Richard Pierce

Life

Day 240

Last night, when M went to pick up A from work, the house was utterly silent (we’d paused a film we’d started watching), and I took great pleasure in wandering round downstairs and listening to the sharpened and precise sounds my movements made – feet on the floor, breathing, the floor creaking in different places, and differently in those different places, picking up and putting down glasses and other objects, the shiver of a cigarette paper being rolled up tightly around a thin cylinder of tobacco, the gentle clunk of the back door when I pulled it closed after I’d stepped outside, then the swish of pulling it open to step back into the house, and the even more solid clunk of closing. These are the sounds of solitude, and I revelled in them. And for a moment pretended I was in a huge house in Provence or coastal Italy (or even Venice, actually) or Agios Nikolaos all on my own. But only for a moment. I wouldn’t really want to be on my own. Just have my own wing. Oh, such materialistic thoughts. It’s probably true to say that many films preach capitalism at us. Rabbit hole.

I’ve been pre-recording Episode 3 of my 12-inch vinyl collection, and will carry on doing that presently. It’s fun to do, even though not quite the same as doing live shows. But it still lets me listen to a lot of my fave music through the headphones and loudly which is all anyone could want, really, isn’t it?

Another slow day, just pottering and doing no much. I have now moved the electronic keyboard from one of the sheds into the office, so I can start just unwinding with the few melodies I can play (badly), something I always used to do in moments of high stress or anxiety.

Let that be that.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 193

‘Ans the car keys,’ Lilibet says, holding out her empty hand.

‘I’ll drive till we have to fill the car up,’ Aggie says. ‘I don’t want you to get too tired, seeing as you’ll be driving back as well.’

‘I can drive, too,you know,’ Katharina says.

‘And me,’ Marit says.

‘I’ll let you argue about that on the way back, without me,’ Aggie says. ‘Let’s go.’

They all get in the car, Lilibet in the front with Aggie, the other two in the back.

‘Music?’ Marit says.

Aggie pushes a button and the radio comes on.

‘That’ll do,’ Marit says. ‘Just don’t put anything on where they talk endlessly. I’ve had enough of talking.’

‘I think we all have,’ Lilibet says.

The drive is monotonous once Aggie has turned and twisted her way out of Norwich, once they’ve passed all the big houses on the long wide and straight road that heads west and turns into the A11, a bleak dual carriageway punctuated by occasional roundabouts and exits, where the traffic becomes increasingly heavy as they head towards Cambridge. Aggie says nothing, and doesn’t even think, just concentrates on the route, and leaves her mind deliberately vacant of anything else. And she understands that Lilibet is saying nothing deliberately, that the woman next to her understands what she’s doing, and doesn’t want to engage in useless conversation with the two in the back either.

They pass the Elveden War Memorial, sweep down gentle slopes and curves and up others, until they reach the massive roundabout at Mildenhall, where Aggie pulls in to fill up the car with electric and petrol. Once she’s paid with the cash, she gets back to the car, opens the off-side door, throws the key to Lilibet, who slips over into the driver’s seat. Aggie drops down into the still-warm seat, flashes a suggestive grin at Lilibet, leans back, and closes her eyes. And while she enjoys the motions of the car, she starts to think about the trip ahead. How she might recognise Marion, what she might learn from her. Her known life, and she presumes it can’t be implanted false memory, plays in front of her at enormous speed, from the moment she woke in the mud in the village, to when she was carried, bleeding and dying, out through the snow by the mentor’s string arms, to overpowering the guard by the barbed wire fence, to shooting at Anna, to her defiance of the mentor, to the end of that period, the one which ends in a blank, and the time is dark then, and no light or pictures penetrate that darkness, until she finds herself working in a corner shop in some part of Norwich and living in a damp flat, and then finds herself standing on the doorstep of Valentine and Cassandra’s house, and being hired, and living in blissful ignorance and almost subservience for any number of years.

Aggie hasn’t thought about that blank, about how she can’t even remember escaping from the mentor’s camp, can’t recall how she got to Norwich for the first time, how she started working at the shop. She reruns all the memories at even greater speed. Nothing. Again. Oh, the wheelchair, the withered mentor with hatred in her eyes, Aggie’s gloved hand, the snowmobile. She slows down the film, starts it again, from the moment the wheelchair appears in shot, tries to run it in slow motion, her eyes lingering on the mentor’s face, trying to recognise it, trying to find in it some familiarity, but its features are so worn, like sandstone by the wind and the rain, that almost nothing remains of it, and it resembles not so much a blank canvas as one which was wiped clean by an artist who hated what she had painted, and wanted to destroy all memory of it. She stops the pictures, the face in freeze frame, the high cheekbones eroded but still there, the nose, sharp and straight but crumbling, the eyes the strongest of them all, a blaze of fury and rage and hatred. But as she looks deeper into them, she recognises something else there, too, something no-one can disguise, ever. Fragments of sadness and fear. They are eyes facing death.

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