She says: “If you really loved me, you’d… make a museum in my honour and tour Russia in the autumn!”
He’s going to start collecting exhibits tonight. He’s going to search the house, then the internet, then he’s going to visit her parents’ house in the middle of the night wearing gloves and a balaclava and take her childhood toys and old schoolbooks and photographs. He’s going to hire a van and drive across Europe and when he reaches the Russian border the leaves will be falling from the trees. In small town museums he will set up the exhibition and watch the crowds pour in. He will sit at the admissions desk and take notes on the visitors’ shoes and use them to measure the diversity of her appeal.
She’ll phone up and say: “Wow. Just wow. I’ll be on the next flight to Moscow.”
After she hangs up he will spend hours going over the conversation in his head. When he realises, finally realises, that she does not sound happy he will get back in the van and drive away from that place as fast as four wheels will carry him. He’ll leave the admissions desk and the exhibition and all the visitors and their shoes and smalltown Russia behind. There will be photographs of her left on the wall. Internet search histories bound in leather books and set out on tables. Old school uniforms displayed on mannequins. Artificially-distressed chocolate in the gift shop.
She’ll phone from Moscow, he’ll be in Berlin. “If you really loved me…”
The smell of burnt toast made its way through the corridors, bringing out the residents in small packs, each of them eager to see what was happening. I pushed through them, barking instructions and telling them not to panic and in the kitchen found a small crowd watching a piece of toast cremate before them. I reached over, pressed the eject button and the toast popped up from the machine – a charred black rectangle and some more smoke, like a magician emerging from a trick gone wrong. I wafted the smoke away and shooed the residents back to their rooms, watching them as they went – each of them lost, unable to fully function under the crushing burden of their own misery. Some of them with one sock on, one sock off, some with hair tied back with sellotape, some looking at their own feet like they were strangers they had met in a lift. I binned the burnt toast and headed back to my office to get on with my day’s work, continued with the photocopying which is one of the services we provided at the refuge. I had a pile of one hundred things which I had to photocopy before the end of the day when the courier would come to collect. The items ranged from shoes to shoelaces and things of all sizes inbetween. I photocopied them one by one and filed the photocopies away and when the courier came he took with him the physical evidence of the past. We would keep the photocopies and reintroduce the residents to their past when the time was right.
It was not the kind of park in which people practiced yoga in the middle of the day – even though it was full of wide open spaces which would have been perfect for a small army of yoga-exhibitionists to execute their slow and controlled narratives in an expansive formation just after lunch. The park was a municipal space, nestling somewhere in the midst of the major organs of a tall, dark, handsome city which buzzed and fizzed with electrostratic modernity. A little further down the road some children were filling a postbox with stones. Whiling away an afternoon. A man in a suit made – skilfully, thriftily – of old cardboard boxes came along the way, swaying slightly on the breeze. He stopped, looked at them and they stopped, looked at him. “You got stamps on those?” he asked. The children stared at him and his cardboard clothes again. The scene remained the same for a moment, any movements were microscopic and hardly worth reporting. The two parties stared at each other some more and then the man walked on, on down the street as sound of stones rattling in the tin box filled the air like thought parcels abandoned in a hole, all set against the sound of no yoga being practiced in a nearby park.
He learns the secret of manipulating the movement of his physical body through space so that he can de- and re- materialise instantly in any place he chooses with just the flick of a brain cell. First he just makes short journeys, crossing a room when no one is looking, knowing that anyone who thinks they notice something unusual in his movement will think it is just a trick of… the light, the mind, the season. Eventually he travels everywhere just like that, straight home from work and then out again for dinner on the other side of the planet. Etc. For a while he is always on time for work because getting there takes him no time at all, but then he gets complacent and ends up setting off after the time he is supposed to arrive there, and soon after that he quits his job anyway and concentrates on travelling wherever he pleases, bouncing from one place to the next with a casual disregard for the world around him. He barely notices people any more, just moves through them. Until, of course, he notices someone who looks just as out of place as him. A girl. A girl wearing huge sunglasses that take over her face and a winter coat which swallows her body whole. He is captivated. The girl pops back out of existence and he tries to follow her but it is no use and in her absence his imagination runs wild with desire as he criss-crosses the planet in a frenzy of short, sharp movements. Once he gives up on her, he finds somewhere quiet to lie down and enjoys being very still in a fixed point location for a long time. A short while later he makes the decision to abandon his talent and trains his mind to never work those tricks again. He finds a new job and meets his wife and they have holidays together in far-flung destinations. He travels by conventional means, and embarks on an obsession with motor cars. He enjoys opening up their bonnets and examining their composition, the wonder of their movement.
The dentist counts my grey hairs whilst I lie back and think of… my teeth. They are rooted in my gums, set like small rocks in the ground that have always been there, placed in a formation to encourage unclothed witchy dancing on a midsummer’s midnight in my mouth. Something must be wrong with my teeth or I wouldn’t be here. Perhaps something has shifted and caused an interruption to the traditional annual nude dance. I look around the room whilst the dentist finishes the grey hair count, which is just an additional service he provides to his favourite patients. One long wall in the surgery is shelving filled with cassette tapes, all in their little plastic boxes and identified by scrawled black writing on their white labels. “One hundred and thirty one grey hairs,” declares the dentist. Then he takes out his dictophone, puts in a fresh tape and hits record: “So, tell me…” the dentist begins, speaking slowly and clearly into the microphone. I record my toothy problems on to cassette, including my thoughts about the dancing as I know he appreciates this kind of whimsical approach to dentistry. This monologue will eventually be added to all the other cassette tapes and stay there, forming a permanent record of all the dentist’s achievements until one day when he takes his clothes off, plays all the tapes at once and dances around the surgery.