For Sue Woolfe
Everything is ready.
Everything has been ready for more years than she cares to calculate.
The house is built, the garden is grown, the children have come and gone, the space has been prepared, repeatedly prepared, and the dream has hovered in fidgety impatience – always for tomorrow, or next summer, or once the chores have been finished. The starting line, like a shimmering horizon, she now realizes, only recedes – can only ever recede – if it is approached as one approaches a destination, collecting brochures, purchasing tickets, packing suitcases, checking itineraries, boarding trains, planes, taxis, ski-lifts. A destination, she decides, can never be a beginning. That has been her mistake; her excuse; her delaying tactic.
How then does one begin? Are there words? Is there a story? Is there, in fact, a beginning, or has it already started? Where to jump in then? She glimpses contending launching points. Shadows scored with flashes of light. Focussing her inner eye she wills particles of spent matter to coagulate into more than mere drifts of insubstantial memory. She does believe that the past matters, that even if it can’t be grasped like a handful of earth, it still exerts pressure on skin and bones and organs, still harbours in the cavities of flesh like the smell of blossom waiting to erupt from the sleeping winter sap.
Be brave, she thinks. Take the plunge. It’s never too late. Don’t think about what lies ahead. Start at the start. Just here. Just now.
The blue water, shivering in the dawn breeze. The wooden platform jutting into empty air, like the defiant brim of a military commander’s cap. The sensation of naked toes curling upon the edge where thrust meets air. Muscles tensing for the leap. An arc of skin and flying hair, up and over and down. The familiar surprise of alien elements meeting. The rush of adrenalin, bolstering flesh. The noisy accommodation of a different density by the ruptured water.
An image from the past, she thinks, nestling inside the present. Or is it a curve in which the present is cradled? Identity as a collapse of time dimensions?
How’s it going? he asks. He. Her lover.
Well, it’s coming rather than going, she says. There’s a hint of something, something’s getting ready to emerge. But I can’t see the plot.
Will there be any?
I don’t know yet, she says. I’m not sure. Maybe not. I’ll have to find out. I’m still at the start. In fact I’m still finding the start. How do people link one event to the next, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, as if it’s obvious? They smile, sharing an untold joke.
I just like words. Blushing. It is almost a confession. Her other passion.
She pauses for a moment to receive his kiss. His mouth, bending to hers. A punctuation mark inserted into her fluting thoughts, a respite between words, the offering of a parallel beginning, where mouths breathe life into and from each other, the curvature of lips upon lips replacing the demand for speech.
Who needs plot? he says.
Or dialogue for that matter? Or even character? Don’t let conventions get in your way. It’s too late for you to start caring about the right way to do things now. Smiling. Tender.
They hold each other in a silent gaze, his carrying the warmth of the wood-fire at his back, hers opaque as cobwebs, carrying them both into the middle distance. He asks to read what she has written.
Only if you give me a title, she challenges; breaking into his solid composure. He says nothing and she worries that he has taken her meaning the wrong way. But he is thinking, seriously, taking her seriously, reading her mind.
Ellipses, he offers.
Yes, she agrees. That’s perfect. Dot, dot, dot. Which comes first, the dot or the space? And can you have one without the other?
His hand is caressing the side of her face now. Pinching her chin he tilts her head back and places three kisses in a row along the length of her neck. She feels the alternating rhythm of presence and absence, warmth and coolness, as his lips touch and release, touch and release, touch and release.
That’s your call, he replies.
Symmetry hangs in the balance, she decides, without knowing quite what she means; symmetry, a word, balancing, an act, hanging, the suspension of state, the state of suspension, within and between all spaces . . .
Just let it come.