The Picture Gallery
Here's a text from the aforementioned Emblems Left project.
Wednesday 25th November 2009
The Picture Gallery, Main Window
He took her elsewhere that day.
He took her hand and peeled her head to foot from the chair.
She was reluctant to go. There was thunder outside and wind.
She had spent the day idle; picking at a half finished cross stitch, making idle criss-cross of the lily’s and leaves. She ate salted chocolate and stared at the paintings. She concentrated on keeping warm, she was curled.
He read to her for a while from an anthropological book but she wanted a poem. He told her of things that made her restless, like heraldry, music, walking and the sea. He had willed her to sit and listen and now he was forcing her to stand.
The two of them alone in the rain was what he wanted.
She looked out of the window for a final time and felt the remoteness of the place. She looked over the field to domestic houses and wanted deeply to get inside them. To bathe in them, to lie on their couches, to break eggs in the kitchen, to write her name in the dust on the mirror. To be home during the day.
But then he had taken her by the hand and she had to look away.
The light changed as they stepped outside. It brightened and they followed the water. Passing cars they crossed the bridge to the sea. The tide had left tiger marks on the sand and the water wildly followed them. She leaned a head on his shoulder and he drew her close into his coat. They could not hope to be heard above the crest rushing, the birds calling and a rumbling and dragging that seemed to come from below.
They came to a set-back pavement over a small wood wall. People milled in and out of an ice cream parlour. The lights on automated rides flashed. A small child was desperate for a coin.
He sat her at a bench table and whispered into her collar then kissed her reddened face. She bowed her head, abashed, chapped. She asked him what lay further ahead. He said the town and the cliffs and the caves.
She felt studied by him as she had once studied books. He drew his eyes over her as she used to carefully draw crosses and dashes to plot graphs, label symbols, to find lines of best fit. She had been unsure what her diagrams meant but she had loved shading them and defining their edges, crayoned and hard.
She watched the defined edge of him as he walked ahead, pacing towards a mass of black rock. As he came upon it, his sudden call echoed.
She ran to where he had stopped and pocketed his hand in hers. A great bloated body lay washed and unwashed by the tide. The slick fur slimed and the small eyes cold. It would burst if pecked or snagged on a rock; but was for now smooth and taught and unfortunate. His hand slackened; the sweet, salted smell had weakened him and he fell.
∙ ∙ ∙ ∙ ∙
In a house near the rocks and the cliffs he sat with his hands around the offered tea, his colour returning. In the hall she replaced the telephone receiver and watched through the frosted glass as he leaned his head back and allowed himself to laugh.
She left them talking and climbed the stairs.
At the sink she plunged her hands into hot water and looked out from the window. The industrial horizon, flanked by sepia toned twilight. She saw the house up ahead with its large front window and that long, high hall beyond. The paintings looking back and her chair empty.
She traced her finger across the window as it steamed and began slowly to form the letters of her name.