The Map of Antarctica

Fictions for Unseen Spaces

Month: June, 2013

I Have Been There

I didn’t notice the change as it happened.

I no longer laugh when men make fools of themselves in public. This is a symptom of age, I believe; that I can watch as they squeeze past tables in cafes and sit in awkward positions next to couples that were previously engaged in affectionate displays. I can observe, uncritically, they who walk into the ladies toilets or spill coffee down their freshly washed work shirts. I can watch as they sweat profusely, and as they twitch in their football shirts and jeans. The spectacle of mishap is gone.

It is always men.

Something to do with the utter gracelessness of their bodies.
I can also watch the uncivilised actions. Habits and tic’s. The men who stare into space while picking their nose, who readjust their underwear or leave smears of food around their mouths. I no longer find it something to turn away from or share a conceited laugh about. That kind of repressed laughter of youth has gone, and I far prefer what I have now.

It changed in my early thirties, I suppose. A shift of perspective that comes with a knowledge that cannot be gained through books or study. An acceptance of the world, and of myself.

So nowadays I try to catch their eye, passively. Just a tiny connection. The smallest possible. A passing glance or look of recognition. An understanding smile, to let them know.

I am older now. I have been there.

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The News

They sat on the hill and looked out from beneath the branches of tree. They wore bomber jackets and jeans. James smoked while Dylan peered into the cloudless sky through large dark eyes. The pair had walked up here largely in silence, familiar with the drill. They talked about music.

Have you noticed how no one sings about dying anymore? Said James.

Yeah, now that you mention it. Dylan nodded, his eyes scanning the landscape.

It’s just not on the agenda. Barely a thought is dedicated to it. He paused. People are too concerned with their phones.

They both laughed softly and looked at the trees.

Is it not credible anymore?

What, death? Asked Dylan.

Yeah?

I guess not. We have immortality and war instead. Technology and fame.

War?

Yeah. Not here, I know, but war certainly. He blinked and spat at the dry earth beneath the tree. If there is war then there is certainly no death. Anywhere. Not even in the news that’s nothing to do with the war.

Is it not because we are immune?

There was a pause.

Maybe, he said, but if that were the case I wouldn’t think about it all the time would I?

True, said James.

And let’s face it, people are actually dying.

People just don’t mention it, he said, starting to get the idea.

Exactly.

They were both immersed in the conversation. Utterly trusting in one another’s beliefs.

James continued to smoke, inhaling deeply before asking a question.

Do you think the reality of war has become too much for the human
imagination?

Yes.

That the atrocities that happen far exceed the cognition processes of our own minds?

Yes.

Do you think that attempts at controlling the problems are failing because even people at the top have lost faith?

What’s faith got to do with it?

They both sighed. The wind blew effortlessly across their faces lifting some leaves up from the grass.

How the hell did it begin? What started this? Asked James.

Silence.

The atomic bomb, I guess.

Neither of them said anything.

Sideways

 

Go

All out

Force on

Press ahead

Move forwards

Give  it everything

Don’t stop for anything

It takes a lifetime of work

In translating  tongues

And casting glances

To comprehend                                     and

To know that

Sideways

Leads

In

Seventeen

The café was a crucible of weekend activity. Queues lining to the door for coffee’s and sandwiches, voices clashing against one another to the background of music that was issuing at a low volume through wall mounted speakers.

Three people hunched around two tables near the window. Body language explaining that they had just met, they were immersed in conversation. They were talking about the newspaper that was flat on the mans table. He had turned to face them. His back was straight and his head was tilted. The headlines were about the uprisings in the Middle East.

I don’t know why, said the man, we have to involve ourselves. We have proof that war does not work. Look at the last ten years for Christ’s sake.

One  of the women was nodding.

I feel for them, she said. I feel for them, but I don’t see what the answer is.

We can’t change their political systems, said the man, and that is where the problem is.

No, she replied.

The older lady, obviously the woman’s mother, was silent as the other two exchanged views, punching out at the paper bag of the world.

It’s all money isn’t it? Its all money these days. I look at the news and I wonder what it’s all for.

Don’t get me started, said the man. His hair was short and greying slightly. Politicians don’t speak for people like us. Not any more. They are too close to business, too close to culture. It didn’t used to be like that.

No, it didn’t. She had sunglasses perched on her head.

Politicians used to make a stand, actually represent their people. Unions, said the man.

Resistance, is what I mean. We used to have resistance. People who would speak out for the poor, for the underprivileged. She was gesticulating with her arms, making her hands into shapes.

They paused and the noise of the café rushed back into everybody’s attention.

It’s so different now, I look at my son and I think oh Lord, he is growing up in a cyber world. Its not real, she said.

The man nodded.

I want him to be out there, you know, learning how to interact with people.

They think they are being given choices, said the man.

He can’t even cook a meal, she said half laughing. Her permed hair glinted in the sunlight. He can email and buy things off the internet but he doesn’t know where to begin in the kitchen. She shook her head. When I was his age.

The older lady began to speak for the first time.

I sent him a text the other week, she said. He couldn’t believe it. He had to ask three or four times, didn’t he? Did Grandma send that text?

The man smiled.

Changes have happened that the world can no longer cope with.

I remember getting used to video players, said the mother nostalgically.

It’s like rights of passage now, isn’t it, technology? Nothing ages faster.

It went quiet for a moment as they looked at the traffic outside the window.

I know, I mean, it was different when I was young. I was seventeen when I first swam in the river, said the elderly woman. It was a big thing in those days.

They all stopped for a moment.

Her daughter smiled affectionately.

Times move on, she said.

They do, said the man.

 

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