*

Jean’s Soirée

“A thousand writers should be killed annually,” said the man on the tube train.

He looked up from the book to see to whom he had spoken.

I was not going to be the culprit so I pretended to turn back to my own laptop book.

But, too late, because, briefly, our eyes locked like oysterish antlers.

Strange words had captured us for their own. And, as if hypnotised, we left the carriage together at a stop neither of us had intended.

He told me he would like me to meet his girl friend Jean. I told him that perhaps I could make overtures in her flat.

Until then, I didn’t know I was a composer.

“Composers, too,” he said. “But they should be strangled every time one is born.”

We both laughed upon reaching the rain-swept blackness that was recognisable – or, at least, conceivable – as the upside.

The escalator faded away as our memory of it was expunged by the encroachment of more important memories.

Jean, however, was to remind us of it.

We had, by now, arrived at her flat where I would learn, eventually, that the most important memory had always yet to be remembered.

“Have you wondered why there is frequently a strong wind down that escalator…?” she smilingly asked one of us, whilst knowing that her pouting features and pinprick dimples endeared her more to the other.

“A thousand painters should be hung, drawn and quartered every day,” was the sudden non-sequitur of someone else – previously unnoticed as he sat near Jean’s television set. “At least,” he added with the utmost emphasis.

When the night lengthened (almost into itself as if daylight was growing more distant at both ends), the four of us got on famously. Not talking the night away, but more its opposite.

We covered the various art forms, stating why each of us loved music, painting, novels, poems, operas, plays, symphonies, sculptures … but hated those who created them.

“You know,” Jean said, “there’ll come a point in the lifetime of the planet when there’ll be more people that have died than there are yet to live.”

Despite her clumsy use of words, the other three nodded in agreement, knowing she had made a point that actually justified the execution of artists or, indeed, of anybody else even with the pretence of artistry. It could also be seen – with a blinding flash of intuition – that the moving staircase image could be applied to concepts, such as existence, as well as to the tangible things that existed.

“Constructive illness is the opposite of euthanasia,” I said, this being my contribution to the tail-end of the discussion.

“Suicide bombers are members of the deconstructionist school…” the man near the television set started to say.

“Only when an art gallery – let us say, for the sake of argument, the Tate Gallery – can actually itself become a work of art when it’s devastated by a bomb,” announced the man I had originally met on the tube. It turned out to be his parting shot, as, soon after, he departed Jean’s flat along with the man previoulsy near the television set.

Jean and I kissed as I unbuttoned her blouse. The lacy bra was tantalisingly brief – as was the subsequent sex we both shared. I suppose, when and if I remember the occasion, I will decide that I was rather put off by Jean’s tattooes … and the way her spine moved up and down. Her eyes tasted like shellfish.

The rest of that night was spent watching the programme that the man previously near the television set had also been watching. It seemed to be on endless repeat.

The only way to know when morning had broken was upon hearing the first tube train’s sporadic passage under the block of flats, like the end of Sibelius’ fifth symphony … or the beginning of my first. Then, thankfully, the words let us go before Jean strangled me for having written them.

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