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Dec. 21st, 2012

December 2, 2012

We will never be alright, nothing will ever be safe again.  It happens like this:

She is in her bath robe.  She had showered with her hair up so it wouldn’t get wet and bothersome, and the smell of sex still wafts from the auburn frizz cascading about the smother of terry cloth on her shoulders.  I’ve got coffee on the table and some eggs are soft-boiling in the kitchen; I’m smoking out the veranda on the balcony, looking towards the river over the back of some neighbourhood.  She lives on the sixth floor.  I think we’re near Vauxhall.

There’s an angry, disquieting rumble.

Down behind a few of the tract-houses below, the ground splits open with a crack and a geyser of boiling tar leaps up, arcs over to one side and then collapses with a wet slap over the tops of six or seven back gardens, taking down fences, flattening conservatories, melting play equipment, strangling any and all flora under a blanket of slick black death.  This river then contracts slightly back towards the split in the ground for a moment, and the chasm proceeds to belch out another thick oily tongue of sick, then another.  Each one rises level with the fag ash growing at the end of the B&H in my frozen hand.  Each one pausing for a moment; then falling mirthfully in any direction it is pleased to.  The neighbourhood sizzles underneath pools of hot black magma.  At the edges of the pool, fire begins to spread.  It dawns on me to move.  I cannot.  Then I am screaming.  It doesn’t solve anything.

if you can't stand the heat...

It all started in Vauxhall… (img:

And there’s Annalina in her bathrobe.  One moment, she’s inside, head tilted, eyes closed, she’s rubbing her neck exultantly with her arm crossed over her chest, asking me if I like the view; I turn back to the river… the next moment she is diving for the Nikon sat atop a tripod in the corner.  Repeating, “holy shit, holyshitholy…”  I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed this before; it is an amazingly sophisticated-looking piece of gear.  We never did get too in-depth into our personal biographies with each other last night.  I guess we never even got as far as what we do for our living.  I’m here in my pants with a stranger.  This realisation coming on top of the shock from the explosions outside doubles my confusion.  What a dissonant fucking morning.  In any case, she is yelling at me to get out of the way, “ shut your mouth and get off the fucking balcony!”  Now I’m in double shock as well.  Mercifully, she closes the distance and slaps me across the face hard enough to move me.  “Get my phone!” she orders me while she starts shooting the first images, zooming and focusing while she does so.  I kind of give a scramble and look for last night’s jeans, her purse, anywhere a phone might hide.  My cheek stings.

We met last night while leaving the same restaurant.  Our bodies knew at a short distance that we would eventually be thrown together in violent sexual congress.  I could hear the tune being struck between the atoms in her meaty person harmonising with mine as we got closer.  Adenosine triphosphate molecules cleaving hydrolytically at the same percussive frequency as my own.  We both slowed down.  I held the door for her.  After you.  Chemical antecedents leapt through the air from gland to receptor.  Cheeks flushed.  Judging from the look of appraisal in her eyes then, I was merely an object to her.  I was perfectly at ease with that.  Pressed against a locked door in the darkness of a winter’s night, I am the hooked iron key and there are duties to discharge.  Wills collapsed.  We fell into a black cab.  She spoke an address to the driver, I think we may have exchanged names; fell back into a more meaningful conversation.

And now here I am, fearing for my soft and tender little life in the midst of what appears to be an apocalyptic disaster, pawing around someone else’s flat looking for her phone.  And she bravely, valiantly documenting the expurgation with her camera.  I find it on top of one of the work surfaces in the kitchen; I take it to her, she holds her hand out but does not take the phone.  “Dial star one, and turn on speaker,” she instructs me with her hand shaped like a gun.  The voice that picks up doesn’t sound chipper.  “Dan, it’s Annalina – there’s some kind of fucking volcano erupting beneath Vauxhall, and I’ve already got fifty photos of the very beginning of the whole thing!  Call every single paper you can think of and start the bidding war.  There’s an extra ten percent if you get someone to quote six figures.  Bye, bye bye!”  Now, to me, “hang up, and dial star three.  Quick, quick!”  The whole time snapping photographs.  This woman, so supine in the first half hour of this day, was now a little dynamo of a tyrant, and we phone her overseas agent and two television news rooms before I regain any sense of autonomy.

I guess she’s in photojournalism.  I’m about to shit myself.

There’s an immediate and intractable rift between the two lives that have been commingling these last thirteen hours or so, first lustfully and until lately lazily; namely, my will is focused on fleeing from whatever terrible phenomenon is swallowing SW8 outside, and this bitch wants to stay and take photos of it.

I have to get out of here.  “You what … ?” she begins, “you are… what a pussy!  I can’t believe I fucked you.”  Pride wounded, I have to think for a moment before I can answer.  I have a life to get back to!  is all I can come up with.  “Oh.  You’re so afraid of death this morning.  Last night you put life to one side.  Accepted the void, the familiar union of everything into one undifferentiated potential.  Gave yourself up to some kind of fate.  And here you are now, snivelling in your shorts.

“What do you think you are going back to do?  Tell people how you left the scene, how you don’t know what happened that day, how you had to leave?  If you even get to tell anyone anything, this could be the end of the bloody world after all, according to the Mayan whatchacallit!  Anyway, sir: people don’t want to hear that story!  People don’t want to know whether you are rational or a coward, they want information on what they did not get a chance to witness.  You have a chance to be a witness, here!”  She turns to me.  Her eyes are a clear blue million.  She’s hypnotized me.

She tells me I can get lost, go get dead somewhere alone.  Or I could stay, and watch her work, help and support another human being in what may be the last few moments, however long, of toil that person might ever again endeavour to sustain.  It’s up to you, she says to me.  She turns her face back to the viewfinder and I realize that she had actually stopped taking photos for the first time since she picked up the Nikon and its tripod.

And I’m thinking to myself, I have certainly had stormier relationships.  How about the Russian pianist?  I had to call the police on her.  I remember when I first realized she was batshit crazy.  It was that early September in Spezia, we were in the library off the esplanade, and I found a book of classical Italian poetry.  The sea was still warm, and we were covered in salt.  Each poem was dedicated to, or had as its subject, a woman’s name.  They were arranged alphabetically.  Mainly because it was our first holiday alone, I was making naïve romantic gestures the entire trip.  I located the poem of her namesake and copied it into my notebook.  As I transcribed, I made a rough little translation.  Something about daisies in a field.  I am sure I still have that bit of paper somewhere, packed away in a box or folded between two pages in some book.

She read the note, folded it without looking up, and then briefly stuffed it into my pocket.  She stared me in the eyes, little red veins threading in from their edges, this glow coming into her cheeks.  ‘How dare you wave this, this agrarian bullshit in front of my face,’ she spat at me then.  ‘Nobody needs to be reminded of the deleterious effects of the Great Leap Forward, you sick sonofabitch – my great-grandfather died on the fucking gulag!’  She ran across to the beach, and wept there.  We continued sleeping together for two more days, until the airplane touched back down at Heathrow.

Four months later, she was banging on the door of my flat on Great Cumberland Street, demanding to have the satisfaction of an exit interview.  How she got past the concierge and up to the fifth floor, I didn’t even have the time to guess.  I had just got out of the bath, in fact, and had a train to the Midlands in half an hour, so I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything except plead with her to get out of my house before I was forced to call the Metropolitan Police.  I do not recall exactly how I managed to extract her, but she had surely collapsed to her knees and grabbed at my ankles at one point.  The whole time I was clutching my towel about my waist in some kind of enraged sense of modesty that could only come from witnessing the utterly pathetic.  Fucking artists.  Or how about the actress who left me in the middle of a country lane she had parked us on to lay me in the front seat of her car? – she chucked me out simply because I complained when she had used my shorts to clean the come from her belly.  This was well before cell phones.  I had to hitchhike in to some village and wake up the pub landlord to call a taxi home.  They are always crazy, the ones I end up attracting.  So if this one must be as well, at least she has something resembling a productive, positive devotion.

And just then, it clicks.  I will stay.  We are always falling on our own sword.

If Annalina is certain that she has a journalistic duty to document, to essay, to record; well, I think to myself, in the least I’m going to assist someone else’s quest for truth.  If I perish, I may not have the protection of my own purity of heart, but perhaps I help some other soul find her way through the breach… Perhaps there’s some honour in that.

Where’s your video camera, then, I ask her.  I can get some proper coverage?  She looks impressed.  A hard, tiny smile on her face.  The split in the ground has lengthened, by now there are two or three jets of magma sending tendrils slapping about, destroying everything they caress.  The fires are turning the wintry morning a few degrees noticeably warmer.  “Go into my closet, and there’s a handheld on the top shelf next to the corsets.”  She turns to me once more.  “If this flaming cavern of shit out there doesn’t pull the whole building down, there may be a chance to show you some of them.”  She takes a snap of me standing there looking dazed, nearly naked, full of admiration for her.

From → Out and About

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