Thursday, June 25, 2015

Study of Fists III

The out-of-hours doctor came to me as I lay on my bed, with my feet up on pillows so that more blood could reach my head. He immediately noted the distinctive fists I was making. With the backs of my hands against the mattress, my straightened fingers seemed to be reaching over, slow and morbid like ash snaking from an indoor firework, towards my arms. The doctor told me that this was due to over breathing, the purging of too much carbon dioxide from the body. He had witnessed people breathing so rapidly that their fingers had shut to like an operculum, with their fingertips pressing into their wrists.

There was a grey-framed mirror on the wall of my bedroom in Chesterfield. I looked into it from the ages of 18 to 23. In the first year, because I was still studying in Cambridge, I came up to Chesterfield only at the weekends, and so nobody knew me save the gardener and the staff in the train station's ticket office. Every Friday evening, as I waited outside the station for my mum to pick me up, the sweet smell of the Trebor factory made me think of the ventriloquist, Roger de Courcey, and the story of how he entered a time slip when once he had visited the town on a tour. I had read about the episode in a book of phenomena. I felt that I too was out of time, that I had become an anachronism. The grey-framed atemporal mirror from the ages of 18 to 23 reflected a constant, an existential agitation, a sense that did not relent despite my eventual involuntary making of fists and the visit from the out-of-hours doctor.

By the second year, that lyrical cliché peculiar to indie bands of the 1980s, about not knowing your name anymore, or wanting to change your name, or similar, seemed increasingly applicable, and I had started to think about what I might call myself other than Martyn Sutton. I sensed too that it was not noble to tarry with writing, and thus I started to write before I had my new name, before I understood what I wanted to write about, before I even knew the meanings of many of the words I was using. In the night, in that bedroom with the grey-framed mirror, I would read from a large yellow edition of Oscar Wilde's illustrated works, or a book of paranormal phenomena, and then write verse, or masturbate to pictures in magazines my mum was collecting for the local hospice.

In my first year at university in Sheffield, I journeyed home to my parents in Chesterfield at the end of each day. The house was a long L-shaped bungalow surrounded by lime trees and sunk into a small depression in a rural close at the Baslow-side of the town. One of the neighbours was a retired policeman who suffered from gout and guilt and had a cocaine habit. He squeezed my hand far too hard when he shook it and once told my parents of perceived personal failings relating to the infamous Pottery Cottage murders. He recounted how he had knocked on the back door and made routine enquiries but did not ask to go inside where, had he done so, he might have been able to apprehend the escaped prisoner. Some time after this first visit, he and his colleagues did gain access to the cottage. He described how he had gone from room to room finding members of the family, and how he remained haunted by the image of a single leg sticking up from a toy box in the child's bedroom, the prosthetic leg of the grandfather.

In the garden of my parents' bungalow there was a stream with a bridge that led to a copse, where I used to sit waiting to glimpse the kingfisher or the water rat. Behind the copse was a field, and beyond that a footpath to Holymoorside. My parents and I were aware of a lully prigger who used to steal our clothes from the washing line. On one occasion in the middle of the night, as I was dancing in the dimness to Bing Crosby's "When I Take my Sugar to Tea", the whole room lit up, and I felt certain that someone had just taken a photograph of me through the window.

Now at age 43, as I recline in the sun-cradling armchair beneath the window that overlooks The Borough, scratching at the ringworm on my scalp, the gusts of cyclists, their snips of conversation and the hum of spokes are fleas in my ear; and I wonder whether, if such a photograph as the Lime Spinney Dancer exists, I would appear, as I feel I am now, as apparition. I have never lacked the courage to write what is moral, since I have never had it confirmed that I exist; but this is such impotent abstraction, when as a spirit, God-galvanised to pass impalpable and unfootsore among people, I could awe ISIL, or ISIS, gesture to them to winch back up the cage from the pool to let the drowning men breathe, to unloop the detonator-chain from the necks and kiss the frightened men, let them return to their families.