Monday, December 22, 2008

Three stories: 1 Women Are


A light bulb vibrant and glowing yellow, almost purest white. Then a field of trees, burning, flames roaring free and singeing the clouds. A church steeple, the cross, purest white and in the sky, down to a wall, the sodden earth, a marble floor.

A woman with a young girl holding on to her left hand, looking timid. The woman in a loose wrap-around skirt, dirt brown like the soil, a scarf wound turban-like around her head, her face, clean and white, a small baby held in her free arm, clutched tightly against her breast, its face staring blankly out into the world, not knowing why it is hanging there. Not yet self-conscious in any way.

Then another marble floor, the same woman is still barefooted, and we see a bracelet around one ankle and a small tattoo of a bird on the other. She is staring, blankly, tired, frozen and daunted at the bottom of an underground escalator. I am at the top of the escalator, smoking, dust blowing into my eyes in a gust of wind so strong that I cannot suck on my cigarette and taste the tobacco. I step out into the street where there is no movement except for the warm night air.

The cigarette finished and dropped, a shoe treads the stub into the pavement, a black Doctor Martin boot, a scarlet-stockinged leg, a short skirt, crewcut jumper and short jacket, a bright, heated face with blazing red lipstick, wildly gazing about her - alien, scaled, alive and beautiful.A tramp passes by muttering a stream of incomprehensible phrases, ending in a crystal clear "I didne steal it" and takes out the bottle of whisky concealed in his overcoat. The lights are colourful and fuzzy, cars speed by, in the night, unrecognisable in the formless dark. A neon light, flashes 'ComeOn!ComeIn!' A red traffic light turns amber.

Indoors: A short woman with long blonde curly hair is leaning her back against the radiator, standing and staring down at the palms of her hands. A man's shadow is cast over her. She looks towards him and begins to speak: "I was reading a book about palmistry," she says.

I have a clear picture of the wrinkles on the palms of her hands upturned, laid out in front of her accusingly. "My mother must have left it in the flat. I don't know how it got there."

Her right forefinger runs along the major curved line of her left hand down to the wrist. "Look, it is so thin and weak. And there are so many lines crossing it."

The picture is frozen, engraved on my memory. She is frowning, her eyebrows edge closer together. A man, it is I, sips at a white plastic cup half full with a warm brown liquid. The woman continues to speak:

"The lines say I must be weak and indecisive."

I look at her, slowly, thoroughly, without expression. I put the cup down, turn my hands over and open my palms. "Your lines are so strong and certain," she says. Just so, there are no crossing lines, only firm blotchy pink flesh.

"It's true," I say, "I have direction," smiling, only half joking. The woman is still looking down at her hands now, smiling a worried smile.

The same woman is alone, walking up a barren communal stairwell, in a reasonably plush block of flats. She puts a key in a door, opens it, and steps inside a flat which is large and has a decor significant for its security, its apparent wealth, its feel of otherness that is not her own: a clean kitchen, a big double bed, no curtains in the windows, and an array of ornaments. She puts a disc in the hifi, something quietly spacious and ethereal like PaulBley's Open To Love.

The man is in another place. It is clearly shabby and barren. He is huddled over an old wooden table, unvarnished and cracking: he is making a list of his certainties. Writing in a blackbiro:

  • 1. I am permanently homeless. I change my address once every three months, I share essential facilities with people who are not of my choosing.

  • 2. I am badly paid, my work is unregulated and temporary, it holds no future nor any meaning.

  • 3. I am a man. I am alone.

  • A bed of roses in a park. It is a warm sunny day in Spring. A drake is chasing a duck across a patch of grass over hung by an old oak tree, something solid. The female duck runs just enough to separate them, and then she stops, to allow the male to close in, and then she starts again. Infatuated.

    The man is crouching by a pond in the park. More ducks are floating on the water, the sky is clearest blue. There are flowers, and people are walking along the footpath on the other side of the water. Our gaze focuses on a couple, a man and a woman, their arms around eachother, smiling. Patches of cloud emerge in the blue of the sky.

    A woman is sitting with glasses, on a bench, well-dressed like a businesswoman, reading a newspaper. Another, perfectly formed, is lying on the grass in a pair of cream shorts and a white vest, dark glasses, staring at the sky.

    Then a line of people at a bus stop. A large black woman in a large black dress with lace trimming. An over-weight middle-aged white woman with two over flowing bags of shopping either side of her. A man in a suit, holding nothing. An old woman with a handbag big enough to devour the whole world, her face haggard and drawn. Looking up the road, people and shops, a dreary autumn day now, grey in texture as if the city's smog had seeped into the lens of the camera.

    Our lives are not drawn like random lots, they are made. But we all have a hand in their making. Karl Marx. Roll credits and


    author: Jon Simmons, © 1990

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