“Open the bag please sir”, I say, staring my most intimidating stare, eyes fixed, lip curled, ears forward. They’re usually so shocked they don’t immediately run at least, but nor do they immediately obey. I allow my hackles to rise slightly. He doesn’t know it, not consciously, but his gut still picks up on it and he feels the threat, I hear it in his quickened heartbeat. “Take out the cocaine and place it on the counter”. Sometimes, in a stressful situation, people need clear direction. It can help.
The Dance of the Queens of Heaven
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. The women slipped silently from their front doors and danced under pinks and reds and blues, their arms high, or wide, or stretched out in front of them, their skirts rippling as their hips swayed, and their eyes reflecting the myriad shades of the sky. They danced for the parts of themselves they had lost, tear laden, bruised souls, vaporising the embarrassment of wanting with those fires that had burned in their girlhood, whose embers still flared under that midnight sky. They danced so that in the morning, heaving simmering kettles from the stove, or pulling weeds from between neat rows of beans, they would feel whole enough to hold together. They danced so their husbands would recognise them, so that their children would listen when they spoke, so that their voices would find the songs that carried morning into noon, and noon into afternoon, and afternoon on towards night.
On the Travelator of Time
ONE: THE DISCOVERY Two days ago, on Sunday, the 26th of February, 2023, I was eating breakfast, when a book appeared. By which I mean that an orange A5 notebook coalesced in my wife’s cornflakes. You would think, wouldn’t you, that such a thing would cause you to leap to your feet and exclaim “What the gubbins!” before the milk had landed in your lap. But it never ceases to surprise me how little attention “freeze” gets when we think about fight and flight. My wife and I sat absolutely still, spoons midway between now gawping mouths and the polka dot breakfast bowls my parents had brought us back from the souks of Marrakesh last spring, and stared at the book. After some seconds Lucy – that’s my wife – looked at me, and I looked at her, and taking courage from one another’s need of it, we rose to our feet in order to bend down and look more closely at the interloping volume.
Across the shop floor
If walls could talk, perhaps you’d do away with us altogether. If the secret keepers don’t keep secrets, do they serve any purpose at all? If your hiding places shouted out your hidden selves, would you, perhaps, be happier? And if the guardians of your worst selves let all and sundry know who you really are, perhaps you would learn to guard yourselves better.