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Geraldine1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘How are you, Edward?’

 

‘I’m not so bad, Geraldine.’

 

‘It’s been some time. May I ask you where you have been?’

 

‘In some hinterlands. Travelling.’

 

‘Internally? Externally?’

 

‘Sometimes both. In any case, is there any difference? To me the freedom of the internal outweighs every restriction of the external.’

 

‘Are you well?’

 

‘Sometimes I am.’

 

Have you seen Dr. Jean?’

 

‘I haven’t seen her for a couple of weeks. I think I have to see her again soon.’

 

‘How is that going?’

 

‘It is beginning to show me a…a way of understanding things far better. It has proven iterative.’

 

‘I am so pleased for you, Edward.’ Geraldine smiles, and the warmth of that smile makes my blood run more slowly and my muscles relax. It is good to be back in her office. Good to see her again. She’s like panting is to me, she takes the pressure off. I let the smell of her and her office furniture seep into my being, and give myself up (as I always do) to the beautiful sound of distant, anonymous city traffic.

 

‘Have you been panting much, Edward?’

 

‘Sometimes. When things get stressful. But only then. And then the panting makes me laugh.’

 

‘Are you still talking to yourself?’

 

‘Most of the time.’

 

‘Are you unwell?’

 

‘Quite often. But not so destructively. But when it comes, it’s bad.’

 

‘Do you cry?’

 

‘Yes.’

 

‘What makes you cry?’

 

‘Grief. I seem to have worked out that in the main, it is grief.’

 

‘Do you know for what?’

 

‘I think I’m forming an idea. But until it solidifies I don’t want to bring it forward in case it dissolves. You know what it’s like, the soluble form, the dissolvable form, the nebulous shape of a thought. Come and gone in a second, isn’t it?’

 

‘I know, Edward. We don’t have to go there until you feel ready. Do you cry often?’

 

‘No. Far less. Things are becoming stable. I am learning to “manage” things in some kind of way. I realised that I am not alone. That what I have been building on my travels is actually of substance, That I am in possession of something I was not able to access so easily in the past. That there is…connection. My dreams tell me this. Nothing seems unrelated any more. There is far less and less sense of fracture. I dare not breathe of it most times, in case that dissolves also.’

 

‘Then go steady as you are, Edward. We will not force your pace. It is so good to see you making progress, so good. If I were not bound by professional ethics of behaviour, I would embrace you.’

 

‘Would you cry?’

 

‘Yes, yes I would, a little.’

 

‘Would you embrace me fully?’

 

‘I would embrace you fully. We would not stand down until our human communion had passed its highest frequency, you understand?’

 

‘I think I do. You please me, Geraldine. And you help me. I have been able to finally admit that it is true that you were right in the very beginning.’

 

‘And what was I right about?’

 

‘You said that whether I wanted to have the same or not, I would sooner or later “need” you.’

 

‘And do you need me?’

 

‘Yes. Yes, I do.’ My eyes brighten. My voice thickens to the edge of hoarseness. ‘I need you, Geraldine.’

 

‘Then it will be a relief to you Edward that your need is reciprocated. We both need one another. Why don’t you take a walk for an hour or two in the city and have some lunch somewhere, or a coffee or a drink? Than come back here for four or so. You say you have been dreaming, yes?’

 

‘That’s right.’

 

‘Then that’s where we will begin.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Are Here

In my town I move slowly among its spaces and enclosures. It is both beautiful and shabby. It has no pretence. It is like a collection of postcards, or perhaps, prints from yellowing local history books found on the shelves of the cellular peace of local charity shops. Here I speak to my many friends. The wonderful Mr Khan, Samad, the Square Plate waiters, the betting shop Davids, the jewellers, my young friends from the terrace whose soft, loving friendliness indicates that life for them will be good if they retain such beautiful benign intent. I love their intelligence, the way they are about to bloom, the way they take on the adult world with aplomb, and gently mock it and admire it, depending on its fascia. I use the rhythms and times of my town, making sure I move within it when it suits me best. I do not like it overcrowded. In any case, too much of humanity in one place is not favourable to me, even though as an isolationist I am still on offer to love my fellow man, should they be decent and not bovine, idiotic, dependent on the pure chance of having been born with human faculty, but then unable to live up to its demands. It is then that I become cold, and find that part of my self that has no compunction in handing out lesser qualities is easily achieved. For such variegation exists in all of us, the spectrum of good and evil, a line along one which abseils at times. As a younger man, those abseiling events were often and many, and people were…offered less than mutual human love. No, in my more senior years, I find myself more able to tread carefully, so that the punishment I could dispense is withheld by the method of measured thinking. Karma. I think of the Ambulance Patient. Her reflections of recent times have laid in direct simile with the Basingstoke ley lines that had predicted the same. She knows this town, and even in her state of severe and cauterised emotional stricture attached a level of sentimentalism to its existence that I would not have considered possible. When I realised that she had done so, I stored the information, mentioning none of it. Now there is a new overlay to such psycho-geography, more blueprints being placed in trace layers, the picture becoming more intricate, the matters more delicate and at the same time, strengthening the web of how life is connected when we expressly think that it is not. Don’t fool yourselves. Basingstoke. A place I have always remembered for its mispronunciation by a small lad from the north of England on a train bound for Southampton from Manchester. I myself had been travelling from the ichor spite of Birmingham to Reading (a place I had first pronounced ‘reeding’) and in such felt an affinity with this little lad from the Satanic hinterlands who asked his mam when they might arrive at ‘Bazzingstoke’. The train was full, the British Rail decor was one of grime, nationalised, repetitive uniform that I loved without restrThanks to Hondawanderer.com (Martin Loader)aint. These were the days when the Inter-City rolling stock was pulled by vicious, growling diesels with the horsepower to beat any British incline or lack of correct snow. People moved around the country in muted colours, with some kind of eternal hope, with a way of identifying themselves to their own towns, when the isle of Britain was less up its own arse. Stations still had Railbars. Fake tan knew no roads. Yet, all of this is connected. No time or space can separate. What we do, whom we have been, where we exist, town or no town, is connected.

The Wall.

A_tSf5cCIAASdp_Where is ‘the other side of the wall?’ It’s through the membrane. The mist of being through which consciousness prevails. It’s a line. That some cross and that others do not. Some are unafraid to. Others feel the pricking of fear at the merest thought. Dream worlds, some say. The spectral plane, say others. The unexplained, to some. To others, the  secret language of twins. I go there often. Over the top sometimes. At other times through a gap in the bricks, worn away by time. Sometimes I pick a lock, and open a door that has remained closed for several…what?…years, millennia, aeons? At times I move here from monochrome day in the spin of a twisting mind. More often I drift there as sleep lets me speed my feet and tracks. Now and again I take the underground trains, the ones we never see or hear as they move through tunnels too deep to transmit sound. Green and unmarked, with no insignia and often no interior light. Humming through runs and crosses dug by beings no longer present, yet the same constructors still sentient. Wait at the platform and see the train burst out of its roundel into the under-lit curve of the halt. Look into the cab and see only a depthless black. No driver. Although he is there. As sentient as the souls who built the tunnels through which he plies his unseen ways. This is the other side of the wall. It is to here that we will soon return.

 

‘I would stand on top of columns of sugar and stare into space. I would let pain run through me and past. I would rock the columns gently with my feet, so far that they would begin to sway back and forth of their own volition, and then I would stop. Atop of three tons of granulated sweetness, my bile would counter the taste.’

‘Any fear of falling, Ingrebourne?’ Asks Geraldine, gently.

‘None. No feeling at all. That was the general sensation. One of anaesthesia. Just the taste of dog biscuit and alcohol in my mouth. Sometimes a memory of the taste of blood. Salt, sometimes. Lemon. Violence rising in my veins, but as always, like a regulated force. Amperage, wattage. Dead eyes though. Booth photos, the story told. If I look at them now, it is like I was not…anyone.’

‘And do you look at them?’

‘Occasionally.’

‘And if you saw that person now, what would you do for them?’

‘Help them. Take them to the cafe. Feed them warm and simple food. Not say too much to them. Let them settle and become still. Wait for them to come to some sort of lower frequency. Bring them down from the top of the bales.’

‘Eggs?’

‘Always.’

‘The Ovum Room?’

‘Not just the Ovum Room, but the Womb Room also.’

‘Take them there?’

‘Take myself there.’

‘Protect yourself?’

‘Always. Always protect myself. It is all I know about.’

‘The Dream Room? Is it like the Dream Room?’

‘Yes, like the Dream Room. Back to the house. As always it’s unlocked, and there are doors flapping in the wind and a light on somewhere and no-one home. Sometimes it’s warm, summer, or often early spring. Sometimes there are people around, not so far away, people I don’t want to see and who don’t want to see me back there. But it’s my home. No one else has moved in, although it seems that there might be souls around, around corners just out of sight. Sometimes I see my mother there, or my daughter, and sometimes my wife.’

‘What’s that like?’

‘The oddest sense of gentleness.’

‘Are you accustomed to that, Edward?’

‘Not in the least. I don’t think I understand it.’

‘Do you think you might, at some point?’

‘It’s something I’d like to do, I think. I think. I’m not so sure.’

‘Does it undo you?’

‘Yes. Yes it does that.’

‘Does the house change shape? Does it move?’

‘It stays in the same town. It doesn’t travel. But it changes form. Sometimes it’s a place I can’t get into. It’s lived in by others. I can stand outside it and not be seen, so I am happy with that. It doesn’t make me feel bad. Instead I understand the nature of locks, of where you can and cannot go.’

‘Are you welcome there?’

‘It always seems so. Like I belong. I am not accustomed to that as you know.’

‘I know.’ Geraldine lowers her voice, it becomes soft and velvet for a while.

‘I’m not averse to your professional kindness, you know.’ I say.

‘I know.’ She says again. ‘It is in part what I am here for, Edward. The house. Does it ever become an apartment?’

‘Yes it does.’

‘How does it transform? What happens?’

‘That’s the only time it moves towns. Then it moves into a red brick place, in a hive of buildings, It takes itself across several floors. This is a place I have been to repeatedly and have the keys to. A woman called Lorraine lives there when I do not.’

‘How many levels of this place does the apartment exist on?’

‘About three. With its lowest floor two floors from ground level.’

‘What’s below that?’

‘Commercial space. Locked and razor-wired and shuttered.’

‘Does anyone go there?’

‘No. Never. It’s abandoned.’

‘Who is Lorraine?’

‘An old friend’s wife.’

‘What is she like?’

‘Gentle. Loving.’

‘Are you lovers?’

‘We have always wanted to be, but we are not.’

‘Why not?’

‘Pain to others. Not necessary.’

‘Isn’t that good?’

‘In the scheme of things, yes.’

‘How does she keep the apartment when you are not there?’

‘Warm. Low-lit and welcoming. Clean. Safe. Like a refuge.’

‘Do you breathe easy there?’

‘Yeah. For certain. It gets me down off the sugar. It stops me eating the dog wheat. It gets me straight. Lets me think. I can rest. She makes beds, Lorraine, beds that when you get in them hold you in their sheets like a firm glove, beds that make you think of linen and know what linen is for. Like in a hotel. Beds that make you think of the sound of unseen pipes and the gaseous hiss of old plumbing. How taps spit and cough. Table cloths. Silver cutlery. Toast racks. Kippers. Butter. Soap. Carbolic soap.’

‘Does she stay there with you when you use the rooms?’

‘Only for a while. We talk. I kiss her on the cheek. We embrace. I say thank you. She goes back to her family until the next time. I ask after her husband and her child. We’re happy to see each other again. Always in between there is anxiety. There always is. The possibility of a disconnect, of getting marooned or lost. I travel a lot. I travel a great deal.’

‘Is it a relief to see Lorraine?’

‘It’s a great relief.’

‘I think we’ll leave it there for now, Edward. It’s been a good session. I think we’ll come back sooner this time. Do you agree?’

‘Yes, I do. We will. I’d like that.’

‘Look after yourself, Edward. Come back in a few days. Call Helena, she’ll book you in.’

‘Okay.’

I take the lift to the ground floor and the city streets. I’ll go somewhere to drink for a while. Grenadine, perhaps, in tribute to Geraldine. And then some strong clean beer to wash away the cloy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wired

Image

Today, as I counted sharp and bright components in a strange building that hummed among falling leaves, and felt the joy of a good-smelling, clean latrine enhance the solitude of human absence through the brightness of cloudburst seen through frosted glass, and as thoughts strayed through memory banks like leek salt on a gruel tide of spring excess, as memories came back to claim the present tense and eyes formed a phalanx of grammatical context, I was able to take the oblique views that have made me remember in exact dreamed/experienced detail a foreign bus journey, or at the same time a crushed can of beer on a volcanic dust trail near beaches of a cheap, jet-raddled resort that had nothing to do with me (the beer nor the resort) unless you were to regard my interest in some distant rave music coming from a shabby cave and some shops in a golf resort that smelled of heat-sealed bacon and decomposing cats, or the smell of fridges and the sound of Rolls Royce engines as significant. The latinas watching me with dead eyes and the English tourists  taking their children ida y vuelta through townships we’d never know if we had never stepped outside of Pavement Land on buses that nipped and tucked through poor, dishevelled streets of cast concrete and plastic bags. Of course, Pseuds Corner would have a field day with such unrestricted prose. Never mind. Surbiton, unwrit large, eh? Pablo Pascual and Generifa Garabillisima would know little of the ‘doors are now activated’ discourse issued at bleak interchanges such as the inverse Virginia Water point-split, no matter its totemic signage and split-track dissimilitude that takes you two ways or none. Vicious Surrey hinterland or Botox Berks (via the cheap slacks City splendour of Ascot…then Reading. (The ‘Nam notwithstanding, a story all in itself, naturally.) The Doors of Misperception, perhaps. ‘This train is for Reading. Calling at…’. It was always so, if you lived in the sub-suburban deaf-mutery of Earley, despite its elliptic trolley bus termini and the Three Tuns (A and B buses in the 1960s and dreamy summer April days before the ice caps started to melt and Dinky toys still reflected the urban putsch through the eyes of boys who would become deranged as men. ‘It’s good to be back,’ thought Geoffrey. ‘Yeah,’ said Brian. ‘It’s what we would have always wanted.’ None of this would have happened if I had had a fireplace.

For some months I have not visited ‘Geraldine’. Reasons being manifold. Some of them profound, some banal, and mainly a twin helix of the two. Ingrebourne has spent some time in hospitals; under investigation, probed, jabbed, scanned, photographed, invaded, pierced, sliced, at times almost butchered, but always treated well. In this succession of events nothing changes Ingrebourne’s wish to transcribe or to scribe, and that process continues with or without pen, with or without keyboard. He finds that all is well, that much of what occurs in life is manageable, that the quest for explanation and exploration remains strong. Soon enough, it is time to board the train, to sit back and drift into the hypnotic state that such a mode of travel institutes and to glide, carriage hissing and squealing over rails and the sound of air-conditioning and the delicious pressurised semi-silence caused by industrial sound-proofing methods, into the city where Geraldine’s office awaits his arrival. He remembers the balm of Geraldine’s suite of rooms, the professional calm of the understatement of her office, and likens the feeling that overcomes him as the train rocks rhythmically, lulling, over the rails, to a deepening sense of peace.

‘Hello, Edward. It’s good to see you again.’

‘As it is you, Geraldine.’

‘Where have you been, if I may ask you?’

‘Out of contact, of course.’

‘I see your capacity for verbal ellipsis remains.’

‘Then your capacity for razor sharp observation remains also, Geraldine. I see you still have beautifully maintained red hair.’

‘Thank you, Edward. Although may I remind you that we should not stray too far from the professional here. Although, in the same breath, from your notes and what I know of you, that to suppress any natural outburst of yours would be contrary to the purposes of this exercise so in that, I will give you some leeway.’

‘That’s magnanimity on a very generous scale, Geraldine. You might recall that it was you that brought forward the very accurate perceptive observation in a previous session that I might be looking at your legs while having inappropriate thoughts. In that scale of things an observation about the pristine notion of the state of your hair, in my mind, is not at all inappropriate. Perhaps, a more surgical kind of politeness, wouldn’t you say?’

‘Indeed.’

‘I mean, no mention from me, nor comment, on your excellent choice of hosiery, which in itself speaks legion of your excellent personal taste. In that, you must know that I have perfected a way of observing the female form that allows for my own personal levels of salaciousness being catered for while at the same time conforming to the mainstays of social convention that avoid outrage. Much as I love feminine perfection, Geraldine, and admire beauty, at the same time I pride myself somewhat on being “gentlemanly”, in terms of behaviour, insomuch as subtlety means a great deal more than the boorish or the crude, when admiring its delights.’

‘Explain that to me, Edward. This is interesting to me, to your case. We’re getting somewhere quite quickly. You’re making progress. Usually, we accustom ourselves to a great deal of preamble, the going around the houses that sets the mood, that works at the locks and keys. It’s as if we’ve taken the stairs to your sub-basements and the archives that lay there within far more quickly than normal. I am pleased with this. It is “of note”.’

‘I don’t think we’ve taken the stairs.’

‘You don’t?’

‘No. This time we’ve jumped straight into the lift and pressed “express”.’

Geraldine writes an observation on the pad that she always has perched upon her crossed knee. I look at her shoes. As always, they are immaculate. I wonder about the kind of living quarters she may inhabit. I picture her alone, enjoying extended periods of social sterility and joyful solitude, interspersed with chosen moments of human interchange. I smile, I am beginning to like and trust this woman. Her professional and personal mien is good. Her attitude is well-placed. It is her intelligence that sells it all to me. Until I can register that, nothing is forthcoming, nor would it ever be. We have started to fence, to parry, as individuals do in such a balance of power where the anvil and axis is built around the construction of what relates, and how human fusion comes forward. It is that careful mode of construction that brings me in. (‘What brings you in, Edward?’). I can see that although she is trying not to, that she is smiling. It is not just me who is being interviewed here.

‘We know our parameters, Edward. So some leeway it will be.’

‘A form of self-policing?’

‘For sure.’

‘Then that’s fine by me. I’m accustomed to the notion of parole, and of the permissive. Permissive being the operant. Ask onwards, Geraldine. We’re on the Archive Floors.’

‘Thank you, Edward. Your permission is key. I think you understand me when I say we have to work at these matters with fine nibs. It’s like an emergent calligraphy of a picture of many minds.’

‘Perhaps through the nature of the opening of many doors.’

‘All of that.’

I laugh quietly at her choice of words. They remind me of a friend of mine and our lexicon.

‘Yes, Geraldine. All of that. I think it’s time we got into the meat and drink of it, don’t you? Please receive my permission to begin asking whatever it is you feel is appropriate. I’m ready to talk to you.’

And so we settle in for the foreseeable, with access to the doors and corridors and an unrestricted time pass set on our swipe cards.

‘This might take some time,’ I say.

‘I have all the time in the world, Edward. All you need do is take yours in order to access mine,’ she replies.

And so we begin. I breathe in the perfumes of the room, letting them slow my blood and calm my breath. I let a film form on my eyes, let my muscles still and my bones rest easy. I begin to speak…

 

 

 

‘What brings you back in to yourself?’ asks Geraldine, and I understand the question as if I have been code-read.

‘It is the repetitive nature of good things that brings me round. I can’t stop the flashes of memory that compete with the present. If all things bring pleasure (apart from those that do not, obviously) then it stands to reason that that pleasure can be repeated again and again. Surely the function of memory is that such matters can be replayed. But what is it that is the substance of that…that brings forward the greatest pleasure? Is it subjective? Does it apply to the one and same person who possesses that memory? In a world where graphics and links, pie-charts, call-outs and flow charts allude to connection, is there not a realisation that those connective glyphs were pre-redundant, in that connective thoughts existed before such signifying imagery? What I’m saying is, that in the narrative of living, and the banality of living, it is not the grand things that remain once the present day has performed its exit stage-left. What I recall is a plate of food I had consumed on a Friday lunchtime in the 1970s in a run-down railway town along one of those side streets that stands rigour to the marriage between hard-armed residence and dirty industrial grind. Not only do I recall its eating, but its repeated eating on successive Fridays in the same place and at the same time. And not only do I recall its repeated eating on successive Fridays in the same place and at the same time, but I recall its feel and taste, and the heat and joy and succour it brought to my cold and recessive soul as a young man on a knife edge of a sense of damage (general) in states of the precise kind of dissolution that required exactly a mnemonic, repetitive way of living that inspired a return to a regular pulse and a state of breathing that reminded the mind that its purpose was not to seek to exist in chaos, but to function as, at the very least, an anchor of some sanity. And yet that same mind, itself an agent of translation and of vision, was also sometimes a jailer with keys, and sometimes an anarchist with some spite in hand, and some debt chits to throw around, at the same time as retaining the soothing balm of a lover’s words and tones, where she might bring you back to peace and some kind of chocolate soothing, some kind of quiet relief from the rag ends of gaseous towns. Frequenting such places was concomitant with repetition, and so the Friday meal (always in bleak winter weather with winds howling up the half-abandoned street with the dirty engineering works and transport depots (nationalised) seeping oil and flux and diesel), became both repetitive and frequent, and it was that mnemonic beat that wrote poetry inside my head, rhyming the rhythm of seeking out a cafe; a cheap, Formica and board tea-swill canteen with pools coupons on the walls and ash trays advertising beer, as big a small shop-front and no larger, in a strip of terraced housing that was otherwise still turned out to workers huddled in back-galleys and sitting rooms that smelled of gas and pork; shrouding old married couples never seen by anyone other than budgerigars, with old clocks on mantlepieces in dark rooms and ‘parlours’, where the wife-husband argot is so reduced by the geography of restriction that what is spoken is not just  local dialect or  accent, but  idiom pin-point to the room of its utterance alone, a pidgin imitable only by the budgerigar.’

‘A form of pre-Tweeting, Edward?’

‘Ha ha, yes!’

‘Hmm. And what about this Formica place? Tell me some more…’

‘ Okay. A “caff” where I could order tea that looked like it had been brewed from copper and iron filings and whitened with milk from thin Co-op bottles, cygnet flasks with content that made you forget the word ‘dairy’ and think of factories instead. Where to walk in out of the cold and bitter wind was to enter a world of egg-filled warmth, an ovum-room, riven with bacon smells and the reek of cheap newsprint, margarine, sliced white bread…’

‘An ovum room?’

‘Yes, yes, of course, the font, the base, the place of regeneration, the place of creation…’

‘Do you see the analogy there. Edward?’

‘Yeah, yes, affirmative, no doubt about it, in fact, I think I’m telling you, if I’m not mistaken.’

‘You’re not mistaken.’

‘At those times, those bleak alley days, where the raw hand of what life is to be gets its fingers around your craw and starts to squeeze and test out your response…that’s when you look for the rhythms of comfort and respite.’

‘And to have found the need to find such rhythms, you would have felt the serrated edge of life.’

‘Yeah. Yeah.’

‘Is it how it still feels?’

‘Yeah, yeah, the knife-edge…the knife edge…sometimes.’

‘What did you eat when you went there?’

‘Always the same meal.’

‘Which was?’

‘Sausage, egg, chips and beans. Two slices of bread and butter. Tea.’

‘Sauce?’

‘Brown. Generic. Thinned. Industrial. A wonderful flavoursome non-flavour. Colour and smell. The colour of an Austin Allegro left to rot in African sun. The smell of an out-of-hours non-chain burger bar.’

‘Did you not prefer the better supermarket brands?’

‘It’s not about that. It’s not about that. Class does not come with labelling or brands. It comes with how you take in the life that is put in front of your eyes. What and how you consume its content. How you savour.’

‘I’m interested in that, Edward, that savouring. It’s recurrent, isn’t it?’

‘It’s not just recurrent, it’s required. Until it becomes repetition that you cannot stop. Until it’s drilled into you so it’s second nature. Until you know your code inside out and can function within the field of vision you’ve created for yourself and made it ritual. That’s what matters.’

‘And what was the cafe called, Edward, can you remember?’

‘No, I cannot. But it was opposite a car dealers, with flags and poles and banners.’

‘Make?’

‘The Yugo.’

‘After that?’

‘The Lada. The Hillman Imp of the East.’

‘Were you cold back in those days, Edward?’

‘Yes I was. But the same cold kept me warm.’