Tapping into his subconscious
Not just any day, but it is a day in Barnes, London.
He was standing still on the bridge, sweating after having run. He was late, twenty-five minutes late. His brother’s fault… And his own, for listening to him. Fault or fate. Now he was there, standing still, eyes fixed on the Thames, but actually staring at nothing, eyes of a marble statue.
It would be a week before he would see that ample skirt again, the string belt, the thongs, and the coarse fabric blouse with oriental patterns. That face marked by time, of a “lady” who was still just a girl, that seemed fresh out of clip from the ‘60’s on Youtube.
He had run into her six months earlier, when he had decided to call it quits with his group. They did pop music, while he liked beat, Mersey sound to be precise. But he wasn’t from Liverpool, he was from Barnes. And if in his group there was a George, it certainly wasn’t Harrison. Where he was from, Mercury and glam rock were the myths, while every day life was middle class, too square … Perfect families, glances of total indifference and the mask of appearance.
Everything was a bit eccessive, kids that were rebels but then would go on to college and come out with a law degree, ending directly in dad’s law firm. The long-legged girls with pretty faces, designer clothes, that would marry soon after college, would have kids and a place in society… life in the good British province.
That evening six months ago, he had left George’s Boys, had left that garage on Laurel Rd., and had seen her walk along Hillersdon Ave. He had followed her up to Barnes Bridge, where she had disappeared into the train for London. From that moment on, George’s garage no longer meant anything to him, nor the discussions over music or letdowns from friends.
He was certain that if he exchanged a word with that lady, his life would change, because she would have understood him. And that’s all he needed, to feel “right”. But that week he was late, and now he was gasping for oxygen.
He had no idea why the lady took the train for London every Friday afternoon at 3.30 pm, had no idea of what she did there, no idea of who she was, but for him she was… She was everything you touch with your gaze, it was observing closely his myth, taking example from it. A woman… a stranger… Who had become a reference point for Andy.
He had left the bridge and started to walk toward Elm Grove Road.
At the entrance he paid the ticket and started on a pathway, without knowing where it led. A bog-bull various water rails and quite a few wild shovelers were all about, but Andy saw none of that. He followed the path till he reached wild-side hide… TUUUUUM… She was there on the bridge by the wildlife viewpoint… He did a double take before realizing it wasn’t his imagination. It was that lady, and she was looking at the ducks in the bog. There, on that bridge, under the rain. Ah! Now he felt the rain. He became aware of it looking at her wet hair, blond wet locks of hair clinging to the oval of her face. Only then did he realize he was standing in a puddle. And only then did he know: he was like a body flattened out in a black and white photograph.
Now he looks at her from afar, still, as one looks at an artwork in a museum.
Then she starts walking… He follows her at a distance. She’s the one that suddenly comes up to him, while his gaze plunges on a couple of swans.
Her sodden sandals go toward Andy, ploughing through the dirt pathway. To Andy, the lady seems to fly over the mud, without touching the ground. In a second she’s by him.
TUM TUUM TUUUM
“Why are you following me?” says an apathetic, expressionless voice.
Andy doesn’t answer. He keeps looking at the swans. As though the lady weren’t speaking to him.
TUM TUUM TUUUM
Doctors call it palpitations, for Andy instead it’s the strongest emotion he’s ever felt.
The lady smiles. Andy feels hugged by that smile.
“Well then? Why?”
“Why do you come to Barnes?” Andy’s voice is thick, as though he had just eaten an unripe persimmon “My son lives here, and my grandchildren… I like to watch them as they come out of school… I’ve been coming here for almost forty years….”
Forty years is a lifetime… More than double Andy’s age… Something unimaginable… Like that TUM TUUM TUUUM that gets stronger and stronger.
“Why do you follow me?”
“Why are you here?” and this time Andy’s question is a whisper.
“Because today I discovered that my son is a bastard like many others…”
“Did you tell him?”
“He doesn’t know me!”
“Your son doesn’t know you?”
“No, he has never known me… And it’s okay… Why do you follow me?”
“Why is he a bastard?”
“He has a lover, but that wouldn’t be a problem if he weren’t so square… That’s what hurts me! What are you doing here?”
“I’m following you, right?” Andy wishes he could find the strength to continue… But he can’t… His voice trembles over that “right”.
And the lady now sees a grey-eyed drenched kid staring at her crossly … And it comes natural to her to pull the hood of his sweatshirt over his head.
Andy goes off… He can’t bear to be that close… He’s afraid of his noisy heart beat.
“Let’s enter the viewpoint!”
Andy doesn’t answer. Where is he going? He doesn’t know!
The lady starts off without looking behind. She knows perfectly well that Andy is following her.
When Andy walks in, the woman is already sitting on a sturdy wooden stool.
He sits by her in silence.
From her mustard purse, the lady takes a pair of field glasses and looks through the hole.
“There’s a kingfisher! Do you want to look?” and passes the field glasses to him.
They almost fall out of Andy’s hand. Then his eyes focus on the blue and yellow bird. He looks at those colors and the world little by little takes on hues. Then a sand martin and a flock of herons arrive. It’s as though he had taken LSD, and his anxiety has quieted down. It’s a series of visions where flora and fauna combine in fractal geometries… His perceptions are amplified. Those field glasses are addictive.
“I bet you’ve never come here before, right?” Even the lady’s voice now sounds differently. The kingfisher flies off.
“Gone!” says Andy, a bit sorry.
“You wanted him to stay some more? Give me the field glasses, come on….”
Andy hasn’t finished passing them when he feels the lady’s hands over his own… TUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM… Approach and quick distancing.
“Do you live close by?”
Andy only moves his head. He can’t waste time on his insignificant life. He needs to know who that woman is. “Tell me about your son!”
“It was the Monterey summer…”
Andy almost falls off the stool.
She smiles as she watches Andy recover his balance. “I imagine you don’t even know that it’s…”
Andy’s voice explodes and bounces against the wooden walls of the viewpoint. “Jun 16, 1967, The Association were the opening, then followed The Paupers, Lou Rawls, Beverly… ”
A group of ducks rise in flight from the lagoon.
“Shhh! You are scaring the birds …”
Andy stops immediately. Takes a deep breath.
“Ok! So you know who was playing… But it’s not that…”
“I know! It’s not that… But what can I do about it? I wasn’t even born! I can imagine it, see clips, listen to Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix for hours… I can know every single chord by heart, every interview… But I will never be able to live it… I will never have it inside me like you…”
“You have it in your head… It’s like when you follow me, you like to use your imagination…”
“I can’t do anything else, I don’t know you…” it seems almost a prayer. The woman continues her story. “I was nineteen in July… And after a few days I discovered I was expecting. I was in veterinary school at Davis, dreaming to go to Africa… Instead I got back to London. I wanted to have an abortion, but I didn’t, I chose adoption and went on with my life…”
Andy looks out of the birdwatching hole.
“I did go to Africa, you know! I was there five years, then I went to India… A couple of years… Then I wanted to see Lenny again, I found out what school he went to. I got there on a Friday at 3 pm, I saw him come out out… And I’ve been looking at him from afar for forty years…. So I know more than you do about shadowing!
The girlish laugh is infective for Andy.
“I must go now!” the woman’s voice says in peremptory tone, breaking up Andy’s laugh.
“Will you be back Friday?”
“No, my son and the discrete fascination of the middle class no longer interest me,” she says rising from the stool so lightly as to seem immaterial.
“Come back for me, Friday” says Andy, panting.
“But why? By now you know all about me, I’m no longer an obscure object of desire.”
“Come back, please …”
“To tell me about Monterey, Woodstock, Summer of Love…”
“To fill you with illusions, help you escape from your life?”
“No, to keep me from becoming an exterminating angel… Do you like Bunuel?” says Andy turning his gaze back to the white swans in the lagoon.
“Yes, … he is surreal …” the woman pauses, then smiles “You, me and the wetlands… Surreal, right?”
Andy hears her step towards the exit.
“Till Friday then?”
Her steps are already far away, but he hears an imperceptible “Till Friday!”
He watches her walk away from the hole in the viewpoint. It’s raining, but she looks impervious. Then she dissolves into the fog.
“But it’s a ghost… a ghost!” Andy keeps repeating himself incredulously, while he walks off under the rain. But even if it is a phantom, he knows that they have a date Friday, and this time he won’t be late!