Saturday, 18 October 2008


When your number’s up, your number’s up as the saying goes. Or as the going say. For we are pegged by a fixed quota of heartbeats, before the old ticker winds down, packs up and clocks off for the final time. (That is if some other antecedent degeneration hasn’t already carried us off). The power cell runs out of juice, its chemical components sapped and debased. The pump’s tissue, just too pinched and attenuated to drive the blood with sufficient suction. Or otherwise, feebly emaciated, immured behind fistulous fat deposits. In either eventuality, way too pooped to puff. We are counted out.

Builtin obsolescence seems part of our design. For in similar clogged vein, our cellular machinery is also possessed of a limited number of regenerative divisions. Predetermined by the exponential algebra of ACGT, to the power of 3 billion, currently being panhandled into a blueprint by our latest generations of scientific binary processors. This particular numerical tyranny i s forever being pushed up hard against, by the excoriations of malignancy. The Big ‘C’, seeking to cast off its shackles and aspire to unbounded rejuvenation. With many fifth columnists and other carcinogenic collaborators enlisted into the cytoliberation struggle. Among them our own emotions. For many are the covert compacts brokered, exacting full tribute of organocollateral, whereby supressed feeling and emotion avoid conscription.

So, in order to remain all of a healthy piece, we ought not to hold our peace. Express what we feel, in its entirety. All well and good. Yet, is there not a further piece rate winnowing ? The mining out of the mind. The rationing of ratiocination. Neural enervation. The demeaning demanning of dementia. As our words degrade and deconstitute themselves and our identity along with them. We are also condemned to the utteri ng of a preset aggregate of words in our lifetime. Before we dry up. Quietus. Spoken for and about, in the past tense. Claptrapped out. Speechless. But always terminating at the ineffable death rattle. The zipped up mouth, prior to being zipped up in the bodybag. Conscripted to that tomb without echo.

I was a taciturn boy. Perchance I’d intuited this future finity of fate. More likely I wasn’t minded to sharing my thoughts with my parents. I cannot now judge and they are no longer around to testify. Yet this is not to say I am bereft of language. Patently. My instructors weren’t any familiarly fleshy windbags. Full of the nooks, crannies and recesses of suppressed feeling and emotion. No, my models were possessed of smooth, flush, mineral surfaces. Since I rented or leased words from books. The mots, bon and other, of authors. Logos building blocks. Prosaic description and enchanted flights of fancy. Inevitably there was still some vocalisation. Inside my reading mind, no matter how bated, the processessing of literature could not possibly be wordless. Cognates still formed and charged. Catenated into sentences gravid with meaning. Therefore they must still exert their price, of wear and tear on the grey matter. Hotwiring the neurons. Yet, if unburdened by the surplus value of incantation, perhaps I escaped verbiage’s full heft ? It ought to be permissable to offset, say a third against uncapitalised verbal production. That would enable me to shore up my alloted stockpile for future usage in leaner, lonelier times. And the size of said stockpile ? Who on earth (print of index finger taps surface of) nose ? Visual, think visually. A sign language. It’s cutrate. Lower tariff. A steal.

And what did I glean from all this authorial praxis ? That words are duplicitous. Words are treacherous. Well, not word s themselves of course, since they are only man’s instrument. But they are craftily crafted. With maximal pliancy and ellipsis, one can make words say anything one wants. And simultaneously say nothing one elects not to reveal. The vernacular prodded and poked by forked tongues, into whatever choice folds and pens of the utterer’s choosing. Yet, words are also unruly. The mouth can often seemingly outstrip the calculating brain. And so words bolt, hitching a break for freedom clinging to the tongue’s undercarriage. Their little rebellions. Their subversions of intent. Their decortication of truth. The paring of motive. Not unilaterally of course, but prodded and poked by insurgent emotional forces the formulating mind is uncognizant of. Then of course, they further have an ability to take on a life of their own. Not manumission as such, but a transfer of ownership of their indentured ser vice to a new host. For like a virus, a speech long consigned to the discard pile of its originator, can take root in the mind of the receiver, propagating itself over and over. Phlogistic philology. Festering and tumescing. Until it reaches critical mass and outbursts forth in acrimonious distemper should the opportunity arise. Doesn’t the perfidious vitiation of words sicken you ? Deny them the oxygen of expression I say. Er maintain.

Do hyphenated words rate as two or one ? Taking no chances, my idiom scores a line through dashes. Indiscernible in parol, selfevident in letters such as these. Speaking of dashes, I once had an illconceived stroke of genius and tried to formulate my thoughts in morse code to avoid full articulation. But in the shortlived reverie of triumph, (ach, cut out some of these saggy adjectives, they supplement nothing but ruinous interest), I deduced that I was actually inflating the tally of words employed, since Dash-Dash-Dash for the let ter ‘O’, is already three words for the paltry return of just a single letter. On a similar tack, if one conceives numerals rather than constructs their values in words, do you still get penalised the full whack ? Why haven’t research scientists investigated these things ? Never mind your soothsaying 4 letter DNA alphabet, what about the full ramifications of our 26 charactered one ? I wish I was German, then I could formulate really quite complex thought, simply by ramming several composite speech units into a single, new portmanteau word. You know, something like a


Quite tough on both the tongue and ear in English; mere walk in the park in Deutsch ... Unfortunately however, I am Saxon mined from different stock. Of course I could learn said tongue, but rote repetition of the lexicon that is a necessary part of committing to memory, would extort too high an initial investment.

In more paranoid moments, I have tried to prevent these wordy echoes, these chittering morphemes, from reverberating inside my vaulted skull. Meditation helps, but the repetition of the mantra of ingress still racks up the debits. Broadcasting my own white noise helps muffle the inner wavelength, but ultimately can be only of limited duration. One can almost behold the brainwaves retuning to the resonant frequency and that way lies only a series of epileptic episodes. Needless to say, I haven’t pushed it that far. All in all, one is forced to say, that the mindbody diode is a remarkably pertinacious transmitter. The pair forever deeply communing with one another, since we are sensate beings and must respond in kind. To yield feedback. Hunger, pain or tiredness. Lust, or the need to evacuate. Each prompts and goads us for our reaction. Be it sensible or insensible on our part, first we still have to encapsulate it. Make it incarnate. Name it. It is a function of functioning. No matter how quicksilvered our analysis and thought processes appear, we are engaged in prolonged, active conversation with ourselves. Monologuing. On the meter. Doubletime. Since feedback loops back on itself like a Möbius strip, but lame language plods along linearly. Words cannot keep pace.

So, seems we are sentenced to discourse. Since, when all’s (nothing’s) said and done (and written), social interaction is invariably lubricated through the medium of exchange. That clipped currency of concordance. Maintaining verbal parismony, I withdrew myself from such interactions. Given my shyness and selfsufficiency from childhood days, such relationships were not too hard to shuck. And due to the marvels of technology, I can meet the workaday requirements of existence, without actually having to confront too many of my fellow men. I am, after all gainfully employed. Sufficient to clothe, warm, shelter and feed myself. And yes, periodically I’ll own, I do have to make a minimal verbal withdrawal from my cache, in order to render me a stipend. I splatter a few wellchosen gobbets on my subscription based website and provoke what can only be called a loyal band of masochistic baittakers, to part with their money as they hang on to my every keyed laconic pontification. I say wellchosen, but in fact I cull them from other websites. Reasonably randomly. For I cut and paste the musings of other virtual travellers to the wellspring of knowledge and opinion, as I am possessed of neither myself. I scarce even overtax my own ration, by prereading what I purloin, other than cursorily. Nor even peruse it after I have mounted it. I utilise only my peripheral vision, to check that the sentances are full and do not cut off midstream. (Poor grammar is a dissipative incontinence. It will come back and bite you in the hindquarters make no mistake. It must be perennially scanned, lest it renders one prostrate). Although such coinage is the uncoordinated postings of several ravers, I don’t want it to appear unintelligible. Obviously I do register the odd word here and there, the ones adjacent to the period and the like. But I trust these will be attributed at the usual plagiarist pro rata. A dummy address is also listed, where my wouldbe interlocutors/ interrogators can respond. Whispering disdainfully, or screaming reverentially into the ether. They can get things off their chests and vent their spleens til their heart’s contentless, (since little do they realise they are slowly eviscerating themselves in doing so). But as none of it ever reaches me, I am not obliged to part with more of my precious morsels than I have allocated. Is their (des)ire ratcheted up further by my seeming heedlessness of their prating ? Forgoing even the basic courtesy of solicitousness ? I have neither the faintest idea nor concern. They strike me as word junkies, judging by the fact they continue to log on and turn over my click counter. And more significantly, rack up credits in my online bank account.

Ergo, now I have been stripped down to the minimal functioning of argot. Since my words have nowhere to go. I have noone (see, no hyphens) and nothing, not even objects of aesthetic beauty, with which to affix communication. Surmising I must have accumulated by now, a huge surfeit of language. Thus I find myself of an age where I may be well ahead of the game, but really of course I am in deficit of life. A veritable trove of linguistic units stacked up in the teeming closet of my mind. And a whole uplift of them stashed under my mattress of solitude. Miser, hermit and misanthrope. There’s three (3) words to conjure with. A shell game. Find the lady. Or geezer in my case.

Rolling in all this spare capacity, it shouldn’t be too hard to put together an assemblage of who I am. I could even push the boat out and visit a shrink, to expand my sense of self. But I know if I chanced on one who just sat behind me on a sofa staying mum, expecting me to be forthcoming and make all the running, dead air would transpire. Dead air that I would still be charged for. I do not want to expend breath and give exaggerated weight to my words, yet neither do I want to launch them casually, like spiderlings on the breeze and regard them rootlessly just balloon away. Nevertheless, I have concocted a solution. I will iterate them with the leather soles of my shoes. Treading and tramping out their paced directive on the sidewalks of labelled avenues and tagged streets. Utilising the City’s own abecedary. Peeling back the urban rind. Probing the unseen metropolitan mind, through the insertion of my name into its very grain. For I need to trace whom I am and since it was in the foundry of this City in which i was originally formed and cast, now it will help me recover myself. Let this City pronounce my title. Let it christen and baptise me all in one fell swoop.

Now I am not so harebrained to imagine that the uniformities of the City’s grid, can confer unity on the multitude of its denizens within. However, it will contain some, a few, whose aspects conjugate with my own. Then I shall be able to align myself further to them via the grid’s referencing. I do not expect any of this will confer connotation upon myself, nor even vouchsafe me community. But in contradistinction to the grooved aperture of my four walls, with its windowframe of fixed perspective, such fellow travellers will help me attain a third dimension of depth, out on the street. Enabling the casting of a shadow before me. After spans of solitude and contemplation, I know whom I am to myself. But the intruding datum of my death and cessation, complicates this version considerably. The world out there carries on spinning with or without my input. The City prosper s whether I exist within it or otherwise. Whether I am gazing upon it through my window or not. I must necessarily uncoil myself from introspection and regather myself. Like Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, whose rooms now serve as houses, its corridors now functioning as roads. In a town called Split. A place I have combed thoroughly. Albeit virtually. Split, an appropriate appellation, even if it’s actually Splitski or somesuch in SerboCroat. What could be more alienating to a populace, than to have all the excess of a colonial palace erected upon them ? And yet, when the Romans abandoned the land, the locals did not spite it vacant, but adopted it to their own needs. So what if a stone eagle emerged from one’s parlour wall ? A conversation piece. A tourist attraction. Split, the municipality which unswervingly healed its own divisions.

How exactly to proceed with this thing ? From first terms, as the bromidic dope would have it. The empty forethought. The shrivelled gnome. Pawned palaver. Cheap cant. (God ! Now the literary accountant in me has to scratch off an additional 10 words by way of elaboration and embroidery. And these too, further compounding interest). Yet I am no clean slate. I am after appREHending a definition of myself, rather than its enucleated brother. Its spayed sister. Hmm, I seem to be going round the houses with this. Which indeed I shall be, in a most literal sense. Soon I trust. A few finishing touches. Some finickity details to attend to. Like the jumping off point. A mote of memory flits around my consciousness. Only having paid at the toll gate did it pass on to a neural trunk road, frozen in the floodlight of illumination. How, despite the passive attainment of onlybegotten status, I had eschewed the welltrodden path of relating to an imaginary friend. Again I cannot dismiss the possibility of precocious intuition, that its unchecked development might subsequently induce fragmentation of the ego and double the output of wordage in a schizophrenic’s Manichean struggle for selfsupremacy. The doublesided monologue. The unassisted catechism. (Oh dear, I do seem to be spraying words around like they’re going out of fashion). No, the child that was I, plumped for soundtracking my own play, both detached exposition and involved absorption, depending on the context. Commentating on my sporting contests, bouncing balls against walls since there was no one to pass them to me. Miming to rock music, a satisfyingly simple racket. But perhaps my pièces des résistances were the voiceovers from the front. (Sans microphone, sans any actual utterance of course). A putative, omnipresent war correspondent witnessing a loose reenactment of some WWII (one word, not three) battle with model sol diers. I say loose, in that although great diligence was applied to an historically accurate disposition of the contesting hosts, the denouement was more often than not resolved by resorting to a deux ex machina. To wit, the airtoground lightning bolt protective cap of plastic (unneedled) syringes, lanced into the heart of battalions and brigades. My father, a doctor, brought them home on a regular basis. To keep in case of emergencies, or because he had a deal going with the medical supplier, or because he was a closet H addict, I cannot seal. In truth, that third and final possibility has only just, after all these fallow years, crossed my mind. I suppose its cascade of implications would have cost me far too many formative words in the past. Anyway, no more strolls down memory lane. I’ve a ci ty to reticulate. Proceeding from first terms indeed ...

Now, where were we ? I am to plot the map of my name against the grid reference of the city streets. Avenues A to G. An octave. A chromatic scale of full and half steps. Accidentals and a question of degrees. The eight avenues that score the composition of the City. Crisscrossed by the upright, straightbacked notation of Street numbers. Pitching the swing of life within. Yet rather than deploy a recurring transliteration of the 80 odd Street numbers, which would tilt the weight in favour of the letters H to Z, I propose annexing their simple notation of North/South, which would yield me a further two letters, appropriately enough N & S. Appointed with these ten letters, I could comprehensively cover my full chartered name. To this end, I have already drau ghted the characterbuilding route for my peregrinations. I did flirt with a more elaborate scheme of using the city’s grid to transcribe the form of the letters of my name. But the curlicues and rounded arcs of certain letters could only be approximated, like the unsatisfactory LED crystal preformation of numbers. The raw data, the feedback, will therefore consist of what I encounter upon my delineated route. Maybe I would have to traverse it for a week solid in order to filter out the anomalous and the rand om happenings. Since I shall perforce, be recording the impact of my journey. What impressions make inroads upon me. In effect, I would act like a tourist in my own city, in the spirit of the oft encountered epigram, that citizens don’t actually visit the sights of their own surroundings.

However, the question of recording devices poses a quandary. I had imagined wielding a dictaphone and confiding my reckonings into it. But perpending it further, I envisioned pounding the streets, talking into myself and thereby being misconstrued as one of the plethora of mental patients (suffering from an indomitable press of words) released from our superannuated asylums (reputedly). This would indubitably inform the reactions of my fellow passersby and I requ ired them to treat me neutrally, without preconception. If indeed they were to regard me at all. (Of course, with the onset of the very first perambulation, these presentiments were shown to be wellgrounded, given the droves of pavement hikers summarily dismissed as selfaddressing outpatients, when in fact they were merely accosting their cellulars. The legion of proboscilike antennae caulked to human ears was perturbing; like an insectoid version of the murine ‘His Master’s Voice’ science experiment, where a human ear was grafted on to the back of a mouse. When that particular image scuttled across the world’s media screens, we all, gender not withstanding, stood on a table and screamed). Ahem, I had better crack on with the undertaking of who I am, before my DNA is altered, reflexively or otherwise. That’s what this is about after all.

So, reprising the talking commentary is a nonstarter. But what of a digitally preserved log of findings ? My intial reactions in situ would determine when to shoot. While, once back home, the video could serve as a prompt, assisting me in reconstructing the identification behind the concurrence on the street. Moreover, I wouldn’t be so conspicuous, since again I would merely pass as a tourist. No, this is good. Very good. Though this commentary would be mute. An internal one narrated in visual tones. That way I could circumvent words. ‘Eh ?’ I hear you sputter. You believed the leitmotiv was to reembrace, sorry, re-embrace with the oral. After all, is this not what I, your humble tour guide, have been heralding all the way through ? To flex my atrophied descriptive musculature and regain full inflected suppleness ? To shake out my taut semantic sinew and to lubricate the ligaments of connection ? In other words and yes I really mean that, to pilot a dredger through silted up verbal estuaries, in order to attain the open flow ? Well, in part certainly. But I actually demand of words that they fall short. For language to fail me on my passage through the City. I pray (not literally, now that would be a squandering of words), to have my breath taken away. Knocked out of me by what I discover on my outings. So that I will be left teetering in awe, unable to enflesh words. Spellbound. Toothless language champing uselessly at the verbal void, tumbling over the event horizon to meet its reflexively indescribable fate. Leaving my response simply as one of pure, unadultereted, unmediated emotion. And through this I will come to encounter myself. Opening me up to the possibility of unbridled relationship. Initially to a thing. An object. A building maybe. I would probably need a longer apprenticeship for a commensurate response to people.

My migration would commence from the capital letter at the prow of my name. Christian or surname nominated a dilemma, but I reasoned sinc e my father had also been born here and several prior generations of his kin, one ought to honour one’s derived orgination and abide by the surname. So Avenue C it was. Avenue C. A venue, see ? All rounds, appointments, errands and meetings demand a venue. A location in time. A convergence. And I would be there to sample some of them. Precisely where on Avenue C to cast off from also afforded variegation. I resolved to begin each excursion ten blocks further down Avenue C from where the previous day’s had begun. All I had to do now was await my birthday. That day commemorating my mother’s nonlingual labia parting like stage scenery, affording my emergence into the City. Well now was my cue to enter its drama.


Despite scrupulously adhering to the planned itinerary, the offerings had to date, proved skimpy. A series of permutations of his window view, merely te ssellated large. As he perched at home reviewing the video output, he was already beginning to be waylaid by dismay. Creeping demoralisation was riddling his enterprise. The City had yielded him precious few nuggets. And the digital footage was broadly reaffirming this repudiation. Hardly startling, granted that each time he winked an eye through the viewfinder, a surge of textile encased flesh assaulted and rapped on the casements of his contracted perceptionary apparatus and wrenched his focus pull back to his own directional lack. The digs of elbows in his ribs, toecaps raking his achilles and stilettos goading his pinioned feet, all served to impel him forward. This was not how he had pictured things. It required an establishing shot. How he’d dared plant the tripod of his body in place, elbows splayed out to repel rammings. Standing on tiptoe against being speared. To survey a churning cataract of humanity, phalanx after phalanx advancing upon him and coursing past. If the horsepowered traffic on the road were the chariots racing in this Circus Maximus, then the pedestrians were the gladiators slinging themselves towards one another on the arena sidewalks. No, that implied the laps and circuits of an ampitheatre in the round. It was seemingly the crisp rectilinearity of the streets, which dictated the cadence of their human traffic. Hurrying and hustling everyone along. There was no place for serpentine meandering. Impossible to hang an arc or a parabola on to a side street, in order to dip out from the throng. Since the side street too offered no respite, as its commerce was funnelled through the perpendicularity of the intersections. One felt akin to a bowling ball, eating up the boards of the alley towards the skittlelike oncomers, though the mission was to somehow avoid knocking into them. Unfortunately, they too also doubled up as bowls, bearing down on him and his fellow skittles that confronted them in turn.

The city grid didn’t just clicktrack the urban rhythm. It conducted mood too. Flat and even, if tinged by insubstantiality. Such regularity allowed for scant surprise. Nothing to orient himself by. No vanishing point, since the parallelism was constantly maintained. Who would have thought that the founding fathers, those arbiters of terrain and landuse, could wreak such stultifyingly posthumous control ? Wielding planning permission and licensing, until every last circumstance was stipulated. But of course, he should have known. Had not these men had set their theodolites to level all knolls, contours and natural camber, in order to render the primordial draughtsman his blank piece of paper ? So that he in turn could render a city as some giant, numinous honeycomb, smothered in the nectar of commerce. Only as he tastes it now, it is more akin to a giant waffle doused in syrup. Lashes and lashes of the sickly stuff, just to mask the inherent insipidity. As citizen drones try and palpate one another in their futile fidicuary fecundations. Each lining their own allocated station, trying to draw down another topup. Sweettalking lovers. Sugary vendors. Treaclely lawyers. Glucosed sportsmen. Starchy exec utives. Saccharine restaurateurs. All with their regular avenue haunts, more spectral than merely habitual. He even regarded the dextrosed uniformed functionaries of the city, unclogging its blocked arteries, reflating its collapsed capillaries. Induction. A service submesh. God’s earthly kingdom was never intended to be like this.

It amazed him how these original stencil layers, had even managed to demarcate different economic areas so precisely. South Avenue G’s down at heel communities. The ghettoised blocks pockmarked by boardedup or burntout housing; maculated with trashlittered, cracked sidewalks and graffittioed murals; tubercled with pawnshops, launderettes and offlicences, since the commercial minotaur still demanded its scaleddown tithe. Here, the noncommutin g, footsore pedestrians comprised of junkies, prostitutes, pimps, pushers, foragers, fences, pilferers and vagrants. And yet they respectfully observe the block boundaries, as if an invisible forcefield or electrified fence were in place. They do not pullulate into the betteroff districts. A seamless transition from one zone into another. Marked only by a streetsign and the dictum that elsewhere too, still existed analogous urban archetypes, albeit confining themselves to plusher surroundings, rather than exhibiting out on the street. It was as if those City planners had planted each community on concrete trellises and allowed to bud just so as anticipated along the slat, but no further once the economic gradient gets sheer.

He’d cast the spell of his name, summoned the spirit of the City and what did it conjure up ? A mirroring vision of his very own mediocrity. A civic status which had only been conferred by dint of its citizenry’s agglomerated density (as against any manifested destiny). A hive of faux collective activity. A final video image, (which must have been recorded with the camera down by his side as he was crossing the road to retrieve his apartment asylum), for it was a shot of a drainage grille. With eight horizontal ribs, consonant with the eight avenues. A conduit for channelling people to prescribed, preordained places as their lives are sluiced away. Like effluent. The gushing City that had wrung him out so totally. If the City was without pith, then it rendered him a nonentity. The insignificant extra, part of the backdrop. The bombastic parvenu. A mere bagatelle, like the overwhelming majority of faceless citizens incumbent here. Glottal stopped up hard by the bars of the grid. Yet he was certain he was possessed of a soul. So now it was time to tear up his own guidebo ok. No more tramlines according to the characters of his name. So what if the city orchestra was inferior and their sports teams were just middling, each unable to compete in prestige or payroll ? There were still people of standing here. Dare one say it, the beautiful people. The great and the good. Movers and shakers. People who could and would move him and shake him ineffably to his very core. People who had opted against decamping to the Capital, better to bestride their own. The City had put its stamp on each and everyone of them and he should orient himself via its organic fibre. Rather than force upon it his own signal constructs, let the metropolis throw its shapes upon him. Come project on to him like a laser !


He knew precisely where he would initiate his refined flanêuring. He would return to that site of last week’s sole garnered intimation. That establishmen t with its proprietory name above the door. Uniquely marked out by a gap between two of the letters. And in that gap, had been a patch lighter in shade than its proximate masonry. A trace of what ? Surely more void than stain, since it had been shielded from the city grime by whatever had overlain. Moreover, he had discerned a shape. The letter ‘C’ was being adumbrated, in absentia. Presumably a missing character of the soubriquet. At the time, this had discomfited him mightily, given his sorties to spell out the tetragrammaton of his own appellation and had immediately cut short that day’s stump. Now was the opportunity for renewal. For both he and the proprietor, toiling under some imaginary amputation of being. He would donate the ‘C’ inaugurating his name to t he proprietor, in return for harvesting the ley line to unlock the impregnability of the City.

He mentally donned blinkers as he piloted himself back to the denuded storefront. And here he was. Now he could register the milieu. Feasibly, he was in downtown’s upmarket shopping zone. The antithesis to uptown’s downmarket flea circus of earlier sojourns. Where avenue F’s conventionally wide pavements, had been subdivided by stalls and booths, engineering a labyrinth with walls of flimsy textiles and cheap cuts of meat, here was untrammeled vistas and unencumbered sight lines. For people, women mainly but not exclusively, sporting many stringhandled bags. And these bags were etched, nay stencilled, with the name of the emporiums they had patronised. The merchandisers had convinced them to buy from them and subsequently the bags trumpet that succe ss, at least for the duration of their tour. Unless the emporium’s bag happened to have the inside track, shrouded by strata of other totings. He imagined that the science of drawstrings was of strategic import here, since the pilliwinks effect on the wiredrawn fingers of the conveyor, could effect a realignment of the bag carousel. Yet nobody looked pained. Rather everyone he passed looked elated. Smiling abstractedly, or with sharp eyes careering from casement to casement. He wanted to catch their gaze, to see if it might enlighten him as to what exactly they were feeling, but he was too dilatory and unable to anticipate their beeline darting.

What disclosure his scrutiny did intercept however, were secret messages. Or not exactly secret. More like flagrant. For some of them had copiously imbibed from the selfpublicising vessels of the stores. Si nce their Tshirts too, bore mottos, slogans or illustrative pictures. Projected outwards by the aspect of their protruding frontage. “Babe” read one fleshy awning. “Foxy” declaimed another. A rapid straw poll revealed it to be the female who had best mastered (mistressed ?) this pithy selfreportage. For one male’s stressed fabric, barely stretched to cover his rotund abdomen that artlessly selfdiagnosed “Beer Monster”. A second bannered the legend “I’m With Stupid !”, underscored with a cartoonishly sleeved and cuffed arm pointing to the right of him. Where could be found, nothing. Was this the point perhaps, that he was far too superior to hang around with a stupid person ? Or was it more like, that stupid though his absconded partner may have been, he still managed to give his pal the slip ? But for now, these seemed like doodlings. Mere first drafts of bon mots, compared with the delicious proverbials emblazoned across female torsos.

Well no, not their to rsos exactly. More like the prime site on their bodies. For see here approaching was another citation, “No Angel”, with the added flourish of a halo. As this divine mobile hoarding approached him, she slackened her progress in order to juggle with her packages, seeking to locate a distress signal emanating from somewhere deep within her bundle. He too wound his gait down, counterfeiting rifling through jacket pockets with what he took to be casual insouciance, but must have more resembled the flapping arms of an anthropomorphic chicken impression. At least that’s how he gauged the daggers being shot at him by files of pedestrians, as they arced around him, before resuturing their surgical headway. (He remarked a distinct lack of equivalent hostility in the glares from those wayfarers forced to bifurcate around her rooted form; they were all for turning round to confront as they drew up in parallel to her, but then their expressions softened, {in the case of empathic females}, or cracked completely {on the visages of tickled males}). He becalmed his arms and settled for blowing his nose as his excuse for halting. She had by now found the ubiquitous cellular and was mouthing into it. Over his steepled handkerchief and puppeteering fingers, he recouped his focus. Yes, just as he had thought initially ! The geometrical middle of the halo precisely, and he did mean with the utmost exactitude, cradled the protuberance of the lady’s nipple sinister. Or, he supposed you could say, that the nipple transfixed the halo’s epicentre. Either way, the point, as it were, fair took his breath away. He recalled the received wisdom concerning the time taken by some women in applying their cosmetics of a morning, but did they also pose in front of a looking glass in order to line up their clothing with such definitude ? Or does this bespeak of high quality, bespoke tailoring even in the realm of the humble Tshirt ? Further research was mandatory. Only, by now the woman had caught his awed contemplation and whipped around on her heel to continue her confabulation while presenting her back to him. How impertinent he mused to himself. No cameo through the back of her Tshirt, he also descried. Like the majority of this spreeing, strapline sect on this fine summer’s day, bra-less, (dash it all, it was his birthday {belatedly}, have that one on him) !

He had been dabbing at his nose beyond the chafefree threshold and so he desisted. There were plenty more lines abobbing. As was presenting itself to him even as he dithered. Like shooting fish in a barrel he appraised. Not that he’d ever really understood what that maxim betokened. “Forbidden Fruit” admonished one embossed in pink. “No Prisoners” counselled another in lime green. “Out Of Your League” opined a third, bedecked in burgundy. This was le xigraphical heaven ! He had to consider his response to each of these correspondents. And then he cottoned on. Yes of course ! Such pronouncements were both an advice of availability and a promulgation of personality, all wrapped up in one ! What brevity. What economy. A lonely heart that doesn’t charge by the word to classify oneself. A freeranging broadcast. A roving sandwich board, only without the disfiguration of such a ridiculous mantle. And the best asset of all, it only gets seen in those places where it wants to be regarded.

He had a strong inkling to record all this on his video, for later reclamation. But he sensed this was not a sound stratagem. The challenge being that there was insufficient time to interpret the data proffered by his eyes. For example, one kite flyer advertised “Eye Candy” and try as he might, he could not fathom in the slightest as to what that may have been postulating. He had also r efluxed another reflected in a boutique window, imparting just two letters, “T” and “O”. This failed to spark any recognition, so he stopped at the selfsame display as the girl, though he was scanning the glass rather than what lay beyond it. “TO”, “TO”, nope still not ringing any bells. Then, wait a minute, of course ! It’s been reversed by the vitreous effect on light waves. It was “OT”. As in Occupational Therapy ! Though why anyone would want to assert such a fact, even if they dished it out it rather than received it, was beyond him. As the women ceded her vigil and chanced turn in his direction, he noticed an occluded wrinkle worming out from the penumbra of the “O”, converting it to a “Q”. “QT”. “Cutie” and he could not demur, even though her gaze locked on to his and narrowed as she passed in front of him.

This was curious and was beginning to irk him. For he was beginning to detect a pattern on the distaff’s side of the perusal exchange. Some had their smiles dislodged from their countenances, while others merely stared straight through him. Oh well, no time to ruminate, for along came a further sample, bearing no words, but a line drawing (sulci and all) of a brain over each mammary. Its very incongruity forced him once more to stop and reflect as to whether this ought to belong to the subset under consideration, even as she sauntered by. Was she indeed possessed of two brains ? A reference to a twin, or a consort perhaps ? (“I’m With Brilliant” sans directional indicator ?) But then why was it that somebody else’s cerebellum held joint title over her bosom ? And then it struck him, not two brains, but “Brains 2”. “Two.” “Too !”A verbal pun played out visually. That was too much ! Another level altogether. The oracular at one step removed. The notice of availability more daintily veiled. But no less compelling.

Now he fully comprehended the slidi ng scale of the communication engendered. Some, were more up front than others. He about-turned (see how carried away he was ?) To drink in again her sublime communiqué. To feast his eyes on the multifaceted cut diamond. What would he do when he attained proximacy with her once again ? How could he manoeuvre himself so as to be correctly aligned geometrically ? Ach, he would solve these conundrums when he arrived at such a situation. However, he was finding it rather hard to match her stride. As indeed he was finding the near trot of all these jetheeled purchasers, too hot to touch. For they were each seemingly possessed of the missionary’s zeal. He was not so practised as they, on these thoroughfares of commerce. They seemed not to have to surface for air, as they marched on strid ently. He apperceived this was because their surge was purposeful and targetled. They knew where they were heading, whereas he was being swept along unwittingly. No, not unwittingly, since he was all too happy to accede to the impulse, but he was somewhat adrift. A dirigible. And the problem was there were all these crosscurrents, as his navigation was also being clouded by the tow of new flyers, listings and classifieds broadsiding him as he went.

“High Maintenance” endorsed one. “One Size Fits All” promoted another in giant, undulating calligraphy. “Post-Modern Irony” inveigled a third, abutting a roundel target. (Had she of course paid due attention to her grammar, she would have reaped the fact that postmodern does not warrant a hyphen). And was the centre of the bullse ye framing her nipple dexter - oh- (ellipsis, not hyphen) never mind ! His noodle was being scrambled. He felt all stirred and corkscrewed. He eased his clip and gave up the pursuit. He would just have to commit the brain pair relief to memory and reconvene it at his leisure. He stopped and crouched down on his haunches to recover his breath. Passersby were once again, forced to deviate around him and shot him glowers of inconvenieness. He felt the heat of their glares and righted himself. To be immediately dazzled by a shard of light piercing his eye. He averted his concussed rubbernecking and shielded his brow with his hand, before plucking sufficient pique to peek beneath his peak.

What assailed him was a spangle of bouncing light, like the sun reflected off the gentle lap of waves (as some anonymous nov elist had once limned for him). He reacted quickly during the waning period and appointed that he was being scintillated by a sharp reflection off a woman’s posterior. Swerving hither and thither as she walked in advance of him by about fifteen feet. Then it hit him with crystal clarity, except it being on the return swing, he was actually temporarily somewhat blinded. Something embedded, obviously, upon the usually reliably nonreflective black denim her bottom was upholstered in. Studs of some sort. Rhinestones. Sequins. Who knew ? Not him certainly. That was not a canon he’d ever requisitioned. He was about to spurn the whole thrust, when he tumbled to the nonsymmetrical arrangement of the tailmounted cats’ eyes. Now, as far as aesthetically pleasing fa shion principles were concerned, the prevailing orthodoxy stipulated, that this could not possibly be correct. He summoned up the reserves to lengthen his stride and zoom in closer. He had to penetrate the pattern, le chiffre, for he refused to allow himself to be further stymied in his epic quest. He had to synchronise his sway to match hers, in order to efface the parallax that was shaking his vertical hold. And then it coalesced upon his retina. Her stippled rear was speaking to him ! Not literally of course. But the coloured pimples picked out a word all the same. In petite calligraphy, since the word appeared to have four syllables, when she was not exactly trailing a wide load if you catch his drift. “Bootylicious”. ‘Booty’, he knew, referred to treasure, piratical or otherwise. Assuredly the suggestion of illgotten gain. A plundered yield. But ‘licious’ ? As he was later to discover from his online dictionary, no such lexigraphical construction officially existed. It politely inquired as to whether he had mistyped one of the following: ‘luscious’; ‘loci’s’; ‘vicious’; ‘diecious’; ‘delicious’; ‘malicious’; and when it feebly proffered ‘lice’ as his possible erratum, then he shut off further consultation. But since the delineation was located proprietorially above her arse cheeks (apologies now for resorting to such bankrupted linguistic stock), he knew it was a continuation of the Tshirt telescoping trend. Or maybe even its apotheosis. Whichever, it was proceeding in the same direction as him and at not too prohibitive a lick as its predecessors. Perhaps here finally, was one he was fully in step with.


But time and tide wait for no man, as someone eminently quotable once franchised. He was sagging, it being harder and harder to pro 8p up his body into a forward motion. Twilight had descended, he was no longer guided by the emanation of her twinkling beacons, merely their riveted stolidness. Heaven alone knew his immediate inadvertance, since he had long waived his orientation. He was off piste and pissed off. Lost. And hungry. He’d had neither a punctuating food (colon), nor rest (comma) break since midmorning. And now, on top of everything, it started to rain. He ceded the field and reviewed his options. Avenue C, (of course it would be), but the streetsign located him somewhere beyond assimilation. He could board a bus and meekly succumb to its contrived line through the City. Or, he could hail a taxi and put himself at the hands of an anatomist with specialised knowledge, in order to retrace his own steps. Or even to improve on them obvio usly. Had he not travelled the furthest possible distance away from himself today ? From the familiar and the comfortable ? From all that he’d known ? Now he could cut to the chase. Retrace those steps leading back to himself and meet the newly discovered him along the way. There was the minor snag of which side of the street to observe, which window to view from. Left or right. Sinister or dexter. Regardless of the rain, he had little trouble stopping a cab (contra to urban lore) and flopped into its moist, warm leather with a mixture of jubilation and exhaustion. Bouncing eye contact off the satellite of the rearview mirror, he keyed the man in with the destination to plot his slick weave by. He readied the video camera, adjudging the angle for documenting the streetsigns plotting his return.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed dangling from chains suspended over the mirror’s bracket, a crucifix, a star of David, a crescent moon, a Buddha and a hexobr achial pachyderm. The motion of the cab jostled them, but the chainlengths must have been finely calibrated, since they did not bump and bore into one another. Just like the drawstrings of shopping bags. This spontaneous marionette show, was being presented to him through the lattice of the wiremesh partition between him and the driver. Another mediating grid, albeit this one was slanted on the diagonal. Too many motifs to be just coincidental. Here he was, ensconced within interior walls once again. Only he had been granted vision, albeit refracted through a mesh gauze, through a fourth theatrical wall of the mummery, itself foregrounding the Cityscape through the front windscreen. But just as he was double, triple declutching his brain, the lattice screen was shuttered by a dark drape. The cabbie’s hirsute, pycnic arm was snaking along the top of the front seat, cresting the lower portion of the partition. Now the neck sinews clearly rippled as the man jagged his head back towards his passenger. And from his gash of a mouth spilled word after word. Presumptiously matey in tone. Coarsely urbane. Spewing words. Hurling them at his defenceless mark. This sitting duck in the back seat. A bombardment. Salvo after salvo of uninvited opinion. Conjecture. Supposition. Axioms and dogma. Judgement. Taint.

The metre ticked over ...


And as I sit here, digitally retracing the path of this last trek, the one entirely extemporised by the tug of the City itself, it admonishes me with the simple
dictate -
(ave)C (ave)E (ave)A S (ave)E