At last Evelyn starts the van. “OK, it was just emotional violence in there tonight,” she says.
“My favourite kind,” I say. While we wait to cross Main Street, I see Pippa’s high-rise ahead of us, and tune in … and I see you spent the day sitting, staring at the walls, until the evening, Pippa! You could have gone out, talked and laughed and eaten, danced and drunk, thrown up and had a blast running round, but of course that’s not your style. Or gone to the Casino on the beach—that’s much more you, since its roof is caved in and trees reach to the ceiling of the hall where shows were once staged. You could have crossed the sand, beneath the shells and the ships in relief on the Casino walls, and sat by its further side and watched the dark sea slosh and boom right in front of you.
Several blocks ahead and to the right, the concrete carcass-building rises—gorgeously disastrous, unmentionable, eleven storeys high, picked out by the scattering of streetlights below it. It’s more perhaps a monstrous abortion than a carcass, never having even achieved walls. You feel as small as the gnats, flies and moths that crawl these walls and flick and swing around the dim electric bulb hanging down from the concrete of the balcony above. “The balcony scene,” you muse, “there’s always a balcony scene.” How visible you feel beneath your light-bulb in this outdoor cell, for all to see and to know by seeing, high upon the front of this lone grimy high-rise, thrust against the face of the night just ahead. The dusty glass wind-chimes hanging near the bulb give a tinkle in the faint breeze. A pane of frosted glass cuts you off from the balcony beside you belonging to your neighbours, who never use it and have never spoken to you. Feeling as if you had been killed, you register that the scene before you is assuming the grain of this same feeling, until the sky is like the inside of a skull and the things around you reside in the fibres of your own once-enchanted mind, aborted hopes and carcass dreams. You’re vaguely aware that this expansion into the night is something of a fallacy, but it affords a modicum of escape, so you stick with it.
As the days keep on relentless, the things around you cycle every twenty-four hours and they seep into your being with addictive repetition, till you’re made of them: the sad front rooms around the space across the street, the coming-on and going-off of street-lights, the quiet, then the swishing of the wind in the trees, the night-time shouts, passing talk and then quiet again, and best of all, the sighing of the sea when the wind is in the east.
You peer over the balcony rail and see a car pull up across the street, with a shadowed figure in it. Male, you believe. You know you shouldn’t think this, but there genuinely is a chance, albeit a very small one, that this will be a man who knocks on your door, enters, recognises you, takes you in his arms and completes your life. You will thereby have got what you think you need, without even leaving home. Your mind, you’re aware, is getting mushy after so long in here, but the light is dim, so maybe he won’t notice your confusion. But oh, suppose he knocks and is the one for you, and yet you fail to notice? You must be careful, when he knocks, to remain attentive to his face. You tiptoe to your door, swing the cover from your spy-hole and peep through its wide-angle lens at the stained concrete lift lobby.
After ten minutes at the spy-hole, you return to your balcony. You watch the trees, unmoving. Looking from your high-rise grave, you know the truth and it’s appalling: as part of being alive, you should have had the ability to run through the fields of the sky, chase the clouds and shout your joy to the world like a child running wild on the beach on an afternoon that never ends, with someone whose presence and attention give you meaning. And although you lack this scenario, it remains desired nonetheless, like a magic song playing behind a wall you cannot break through. Whatever forces were responsible for it, this arrangement was clearly, both at first glance and upon reflection, a colossal and painful mistake, like a huge steel and concrete carcass-abortion at the heart of a very small town. Tears stream hot down your cheeks and round your nose, from a silent howl.
The planes have departed; you have no voltage left. You see too clearly, Pippa Vail, and I wish that I could help you, but I don’t see how I can.
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