Saturday, August 27, 2016
Non-grata. Vacant. Missing person. Expendable. Expended. Hanging. Suspended. Removed.
Now I know why I go to work every week day. To exist. To pay taxes. To live. To contribute a tiny, tiny grain of sand into the dune of society.
It’s been almost three weeks since the operation. The buggered part of the anatomy is the one that is the least practical for someone who likes to read.
I have been able to watch, to an extent. Yes, I admit the occasional suggestive or indecorous clip on you tube. My passion for music unaffected. Rediscovering Pink Floyd- ‘The general sat/ And the lines on his map/ Moved from side to side…’; musically, enjoying a ‘live’ studio clip of John Lennon singing ‘Jealous Guy’; watching Paul McCartney’s face for clues as he watches people perform Beatles songs at one of those Kennedy Center Tribute shows they have every year; spirits lifted by old clips of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson post –Young Ones; feeding my new Charlie Chaplin craze- marvelling at Chaplin as the old, washed-up comic putting on a final, triumphant last show with echoes of The Tramp in ‘Limelight’; seeing Charlie as a younger man during WW2, in his ambitious portrayal of Hitler in ‘The Great Dictator’, his final speech about world peace sentimental but beautiful, a message unfortunately not taken up by Hitler; and Charlie as an even younger man in 1928 in ‘The Circus’, his public life in tatters, but totally triumphant in the film as a tramp/clown who is funny even though he doesn’t mean to be, ignorant of the fact that he is the troupe’s greatest asset.
Daily walks to the Coburg shops close by. Disoriented and conscious of this slowly dissolving gas bubble in my left eye. Feeling sad about all the construction of units and destruction of houses. Concrete rubble around the corner. Thick wire fencing. Workmen’s cars parked carelessly on footpaths.
Attempting the crossword in The Age- something about an urbane counter culture… Lying in bed. Listening to right wing talkback. Discovering that there are people in France, and even in Australia, who think it is ok to ban the ‘burkini’… ‘French Police Make Woman Remove Clothing on Nice Beach Following Burkini Ban’ (Guardian Australia 26/8). The wind comes through the shutters. Days filled with blank sunshine. Eye drops. Chlorsig. Prednisolone. Words that sound medical and somehow comforting. Drip, drip, drip. Eye patches and squinting. Slowly, slowly the blank morning light dissolves into grey afternoon.
I have an enormous Taschen book called ‘The Charlie Chaplin Archives’ which I am unable to read. I have Lawrence Durrell’s ‘The Alexandria Quartet’ in single volume in my bookcase. It’s a layoff that is nothing like a holiday.
A grey bird alights on one of the hedges in the backyard. There is a soft ticking from the heating unit before a new sudden blast of warm air. There are images of the Italian earthquake in my mind. As well as memories of times long ago- childhood and adolescence. I look at blurred images of markings in the natural woodgrain on the lounge room floor. If I pull my jumper out I can just make out grey hair sprouting from my chest. The air feels thick and still. Non grata. Vacant. Missing person.
Sometimes people visit. Trickles rather than flows. Kind enquiries over cups of tea. On rare occasions the phone rings. I think of Charlie Chaplin in the early 20’s sitting at his desk in his studio in America writing film scripts, and reflecting on his poverty stricken upbringing in the East End of London, barrow boys and flower girls and tramps and prostitutes and music halls. I wonder what Sylvia Plath was thinking in the coldest of cold London winters at the beginning of 1963 as she prepared her life exit and said goodbye to her little children.
I have more of those strange little elusive black dots in my left eye, that float in the air and seem impossible to trap in your vision. I need to make sure I don’t become obsessed with the amount of sight I have lost. When I remove the patch and my glasses I see a world that is a bit like one of those early Keystone Charlie Chaplin films- all grainy and vague and somehow stripy- ‘Mabel’s Strange Predicament’ or ‘Tillie’s Punctured Romance’. Then there is that ubiquitous round gas bubble that wobbles when I shake my head.
Now that I have written something down I feel somehow better, as if I have contributed something to the world. Feelings of non grata, vacant, missing person suspended for a little while at least.