Reading to the Pigeons

October 4, 2009

‘It’s good to have dreams,’ you say, ‘But what’s the point if you are about to stop breathing?’

‘You’re not about to stop breathing,’ I say.

You exhale and the lights in the carriage come back on, and we continue thundering forwards, however many feet beneath the earth. They only flickered for a moment.

‘There’s nothing funny about madness,’ you say.

‘I’m not laughing, and you’re not mad.’

‘I’m creative.’

‘Yes,’ I say, but I don’t sound convincing enough and you sulk.

The rush hour commuters swell the train with the smell of cold coffee and warm photo-copying, paper-cuts and paper-clips, and a bitter unease that catches in the back of my throat. I hold my breath.

‘You’re not about to stop breathing,’ you say in a silly high voice that comes from the top of your head.

I suggest we leave the train.

Pain is ugly, it comes in waves. You face me on the escalator like a child afraid of heights, and I watch it twist your mouth, a gruesome blue. The wave breaks and passes, and I am sure that you are well and I only imagined it. We step out of the station and the sunlight catches me off-guard and flecks my vision with heavy black spots. I can see around the edge of things.

‘You look different,’ you say.

‘So do you,’ I say, ‘Speck-ly.’

The air by the river is stagnant with hateful heat, a climate we never grow accustomed to, even if we have lived here all our lives. Summer in the city is always surprising when it arrives.

We reach the spot, a grass scrap beside a concrete pillar.

‘Here’. You are definite.

I shrug, and put the keyboard down. Today you decide you will read Foucault at the pigeons, in D minor.

‘A cliché,’ you announce, ‘But a true one,’ and begin.

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