Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dream Dinner Part 2

Yet, when I think back, who was she among them, between them, imprisoned by or consorted of them?

The side of the dining table I am shown to is otherwise unoccupied. It is a bench, rather than individual seats, that forms a set with the table. This bench, however, has a ‘nobler’ bearing than the barely broken-in table. It is of a polished, dark and, by its look, heavy wood. The thought it might be a superannuated church pew came to mind, though it had neither backrest nor kneeler. Because it was as yet empty the bench somehow felt quite expectant. I do not know if this particular impression would have been more or less powerful if the dinner table was actually set with separate chairs, these all already occupied apart from the one vacant place reserved for me.

No, I was otherwise chaperoned to a long bench at a long banquet table—firmly wedged at the armpit of a very tall, skinny, well-dressed man of about thirty-four years in age, as it happens. I do not think he actually held my left arm across and in behind both of our backs with a restraining grip but I could have be forgiven for remembering it so because of the way in which he marched me to my assigned place.

In the same instance that I became aware of how the dining room stood set up in a basement I was also pervaded with a memory of how the city appeared on that particular evening before I descended. The tail end of a storm had just whipped its last winds and rains about the buildings. It was all calm, fractured and resplendent. Unusually warm for the time of year everything in the night sweated and glinted with something akin to a post-coital malaise. Automatic nostalgia, set upright and nostalgia

that martyring ballast, nacreous

like old lavender

water, very

spectre zealandia—what we used to call

a sun-shower—yet no exhalation, it all went asthmatic: ‘funnelled’, so to speak—for I cannot recall at what point my ‘chaperone’ conducted his trick, picked me up, clamped me to the side of his chest and hefted me down the bare concrete stairs I just happened to glimpse in a short tight twisting back of my neck. Really, that pinching twist was my one litmus, the one action that allowed me to decide on my circumstance through the evidence it gleaned. Otherwise no window, no light nor possibility of connecting a recalled light from the outside through to here, where I found myself, head snapped back.

No, now he was my ‘cicerone’. Presently his voice went feverishness, straining to the point at which one might think a notorious idea can be solicited. This had me decide his profession was in art criticism. A supposition confirmed as we neared the table. I catch him saying to me:

‘I just don’t understand. You otherwise display such artistry, but in person you appear an idiot.’

Again, an instance and the implicating memory and he is right. For the whole time since being above ground, the whole time in which he has ‘accompanied’ me, right up to until this very moment I have, I now recall, made nothing but gurgling noises as my side of the discourse, rolling my eyes and flicking my tongue about like a salamander.

And certainly she had something to do with the upsurge in will to act against a shame he newly installed with me.

Momentarily not fearing our hosts, closing my eyes to the other guests, I wrench myself free of the art critic’s care to dive and skid to a halt on the table-top. From where I am prostrate, prone and convulsing I cry:

‘Well, you know what I say about public sculpture. If you can’t sacrifice anything on it it’s just no good.’

Dream Dinner

I suppose she was there as a guest, sitting second from the left in a row of five on the opposite side of a dining table. The table is long and rectangular, about a metre and a half wide, four metres long. Its top is fashioned out of eight or nine parallel wooden slats set within a frame. The surface has been left rough, unvarnished, oiled or otherwise treated with any sort of finish. I cannot see who sits at the head or the tail of this rude but imposing piece of furniture. Nevertheless, I am quite sure that these two, who fall beyond my field of vision, are our hosts. The others, who sit along the side where she is seated, are also somehow obscured. While clearly seen each of the cohort individually present a kind of formlessness. Their figures are somehow left undefined and, consequently, without any discernible identity. Do these four—one to her right, two to her left—wear hoods or are they so cramped and doubled over in some sort of spiritual disquiet that each are no more than a seething cloud to my eye? Certainly, I can feel their hurt, but they do not threaten, I do not feel they are in any way dangerous. Host and guest are diametrically opposed: unseen, identifiable and feared, observed, nondescript and impotent.