised by, hoping they’ll return us to abandoned worlds. Marks in pencil, thumbnail scratches, coloured tails to pull a kite down. We meet “ein rotes Wort coming the other way.” * We wait, fangs filed.
* Anne Carson