Celine Fox

Substratum

Celine Fox

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Afternoon.

      The sun was shining. No, too descriptive. The sun was present. Better. The sun was present as I walked, as I talked with my mouth. Nicely put. I said. She replied. No. Too vague. I said something. Words, ordered as such, saying such and such to make her feel something. She replied. Time passed. Too vague. If I had taken her hand we would have been hand in hand, walking. I may have squeezed it. I may even have felt the warmth of her hand in mine. Singling out each finger. First, the pinky, saying to myself, That one is there. Then the ring. Then the middle – running along the length, up to tip then down to base. A few times for it to mean anything. And what in fact would it mean? I’ve – come – to - fornicate. Then to the index, rubbing softly the knuckle. And finally to the thumb. But, as it was, we walked side by side with hands to ourselves.

      There were words she needed to hear, I imagine. Some outpour. I may have even said them if I were capable. If I knew what they were. That is how we grow close, I imagine – wrenching it all up and out from the substratum. Here are my innards outwards. In any case I didn’t say them. I said how the banks were aflush with the canal. Aflush wasn’t the word, for they were not. In fact, the canal was sunk. She simply smiled. Although, I imagine with great difficulty. She simply smiled with. No. With great difficulty she simply smiled. Yes. Nicely put. It seemed to me for all the world. No, not yet. The sun was shining. No, too descriptive. The sun was present. Better. The sun was present, shining on. No, don’t embellish. Back and forth, conversation took on its definition. Both offering. Both taking. All the while the sun was present. Beautifully put, that.

      Her hair was dressed in a way that I. No. I have no idea how it was. I didn’t look. The eyes fixed to the road. The road only a slight distance from the eyes in the grand scale of it all. And yet, what do I remember of what I saw? A few stones? A few clusters of moss clinging to the cracks? Perhaps a few discarded pieces of litter? But no. Only the colour of her boots. And now that I recall the scene, what colour were they? The familiar sound of my steps, heavy and uneven. And now even uncertain. She walked, too. Tremendous description, that. She walked alongside. In front. Behind. For it seems she was occupied in a little game. I asked her. No need to delve into the question. It is enough to state she was asked. She replied by saying. She replied by revealing. They are one and the same. She was avoiding the cracks. I thought that to be common. I told her so. Elaborate. I told her I thought that to be a common child’s game. Avoiding the cracks. And what of it? she something’d. She may have been doing it for my audience. Or, simply out of boredom. I am not ignorant of my influence in these. In these what? Situations. Yes. That is the word. I am not ignorant of my influence in these situations. But is influence the word?

      Could it be we were getting along? It is not unreasonable to assume as much. I wanted to say. I wanted nothing of the sort! Merely to be seen by her was enough.  But if even that could have been avoided. I wanted to be rid of her. I didn’t. I wanted a change of scenery. I had nothing more to say about the outdoors. It was as it always is. A large distance into the unending space above the head and firm ground under the feet. I risk being branded a poet after that description. I don’t. She said that her friend would be fishing at this time. I don’t eat fish, I said. It seems there was yet more that could be discussed outdoors. Funny that. No. There is nothing humorous about it. You don’t eat fish? The response never changes. She asked. I explained. It is enough to say that I told her. I explained that as a child. It is enough to say that I told her! Such a whirlwind of dull words.

      Calmly, calmly, she was in front and behind. Cut out this poetry! A few pigeons. More. A few pigeons moved. More! A few pigeons moved somewhere within it all. Not my best, that. I told her she could go. If she wanted she could leave me. Do you want to go fishing? I asked. With your friend, I added, to be clear. I’m fine here, she said. If you don’t mind me staying a little longer in your company. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could remain in hers. These things are unbearable. No. This was progress. There was no denying it.

      She stopped at the entrance to a little bar and turned to face me. I glimpsed at something marvellous. It was a mistake. Do you understand me? I looked directly at her. I saw her. In her flesh I would find insurmountable rage, amongst other things. Kissing little lips, all pink. Unless coloured with paint. Like the eyes, all covered in paint for the evening. Change this!

      There are other days, I go down to the stream by the gable and watch the suds fizzle out. But that I do less and less, given the stress of it all. And I return again inside, just as the sun begins clambering up over the roof tiles. Beautiful, that. Repeat it. Just as the. No, repeat it all. And I return again inside, just as the sun begins clambering over the roof tiles. That is beautiful.  Just – as – the – sun – begins – clambering – over – the - roof tiles.

Evening.

      There were lights. All was lit. Again. All was lit. And yet much more left to falter in darkness. In darkness and secret. Circulating secrets of lust. A hushed tremor of lust. Vibrating along the chords. The sinews. Eyes – to and fro. Flickering flames of lust. Confessing to me in murmur. All that. Words upon words. A sand dune of words, blowing off into the surroundings. All was lit and yet more left to falter in darkness. Her hands touching her face. Kissing little lips decorating the rim of her glass, from time to time. Lips pushed, tucked in speech. With eyes, seeking out my eyes.  Looking out onto. Looking out into the. No movement on which to focus. Her heart. Or my heart. Without escape for the mind. Nerves touched, pulled and pushed. She was. No. She wasn’t. Merely intrigued. Less. But what is the word? Curious. I don’t know. She was something. No. She asked for my hand. Can I have your hand? No. Perhaps she demanded. Your hand. I. I didn’t. I gave it freely. I placed my hand freely in her upturned hand. I shouldn’t have! No – I was happy to. Here. Here is my hand. It was rigid. I placed my rigid hand in hers. I don’t know why. I do – why lie? It offered something else to talk about. Your hands are. Next to mine your hands are. I took it back from her. What had my hands said? No. Describe the room. I can’t remember the room. A table. Stools. It is enough to say that we sat, regardless of anything else. No. Regardless is not the word. Oblivious. Blind. Deaf. The room dissolved by heat and joy and silence and noise and lust and lust and lust and.

Night.

      I was out in the night air. Alone. It is enough to say that I was alone. No explanation proffered. I took the night air sadly. No. Change. I took it gladly. One foot. Another foot as unsteady as the previous. Heart heavy. No. I smiled. Elaborate. I recounted a little joke to inflict company. No. To offer company. I recounted a little joke to offer as company. It wasn’t to my taste in the end. I didn’t laugh. I sang The Skye Boat Song. I sang, Sweet bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, onward the sailors cry. I hummed the rest. I could have sung so many songs and yet I chose that. I don’t know why. I do. No, I don’t. I would have preferred humming something else. But in the end I hummed The Skye Boat Song.

      I walked. I walked a little more. Then I stopped. In the silence of it all I stood, humming. Then I took to walking again. There may have been a chill in the air. There may even have been a dampness settling down for the night, like so many other things, settling down. In truth, all had settled down. No. Nothing had settled. All had been enlivened. In every space, in every corner of this something world, life was progressing. I spat. To have the world in the palm of your hand and to drown them all in spittle. I looked within the patches of light for a loose stone. I would have picked it up and thrown it, had I found one. I wouldn’t have. I would have merely kicked it from its place in the patch of light, out into the darkness, never to be found again. I would have been overjoyed. I wouldn’t. I didn’t find a stone.

      I stopped again for a time and considered turning around, going back to her. Maybe saying something new. Talking about the stars. About love, perhaps. Nicely put. But no. I stood, humming The Skye Boat Song. All the while smiling, for it was all I could do to stop the. No. I don’t care much for this. What cannot be said with conviction is of little or no use, except for comfort. And what place has comfort within the truth? What had possessed me to meet her? I asked the head. I had no reply. That doesn’t mean much. I continued on home. I may even have continued humming along the way. I don’t know. Would it be a nicer image to say that I had? I continued humming along the way. 


Celine Fox


Celine Fox was born in Northern Ireland. She currently lives in Montpellier, France.