abstract expressionism

We push open the heavy gallery doors and step out onto the museum’s first floor landing.  It had been different speaking about art out loud to you, hearing someone else’s interpretations, not being trapped in the confines of my own brain, wondering if these thoughts were ridiculously pretentious.  Surely a point of art is to unlock that part of your brain, to allow it to freewheel and riff.

The door swings back behind us, clumping closed.  Now the marble and stone creates a wave of echoing acoustic that jars against the sealed art space quiet.  Louder voices, chatter from downstairs, squealing children, pandering parents.

You’re saying something about that last painting but I’ve stopped listening.  I’ve stopped listening because out here there’s a sound, a voice which unsettles me, a blurry familiarity I can’t place, I don’t want to place, I’m scared by.

His voice slices in like a real world sound cutting into dream, like a sound which may initially be part of a dream before becoming real.  Worlds collide with his overfamiliar voice, a voice which has sliced into consciousness from radios and televisions. Those can at least be switched off.  Shit, a second glance.  Definitely him.  I need a magic remote control to just..  What’s he doing here?!  What’s he even doing in this city?  Shit.

You’re still speaking and I’m still nodding, pretending to listen, but this nervous hinterland returns me to dreams of a few hours before.  Afterwards I interpreted them as being related to you, to us, to this; but I didn’t tell you that or explore in any depth.

(I told you the one, where you’d decided not to stay and had caught a bus, literally, the rear pole of an old London Routemaster, just as it was taking off, and you had flown away.  I had been left standing there watching it go, disappointed, confused and yet slightly relieved.  I thought this a reflection of feelings about relationships, their general here today gone tomorrow transience – however seemingly long-term solid or briefly flaky.  Anything can happen.   In the next I sat on the top deck of a bus or a van, not that vans usually have decks, as it sped too fast down country roads.  I felt giddy and sick and couldn’t bear to look, although the roads were scenic.  Everything was moving frighteningly fast.)

Now I peer around a pillar and over a stone bannister to a small mezzanine area containing a statue.  The man and boy are about to climb the small flight of steps up to where we’re standing.

“Do you want to meet my brother?” I ask you.

He doesn’t know about you, of course.  None of my family do; not yet.  It hasn’t been that long.   “..saw him with a girl” I can already hear him telling his wife in an incredulous, mocking tone.

Now he’s climbing the steps in this direction.  I’m semi-paralysed, feet cemented.  Run away?

“What? Why?” you reply, looking scared too.
“Um, because he’s here, he’s just down there, with his son.  He’s coming up this way, now.”
I feel my face pallid, lacking blood.
“Do you want me to meet him?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t mind either way.  Do you want to run?”
“Yes.  A bit.”

Although I feel I shouldn’t.

He arrives at the top of the stone steps, a few feet away from us, still talking to his whining 5 year old. I remain frozen. We could still run. He still hasn’t seen us.

He looks up to get his bearings, glances straight through me once, twice, maybe three times.  We’ve been given ample opportunity to run, to turn our backs and walk away.  Still could.  But somehow I can’t.

Now he registers the unusualness of my unmoving shape, a man rigidly and weirdly staring at him.

“Oh hellooo!” his smarmy voice peels up into the domed ceiling and he smiles broadly, walks towards us.  I smile nervously and he steps into my embrace.  I introduce you.