The Story of a Hall Porter | Edward Mc Whinney

        Standing in the doorway looking at the rain, I felt like Evander Holyfield’s punch bag, like some ten-ton front-row forward’s jock strap, like a box of monkey nuts being stripped naked then chewed and spat out into the muddy gutter. Welcome to Hell. It was so bad it was funny. A fellow called Tynan approached the door struggling to close his umbrella. Well what’s so funny to-day, he said? Tynan was a clerk in an insurance company on the fourth floor. Are you going to share the joke, he said? When I just kept staring out into the rain, the rain whipped along by a lacerating wind, the whipping sheets of rain popping off the road like silver pearls, Tynan shrugged and left me in care of his umbrella before ascending toanother day of policies and cash. I remained with his dripping umbrella in my grasp for a further few years, giving voice to my inner world presenting a certain poetic profile to the ladies who now began to arrive in droves, skittering along the quay, some of them shrieking loud enough to rattle the glass on the doors. I am the hall porter. Good morning ladies. I mean lovely morning for the ducks ladies. How astonished they would be to find that I was not the person they thought I was, as I am at all times astonished to find that I am not the person I think I am. I seek meaning in every pearly drop of rain just before it smashes into the road. I try to find some shape, some meaning in every drop of rain that putters into the murky waters of the river. I know that every pearly drop carries the essence of a world, each one a world with shape and meaning and the illusions begin to take on meaning before smashing into a crystal explosion, miniature comets defying reason. Hence the illusions assume shape for the briefest of moments and you feel as if you are, resuming after another momentary lapse, where you saw that you are not and that all around is Nothing but Unreality, shapeless, illusory. I am not the hall porter. I am a painter. I am a lone hawk sweeping majestically above the scenic valley, prowling over open territory and sweeping over the forests. I am a mad poet, hiding away in a sanatorium, scribbling incomprehensible snippets on the back of medical prescriptions. And as I made way for each of the ladies, helping them with their coats and umbrellas I no doubt reached the most extravagantly false conclusions about each little pearl, giving each of them an illusory existence that existed nowhere but in my head. And then I felt that the rest of my daily movements there in the building of the Horevalley Country Company were so calamitously unromantic because I rushed at moments without control, plunging into a swamp of uncertainty at every step, plagued by a catastrophic memory making for a whirl of confused thoughts, that I’ll never have time and space to sort out. To compound matters each lapse of memory was juxtaposed alongside a feeling of clarity. That very morning over a cup of tea at the table before departure, a book lay open before me. In it I read a poem. I re-read the poem and indulged in the feeling it inspired in me, at least I found something there to be emulated but now standing in the doorway as the office workers arrived out of the rain, I could not remember the name of the poem, though the poet was Paul Verlaine, but could not remember its name or even one word from it or anything at all about it, not a notion beyond that when the book lay open before me, the steam curling upwards from the cup of tea, I found something there to delight me, to raise the spirits, something I no doubt concluded I could relate to as if Paul Verlaine were writing about a recalcitrant hall porter on a rainy morning which of course he was not. I doubt if he ever even heard of the Horevalley Country Company. I racked my brains all that morning. It must be something about a street in the heart of the city, a city of dreams, moments there when it came back to me so very clear then again all of a sudden so vague. The movements of my daily routine are so uncool. Many people say to me that I have a nice cushy number, so many people believe it, that it would be useless to tell them how just hanging around there in futile frustration exhausts me, makes me feel like Gungha Din's jock strap, standing in the hallway unable to control my thoughts, uncertainty whirling around like a cloud of brain-eating amoebas, indulging in vague poetic fantasies, admiring my uniformed profile in the glass, what a powerful male-alpha figure I cut for the ladies, even if I have entertained the idea of returning as a lesbian, that is if given the choice, if asked what form would I like to be transubstantiated into, I reply with male-alpha delight, a lesbian. I could not even remember the name of the Verlaine poem that rainy morning and how weary it made me feel knowing it would be up to eight solid hours before I could verify the name, that book lying on the table at home, that book lying on the table and upstairs in the den the barely begun canvas sitting there foolishly holding the wall up. Two more ladies arrived. Two demure ladies, executives in no great hurry to shake the pearls of rain from their umbrellas, because now in any case the sun was beginning to shine through the big-bellied bank of rain over the bridge. Two demure, finely coiffured, elegantly clad executive ladies, who no doubt had given the rain an opportunity to ease before braving the stretch of quay from the car-park to the Horevalley Country Company. The clip clop of their stiletto heels on the marble floor of the hall as they walked to the lifts ignited a dull fire in my head that really felt like a hole, a hole with fire in it, and then I began to walk from desk to door and it was the kind of day I adapt the expression of a poet whose picture I saw recently in some supplement, and I become Ivan Blatny, a small, skeletal man in trousers too large and in a sports coat too large under which he wears a v-neck sweater and white shirt, too large for his emaciated frame, his light, right hand in his trousers’ pocket, his light left hand resting in the place where the middle button of the sports coat is closed, the only one so. I borrow his clothes as I pace from desk to door. I pause to gaze at this new profile in the glass. I borrow his melancholy expression, stamped into the bones of his face under dark hair, high forehead, right-hand profile to the light, right eye turned towards the dirt, the dark, sagging, crease of the jowls, mouth closed, left hand profile obscured, turned away from the light, dark left eye unseen, head inclined forward on slightly hunched shoulders. You wonder how he got dressed at all today. The horrible world in which we live... but oh this is outrageous, this is utter narcissism, this is dysfunctional solipsism, this is the story of a hall porter.

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commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | winter 2008  
Single Life #8 | Amy Groshek 
Parallel Conservatory | Clare Kirwan
Old & Strong  |  Robert Gibbons
Crow | Ramesh Avadhani
Driving Ninety | Mark Spencer
With Her Own Things | Kristiana Colón
Story of a Hall Porter | Edward Mc Whinney
The Halcyon Days of War | B.E. Hopkins
Three Stories | Laurence Davies

Contradiction | from the editor


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