There is a gap between my top and waistband where the cold floor gets in and touches my middle. I am surfacing, emerging in a pool where I am the only one in the water and where the water is shared by many. The moment is passing from the insular quiet. Self-conscious, aware of my in-between body. The smooth cold pressing against my skin means my skin must be showing.
I feel every outline, every weighted surface of me, that lives, and is material like wet unformed clay, heavy, dense, sticky, reformed continually, against the floor. Gravity pull down with the will back up again. How long has it been? Until I should move? Break the liminal spell, flex fingers and toes, redraw my spine, take a breath in and open my eyes. It is the sound of the room that reaches me first, the sound of adults above, of voices at head height when I am low down, with others. The cool floor laps my exposed waist. Close to my upright palms, fingers unfurling and foetal close(ed)ness, a line of duct tape that fixes the cables to the floor.
It is just me here, in the translucence, re-entering. I am a body, an outline, a static long form lying as though invisible within the bustle and overlooking of a room where the feeling has shifted, from the meeting to an informal time, coffee and fellowship. Many chattering voices merge, steady like a hovering mist. Sound more easy than of the spirit filling space between laughter, sobbing and wild shouts being pushed out.
The duct tape is being pulled up, cables looped, the sound desk packed away. This week’s recordings rewound, ejected, snapped into cassette cases and numbered. PA dismantled, speakers lifted down from their heights, all channels switched off. The back and side doors of the drama studio are opening as children run in and out carrying pictures made in the adjoining classrooms and normal life filters into the theatre space. Chairs swing back up on their hinges as vacating weight is lifted, bags and coats sought blindly beneath. Long heavy curtains parted, colour neutralises and the projected glow rigged above seems fainter, diffused in the clearer, bluer light.
In this busy room, I remain on the floor where everyone is standing. I am unsure why, where others are, unsure who has seen me, who is looking at me now. How should I be behaving, what should have happened? Did I feel it in the way I'm supposed to? Each time this happens, is it happening in the way that it should? Did I open up in the right way to enable the work to be done, the changes to take place? What was being worked on, what part of me was being touched, reformed, refined, filled? Had I been making it happen? Did I fall because I decided to? Would that be possible? Could I do that and not hurt myself?
On another Sunday morning, Dad has fallen in a noisy heap at the front of the congregation. He has abandoned the usual structure of the meeting. His ability to guide people through the service has been sabotaged by the spirit that is on him and working in him and more Lord, thank you God, he is bowing, oh, oh, lower with every oh, oh, bows and stoops in lowering curves, and judders with every contraction. His knees yield with buoyancy, his back bent over, his eyes closed. He is vocal, he is insular, his head is bowed. It occasionally lifts with a jolting new surge, his hands form a familiar pattern but they shake and he falls deeply into awful sobs that are inconsolable and incomprehensible. I have nothing near enough to hang this on.
Breathy, choking, writhing cries, he seems in pain. Desperate, he is sorry, he is wronged, he is wounded. He is longing, he is love, he is broken for the world. I could pass into a duller mode, looking on with ordinary detachment. This has become a familiar kind of scene, one I can expect. His hands will be held out to hold an invisible substance while oah. aawh. oughh, he expels curved gasps. A muscle reflex that punctuates, hits him in the stomach and folds him. This seems joyful or safe. But the horizontal image of him has formed a kind of lining.
My school friend is beside me. I brought her with me and she has not been before. We sit on the plastic chairs in a row, on a block to the right. I am there in this. This is my Dad, this is home. This is of me, this is because of me, this is linked to something I have done, maybe something done to me. Something done to him. This is things I don’t know about and things that won’t be explained. This is for the adults to understand and they don’t regard my witness. Searching, fearful, uneasy. Unbelonging. Or they don’t know, or it doesn’t make them notice or they might suppose and imagine and just sit there watching. And I am also sitting there watching, but I am not one of them, I am one of him.
Opening my eyes I scan the room to re-know it by sight, not just by sound. Chairs are being packed away and coffee cups collected. Another person, a man, is still receiving hushed prayer and the chairs he is fallen between are still out until this time evaporates and they too can be cleared. I draw one leg up at the knee and turn to the side, pressing up on a flattened palm. I pull the hem of my top down and crouch into a rising position that ends one thing and begins another.
We return to our doorstep. We might have guests or it might just be us. The morning’s service is being unpacked in the kitchen, which starts on the drive home, and continues over lunch. I sit in my usual place at the table, the end of the pew next to the window and look out. Far, as though my eyes could widen to take it in, or allow it to inhabit me or take me in, I loosen myself to fade out, to become only half present, looking into, through, past the long garden which stretches towards the sea.
Headphones on. A button on a wire. Sound like a shell to her inner ear. The audiologist's keys are tapping like pins in a tin. Eyes scan space between the sounds. In herself, she's moving. Enveloped in space, black button in her hand. Her eyes reach out and through her ears, a sequence of bleeps enters. First into one side and then through the other. If she closes her eyes she dissolves, blooms into the intervals. Hyphens which swell out in circles to join the next liquid crystal injection, like planets and stars. With eyes open and staring ahead she can navigate and ground herself, remain anchored by sight in a balance between outside and in. These times don’t take long but over the years she has been transported between one sense and another.
listener / earth’s lower crust / bottom of the ocean
things that cannot be seen / they come to you / you move between them
Squinting to pull the background forward and let the covering recede. She can dislocate, sustain holding nothing there. Looking in, closer like under a microscope, many intersecting squares. Fibres crossed, dust holding sound.
The spaces in the weave are a hole in the ear, holes in the headphones, a space between sound, a gap between rocks, a hollow in the tree trunk – a place between, of slippage, the wood between the worlds.
Walk a lunar landscape, tufts and fibrous, porous and retaining. Two things overlap, and mingled become grotesque or frightening. Brought together from distance. The moon and sea. Moon is on the sea, reflected in it, held apart. A constant distance. Things out of the ground, emerging. Roots through sand washed by the tide.
The inner whirring shakes one whole side of the head from the ear tunnel outwards. In the throat, glands, jaw and ringing, an endless chiming fiction. Rough white rock like bone on the beach where things taper towards a wilderness. The edge I walk towards and you following me. Where plastic and kelp strands from the sea hang dry on branches of driftwood and plants rise up itchy with hopping sand bugs and the aggravating coat of salty dirty air granules with plastic in it.
We are falling in that darkness between the audiologist bleeps and the not seeing.
A black curtain so full of emptiness, vacuum spreading. I loose a sense of scale, whether flat or undulating, whether it contains distance, extending, obtrudes or deepens. Travel away, time packed densely. Where a path is not visible between the place you are in and the place that you left.
Bungalow on a sliding hill, soil grain slippage, sinking soil coming away to bear what’s beneath, roots and pipes. Water running through, between spaces, under houses, rivers and streams underneath. The shifting of soil beneath, top layers, restless beneath.
After the flood, work began to limit the slip of the land. The bungalow is mid way on the hillside with dense woodland behind it. It is not clear how to access the bungalow, but it is visible from the road, as, now, is the scarring to the land of the movement, the excavation, the stabilising measures that connect the trees to the canal, where a flow of water passes beneath the bungalow, on a trajectory that doest allow for the sealed space of the house, which passes through it, permeating its foundations dislodging grit and earth, boulders and soil, uprooting plants and sending it on a downwards course.
You stand in the window, you are contained in this place but connected to my stories, many intersections with the situation of the bungalow, the unsteadiness of the land, the water flowing through the fact that the bungalow is still standing. You are, but the bungalow itself is not ageless, it is built in the late 1970s or early 80s, is low and modern, it is simply furnished with things that comfort and connect with generations just before.
You stand at the window, or sit in a chair looking out. A chair I would stare at until it became unfamiliar, and stroke its smooth polished hands it was almost human in shape. Your hands on these hands.
On cool lino, feet bare.
A cascade of limbs, hands, hair. Clothing turn.
Begin with right toes pointing outwards.
They take the rest with them.
A can in the street, blown, loud on every landing.
Each dint and facet creates echo space.
Was it a shape she heard? Or a sound.
The beat of the rain.
She goes upstairs and shuts the skylight. Balancing on a chair, one arm reaching up, the other pointing down. With the pull of the handle, the drips wetting the carpet become a steady flow falling, four corners to four corners. Lines to move between.
She returns to lie on the living room floor. Scanning her body, each part relaxes a little in turn, is held by the ground, and feels held, supported, else you would fall. Each set of muscles and bones releases in turn – those in her chest, her shoulders, around the backs of her thighs, knees, the comfort of weight like a laid on hand.
Lay, lie, low. Lowering. Toes tip away. Edges blend, thinly adhering. The melt on a surface. Compressed heaviness, back be poured, fall beneath the floor, through the gaps, to the cellar. To rising waters. Square holes with covers set adrift. Travel in a place with no current. Holes you can plunge a stick into. Measure the distance below. Further and further in, infinitely. Into the dark. Extending into another space. The cassettes. Press play and record together. Equal pressure at the same, time, two fingers pushing down. So we will hear this again.
She breathes in deeply. One, two three four, two, two three four, one, two three four five, two, two three four five. One, two three four five six, two, two three four five six – more and more deeply, filling and expelling. More space, more. Of outside inside, more of inside out.
Stand together, fall down in time, we come to one by one, as gradually the sounds of the room permeate the quiet within. The sensation of elbows on flat cold is stronger than the feeling of dissipating. She turns and rises from the rug, still rain outside, peaches ripening on the window sill. The gurgle and shake of the washing machine, it quickens as it ends. Woken with a start, letters on the mat. They fall through as though the door has been pushed open, things from outside, pushed in, wet with the rain.
Sometimes it feels like she would continue falling.