Friday, May 08, 2009

The Remains of a Summer Day


...A slow killing. Arcing like a spiked swordfish, she gulped down half a bottle of water; water fused gullet and plastic into a pipe. Like a fuming piece of pumice, she trembled helplessly and spent her fury. Late in March but ahead of her lay ten more weeks, fanning open an unwelcome hold. It

With moist fingers she gripped the doorframe and was quickly repulsed—the very thought sickening like mud at the base of her throat. Stomach was parched and empty like a tank, she still felt queasy. Head bobbing emptily, on a dry afternoon she dangled endlessly. She imagined walking on warm sands on a hollow, ivory-cool night under a star-studded dark crystal-blue sky. She promenaded in white, but not in gauze or chintz: something flimsier, whiter, and infinitely sheerer. She calmly walked the edge of a bulwark, barefoot, her plumes flapping noiselessly as the sea occasionally raged and sprayed immense soothing salty wetness. O—for a drink that wet the throat and seared down in a thick melt of caramel.

The heat spread its dry suckers on a tyrranical summer day. But on this summer afternoon: alone.


She was peering out of the corners of her eyes because it smarted when she stared out at the world straight. She had enough sense to somehow shuck her overalls, which weren't substantial now that she had been alone for a few minutes, and find her place to the shower. In her misery, which approximated the anguish a carved man would feel as he came to grips with his new blindness, she made her way and found herself turning the knob to eternity—turning her into a world that would free her. At that instant, she was connected to painful reality by the very simple promise of a cold shower. Her mind was aflame in anticipation of soft, cold shiny spheres of congealed wetness. She wanted to be sucked and fused into it whole.

Her face visibly brightened as the first drops littered her shoulder blades and hit the tiled walls and broke into spray. Acceptably cool, but not as her gargantuan hopes had anticipated: but it is just as hard to slake a dying man's thirst. Her breasts and shoulders and thighs waited, flowering in anticipation, when reality dealt a stunning blow: the water turned slightly and then lukewarm, and in a few dreadful seconds she was drenching herself in what seemed boiling hot water. And then she noticed the metal pipes.

She jumped back from the spray like a singed cat and turned on the shower a bit more. But she was somewhat pleased at the contact: it was just water after all. It was a simple mechanism, and there were no fangled climate-control features of a modern faucet. But a faucet is the last thing o your mind when you're hot and take a shower: you just expect the water to come out in nice clean droplets of bottled springwater. She tried the mental math and calculated that there was about ten metres of exposed piping, and it was 3:00 in the afternoon. Pretty bad choice for her shower, of course, but she'd been stuck in her clothes for almost too long. She ruefully recollected that she was a doctor and not an engineer. Reality always made her count her scholarly degrees on occasions like these.

Her 'ten metres of piping' translated to roughly 45 seconds of waiting away from the falling hot shower. And then the droplets turned first hospitably cool, and then really cool, and the smile never vanished from her lips.


She'd acted all day long: she'd risen, done her toilette, breakfasted, met the patients, and then come back at 2:00 and showered: as if on cue, as if programmed. Each action seemed to point to the next, which also seemed to derive from the previous but really it was just running. At some times she was running away from the octopus heat, at other times propelled by mere inertia, and at those rare moments when she regained a sane mind and a balance, she merely ran away from it all. Her actions made sense only if she connected them with this catchall word—'running.' In the grips of an act, and she was perpetuating it in her confusion. She seemed incapable of thought or authentic action: she was preyed upon and led by the elements.

However, she emerged from the shower suitably rejuvenated, and she'd emptied her bowels as well. She felt whistle clean and by a sheer coincidence, the first set of dress she encountered was the white one she'd recently got back from the cleaners'. It was quite a while that she'd worn that dress, and it reminded her of butterflies (lily-white butterflies? Perish the thought!) and she decided in favour of it. She placed it in front of her, hair still wet and undone, a smile playing on her lips, lavishing utmost care even to the details, and felt herself swell right before the mirror: a day lay waiting to be salvaged, only she had to piece together a perfect night following an agreeable evening. Only, she shouldn't blow it all by rushing it.

One step at a time. She now found her breast surging with hope and with carefully laid out plans extending their branches and sprouting leaves and blossoms: foreboding checked her progress and she killed the thought by glancing at her wristwatch. It was half past three, and the evening didn't start until 6:00. She reached out her arms and drew the blinds. As the air-conditioner whirred to life emitting familiar beep-click sounds, she was peering out of one eye at the piercing image of a cruel sun slitting through shaded glasspane. As the first waves of cooled air struck her face and sent her long hair dreaming, she felt heaviness on her eyelids. Surely enough, her final recollections were of eyebrows shutting tight in clumps of wetness drying in the cold air.

She slept soundly till 6:00.


At 6:00 sharp she was woken by a bell. It was her phone ringing; she sat bolt upright, it was almost as if she'd planned to get up at 6:00 as well. A familiar voice at the other end sounded bored but desperate enough: the heat was affecting everyone the same, and the nights of Tangier were refreshingly even frighteningly cool. She never drank nor did she give company, but she thought she'd suffer a sudden out-of-bed cardiac arrest when she had the following stanza intoned in her ear:

Dreamt a lot about sci-fi cartoons...Flash was in it. Can you imagine!
Hmm... you're not suggesting a drink of coffee, are you? It's not entirely—
The same! But I'm also proposing a bit of a caper.
But I guess I'm not in my element today, might disappoint as Arden. And I suppose you'd have a starring role as the Gordon?

And imagine how, in a trice, almost in a dream, how the rest of the conversation went and she set her coffee and heard the kettle spout; she turned around and examined her coiffure to be satisfactory, and took the white dress which she'd placed beside the bed just as she'd dropped off asleep. And imagine, again, her wonder at his calling her My Julah! Golon! as he strode up to an open door and a pair of riding boots waiting to crack down the stairs.

To Raphael, and ever to our friendship which now seeks meaning in humdrum existence in the city, the urban setting of animal-like coexistence where we scarcely even notice...who we're with.

Of course there are no notes, the only difficult points being quite simply resolvable to every one of those who has read Flash Gordon. The Golon is an unforgettable character far exceeding the ritual demands of a sacrificial scapegoat. I was in love with Julah, so it all fits in that conventionally corny pigeonhole.


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