I can’t get into it, said Alex, shaking his head, turning his palms upward. The conversation is one that is built around a vocabulary linked inextricably to a standardised and, yes, populist argument put forward by the ruling classes. It doesn’t matter which side you take in the argument, the fact that you’re using their words is always used against you to prove you’ve accepted their terms, accepted the proposal, the game. You’re midwife to the delivery of your own subjugation. But let me ask you a question: do you think silence is really just silence? Or something else?
There were words that disappeared. I contemplated whether it was better to forget them in any case, at this moment. In place of words, handshakes were greeted with smiles, flags were waved joyously. A scoreless draw of an association football game, with fans in fiesta mood, did not reflect the volatility of the nation states involved. There was no mention of boko haram, Isis, Shi’a or Sunni as Hajsafi, Hosseini, Moses and Musa ran lengths of the shining Arena da Baixada, in the Água Verde neighbourhood of the plateau city of Curitiba, Brazil, near where the Araucaria forests are dying.
It was a summer evening and steam rose from the warm wet rails of the train tracks and as he paced along his legs were brushed by the wet grass and blackbirds hopped and pecked for worms in the earth and everything was warm and his lungs heaved and heart pumped and head pounded.
Earlier he had typed threats, nasty words. She deserved to be scared, he thought. And the police could search but he was gone anyway, out in the wilderness of the World Wide Web, where no one ever was lost for breath, running from life itself.
A feeling. Grips you how, if, you don’t know. No I cannot eat. She sits down, scrapes the chair across the floor. Time. The clock presses forward a dreaded minute. She should eat. Oh just to stop the thoughts. It won’t be over until it is. Hard as granite. Cold as metal. Steely stone. Bad. She should focus on it, use it. Anger. But it is not anger. It is the mountain of hurt looming. If I heard a song I would… no. Waiting for news. What if? No. That one day if everything just collapsed. It is now, now…
It is the 12th of December. The passing of steady time is played out with a handball game in Doha, the King of Bahrain at Downing Street and Iraqi soldiers graduating into action after a mere month’s training in Kirkut. Was it Kirkut? The name remains, lingers like a strange flavour in the mouth. And from behind a grate there is heard a scratching, shuffling sound. Something is coming; some rough beast in a vast image, a revelation in these parts. But now clear, black and white, moving its slow thighs, Tian Tian the panda appears – and we forget all.
Johnny had grown to love that old dog. After the yapping stopped, when it was no longer such a keen and overbearing puppy, when its occasional mistimed bark seemed endearing, some kind of grudging trust had been formed between them. Then, the dog went missing. Rumours were that another snarling hound chased it straight out of the neighbourhood. Some said they heard it howling to itself. Johnny set out to find it, enlisting young kids to patrol the local streets and flush the mutt out of hiding. It was too cunning to have died, but where was it? Soon, Johnny…
Outside the school leaves were on the ground, all green and orange and yellow. A group of adults were talking on the corner by the bench that you could jump from. They had deep, grown-up voices and were saying things about stuff – countries in the world and money and things. Oh, the world is a mess, one said, the world is a mess. He ran off away from them all across the grass to the trees. They didn’t chase him or anything. He put his satchel down on the ground. The park was so big and like an adventure.
An old man sat in his wheelchair, a tartan rug over his legs and a pile of crimson poppies in his lap. The breeze blew but there was little hair on his head left to ruffle. His expression was immovable. He looked at the photographer and waited to feel the flash light his skin. The journalists scribbled into notepads. He had been asked quesions, but his whisper of a voice had scarcely been heard above the wind. They said he was the last of his kind. And he had replied that no, there were many, many more yet to come.