Peter Hitchens is my doctor.
My explanation; his refutation.
Sketching a corporate skyscraper bulging at the middle.
Peter Hitchens is my doctor.
My explanation; his refutation.
Sketching a corporate skyscraper bulging at the middle.
Tom, me and the other guy, agree: there’s a very good reason to do this very bad thing. The dark plan in the dark control room—computer screens. Infiltration: the compound yields, is undefended but also barren, a trap, a bomb... Which fails to exploded until, returning to the control room, and disturbing the sentry—the sentry who should have triggered the bomb—sees us now and triggers the bomb, detonating fire where we now are not.
"I will just do it like this", balancing on my left leg crouched down, leaning forwards, right leg trailing behind me like a counterbalancing tail; arms like a runner, pose like a runner—I'm a simulacrum of a runner, a frozen mime. Dad perhaps would have shown me a way. We were on the patio. I saw my own face adopt glasses—my brothers glasses? I set them normally and judged. I set the left lens over my right eye and judged—now having three eyes.
Eddie Hall noticed the bin of marbles, zip-lock bags like bags of flower. Infatuated by the twisting amber details he tosses one sack onto his shoulder. We're in the airport duty-free. A man, young, (a Treason's Harbour "Turk"?), unable to speak our language nor we his, is drawn up by our behaviour. What are we fussing over he must surely be wondering, and I communicate Eddie's passion for marbles, particularly amber marbles, by draping this latest procurement against the collection ensconced in his unzipped rucksack. He gets the picture. Eddie makes a gift to the Turk, a pack of his own. I must buy my own pack, but that's because I am a closer friend who's rewards are other and greater.
But now, in the line for the till, I reach the cashier. Where's my wallet? I pop down the marbles on the counter. I'll be right back I say and step away to think, poised like a gunslinger. Where is my wallet? And, dreamlike, more comes, like distant whisps, mist on the horizon, memories: didn't I used to have a bag? I don't have one now. Did I have a bag?
Eddie has his arm around me, around my shoulder and I around his, and we walk as two men into great hoards emptying into city streets. A merriment I do not understand. I fear those men, but Eddie does not. We turn off the street and deeper into the heart of jubilation. Cheering, chanting, raucous celebration and I hold my free arm aloft in ascension; anything less felt a statement of opposition. I was passing the team themselves, the uniformed sportsmen in green. Or were they sports-boys? I commended them with a clasp of the hand, a slap on shoulder, and felt I knew not what I was about.
We were passing back, inwards to a familiar place. I knew it's familiarity only by discrepancies: a staircase which didn't exist last time. Last time? Was there a last time then? Oh, I turned to Eddie, I might have left my bag under my seat in the stadium! My wallet and my bag! We passed up the discrepant stairs, and then immediately descended. I scrutinised the feature as it passed. Eddie now turned to me, you'll have to go to the ____, he said. I said that I didn't know what that was and he described a kind of office, a place where lost things would accumulate. There they would check my ____. Again I asked what he was on about: money he said. They will verify it's your bag by the money you used to buy your seat in the stadium. I didn't quite understand but things sounded promising.
Rob sitting apart from me on the patio.
Rob sleeping beside me in the bed.
I message down—to end the noise.
Rob advises a different app—I resent.
Rob reverses his head and his feet.
Me, Chris, and a my Chinese friend—who speaks a sparse, timid English—alone in our apartment; waking up of a morning. Chris' room has a shower which he cannot use whilst the bed is established for the room is long and narrow and the shower ends up behind the bed-head. Our friend asks why nobody uses the showers in his room, of which there are two. I use this one I object, pointing to the booth closest to the entrance. But then there was a second shower in the same room; a curious arrangement.
In the living room, the central space of the apartment, we chatted about games. Did you remember ____ asks our friend. And I didn't remember, I didn't even recognise the strange name, a name which I wouldn't even have attributed to a game. I don't think that was released in the UK I offer. Why did I say "UK" and not "here" I find myself noticing?
We cannot make arrangements because Chris is bespoke by "David" for a game of football which will begin shortly. I do not know a David but promptly a new cohort descend on the apartment: tall, athletic, otherworldly, lively; Jamaicans retiring from a galvanising off-stage episode. The tallest and strongest of the new arrivals had a dexterous foot which excelled at grasping the spirited hacky sack which animated their entrance. I wanted to speak out and say how good he was at his skill, perhaps he was the David of which Chris spoke.
But Chris was at once joining in—limbering up with a jaunty dance. He looked so different to his friends, and I couldn't find the comparison flattering. A naive exuberance? He clips his knee on our breakfast room table leg, a collapsible table leg, imparting it's nature now for Chris collapsed to the ground in a protective crouch. I saw him eventually try to move and immediately regretting it. "He's broken his leg" someone joked and I felt I alone knew the buried truth in the quip.
He'd never ridden an electric motorbike. We shouldn't work the engine on the incline. We push the metal steed with our legs on the incline. On the flat I turn the ignition key—plunge the stirrup.
Now a steep ascension, now rocks and scree, now mountain. Now travellers walking their bikes up it by the nose. And as the cap an amphitheatre of seats. We arrive at—can the term be avoided—the gods and Ashley and I take our seats.
A girl settles down with us, I hope I mean something to her. She doesn't, or didn't, know me, but now asked me my name, which she jots down on her clipboard.
"Where do you place your tee?" I am forcing the game by the question. The tee goes into the long grass; roots in the soil. The white golf ball balances.
"What iron do you have?" I take my fathers club. Was it like this I should grip or this other way? Swing, and scuffed it; an almost perpendicular trajectory into the forest.
A difficult hole: straight and narrow fairway,
and not only forest on the right but water on the left. Dad agrees, Chris is there. I re-tee and hit it a great distance down-range; but into the water.
Reachable, not too far out, I could see my ball as I stood at the lip of the lake. Facing the land I knelt and lowered in a bare foot. I didn't find the bottom and lost my balance and my trousers, not being rolled up enough, would get wet. I paused in the teetering situation and made small adjustments and did not slip in.
So it was deeper than I thought. This time I faced the water and, sitting on the land dangled both legs in. I would rescue the ball in the clasp of my two feet. I made good use of my waterproof headlamp submerging it in the grasp of my right foot and seeing more clearly.
Refulgent boots, dashing hair, an easy lean; my old friend. In his palm a small white mint. Do I want one he asks. I take it without giving thanks—the wordless gratitude of old friends? No, I lament the silence.
Embedded with a sniper in a house, he fights, watches, I watch his back. We are friends.
Interested in the General, he comes to like me. He offers me "T3 with a fast-track promotion to T4". I barely understand the magnitude of what has come to me.
Feared intimacy, bodily close, not remembering what bones knew. Fingers between toes. My hand, her foot.
Stranger to muscular guys in black tees, this is my place, I reply to the one who later drapes over me his intoxicated embrace, It's you all who turned up around me.
Lost exiting hospital corridors; dead ends, stumbling unwelcome. Of a respected friend: catch his at the help desk before travelling on. To a complaining friend: we do not complain of your complaining, we return to the good. A terminus of slides leading down and out. Then a door, finally a door, an outside (dark, smoky) bar. But I turn away; to advertising screens I lament.
He sat me down for a private word. I respected him, looked up to him. It was somehow myself I resented—the regurgitated excuses forthcoming. He asked me about my work as we took a seat in the bathroom; I sat on the closed toilet.
And how long had I been under my father's tents, this was his topic now. Was it a temporary thing, had it been years? It had been years, and he asked me what the trouble was by a phrase I but understood and cannot explain. I talked of myself, my creativity, my essential unique values and we both grew weaker in the hearing. I knew condemnation from my own heart.
The assault trooper could fly only half the distance, and this was measured out with the red plastic rod in inches. He could just make it into fighting range with a model painted black, but that guy had two power axes to my measly chainsword. The match up didn't feel good. Behind Mr Power-Axe were several terminators and that really tipped the balance against me. And behind the terminators the rest of Christopher's army amassed.
Supporting my singular assault trooper was a tank and a transport vehicle. The situation was dire; my main force was backed into a literal corner on the board. The tanks must pull back and fire, shoot-and-scoot—the only option—ultimately leading to no options when I fell all the way back to the corner.
I strafe and kill with vitality ailing,
I impart death and evade my own, pulling the trigger.
I creep in houses and stalk outskirts.
I shall counter-snipe from the ascending forest slopes.
The pens of others, like my own, lay home-alone.
Father returns, wise to my presence by fallacious ingenuity.
Who then was it opened the desk draw and alerted him here?
Militiamen are here, tourists on the ascending slopes.
All actions overt by force, I cannot take up the slopes.
Here they gather, so I explain it to Father:
"They carry weapons because others carry weapons!"
A thrumming mute: my hand plays a neat staccato, the fluttering modulation of my own voice. Not from the mouth: from the forehead, and my hand dances there. Chris and Dom really start to laugh, "that's really funny." I know to make a person laugh is everything, and I have made my heroes laugh.
Mr Wolstenholme looks to breakfast, I offer our wares in my mothers style. He will have bacon, that's what he fancies—and we have no bacon. We shall go out for his bacon, and yet is it not he who will go, and is it not me who is keeping him.
To reach the crossroads was to look upon rugged fields, and men everywhere, soldier's in the twilight. A whispering wind yielding to raucous engines falling from heaven. Four black wings ripping the air apart in approach. After a bitter raking they recede to the dark and are gone.
Walking the captain's map, through forests, and little in certainty. The arrogant crag on sweeping heath abates and establishes. A wicked light up there flickering against us. Digging in and embracing as brothers under gloom.
Mum types out a snarling address, the fractal complications, a friend's email. Amazed and annoyed, do I speak out. I do not.
Now he looms near my friends and me, now he announces a name to the theatre: "Marcus"—my name...
This had been the flow of the evening, he going around, anointing members of the cast for a moment in the spotlight. A moment to speak about themselves, and for the audience to know them. Each chosen actor or crew member, for we were all part of a grand project, a performance, was chosen for their exceptional effort. Each person was thus honoured with thanks and applause and given a moment to express themselves.
But we all know how these things go, and it was in fact a very human admixture of tradition, boredom, misjudgement, enthusiasm, rivalry, politics... The host was a man from my own life. A man who, bearing nobody ill will, nevertheless spawned much ill feeling. This fellow led the proceedings now and now my name was called.
Despite myself, I found I took it as my due, that my name would be mentioned. I was also afraid and slightly cowed. How was I going to be genuine in this moment? How would I discontinue what did not want to become and be what I wanted to be? A fluttering heart, yet a definite ambition, a scurry for virtue remembered.
A cheer went up with a hearty lethargy, a soothing friendly sound from a few in the audience. No other had received such approbation, tacit warmth. It's sometimes very difficult to see an audience, they are cast in shadow like Bond villains. I stood up to take my place centre stage, to live out this honorific. "I guess I'll put on my shirt" I chuckled to those who could hear—I'd been waiting in the wings in pyjamas, bare chested; a cause now though for a sartorial formality I hadn't needed in the slanting shadows.
Fumbling with the hem, a stage can make a thing feel so indulgent and deliberate, I chatted with a chap in the front row—I figuring he had known me, that he was a friend, that probably he had growled out earlier in encouragement because he caught my eye now with an easy countenance. Whenever I've lost my moorings in the whirlpool of experience I'm thankful for the solid ground of honest conversation. When the wind of scrutiny comes on to blow you out to sea, one can batten down the hatches, beginning again from what you know, something simple. To chat with a friend is an easy thing and a beautiful thing, especially on stage; a calming thing.
Shirt on, my host gathers me onto a beautiful red leather couch. I sit and he sits. I hoist up my feet and sit cross-legged. He is a big man. He takes up two thirds of the seat and I resent it, I despair of this visual snubbing. He wields a microphone absent mindedly as the hush assembles.
Laid out on the parchment are intricate, beautiful illustrations of various species. An entomological or ornithological masterpiece perhaps? But these are not small creatures, nor are they winged; they are human. A voice attends to a particular illustration in middling terms. There are many types of people, body types, different male body types: that was it! This was a comparison of the different types of men.
The narrator was gathering to a final conclusion, and, addressing the final image—the tall slim build (my own form), named it, in a monotonous, rehearsed way, the most attractive form. Words now about measurements of the jaw and shoulders, units I'd never heard of and couldn't decode. I was hopeful that I might measure up.
But now I looked at the image on the parchment and frowned a little. Have you ever seen a portrait from a bygone age, and, peering at it, think to yourself "I know I'm supposed to feel he looks important, but to me, now, today, he looks silly, unheroic; perhaps even a bit weird and ugly." This is what I felt. I didn't like the guy, despite his upright posture and fine clothes.
Our mission begins here, letting ourselves, every so quietly out of one darkness and into another; escaping the open corridor for a room with a close presence—a hotel room harbouring a pregnant silence. Those are people under the covers weren't they? no. No wait! Evincing a crepuscular light—slightly uncovering my hand hitherto clasping my headlamp—I confirmed it. People sleeping softly. Several of them, many of them. I don't understand. This isn't right. And where are my compatriots with whom I slooped in?
The worm had turned, expectation was falling apart, the inanimate emanated a profound alacrity—a knowing anticipation of undoing. Back-tracking into the corridor I began an evasive pathway of confusion. This must have been the wrong room, a mistake in place or time. A stairwell of iron railings, a fire-escape I begin to ascend. Reaching the top I recoil in confusion—no rooms here at all. Where was I? Where was this room! And now in the dead of night I was spotted in this prowling mode.
A man addressed me on the descent. An overtly quizzical fellow with a vociferous sarcasm. He mentioned—or didn't mention, which was as good as mentioning it—that there were no rooms beyond the current flaw; no reason to be going up there. He had me figured. I had to get out of this place.
Briskly and with purpose I crossed an airfield of vehicles and machines. With the twilight some fastidious enthusiasts were in and about the trucks and bikes. "Rotate 360" mentioned a formula one driver to his friend. He then engaged the engine of his go-kart moving forward exactly one 360 degree rotation of a wheel. Moving past them I found promenading pedestrians, morning joggers moving towards the coming sun, and I began my own pace likewise.
Of all things I was gratified to see a friend from school, more a friend of a friend. A boy who experienced scholastic fame in performing an act of vivacious courage before our assembled masses. I jogged with him now, amongst all such early risers, as the sun rose.
A bird of prey! There it was alighting on their side of the fence, in my neighbours garden. Luminescent blue feathers, flashing green plumes, all now in a dead still, watching. I could see the hedge (a memory which predates the concrete post and wood panel division of today) and looked for the object of his looking. A Rabbit, now jumping and scuttering, pressed himself through the tangled branches, freezing again in the thicket boundary.
Now a simultaneity of explosive movement on both parts. The bird was huge, monstrous. Rabbit left the hedge, springing free towards our side, our lawn. The bird fell into the branches like so much barbed wire, talons protruding, thrust out, extended on a reptilian stork, a long disgusting leg which overwhelms Rabbit, carapacing claws subduing his great evasion and dreadfully winching him now backwards into the branches, like so much barbed wire. Does white furred Rabbit see me? Yes, in that moment he does and he sees a man watching. Watching from his parent's bedroom. Watching a bundle of pure white revoked and receding. Watching from above.
The bird—was he always such a gargoyle? a small elephant was smaller—opened a slobbering beak, a gnarled tucan-esque affair. Rabbit is now proffered by the claw to the jaws, hovering as they slacken open. The bird, quite slowly, pushes his lower mandible smoothly, inexorably into the nape of the neck as Rabbit sees only the ground, only green grass, and then goes limp. The disgusting leg releases him into the jurisprudence of the mouth, into which Rabbit is ingratiated. There he lies trapped and dead, not even swallowed. The bird's attentions widen. I do not want to be caught in them.
My parents bedroom is transformed, usually there's a bed, there's wardrobes, today it is empty, transformed. Two boy's I respected in senior school and sixth-form were there. They were popular and tough-minded, often friendly sometimes cantankerous, a popularity class above me, a chimeric entity each; the allure of a swashbuckling rogue. The black barbell weights were piled high into a stubby plinth which one of my friends now jumped on. He balanced admirably despite a lurching shift in the amalgam. Afterwards he fished out a strap of velcro and we all looked at it. My brother and I, in reality, had used just such a method to invent a sort of saddle bag weight for a physio regime designed to heal his knee; and it was this usage of velcro, to hold together, which we all bore down our attentions on now. It wasn't a perfect solution we felt, but it was a good, surprisingly good, innovation. My friends approved.
A stroppy invention of my imagination entered: an overweight, opinionated, demanding individual. She tried to tell me what to do, but when I didn't concede that much she tried other ways to undermine the atmosphere. And then she just as quickly left.
The plan was a simple one, me and J.S. (a friend from Junior School) were to accompany a third guy into a shop. This third guy would pretend to buy something extravagant, and then at the last moment only buy one very simple thing. This third party member reminds me of Charlie from the The Official Podcast which my brother listens to whilst exercising. J.S. and I had skateboards which we'll use to run away when the joke is played.
Charlie pulls down a huge box from a shelf, a Maltesers pack the size of an old fashioned travelling trunk, the kind of thing you stow in a steam train's cargo or a sail ships hold. Heaving the red cuboid onto the counter Charlie picks a small thing from the visible confectionery and adds it to his order.
Suddenly, and I don't quite know why, we must run! Charlie has broken the limits of joviality, he's taken things too far somehow. I throw my small skateboard down to the pavement outside and begin my escape. Police Sirens. J.S. goes one way, I go another. Right in front of me the Police pull up, cascade from the vehicle and into action, grabbing J.S. Did they notice me? I step from the board, pick it up, pull it close into my chest and walk away from the Police. I make a point of dawdling slowly and aimlessly like the other school kids walking about (for I am of school age myself). I even slow down and take a seat.
The Police are gone. A girl I know plonks down unhappily, sitting close by, sad in her own attentions.
Another fragment: black stallions on a green field disappearing now as the my train carries on. My friends (school friends) invitations to join me are lost in my effulgence. But as the previous scene falls away, a new vista comes. Even more black stallions! Just like Lloyds Bank advertisements. These ones were frolicking in a beautiful river stream. But I had to correct myself, as we drew closer we all saw them to be hippopotamuses. Jet black hippopotamuses! We were astonished. They were glistening in the qualities of a summer sun. Or was the word "hippopotami", I now asked myself.
The black hippos, like the black stallions, passed inexorably into the past and out of site. Our expectations were primed, what would this fateful journey next reveal! An otter! There it was a huge pure black glistening otter climbing out of the waters of a great lake and onto the land. At least that's what I cried out as I saw it, but this was a large animal, more like a seal than an otter.
Now the waters were behind us and the land brought white lambs into view. Must I admit it? I think I must. Perhaps the lamb was announced with something a little less than the pomp and exuberance of before. But anyway, green fields, good rambling terrain, unfurled before us. After a white lamb, a memorial of white bricks laid at crazy angles. Like a bone white coral reef. The whole thing formed a mound of substantial earth and importance. I wondered what it remembered as it too passed us by.
Sometimes dreams have a single continuous thread, sometimes many separate strands. Here is another. A great wall of Victorian red brickwork stood three stories above me, flat and functional. A prison? A factory? But in this flat ochre surface footholds and been left by leaving out a brick here and there, and at the top were hatches into the heart of the thing. Our job was to be at those hatches stoking the great furnace within. I think my family were responsible for different hatches, I don't know because I didn't want to look around to much and fall. It was all I could do to cling on and use a small trowel to push some clay about inside this brick machine.
Yes, that was my responsibility. I could see, in the corner of my eye, that other functions were performed at the other hatches. Here I shaped a sopping wet grey mix which hardened into stone. There they added fuel to the fires, or cleared out ash, or something beyond my station.
I had to relocate, a dangerous necessity, but I needed a new tool. A descent and a return to the working heights, bricks loosening, footholds crumbling. Each time I moved about my footfalls pulled the towering wall slightly apart. I made it back up in the company of my drumming heartbeat, but I was sure I couldn't make it back down. But now I found another hatch near my station with a bounty of implements inside; just the thing for a job like mine.
But a great army was gathered below, of muskets and swords and military authority, and the most venerated of them all called out my name and bid be come forth, which I did in the eerie silence of thousands of men. I had the sense of looking out from behind a false beard and a false cap of rank, both of which closed in on my vision as I approached. He called me by a rank and surname which I didn't recognise but did understand. As if it couldn't belong to anyone else. With extreme ceremony he allowed me to take position at the front of a column of marching men, which I did. And then the sweep of movements carried us all forward; me trying to learn as quickly as possible what my responsibility was. Often the men caught me up and I strode out again earnestly trying to do what it is a leader does in this circumstance. I saw an excellently uniformed officer, replete with braids and tassels and striking colours, who saluted as he changed direction by ninety degrees. This I emulated and started to gain a confidence in making my own turns, although I couldn't tell if I was being followed in my choice or if everyone had chose a left march owing all to a deeper schedule.
Norm MacDonald was going for another cake. Let's get the tin out he suggested again. I smiled at his attentions, why not get them all out I said, which he happily did. I was nonplussed to learn weed was the key ingredient in each recipe, a notion which Norm heartily endorsed. I had eat a cookie before knowing this salient fact.
A large dinner and we chat with Keanu Reeves amidst many guests. Keanu is out of sorts, at odds with my understanding of his personality. He's wearing large thin-framed glasses which turn blue when he takes a selfie. I admire his transmutable blue shades, those are some amasing blue glasses, I say. I'm cognisant of a dislike, however, for the un-blued original. I ignore that aspect, and I wonder if it is right to ignore it and speak only of the good. But a deeper awareness reminds me my apprehension was not for the clear lensed incarnation, it was for the possibility that others may dislike it. A strange internalising of a potential threat. No need to expedite chaos. Chaos can arrive in it's own time.
And what's this, Chris Pratt and Ryan Reynolds ascending an arctic stage, snow on their Parka's.
And leaning on the kitchen work surface I saw, through my gazing insouciance, a great crowd gathering on the patio. A refulgent mix of rough, dangerous, looking characters were gathering and resting everywhere. A dull feeling of territory lost: my own patio, besieged by a new patois. So it was a great risk to be taking striding out to meet them as I now was, hands in my pockets, looking tough, looking ripe and mean—gruff.
I went unchallenged, which was a victory in itself. I was blending in like a spy, an undercover cop who's blurred the lines, a man lost in his role. I swaggered towards a semi-recumbent boy, a man really and, reaching him close up, impugned him with a force of words. He protested: some aspects were necessary, some of the things he would do would be necessary. "No unnecessary shit" I said walking away and winning my victory.
In another fragment I find myself locked in combat, struggling for supremacy with a naked form, and finding supremacy when a large belt contrived to restrain him—for I now saw it was a him (at least in part)—the belt denaturing those flailing arms and coiled, kicking legs. I raised this writhing body above me, hoisting it upwards—a flag aloft on the flag pole of my own legs, for I had been knocked to my back. Like an embittered chimp I assaulted, denigrated his manhood, not gouging, but hitting the testicles once; then again, and, seeing no repercussions, continuing at my base leisure.
There was nothing lascivious here. Carnivorous. I felt rage, I felt, supremacy... abandon. But, yes, the penis was, of course, erect, and was, or shall I say is being snatched by my own hand, and this very moment, this inevitable culmination, snatches me simultaneously from the illusion of the dream and the illusion of my first clause.
A dusky room for a shining personality, a quiet which draws my attention, the slight electric shiver—just like when the optician inspects my eye, close in. There he is, spacesuit on, smiling at the same situation. Adam Savage, the man himself, is waiting to have his photograph taken. He stands in the light, the only light in the room, of a projected image. Behind him a planetary backdrop projected, which seems out of focus to me, completes the picture; and then presumably the picture is taken: we are chatting afterwards, in the full bright of a lit room, Adam, the photographer and me.
The focus has moved on, pictures are no longer being taken, but that doesn't seem to matter to me. Now I stand center stage, besuited astronautically, and struggling with the mask. A gas mask almost, a clinging thing of tightening rubber straps. I pull them tight, taught—maybe too taught, too tight; actually, yes way too tight, choking my neck. But no sooner had this face-hugging rubberised headcrab of a mask got the better of me I had got the better of it. I took it off, holding it, only slightly uneasily, like a severed head by my side.
The photographer had been away for some time. I took a seat next to Adam on the bench which encircled this small hall. He was exhausted. Exhausted yes, but still ethereally joyful, still wondrous. Words drifted between us, laughter, analgesic sounds, relaxing talk. I put my arm about his shoulder and was surprisingly becoming concerned. Adam wasn't all together together, something deeper than lethargy was afoot, I could sense it.
Come on, let's get you up. Maybe I said something like that, but Adam really wasn't responding. He was as if concussed, as if within an acute dementia. He was fading. Where was that damn photographer! When he stood up he dawdled listlessly. I assumed a deeper level of care, and, supporting him with my right arm, led him out of the hallway. We had to find help.
We wanted people, we found a tunnel. We found cold itself crawling freely from it's lowly abode. We found a tunnel going down, a shaft really, actually a drop which necessitated a staircase but which had forgotten such responsibilities. What I could see, in the old gloom, what I now noticed, were stacks of small boxes and objects. Old plugs and containers, tools and materials, jars. Oh! Looking down I saw it. Footholds here and there, steps in the perilous sheer stacks of equipment. The appurtenances of production would facilitate a safe descent!
Immediately I'd overcommitted. Everything was all wobbly. When I took up a flat spot everything shook like a Jenga tower begging to be free. Each step was so far beneath the other that I would never make it back up. When it collapsed (because obviously this thing is going to collapse) it would take a lifetime to reassemble.
An improbable tower of small pointy devices fell on me. A thousands years resting against a wall and I couldn't save it, it was already too late. Enough of this! I expedited, I concentrated, I abandoned my concerns. I headed for the ground beneath, and found it.
Adam hopped down deftly. Oh yeah! Easily, effortlessly. And he was making no more sense than before. Except now he was dreaming out loud, as if the space itself was conversant. Everything he said was pertinent.
"We used to come down here all the time when were young", he said. We had to keep moving onwards, and onwards meant a low vaulted, straight, wide, tunnel; I lead him as he spoke. "The problem was you could loose yourself down here", said Adam, and seeing me cognisant of the detritus underfoot, went on: "you just have to stand on everything confidently with your feet". That's a lot easier if you're wearing shoes, I muttered, for I wasn't wearing shoes; my bare feet felt every disgusting ridge of rubbish.
But that was me Adam was responding to! He had noticed my predicament and was trying to help. He was back with us! Or at least recovering his awareness. I carried on, now cloaked in hope, and reflected on my own memories. I searched for my own cold, vaulted, underfoot refuse tunnel. Did I have such a memory, did I do the same. I felt inadequate. But that's okay. Sometimes it is adequate to feel inadequate.
"... don't take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in".
These words by David Whyte, 1 since hearing them three days ago, have quite effected me. Whyte himself described my predicament, indeed lauded it in a conversation with Sam Harris, 2 as a prime quality of poetry: words against which one has no defence; words which evince realities already known to you. And the stanza continues, importunately: "the step you don't want to take." Two weeks I'd been working a tough nut, coding away, forging something, honing a second step. Throwing it all overboard, now I started with a new idea, a simplification, I started with the first thing... close in.
I was building my own "continuous deployment" pipeline, a software production line which assembles raw materials into a working product in an automated, and therefore dependable, manner. I got it working, and it did what I wanted it to do, but it did it in a way I wasn't conformable relying upon. I'd built a wobbly pedestal for my priceless vase. And that wouldn't answer at all. I wasn't there yet, but I would get there eventually. But eventually there was a realisation: I had jumped ahead, made assumptions, and two interesting people were admonishing me for exactly that. David Whyte I have already mentioned, but in that same epoch I was learning that Agile is Dead and the parallels between Whyte's poetry and the spirit of the Agile Manifesto are invigorating. I hadn't stared with the first thing, and that had reduced my agility in choosing between futures. I had become committed to something I didn't understand, to a design which didn't authentically arise from my own requirements; to a dream which wasn't mine. "Someone else's heroics".
I started from scratch, and close in. "Start right now, take a small step you can call your own, don’t follow someone else’s heroics". Within one day I found myself a rock steady plinth for my pricey porcelain. The vase was safe, and on display. In fact I was inspired to start close in with a few other things; this short article being one—the indirect fruit of David's poem. It was David's words which infiltrated my perceptions, David's words which, in my mind at least, lassoed stars from the constellation of existentialist psychological thinking, suns from the nebulous expanse of mythology.
Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don't want to take.