the aleph of east sheen
B knelt down to look at the foot of the wall. He seemed to have found something there among the ivy, the dead leaves, the litter of discarded condoms & wrappers trodden into the ground beneath the yews. After a moment he scratched energetically among this stuff with both hands. Then he said, “Oh. It’s gone,” and got to his feet.
“Did you see ?” he said. “The tiniest spark of light! It’s often there.” He looked down at his hands. “Sometimes you see more,” he said apologetically. I said I hadn’t seen anything at all. “Oh dear,” he said. “No ? Oh well. Let’s go and get a drink.”
We sat in the warmth & loud music of the pub, surrounded by very much younger people.
“Sometimes,” he said, “it seems to be expanding into a sphere.”
I wondered if he had read the Borges story, “The Aleph”. No, he said, he didn’t recall that. But he was delighted by it all the same.
“Why would it appear to us in a derelict graveyard in West London ?” he said. “That’s the question.”
I said I didn’t think it was the question.
Later that week I saw him wandering across Church Road with his dry cleaning. No one knows how to carry dry cleaning, it’s one of the basic puzzles of being human. B had his folded over both forearms and clutched to his chest, as if it was a lot more substantial than a cotton jacket & a pair of slacks, a lot heavier. Was he deriving comfort from it ? To me he looked harried & afraid, but that’s how most people in West London look.