The air was dust and static and the time had dwindled down to nothing in the light.
Eventually the room became less crowded. The hairline second-hand swept seconds by. Beyond the frosted panels everything looked like aluminium, even air.
Above all else we couldn’t stand the music.
We stared and stared. The information boards gave little back. Like ideas about ideas, or the terms of an expired service agreement, or a letter about cheap loft-insulation, or a hundred other things, the act of staring brought with it a renewed sense of perspective.
We dwelt inside our weariness and listened to the sound of something trying to make sense.
The floor threw light around quite carelessly. It hit the walls, it drifted to the ceiling, it splashed our faces, soaked into the chairs.
No-one said, but this was not what we expected, this was not the place. We had imagined somewhere not so brashly somewhere; not quite so full, nor yet not quite so empty. The light was something everyone agreed was the hardest thing to understand.
The space between the chairs and doors was constant. When they opened, pigeon-coloured light flew in, the air grew fussy, people shifted in their chairs, as one we all thought ‘doors’.
Whoever came, we did not recognise, but silently considered where they came from. Some of us barely looked up from our reading. Some read books, some magazines, some maps.
The tired mind can easily confuse time and place and stall at the announcements from the speaker, the tiny speaker roosting in the corner, periodically reminding us what we had to remember.
We thought about the lines of coloured chairs.
We thought about our choice of coloured shirts.
We thought we might like things like this explained.
The daylight was imperfectly perceived and understood. This much became apparent: the daylight had the look of newspaper.
In the time it took us to decide that we were tired, hungry, bored, in love, awake, incensed, outwitted, in sore need, we drifted off, cut loose and let the currents gently take us over. Someone said that we were simply tired, that was all.
People’s faces were unreadable. Their spirits, for the most part, low, or lower.
The woman opposite had lovely eyes, like opium, or pearls, or dusty diamonds. She sat there like a picture in a book you longed for but could never justify spending so much money on. Her face reminded you of God or of the sun.
The strip-lights buzzed as if they had something to tell you they had suddenly remembered.
The strip-lights can’t get started on their story, this thing they have to tell. It goes like this. A time. Upon a time. A time. Upon a. Once.
The woman opposite looked up, but not at you. Her looking stopped halfway. This was
something you decided not to see.
The lost daylight, the lost, corn-coloured boredom of the daylight hit the walls. A splinter caught the hand-rail that you hadn’t noticed until then. It grazed the open window.
The difference between us and our thoughts, between the implied and the actual.
What, we wondered, was the reason for this?
We sat there like a box of hand-made chocolates, like a box of biscuits, like a box of candied fruits. We didn’t move an inch. We watched the syrup-saturated light.
We sat there like a list of chapter headings.
We sat there like our own imaginations.
The afternoon wore on until the air was like an egg. We waited in the air. A softly poached, a perfectly poached egg.
It will be mostly for the light and air, or possibly the boredom, or perhaps the way the doors kept opening and closing, the way the chairs were chairs, the floor so clearly the floor, the barely audible but awful music, that we will be remembered.
Our thoughts were running down. Our thoughts were like a glass of long-neglected lemonade.
Waiting like this brought on a sense of fellowship, the chairs in rows, the hissing fire-doors.
We saw the sky, the same vivid blue sky.
We breathed the same soft air, the same bright air, the air like honeyed sunlight, air like butter.
The sky was like a memory of something becoming clearer as we leave it further and further in the past, always the same distance from us no matter how we grow.
The light looked incomplete.
We sat there like a field of lights fallen from the sky.
The floor looked up at us as if it were a proposition that it couldn’t follow, somewhere it could see but couldn’t get. The music stopped. The disastrous music stopped. The silence reigned, we bowed our heads. The silence rained. Perhaps the silence was too loud.
The daylight pressed itself against the windows, misunderstood and bluish with odd wisps of silver which we’d never seen before.
We sat in rows, our faces looked like paper. The air was dust. We thought of lemonade.
Copyright © C. J. Allen, 2010