When I was very young, I began a novel every other day before going out for the night with my fingers tingling and with a sense of importance in my pockets in place of money as though I was a great, unknown underground writer, who would never give in to commercialism, the lure of money. I met a girl who said that she did not go in for the norm. But just what exactly do you go in for I said? A man wearing a knitted berry that looked like a tea cosy eavesdropped on our conversation and if I remember correctly he was chewing gum. I had just enough change in my pockets to buy a second drink but I was able to tell her that the sun is a dominant metaphor in all the novels I begin, even if it was a lie. By begin, I explained that I rarely got beyond three hundred words or one page. My brother, who was studying physics at that time, suggested that I had inadvertently stumbled on a new genre of writing, the one page novel, without middle or end, just the beginning. It was bound to be successful because he had read in a literary magazine that everybody read the beginnings of novels but few ever reached the conclusions or got half way. Even in literary matters, which after all are entirely based on fanciful ideas that have neither weight or substance, numbers mattered. My brother, like a modern day Wittgenstein, said that no-one argues with numbers. Any dispute can be solved arithmetically. An argument involving weight can be solved by the weighing scales, discussions concerning moral issues may be worked out in the language of mathematics; triangles, circles, other geometrical figures, without which we are wandering about in a dark labyrinth. I think he was trying to argue that the merit of a book was solved by the number of people who read it and the amount of pages it had and the amount of people who read all of these pages. However, I lost him there, drifting off into a weightless, numberless, substance less dream of my own. The man in the tea cosy guffawed and spat his gum into a dirty old handkerchief. The girl said that her taste in reading was eclectic. I looked the word up in the dictionary when I got home and began another novel.
        Leo gazed directly into the sun for the merest fraction of a second before his eyelids clamped shut. Two enormous orange jellyfish flowered, one in each eye, very much alive, expanding, receding in an infernal, venomous dance. He kept his eyes clamped shut and slowly they began to grow smaller, under attack by tiny, black dots that raced in a relentless pattern across the lenses. Asymmetrical, identical. He turned away from the window towards the wall to increase the swiftness of the inevitable victory of the black balls over the jellyfish.
        There is only one sun, we are told, but the sun on the Mediterranean seems different to the sun that creeps along the North Atlantic horizon. It seems more voluminous and much more brilliant. Leo could not figure out, with the naked eye, that is by merely looking out the window and focusing upon one single point for a certain duration, say the spire of a church or a factory chimney, at what angle the earth moves on its transsexual (sic) orbit. Leo could only simplify the whole thing into a straightforward, circular motion, moving from east to west. It made him dizzy when he thought about it too long. He sat in an upstairs room, gazing out at the spire, trying to maintain an appropriate level of concentration. His brother, who was studying physics in the university tried to explain it to him with the use of a globe as well as diagrams he drew with wonderful precision in a copybook, like some latter day Copernicus but Leo soon got weary and wondered was there anything decent to eat in the house?
        I met the girl again and found out that her name was Evette. Her parents were French. At first I thought she was really lovely and I did not feel shy with her. I lived in a small rented place between the brewery and the train station at that time. I swore it would be a place of Isolation but somehow Evette managed to find her way back there. From my CD collection she picked out The Velvet Underground and Joy Division. She let her hair fall down and rocked to and fro. I loved the weirdness but as you know it begins to call in the complications sooner rather than later.
        I went out around noon next day leaving her asleep. I love sleeping she said. It was her favourite thing about being alive. When you die you won’t be able to sleep anymore. This followed a dream in which I made love to a Chinese girl. I didn’t tell her that of course. It was really serious business and just before I woke up I made the Chinese girl promise that she wouldn’t tell. Evette had gone into the living room where she was listening to Venus in Furs again. It was raining and it was cold and in Spain people were dying during a heat wave. She said that she would never accept that I was really as cool as I let on. I was a fake. It made me laugh with anger, of all words that word fake. I couldn’t live with that hung on a necklace and placed on my neck.
        I met my brother in a bar near the station, back of the docks. It was a run-down seedy old place that was good for my mind. Prostitutes of all ages between fifty and eighty-five, hanging around, a man with a battered brown suitcase came hopping along the street, frog-like, rushing for the next train out of town. He hopped through the filth and the dirt and the weird scraps outside the doors. His mind was absorbed with the need for change as the real world and real people had lost all meaning
        As I said my brother was studying physics in the university. Everything was about numbers with him. There was nothing in the world that could not be explained by numbers. Suddenly, he turned his head away from the bar and looking out the window said: Ask me how many paper pennants there are hanging there the length of the back mirror? Go on, and before I asked he said, there are fifty-nine.
        As I walked the streets homeward bound I soaked up the atmosphere. Inside the air of decadence there simmered a tangible aura of fertility, a feeling of plenty, boys and girls well dressed laughed in the doorways of bars and restaurants, smoking and reveling in the joys of being alive. The air exuded a dynamic creativity. I wanted to carry it home with me to my own little place and turn it to good account. I turned the corner onto the street where I live. There are two bars, The Crystal Palace and Tommy’s Place. The sand brown, ramshackle appearance of the facades, the slated rooftops, the cracked plaster exudes the energy I need, the Grill on the corner serves up good, cheap food, and next door is a lady’s boutique, incongruously placed but aptly named La Belle Époque. Two mini-skirted prostitutes with a well coiffured poodle, greeted me familiarly as I passed and receded into a cloud of colour. There was a busker on the corner and a hippy selling home-made pieces of jewelry. I had forgotten all about the girl. No I don’t mean I had forgotten about her, I just didn’t think she’d be still there. I know she said she didn’t go in for the norm but I didn’t believe that for a second. So imagine my surprise when I found her there sitting by the window reading a book and making her way through a most boring sandwich. The light from the street and the influence of the lime green shade on the electric light bulb hanging from the ceiling shrouded her in a mystical lime-green aura, botanical was the word that leapt to mind. She didn’t even look up when I came in as if we were an old married couple and said nothing except that about her most boring sandwich.
        I took off my jacket and stepped into the bedroom where I began to scribble the beginning of a novel into my notebook. The girl sits reading in the botanical gardens. Under the lime-green light of tropical plants she is immersed in her reading. I paused to shout: What are you reading, what’s the name of the book? She made no reply. She was an enigma, I continued, her mystical spirit drew him down the long glassed-in avenue of tropical plants, through steamy, vaporous air, in which I could smell the page she was reading, a misty green. In the afternoon she went to sit in a cafe by a fountain, the cool shaded terrace bar attended by waiters wearing brilliant white shirts and black dickey bows. She was dreaming too. She sipped her coffee, her large gaze planted firmly on the green water flowing from the fountain. In my dream, she said, we have two beautiful daughters and we live in a Provencal village.
        She hadn’t spoken to me since I’d got in except to say that she was eating a most boring sandwich. I dropped the notebook and went to the door of the living-room. Evette, I said? She didn’t even look up. She had her legs wrapped under her and the book was placed on her knees. I made a cup of tea and went to sit by the bedroom window. She was in the living room making nonsense of my Isolation. At a loss what to do I fell back on the oldest item, picked up the notebook again and began yet another novel. Marcel listens. It is the afternoon, the sun is low in the sky, shadows cast by the tall buildings. The men are speaking about boredom, short durations, despair, the wolf of insignificance. Marcel listens. A wise old timer called Henri says that it’s all very simple, that there are those who understand geometry and arithmetic and there are the others. But how do you cope with the nuances of the law and morality, someone asks and Henri says that it’s all plain to him, he can see the numbers in everything? One knife, one bullet, one lie, one indiscretion, one dishonest sentence, one infidelity. Then you move on to two. Deeply embroiled in the net we kick out furiously and become so entangled that we can’t count. The wise old salmon is hauled in without a kick. Henri speaks like Minos, judge of hell, the connoisseur of all transgression. He recites the lines he often quotes on the black wind of afternoon, glass raised to the shadows cast: So broken to lascivious vice, she licensed lust by law in hopes to cover her scandal of unnumbered harlotries.
        Marcel left then to ramble inside the city walls. The narrow streets were thronged, a saturation of visual expressiveness.
        At that moment Evette put on Venus in Furs yet again, turned up very loud. I imagined her out there with her hair hanging down over her face, rocking to and fro and nothing at all would induce me to go in there and join her.

Edward Mc Whinney is a regular contributor to Contrary. Read more of his work here.














RECENT AWARD WINNERS:Bobolinis.htmlBobolinis.htmlHard.htmlHard.htmlSeiche.htmlSeiche.htmlParable.htmlParable.htmlParis.htmlParis.htmlSeamus.htmlSeamus.htmlDeirdre.htmlDeirdre.htmlSummer-2008.htmlSummer-2008.htmlContradiction-4.htmlReviews.htmlDuMars.htmlConroy.htmlHemon.htmlChalupa.htmlHelms.htmlMacfarlane.htmlRegis.htmlPollock.htmlContrary.htmlSubmissions.htmlArchives.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0shapeimage_5_link_1shapeimage_5_link_2shapeimage_5_link_3shapeimage_5_link_4shapeimage_5_link_5shapeimage_5_link_6shapeimage_5_link_7shapeimage_5_link_8shapeimage_5_link_9shapeimage_5_link_10shapeimage_5_link_11shapeimage_5_link_12shapeimage_5_link_13shapeimage_5_link_14shapeimage_5_link_15shapeimage_5_link_16shapeimage_5_link_17shapeimage_5_link_18shapeimage_5_link_19shapeimage_5_link_20shapeimage_5_link_21shapeimage_5_link_22shapeimage_5_link_23shapeimage_5_link_24shapeimage_5_link_25shapeimage_5_link_26shapeimage_5_link_27shapeimage_5_link_28shapeimage_5_link_29shapeimage_5_link_30