When I look to the horizon beyond our compact garden, I imagine I can hear the sound of the bombardments in Ukraine. It might seem fanciful, but I remember my mother saying to me that once a sound is unleashed from mouth or object, it travels round the world and out into the universe endlessly. I’ve never checked whether or not that’s fact. Physics tells me it probably isn’t, although matter is indestructible, so why not sound waves? I have this idea that one day some words I said years ago will ambush me out of the silence and whisper things into my ears that I don’t want to remember. It’s almost like the old time travel paradox – if I meet my future or past self, I will destroy myself and the fabric of time. But perhaps nothing is impossible.
Last night I spent a lot of time looking at what humanitarian aid agencies are actually doing in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries, and was overcome by the enormity of the task, the cruelty of what is being done to the Ukrainian people, the impasse the West and the East now find themselves in. In essence, it all boils down to vanity and the ridiculous capitalist quest for eternal economic growth – on all sides, because, let’s face it, Putin is as much a capitalist as any western industrialist or politician. Communism, just like organised religion, long ago became a parody of itself, and, just like western political ideology, became centred on the self, on concentrating as much wealth and power in the hands of one person as possible. Humankind has not moved on from the primitive, has not moved on from the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, the simple theatre of the village chief deciding he wants to be chief of the next village, and the next village after that, and spend his evenings counting how many huts he rules and how many concubines he has, and how many pieces of whatever the currency is he has.
Progress is a busted flush. Only the weapons have changed, and villages have become continents.
There are no noises on my horizon this morning. No echo of my voice whispering to me. It’s a sort of relief.
I can only write what’s in my head; fiction or fact.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 23
The mess in the bathroom left behind, Aggie picks up her coat from the hallway floor, pulls it on, buttons it up, throws the satchel over her shoulder, and lets herself out of the house. If Sir and Madam come back before she does, they’ll just have to deal with the chaos she’s ;eft behind. She doubts it, though, somehow, thinks they’ll never be back, that things will never be the same again. She locks the door, all five locks, from bottom to top, her sinews coiled again, expecting someone from somewhere to jump out of the invisible and try to attack her. Although she’s pretty sure that those four she left behind in the cathedral will still be trying to find their way out, will soon be discovered by the early morning staff and clerics. Everything is a danger. She shrugs, looks across to the spire that mirrors her height so perfectly, tucks the key away, and sets off for the station.
On the way, she detours to a bank in the city centre, still deserted, still empty of the rush that will come in a few hours, of people finding their way to work, of conveniently forgetting that a virus still hovers in the air, waiting to find those most vulnerable, those most careless, those most complacent and unexpecting. She takes Sir’s card from her satchel, sticks it in the slot, keys in the number she reads from the piece of paper he wrapped it in, enters the amount of English cash she wants, not more than she’d need for a week’s shopping for herself, sticks the notes into her coat pocket, and strolls to the station, the gloom still not fully gone, the round lights on the station forecourt still glowing bright white, and the face of the clock under the triangular facia of the tower just in front of the building’s cupola a perfect white circle punctuated by two slim hands loving away from each other every minute, meeting only twice a day, in a tender one-second long encounter, whispering the time to each other and moving past each other again. It’s just before five, and she has a few minutes to get herself a ticket for the train at five past.
Aggie is wearing a mask now, and thin gloves that don’t take away any of the feeling in her fingers, but stop her from picking up germs, stop her from leaving fingerprints. She slides her gloves across the touch screen of one of the ticket machine just inside the entrance, buys herself an open return, although she’s not sure she will be coming back, thinks regretfully of the books she had to leave upstairs at the house, shakes her head, chides herself for being unreasonably pessimistic, walks through the deserted ticket hall out into the high and draughty hall to the platforms. Only a few people here. She smiles behind her mask, her muscles aching in the slouch she’s no wearing. No-one looks at her or notices her. She learned the art of invisibility a long time ago, because of her size, despite her size, because she was taught well, because being invisible is what has saved her life more often than she can remember. She puts her ticket in the machine, passes through the barrier unhurriedly, reaches the platform, makes her way to the very front of the train before she gets on, chooses the seat in the corner, where there’s a blind spot for people getting on the train, out of sight, leans back, counts to thirty, hears the door beep closed, and the train set itself in motion. She has no vision of what will happen, watches the station wall slide past her, until it drops away, until the train’s wheels rumble in basso profundo as it passes over the bridge across the river and heads south.