Thursday, 24 November 2016

Far From Dawn

A car door slams like the sound of a hand slapping a cheek, not playfully but hard; a laugh suggestive of glass being dropped in a bottle bank follows. Then, there's small, quick footfalls with heels that clack accompanied by softer lengthier strides and a hand jangling loose change in a trouser pocket. Stop-start, more breaking glass, a shushed chant, faces and bodies possibly pressed together as in prayer, start again, now a little unsteady, and jangle. A rustle as a gentler, yet urgent hand rummages in an over-the-shoulder handbag, the almost undetectable scrunch of tissues and a low mutter like a breeze blowing leaves where are they? where are they? A clink of glass, smothered, maybe by a mouth, perhaps by a cotton handkerchief. An audible snapped but unmeant: Stop that will ya. Aha, here they are! A jingle like the bell on a cat's collar, then the scratch and scrape of metal on metal which goes on far longer than it would in wakeful hours.
Finally, an incisive click, then a creak as presumably the now unlocked door swings inwards to allow the mash of lips and intermingled feet to stumble over each other into the vestibule, where bodies and elbows, once admitted, push the door closed with a resounding thud, which further disturbs and pollutes the still atmosphere.
A dog barks its irritation, a bathroom light gets switched on, and a bedroom net curtain is twitched, then quickly let go when there's nothing to see but a yellow light shining like a beacon in the darkness. The light goes out, not long afterwards, like an eyelid preparing to return to sleep and a underfed fox decides it's now safe to scramble over a fence, its claws clinging and digging into the wooden slats until its skinny body can be carried over, and then slinks to a verge where there's bushes. There, it sits, unblinkingly, surveying this slumbering terrain it claims as its own, until a noise startles it and it darts across the street, round the corner and into the next road.
The dissonance being the starting cough of a motorcycle engine, which now putt-putts and warms as its owner zips up their leathers and squeezes their crash helmet on; its fastener fumbled with as if its brand new or not yet adjusted to, and its purchase is regretted. Where is he, the rider, going at this ungodly hour, and why? To work perhaps, or perhaps he's an insomniac and so at this late-early hour goes for a drive. He climbs astride, revs the engine and accelerates to the top of the street and turns right, which will lead him, if he chooses to follow it, past a primary school and to a main junction where either direction will take him through a parade of sleeping shops before an overpopulated town is in sight, and where the beam of his headlight will seem far less bright against the still-sullen night.
Unlike the disruption of half an hour ago, nobody has stirred. The gunning of this motorcycle they contend with so regularly it washes over them, so that even those that have been up on other nights, possibly for a glass of water or to nurse a baby, have failed to register its low-throated rumble, though if it they stepped for a moment outside they'd instantly be aware of the heavy fragrance of petrol in the stale-not-yet-freshened air.
But they don't for the thought doesn't occur. They stay inside, woolly-headed, and stand at a counter or sit in a chair in the silvery light that sneaks in through windows that are either too small or too picturesque to be veiled. The luminosity that intrudes, whether it's from a street lamp or the moon, touches their features as the sun might at the height of day. Skin is made radiant and hair tinted gold as the glass of water is drunk or the baby is winded and lovingly, with a tired mother's care, placed back in its crib. Thus bathed, their world seems becalmed and they soothed.
The full moon on this night casts this ethereal light, so heavy that it hangs like a plump fruit at risk of falling to the ground and being bruised, and to which there must come a camouflaged point where it gets plucked out of the sky for at times only a peeled segment remains.

Picture credit: The White Page, 1967, Rene Magritte