A TRYST

Christine and I have a new post on Hijacked Amygdala.

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-0172-4 Image by Christine Renney

He had fallen for a girl on a hoarding, a bill poster. He was living in a tiny bed-sit close to the office.
He had begun to fantasise and obsess about this alluring young woman in a cocktail dress, advertising a perfume, the name of which he wouldn’t be able to remember. The hoarding was directly opposite the window to his room. It was big and imposing and in his isolation his becoming infatuated with her was inevitable.
The advertisements were changed once a month and over the summer he had lived alongside a series of gaudy images encouraging him to eat a particular breakfast cereal, to fly with a certain airline, to think seriously about life insurance, to choose wholegrain to look after his heart.
From the instant that he noticed her, he was mesmerised. After all those bright primary colours, the block capital letters…

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GHOST LETTER 36

Chris R-0226-2 Image by Christine Renney

Can alcohol still take hold? Get inside and make its demands? Or am I too full of holes and will it seep through the scars?
I have separated the can from its companions, freed it from the plastic ring and set it down in front of where I am sitting. Leaning back I stretch my legs out across the pavement and I can’t reach the can between my feet.
The others, the passers by, are forced to step over me and many of them glare angrily and I am glad of it. I don’t want some good Samaritan crouching down beside me. But if I sit here for long enough and drink myself into a stupor I know, of course, that this will happen.
What I want is for one of them to knock the can over and I don’t care if it is intentional or not, as long as I can watch the lager pool onto the pavement, the damp patch spreading between my legs and soaking into my trousers.
But despite their impatience and the scowls, the passers by are graceful, balletic even, and they don’t touch me and they don’t knock the can.
If I were to draw in my legs and reach out, snatch the can and drink from it would I feel it? Can I still know it? Can a ghost carry that conflict and walk with it?

THE ERASER #2

Chris R-0325 Image by Christine Renney

The rhetoric hasn’t changed over the years and Tanner is perplexed by this. Whilst the system has evolved, is constantly evolving, those who oppose it are forever locked in a relentless fight and it is futile. They are able to make themselves heard, yes, but only fleetingly and it seems to him that they are shouting into the void.
Tanner often finds himself thinking about the monolith in that old science fiction film. The film has been banned, of course, and so he hasn’t seen it in years. And it isn’t actually the monolith that preoccupies his thoughts but its surface, gleaming and unmarked.
Protesters and rebels , this is how they are referred to beyond the system. Those who have survived and are still out there, they are dissidents or exiles. Tanner has always been uncomfortable with these labels although he hasn’t managed to come up with any that he feels are better suited. ‘Those who oppose the system’ is too clumsy but that is what they are. And they are still as virulent as they ever were, perhaps even more so and for that brief spell, until they are uncovered, just as vocal.
Tanner remembers the names and also their former occupations. He remembers the carpenter and the school teacher and the plumber and the doctor. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. He remembers what they once were, what they should have been.

THE ERASER #1

Chris R-0792 Image by Christine Renney

Tanner’s job was to remove the evidence, to wipe away the traces. He considered this task as necessary, that he was an essential part of the system and for more than forty years Tanner’s belief in the system hadn’t wavered. He had remained resolute, diligent and effective.

Although he remembered all the names of those he had erased, Tanner hadn’t ever regarded them as individuals. No, they were part of a collective and anyhow many of them, most in fact, were already dead or imprisoned before his work had even begun.
Some, a few, had escaped and were living in exile, but what they did and said elsewhere didn’t matter. What they were beyond the system was inconsequential. It was the eraser’s job to eradicate those who opposed the system from within. To help establish and maintain the truth.

By the time a name is passed on to Tanner, the bulk of inflammatory material has already been unearthed and obliterated. Underground magazines can’t hide forever and the liars are always captured amidst the lies, like spiders trapped in their own webs.
Tanner is responsible for the minutia, his job is trawling through old news reports and other archives. When it is decided that someone shouldn’t exist, doesn’t exist, each and every record from birth right up until that final betrayal has to go.

The younger generation aren’t really sure what it is that Tanner does or, more accurately, what it is that he has done. But Tanner has helped to close down national newspapers, the demolition and destruction of institutions, of hospitals, factories, schools and libraries, with the disruption of families, of whole communities, of tradition.
But none of this is a part of the truth and he is just an old man with a black marker.

SHELTER

Christine and I have a new post on Hijacked Amygdala.

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-0257-2 Image by Christine Renney

I step beneath the bridge and begin to slow down and, at around the mid-way point, I grind to a halt. I look up at the roof and suddenly I have shelter. The wall to my left is covered with layers of graffiti and I cross and lean against it.
I can hear the traffic thundering along the carriageway above. It is almost constant up there but, concentrating, I can hear the little gaps, the spaces in between each vehicle.
Down here the cars and the trucks are far less frequent. The pauses are varied and unpredictable and much more difficult to fill. Fumbling I remove my tie and, crouching down, hold it with both hands. I remember reading somewhere how, in Romania under Ceausescu, cars with odd numbers on their registration plates were only allowed on the roads on ‘odd number’ days. I realise that…

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RESTORATION

Chris R-0392-2 Image by Christine Renney

The sitting room at the nursing home is always bright, even on the dullest of days, and yet the air hangs heavy and stale. Breathing it in, I remember his workshop with its heady aroma; the wood shavings and sawdust, the varnish brushes soaking in old jam jars filled with turpentine.

I sit across from him and we begin to talk, and at first I am uncertain as to who he believes I am. I am convinced that he is speaking to himself and that I represent the younger man, still working, providing and caring for his family. Still married and still very much in love with his wife. But as he quizzes me and the questions come thick and fast I’m not so sure.

He hasn’t changed, not really, he is older, yes, and paler. He could do with a fresh coat of stain but, overall, his appearance isn’t so different. I look for the tip of the pencil in the breast pocket of his chequered shirt, but it isn’t there. However, it is the shaking hands I find the cruellest. He had been a joiner and furniture restorer and I picture him at work with the plane, his movements smooth and streamlined. Or with a chisel and the ‘tap tap’ of the mallet, and a bracket or a brass plate sliding into place, the satisfied expression on his face.
‘There you go,’ he would say, ‘how’s that?’

He is constantly preoccupied with his old job. Not surprising, I suppose, given that it had been his trade for more than fifty years. I am impressed by his questions, they are so very specific but I don’t know the answers. But what he is asking has long since passed and so I try to humour him.

I had worked for him a little during the school holidays and at weekends and such, but I hadn’t ever really been that interested. I attended to the sanding and polishing. The work had been monotonous but I had completed these tasks leaving the more interesting and rewarding work for him and his apprentice proper. I had no desire to progress, to move on, to be schooled. My head had been elsewhere, the workshop wasn’t for me. I didn’t belong there, at least that is what my mother had always said. It was an unspoken command that I would continue with my education, go to university.

I do remember the furniture that was brought into the workshop. All the tables and chairs, old and broken. The dressers, chests of drawers, wardrobes and desks; dilapidated and damaged. But when he and his apprentice had finished with them they had been restored, made new. And I had helped – my fetching and carrying, the sanding and polishing, had been a part of the process, although I hadn’t thought of it as such, not until he started with his questions.

He is confused and I believe I can convince, that I can reassure him. He asks how a particular piece is coming along, which hinges, handles and brackets, should we use? Should it be this or that stain, which is the right polish or wax? He talks about how different oak is from teak or mahogany, how to spot infestation, how to isolate and treat it. Despite my hazy recollections he might as well be speaking in code, one that I can’t crack. In the end I haven’t any choice and, shrugging my shoulders, I tell him, ’I don‘t remember.’

I glance down at his hands. They are yellow, the colour of beeswax. He is holding a plastic beaker, fumbling with it, the cold tea spilling into his lap.
‘Shall I take that from you?’ I ask, reaching out.
But he looks down and remembering he grips it a little tighter and will not let the beaker go.