IV — People talking in the hotel bar
People talking in the hotel bar. A couple maybe mid-sixties. Four men all about thirty and dressed in suits. They sit at the four sides of a table; leaning in, talking quietly. The man with his back to me holds the floor; the other three listen intently. They drink soft drinks and want to stay sober. One of them catches my eye and knows something about me. He nudges the man to his right and he turns. His eyes settle on the bar, pass over the old couple and then pass over me. But his gaze is just a little too long to be casual. I try to look disinterested. I meet his gaze and then focus past the men to the door and the foyer beyond. The hotel is okay. Bright and airy. The furniture’s clean and new and stylish without really trying. The soft chairs square brown suede effect. I have chairs like it. And my lounge carpet is the same rusty orange. The men talk on. Do you want to come outside and listen to the birds, I ask. I wait for a reply. He finishes sipping at his beer. Puts down the glass and lets out a long relaxed sigh. Rolling his eyes and head back he looks at me; some misguided but well-meaning kid. The birds are asleep, he laughs. Not quite. Still only dusk. There’ll be a few up and looking sideways about. I want to hear them chirping. He insists that the birds are all tucked up in bed and tells me to go and check; he’ll buy us another beer. I get composed. Check out the group of men. The couple. The barman shines a glass. I stand up slowly, trying to achieve a fluid motion so that no one notices me sliding out the door.
I stand by the open door and check over my shoulder. The men are still sat talking. No-one hiding in this foyer. The doors rotate me outside. I hadn’t realized how noisy it would be. The inside was so quiet. I walk across from the hotel; there’s a garage just across the way and some green beside it. Might hear some birds there. Outside is warm. The air carries fumes over from the large road. I can feel the black particles coating my skin and eyes making the garage look all hazy. I like the vapors though. I like gasoline and fuel oil. They wrap me into the air and make me feel welcome. It gets layered over with the tire noise and maybe some music from the garage. Neon teams with white window-light, red tail light and passing flashes of yellow-orange. They push upwards and keep dusk at bay. Near the garage I can hear the birds. They don’t keep the same hours. They’re street wise and hang around on corners looking for an argument. But the song’s the same. They ask me what’s up. Nothing’s up. At the moment. Mind if I stand here? Sure, go ahead and see what happens. The birds talk away and I breathe in the gases. Cars come and go off the large road and into the hotel car park. A woman walks across the small slip road and into the hotel. We’re right on the edge of town and the edge of some semi-industrial area. It’s all busy despite the lack of obvious inhabitants. The buildings down the slip road vary in shape and size. Some are white industrial units with metal roller doors. A couple may be apartment blocks; recently converted from vacant shells; now filled with vacant selves and a lack of furniture. Behind me a noise gets my attention. Kids are outside the garage door. They’re young only about eighteen. All of them black and wearing vests, baggies and bandannas. Are blacks naturally more muscled than white people? Most of the black kids I see have hard sculpted bodies. They carve themselves out of the earth.
Noticed. Don’t look at me. I might kill you. So are we going to buy something? Or are we all going to kill each other? I evaluate the situation. Not really inclined to go into the garage; nothing I need. But fuck these kids for hanging about. I go into the garage; open the door outwards and the kids don’t move. They don’t care about me? Look around for something to buy but can’t get to grips with chocolate-bar language. I choose something vague and take it to the counter. The guy mumbles something, I throw him some money, and I own a chocolate bar. Birds go quiet when I step back outside. They huddle close and start whispering to each other. One of them nods towards the kid in the back to front cap. Hey! Put your cap round the right way and you can have this chocolate. It brings the consumer untold powers and for the right individual untold attraction over the gender of your choice. I have to say that, I tell him. There’s no guarantees, these days. Don’t want to upset you do I? As if I care. Suddenly it occurs to me that I may not actually have any social skills. I stand looking at this boy and I think I’m cool, friendly, funny, the works. He doesn’t think that, but looks confused and one of his friends’ steps up for a closer look. Then another and another. Got to get your inspiration where you can. I look up to the bird for a hint. He’s got a mean look in his eyes. Take out the one on the far left. Don’t shoot him. Kick him in the groin and make sure once is enough. See what the others do. If they don’t move, grab the next one along by the throat and slap him like a girl; on the cheek. Slap him again and see what they do. If the first kick doesn’t pay off and they go for you then just do what you can. If/then. Good advice. At least three will go down before you. Just don’t get the gun out. It isn’t warranted. Black kid smiles at me.
The birds are still up, I smile at him. Where did those men go? What men he asks? He says he didn’t notice; had his eyes closed listening to some light sounds the barman had put on. Old couple are still in their beige cotton-mix windproof jackets; stay pressed pants. They could actually be one person split in two; one-half took the blood-red lipstick and the other took the wig. They may be harmless.
Sitting back into the chair I get a moment of peace. Hey! I’m going up when this beer is done. He says he’ll turn in too. That tomorrow I can drive and he can watch the grass. I chug down the remainder, give him a wide like I mean it smile, check the lounge with a quick turn of my head, pass the bar and the bar man. Smile like I don’t mean it. Wide stairs: credit card key: bathroom.
I pull the chrome stool from the side and place it in front the bathroom mirror above the basin. The pearly lights sat around the mirror-edge light me up like a movie star. My face is shadow free. The skin monochrome. No more than a movie-still clipped from the reel. A movie star in a clean white-nothingness movie, with no soft furnishings. Where’s the psycho? Lurking behind the door. Where’s the hero? Lurking behind the door. Where’s the heroine? I wonder what happens in this scene and stare into the actors eyes. The camera pans in slowly so his face fills the frame. The audience has to work at his thoughts and stitch the look into what came before and after. ‘Remember the ringing in your ears’, the actor says. He looks down, reaching for something the audience can’t see. Puts a cigarette in his lips, cups his hand round it and the hidden match flares brightly, revealing shadows clinging to his brow. You must listen. Listen intently to the sound in your ears. It’s a carrier signal. The message is layered into it. You have to separate the two. Turn the signal into the message. The message tells you about it. Follow what the message says. It’s easiest to separate the message when you’re lying-down. Go and lie down. He takes a long draw on the cigarette and holds the smoke deep inside before letting it jet out his nose. You need the message before you get to the city. Go and lie down. Okay. Something out of shot catches the actor’s attention and he turns away. A muffled voice. He turns back to glance at me one last time; makes sure I’m still there and then moves out of shot to reveal the white room, itself free of shadow.
I stare into the space for seconds. Just the whiteness. A closed door. One. Two. Three. The closed door. One. Two. Three, the black shape rushes past the camera. I don’t see it coming and recoil out the way; the audience breathes in sharply and sits back in their seats clutching their arm-rests. It’s out of shot but only just. The audience knows it. I know it. It’s going to come back past and we close our eyes not wanting to see. It stands to one side of the frame and watches us. It knows already who it will choose and why. A spotlight appears on the ceiling. Faint at first but getting closer and bigger until the beam of light breaks free; breaks down to wash over a boy sitting in the middle. The audience turns to look; surrounding him on all sides. The beam gets brighter, forcing the boy to clutch the arm rests of his seat. The space around him elongates and multiplies. And soon the void is infinite. The boy is an eternity away from us at the center of an expanding universe; a point in the center of our consciousness. I speak to him. You are infinity, I say. The boy turns to look at me. You are infinity. I watch me appear at the center of the void.
Together we look up to the screen; formed to a black hole that sucks at us; drawing light from the people at the edges of the universe. They bend like saplings against a storm. It’s coming. Springs up from the black hole; forms itself from negative light and immense gravity to annihilate me and the boy. He’ll stretch the state of death across time and space. It’s her, the boy says through his tears. He looks up at me. His nails bleed. The bone has broken through the knuckle forcing itself down into the chair. It is not him; it is her. I glance up to the screen that bulges now towards us. Apprehensive of the move into shot. The boy sobs and I turn back to his eyes. Can we get back, he asks me. Are you sure it is her? Yes. She’s outside. I don’t want to die. Nor me, I reassure him. I indeed decide that I don’t want to die at that time and grab the boy by the wrists, pulling his hands back from the seat. The nails fall off and blood runs freely down the arm rests to pools on the floor. The boy’s eyes are wide like saucers, staring up past me, telling me that it’s in shot. Screams sing around the universe from the audience. I slip my left hand under the boys legs and pick him up into my arms; left arm round my neck. Head buries itself into my shoulder. I don’t look behind me. We can make it to the edge, I tell him. The black forms itself into a shape we understand and draws first our skin. Then the muscle, then our blood. Leaving exposed the depth which it anticipates as a moment of true completeness. A moment that will fulfill expectation.
It pauses as we watch ourselves from the edge of infinity. The boy has clenched his hands to hide the damaged fingers and as I reach out to put my arms around his shoulders; we watch eviscerated and then sucked into nothingness. When it is done, she looks up. Looks across at us; across the immeasurable void. For an infinity we are watched. And for infinity I watch back. Nothing. Nothing at all. We are nothing at all. And then after infinity, a pin prick appears in the void. It’s at the edge of the universe a universe and an infinity away. But I can see it. I check again: I can’t see it. But I know it’s there. I check again: I don’t know it’s there. But the pin prick of yellow is there and even though I am nothing I begin to move towards the pin prick, travelling, for eons. No awareness. No anything. The boy: he has crawled out through a small square frame and is taking up a different version. I watch the square fade away until, eventually, the black light and the white light cancel each other out and he is split off for good. I travel from all directions towards the pin prick which I now can see exuding a faint yellow glow. It doesn’t change in size but it changes in intensity and we converge on it. Yellower and yellower we start off. We can feel our form taking shape. We are then the pin prick itself. And then I can say ‘I’. I am the pin prick. I am Yellow. I am dust. My first awareness is of a telephone ringing. I don’t know at that time what it is. I find out much much later that it is a telephone.