It may interest you to note that, despite my omniscient narration of events, I am mortal. Not simply mortal, I am also prey to the day-to-day corporeal interruptions that beset those of us who are prone to slow but steadily more perceptible disintegration. As such, and entirely on time in the great arc of my life’s not entirely sure arrow, I have begun to listen to songs with banjos in them. I don’t fully understand why, but the plink of a banjo and the strain of a harmonica is increasingly replacing the aural pleasure that I previously derived from a sampler or a heavily-flanged arpeggiator.
It started with a single song: Bob Dylan’s ‘Nettie Moore’. I was jogging around Lima’s Ministry of Defence (an enormous, brutalist piece of architecture that is no less ominous than Orwell’s Ministry of Love – and beautiful with it). The song was so spartan; not a single note was extraneous. Dylan’s lyrics were parochial, humorous and warmingly sad. “The world has gone black before my eyes,” he croaks, regretting that he didn’t appreciate quite what he’d lost sight of until it had, predictably but no less profoundly, become a mist to him.
A little boy ran past me, dressed as Spiderman. He couldn’t resist but smile back at me as he trundled breathingly past me. He stopped, put his hands on his little hips and allowed me the privilege of running past him, smiling at me all the time and hungry for eye contact. By God, I could have fed him that eye contact forever. Forever.
So strange it is to pre-miss something or someone. So silly, self-indulgent and without point.
It would have been maybe a year into our relationship when I drew her in charcoal and chalk. On a rough piece of A3, I pushed her form into the rectangular portrait, the largest picture I could draw. I don’t have the picture now. Most likely it is rotted, a damp disintegrated Skellig in some cobwebbed corner of my parents’ garage.
To draw her; to shade her eyelids; to trace the lines of her jaw with the hiss of a length of carbon – I’m so glad that I did. I swear that, when my brain dries and unravels, in a future time that image will be drawn from my remains like some dormant silk memory. I may swear this, but I guess you and I suspect this won’t be the case. So perhaps let this piece of writing stand, flickering on several screens, in leiu of such a memory ever being retrieved.
Ah, the pain of the contemplation of the eventual letting go. Sometimes, the morbidity rises so cold and real, resting on my chest on its icy and bonesharp bumcheeks. Sometimes, I’m so fearful of committing so wholly, knowing that the inevitability of ending will be a crippling beyond imagination. That’s why I drew her – to draw her into the confines of a page in some vain hope that we might both last forever.
Spiderman, stay looking at me for while. We are both as eager for an ambering of time right now, existing only now and only in one another’s eye contact. For a moment, our retina are brothers. Notes are plucked and the melody tumbles into the steady beat of a heart.
“I’m the oldest son of a crazy man.”
Spiderman, you’ll draw your picture. It’ll be your life’s work and whether it rots or not, it’ll reside somewhere in our great helix, just like my picture.
“Don’t know why my baby never looked so good before.”
Spiderman, I’m so glad that I drew that picture. It ever sits beyond me like a great stained glass window, bathing my cranium with soothing light. To look at something so intently – object, subject, whatever – is to trace it upon oneself: to write it on one’s body like a tattoo’d poem.
For my sins, I carried on running (as is usual). I did look back every so often. And he stood, Spiderman, smaller with each backward glance, hands on hips and laughing a little at my diminishing form.
Somewhere (sometimes everywhere) there are such portraits of us all.