cn: religious (Christian) simile, mention of death
He looked around with the weary, unsure eyes of a man who comes to after falling asleep on a train or bus; confused as Milton’s Satan after his fall from Heaven, his head in turmoil, his feet struggling to reacquaint themselves with the ground. The sun was retiring to its chambers in its golden nightgown and there was a fluid, sort of fairy glow pouring from it onto everything, from the otherwise sad grey walls to the poor excuse of a bush standing by the glass door of the coffee house, overly-trimmed and belittled in its vase, caged like an animal in the zoo – and a caged animal is not an animal, it is a theme park aberration for the enjoyment of tourists. He felt he was witnessing not so much an ordinary sunset as a waning reflexion of the scenario in his dream, like a burial of his inner pilgrimage dressed in its most exuberant golden majesty. It was cooler now, but he remained still, struggling to readjust his brain to time and place. Always, in these pain-stricken instants that followed, he felt that shutting the door on the echoes of never consummated ecstasy, driving away the taunting shards of glass reflecting sweet broken images, was as blasphemous a deed as allowing an imaginary lover to slide into nothingness after pleasure.
The fatal blow to the dying spell came as bird landed on his table. He did not, at first, pay attention to it. His cup of coffee was still there, half emptied only, waiting in bohemian resignation. One reticent sip was enough to convince him that he couldn’t possibly drink it. He didn’t like cold coffee. There was something unnatural, he found, in drinking cold what ought to be taken warm, just like in receiving a cold kiss from a caricature of a mother. Coolness was absence, evidence by default.
The little bird was skipping about the table in its skinny legs. It seemed as if it were waiting for some hint of a reaction from him, and every now and then it would halt and peer in his direction with a little twist of the neck. The bird didn’t risk making up its mind about him, it just kept looking at him in a wary way. It almost seemed as though it was about to speak, as if to inquire about his present disposition in the manner of an acquaintance he had bumped into in the corridors – one of those people who always ask the same question expecting you to oblige them with the exact same answer: ‘I am fine, thank you. What about you?’ Luke was glad the bird knew better; he would have scared it away had he fallen into that pattern.
If there was something that really got on his nerves, it was the unconcernedly, yet obligingly polite demand, the nauseously infuriating ridicule of ferociously protected protocols for mutual refusal to commit presiding over daily human interaction. It was all bloody disabling – he felt reduced to the condition of a material ghost-robot! None of them had read Forster, at any rate. There was something vicious, something dark or venomous about such well-mannered Victorian frivolity. It made him sick. Soon they would be censoring Shakespeare again, for God’s sake! He was, evidently, one of those misfits who would have loved to throw a one-finger salute right at Queen Victoria’s face. After all, sometimes “the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy”, a kind of wisdom social networks seemed keener on than society outside them, where the only reality was the madness of the politically correct. Little Alice would have agreed with the motion. After all, you can’t survive wandering through Wonderland being sane all the while. In a land of madness, sanity is a guarantee for a tragic end.
But anyway, the bird couldn’t care less about Fat Vicky and her fear of naughtiness and other colourful things (and who knows, maybe that was its way of one-finger-saluting her). The little fellow just kept peering at him…or at the table, he actually couldn’t be certain, the twist of its neck was so strange that he could only wonder that it did not break! Maybe birds are all strabismic, he mused. The strabismic (or not) bird was now approaching his coffee cup cautiously. It must be looking for crumbs. Sorry, but you’ll get none of it here, you sad little sod. Yet the bird didn’t go away; he obviously didn’t read minds. Silly softie!, he blurt out in the echoing loneliness of his mind – suddenly needled, he didn’t know exactly what by. Food, simply food; that was all the little bird cared for. For it, there was not a worry in the world, only the oblivious, biologically determined urge to find the means to put off its expiration date every day. Meaninglessness was a painfully blank thing. He chuckled. The musing on the bird brought back some discoloured takes from the silent film of his childhood, among which there stood out one with figure of an elderly priest whose catechism classes he attended for a short time at the bidding of his now long-dead Catholic grandmother. Father Nicholas Green had gone beyond his pastoral duty in listening to his problems and later looking after him after grandma’s death…what would have happened if his father had never come for him, he sometimes wondered? Now it was somewhat funny to think that the priest would have construed it a deviating proposition that the bird was meaningless, for, after all, everything had its place in creation. He wouldn’t have understood his meaning.
To be continued…
Tomás Ferreira (Get Real. culture editor)
This series, entitled “A Horse!” will be in 8 parts. This is part 2/8.