Three Steps Away

Priya Dileep

(India)

You cannot recline on that bench. A gently arching backrest would have been nice but the bench is attached to a wall. Its legs, made of stacked bricks, cemented together, and left unplastered surely look strong. And its seat, a long slab of black granite, is wide enough. But to slouch, which is the most comfortable posture on that bench, you would need to push the table in front a few inches away. There is also the mildly awkward fact that the wall with the bench faces the only two toilets in the place. Beer guzzlers on any of the three floors of this ramshackle building stagger through your covert inspection before they can relieve themselves. The door to the ladies’ restroom features a faded figure of a long-haired woman in an ankle-length dress and black flip-flops. It’s ineptly drawn, and straight out of a toddler’s book of fairy tales. She seems to be strumming a tune on her guitar. But she’s not of this world, never has been, and you can’t listen to her music. The men’s room has a door for sure but with nothing on it. Yet that bench, particularly the seat where its leftmost end meets the dividing wall which juts out three feet into the interior space, leaving enough room for eight tavern-style tables and chairs, is something special. 

For that corner seat is the most private one at Pecos. The darkest too. Remember to turn your gaze to the wall you lean against now and then. Because Elvis is there to your right, scowling distractedly into the empty space before him. He looks bored, or rueful, or both at once. And right above your head is the lush moustache of Yanni. You don’t have to like his music, or that moustache for that matter, to occupy the seat. The former has marked himself safe from other people’s words but a dense web of graffiti has crept over the latter’s face. The names and declarations of previous occupants of that dimly lit corner have already staked a claim on him. The scrawl nearest to your eye-level screams: “SWEET, SHWEEET LOVING!” At Pecos, you are surrounded by ghosts. In their midst, it’s no longer a secret shame to suspect that you turn into one sometimes. Because in that corner, your senses are easily elsewhere. Contours merge, shadows emerge, and you are three steps away from everything. You forget for the time being that your mind otherwise is a carrom board, mid-play. 

*****

My first visit to Pecos was over a decade ago. But only recently I found out that its name refers to a welter of things. To some, it’s a river in the south-western US that flows southeast to the Rio Grande [i]. Oh wait, it also refers to a county land [ii]. I’m told that it’s used as a synonym for cantaloupe as well, but that it summons up for some the volatile world of cowboys, rodeos and gunfights [iii]. Etymologically, it could have been derived from the Latin word ‘pecus’ meaning an individual member of a herd of cattle [iv]. Conversely, it’s also considered to have links to the Spanish word ‘pecar’ which means to sin, or commit a wrong [v]. That last bit amuses me a lot. There must be other meanings for that word. But let’s leave that list incomplete. The tipplers in the city of Bangalore recognise that word as the name of one of its oldest pubs. No, it’s not just that. Certainly not an old watering hole in a city which has a pub or two, on every other street. It is something more, something else. 

The strange allure of Pecos draws from the contradictory binds it has to other members of its tribe. Especially since pubs have en masse morphed into places where one wants to be seen at— those that come with ‘selfie-spots’, and a few which insist on a dress code— rather than shelters you disappear into. Of course, in both cases, a respite is sought for. But is it possible to disappear, and be seen at once? Maybe that question has got something to do with the fact that the pub’s relation to itself is antithetical as well. The aftermath of an accident, a change of plan that still retains the aborted connection in its name. According to Srinivasa Reddy, a manager at Pecos, it was originally conceived as a Mexican pub. Its destiny although turned out to be something else. In other words, fullness of identity, a self, brimming with itself is a misplaced ambition here. That being said, I have clicked enough glib selfies in its bowels, foregrounding myself against one mural or the other, inserting myself into their world of charm. Because the walls here are alive, and music booms from the oneiric faces on them. It eddies around, it envelops. And then, the faces on the walls would begin to recede into the shadows, only to repeatedly return, swollen with light.

*****

It is common to walk before Pecos, and completely miss its narrow entrance with that rickety, spiral staircase. No drama of the grand entry here. For it shares the warehouse-like, manually operated, door shutter with a garment shop in the basement which takes up most of its frontage with various items of clothing on display. There is a similar shop that sells skimpy outfits right next to the left of Pecos as well. Your glance would be as unseeing as of the many mannequins paraded on the pavement. Only their toe-tips touch the ground. Sentinels with perfectly toned, erect bodies and blind eyes guarding an old mystery. To be let into this mystery anyway, is to step into the underbelly of something that breathes with gills instead of lungs. Look up as you climb, and what greets you is the plummeting, blank glare of Jim Morrison from a stunning, although dimmed by time mural to the right of the first floor landing. A storm is brewing around him. The waters are rising. Its lines are of a colour that can only be described as the point where blue prepares to become green, or vice versa. If you have noticed that much, you already have a distinct sensation of something being opened. 

Steady your breath, nod to Zappa to your left, and there, three paces from the landing, is the modest bar counter with a large display cabinet behind it. Its shelves are crammed with a fine collection of music cassettes, mostly classic rock. They are no longer in use. A yellowed poster above the cabinet declares that although the place might look like a garage, no one would find a screwdriver in here. Neither the tool, nor the highball cocktail.

*****

The bench I raved about earlier is on the second floor. But I lied. In fact there are two benches at the rear end. The one with the graffiti on the wall behind it and its semi-private corner stops at a wall to its right, and runs perpendicular to the one in front to meet the rest rooms. If you sit anywhere on that bench, you would be peering down at the busy bylane in front of the building and the cigarette shop behind it. You have no cover there. And you won’t get a good view of Marley on the wall to your right. For that you would need to occupy the other corner, mine. 

Pecos is not ‘a clean, well-lighted place’ if the image that phrase brings to your mind is one in which everything brims over with light, where everything is clearly distinguishable. That’s not the impression Hemingway has left behind in that exquisite tale either. Pecos gleams because of its shadows. Step in here when it’s dark enough to soak in the surreal light, which, actually, is the outcome of a play of light from the bustling road in front of the building skittering off the walls with those faces steeped in what feels like an antiquated, cave-like darkness. Most of it falls on the faces of the greats elsewhere on this floor: Bowie, Clapton, and Hendrix among others. Dylan particularly revels in that light. His hair looks curlier than it does in the pictures. And his lips, he has puckered into a perfect pout. Kissing or singing? But only a soft ray of light leaping down from a small shade fixed to the ceiling illuminates the tail-end with the benches. A tiny, horizontal rectangle of its beam cuts through the calming, nicotine-heavy fug, and falls on the pale yellow of Marley’s eyes. Setting them ablaze, just his eyes. To really see the rest of him, the ring on his middle finger which, it is believed he never took off, and those majestic dreadlocks, you would need the mercy of a rare column of light from the road outside, intense enough to spill into this corner. But it’s a joy to see him thus: his eyes shimmering, his glorious mane which you know is right there even if you can only spot a hazy outline.

In a searing piece of verse titled “Bob Marley’s Hair”, William Matthews calls that mane of his, a “corkscrewed waterfall”, “the coiled crown/he could fling that would spring back”, “the curtain he could part or close”, its undulations which no wig could fake. But the dreadlocks were falling off in clumps, Matthews tells us in the first two lines, from the chemotherapy regimen that had been administered to prolong his life. The poem ends with a vision of Marley’s mother sitting with what was left of her son’s dreadlocks in a box, on her lap, on the same flight that carried his corpse in the hold. I chanced upon this poem while mindless screen-scrolling. It stays lodged within anyhow. To stare at his face on the wall now, is to think of this poem. And I haven’t even listened to that many of his songs.

*****

Only a few days ago I learned, again while internet surfing, that there is a word for my occasional withdrawal to that corner seat if it’s not already occupied, and when I’m alone. ‘Latibulate’. I pronounce it without voice like how Molloy mouths a pebble. And my inner commentator, always searching for something to laugh about, wryly proclaims, “Grandiose Latin bullshit”. ‘Latibulum’ apparently means a refuge or hiding place for animals like a burrow, lair, or hole [vi]. And the archaic English word drawn from it implies to hide oneself in a corner [vii]. But that verb is ambivalent. It can refer to a removal that has austere implications (for us humans, the original freaks), just as it can mean a retreat to a cosy place, or even something like hibernation. Apart from obvious reasons for visiting a place like Pecos, no special pursuit with a clear goal in sight is embarked upon from that corner seat. Plain idling is when you accept that will and intention aren’t enough, and that so much depends on contingency. Also that not everything has to make a point. But that is when fragments of thoughts burst forth with wild abandon, bite-sized thoughts to nibble on, some of which are partly asinine, partly vile. For no particular reason, I wonder why there are suddenly a lot of people who describe themselves as ‘caregivers’ on social media. Does that make those who take their care, ‘caretakers’? I draw an unclean, if not perverse pleasure from such unsavoury thoughts. I suppose it’s like the spike of endorphins your body senses while picking a scab when you know that you shouldn’t. I’m partially hidden in this corner, and detached, but dancing shadows still bind me to the nameless strangers around, or elsewhere. I chew their bones with relish. What’s this? Doing or undoing?

*****

A friend of mine in college once played a prank on a professor who should have unravelled the mystique of John Donne’s poetry in his lectures, and had blathered on Kalidasa every time he got a chance. None of us listened much. A few weeks before the final year exams, my friend who was known for his impish humour chanced upon the professor while loitering somewhere in the wide veranda outside the classrooms. He swaggered up to the older man, shook his hand, and then said, “Well done Sir, you have undone Donne!” The professor didn’t mind. Maybe that was because he generally gave the impression of being elsewhere. The buttons on his shirts often missed their proper holes. When they laughed together, although it took him a few seconds to gather what was being said, the joke had already turned into a compliment.

*****

It’s easy to make a virtue of the tendency to step away to contemplate in silence while letting your senses wander off. Annie Dillard made that point several years ago [viii]. She warns against the temptation to moralize. I’m with her when she urges her readers to stalk what she calls the ‘gaps’. But what if the immersion of the senses— wherever the gaps manifest for you, and to which you instinctively gravitate— doesn’t let you frame that one precious thought when the senses return to your body: ‘Now I truly see’? Also, Dillard, a sprightly child in nature whose pages come with many a buried nickel and their trail of arrow marks, keeps returning therein to Thoreau, the high priest of a kind of living attuned to nature, and in whom, unlike her, levity seems glaringly absent [ix]. I skip the parts where he pontificates in his own works, and linger where the poet in him muffles that urge. Like when he talks of that man who collected apples in his shoes [x]. 

Consider another instance, of a terminally ill Llewelyn Powys sitting on uncut grass beside a small pond. He had then isolated himself to a cottage in Dorset. Although gravely afflicted with pulmonary tuberculosis, his reverie by the side of that pond is rapturous. And then, he spots a hare approaching the pond with the softest steps one could imagine. It draws him out, all of him, it seems, as he quietly listens to the barely there sound of that little, furry animal drinking water [xi]. Powys calls that moment a visitation of grace. That image of the ailing man listening in silence, which combines violence and tenderness in one fell swoop, has a deeper effect on me I think than might the actual sound of a hare quenching its thirst. But then, I haven’t listened to what Powys had in his specific circumstances. 

One might run away to live in a cabin by a pond deep in the woods like Thoreau did, or slip into to a corner somewhere to do nothing, or be wherever it is that one’s senses experience the thrall of captivation, as long as one doesn’t come out of it with the idea that some cryptic, universal code has just been cracked. Gilded objects in the mirror usually tend to be farther than they appear, don’t they? Maybe to ask that is to moralize as well, although it feels real to me. I look for a clue to decipher which is what, and then wonder whether other animals have epiphanies, at least the non-religious kind? Then again, these days one could make a virtue of anything, and still be irreligious. Doubt dies when labels take over. It dies with no obits to mark its leaving. Isn’t it the case that one is always collecting things, no matter how wispy, to make some sense? Always taking possession, without pronouncing the apostrophe, so to speak. Unable to rather. 

I watch my little dog curling into himself like a donut. He scratches some spot under his left ear with one of its hind legs, frantically to begin with, and then leisurely. Totally heedless, it seems, of how he is seen. All of him sucked into that itch, and the glorious pleasure of some good scratching. The world of virtues and vices isn’t his. But he doesn’t need to lie either. 

*****

Henry Fuseli, a Swiss painter known for his dark art featuring nightmarish subjects often touched to life with a wicked sense of humour, has said in an aphorism that, “The forms of virtue are erect, the forms of pleasure undulate. Minerva’s drapery descends in long uninterrupted lines; a thousand amorous curves embrace the limbs of Flora” [xii]. That makes one pause, and think of postures instinctively, at times unwittingly assumed: the sprawled limbs of sleeping figures temporarily unaware of propriety in a railway waiting room; the fidgeting fingers of people before an OR in a hospital while their eyes watch without seeing the same three advertisements playing in a loop on a wall-mounted screen; the absolute weightlessness of the body while spotting a beloved face in a crowd; the earnestness oozing out as it were from the righteous spine, the very core of those who think they have all the answers… So many ways to mislay the usual selves, and one useful way to hold on to it: the vocabulary of sureness, its gushing homilies. 

In a brilliant work in monochrome titled Silence, Fuseli depicts a figure— unnamed, unreferenced by any myth, and of unclear gender— crouching into itself in a pitch-dark space [xiii]. Its arms and legs are crossed. There is no face. The head is bent, and drooping down as if eager to reach its own lap. All of its hair falls like a cataract into the crook where the arms meet. The figure’s knees are in a slightly raised position which highlights the rippling folds of its robe, if it’s a robe. Long, gangly toes of its right foot, bare and vulnerable, peek out beneath a gentle crest of its flowing fabric. Only the palms, its fingers resting in tender half-curves, seem open. Seeking or giving? Or temporarily oblivious of itself in rest? Not restive anyhow one thinks. Silence doesn’t explain. 

Nor would ghosts, disembodied shadows, if anything is for them, and when left to themselves perhaps. Absence and presence shade into each other in their very conception as vividly instanced in the mythical poiesis surrounding a certain kind among them. How charmingly fitting it is that the ghastly, but desirable yakshis from the local myths of Kerala return from death with shapes, but without shadows, apparitions as they already are! Although in our knotty dreams of them, in the smoke and mirrors of language, they keep confessing the lives they lost. Perhaps because we cannot bear the thought of a ghost that is mute. Imagine the drowned Ophelia stepping out from Gertrude’s description of her death, or Millais’ painting. She wades across the stream. Her feet do not touch the ground. She has forgotten her tunes, and all her words. Her silence disturbs. So we make whatever meaning we can of the trail of wet petals falling down from her hair. Silence is already a word packed to the gills with the world or words. It festers and seethes. But it needn’t make anything clearer.

*****

In his unvarnished, although not unkind biography of Wittgenstein, Ray Monk journeys into a singular predicament which was an obsessive concern for the philosopher [xiv]. In a fine chapter titled “Confessions”, he takes us to the heart of what was a disquieting issue for his subject, at once personal and philosophical. The man who had ended the first work of his youth with the proposition, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”, was once seized by a feverish compulsion to confess his many sins. Not to a priest, but to a whole bunch of his friends. This was after his attempts to seek absolution from a few he had wronged left him thoroughly mortified. Forgiveness hadn’t readily come by. Ludwig did not have many more years ahead, and had withdrawn into a cottage by a fjord in Norway. The fjord would freeze into a mass of ice in the long winter months, almost completely cutting him off from human company. He was there to complete what would posthumously be published as his life’s mature work. A book that would spring forth with a quote from St. Augustine’s Confessions. Not an accidental choice for a thinker who then held the considered opinion that “all philosophy, in so far as it is pursued honestly and decently, begins with a confession” [xv]. But the actual confessions when he delivered them in person, after he returned to Cambridge, in a remote, loud, and stiff manner left some of his listeners in deep distress. And one of them, in total exasperation, even cried out at one point: “What is it? You want to be perfect?” [xvi] Whether the man got the anguished sarcasm or not, he lashed back, “Of course I want to be perfect” [xvii]. His confessions hadn’t been all that perfect. But something roils beneath his tormented attempt to let it all out. He had by then come to terms with the idea that doubt is not a badge you can wear like pride, for example, because certainty is the hinge that allows that door to move, and that even if you manage to do that, by then, it has already turned into something else. That, however, didn’t keep him from descending into himself: the selves and the worlds within made of words. He may not have found the way for the fly out of its bottle. But he was all too aware of the inescapable habits of the perpetually chattering human brain, whether the person is mute or otherwise:

[I] just took some apples out of a paper bag where they had been lying for a long time. I had to cut half off many of them and throw it away. Afterwards when I was copying out a sentence I had written, the second half of which was bad, I at once saw it as a rotten apple [xviii].

*****

It’s bewildering to wonder what rotten apples must have swallowed one’s eyes. Something teases, flickering at the edges I imagine, towards which no route map is available. I think of other things, anything but that simply because it signals failure. And there are always other things to distract oneself with. 

When a shade of a word is rendered obsolete, what happens to the material or experiential stuff to which it once referred? The word ‘distraction’, for example, drawn from a Latin root meaning “a pulling apart”, or “separating” was, a few centuries ago, also used to refer to madness [xix]. “Nice”, I tell my other selves. Nice to discover that while being distracted otherwise.  

*****

But wouldn’t life be maddening any which way without distractions? 

Sometime ago, I came across a curious photograph while browsing through a catalogue of images clicked around the time the First World War was being fought. It didn’t really belong in that bunch. The photographer was a Swedish-American named Eric Enstrom. To this black and white image clicked in 1918, he gave the name Grace. The War, apparently fought to end all other wars, had just ended. Grace depicts a simple, domestic scene of a very old man sitting before a table. The man’s body is bent forwards. His elbows rest on the table’s edge. His palms are pressed together, his fingers interlaced. And he has closed his eyes as if in prayer. On the table before him are arranged a bowl of soup, a small loaf of bread, a knife, and a thick book above which, rest his folded spectacles. While the rest of the room is obscured in darkness, the man and the table before him are caught in high-contrast chiaroscuro light. It is as if the man’s body radiates that coruscating light from within.

A cursory sleuthing on the internet is enough to learn that the image quickly won a lot of fame, and came to be interpreted as an emblem of Christian piety. It even got minted as a work that represents ‘the true spirit of a place’, a state in the US. The man in the photograph was later identified as a poor alcoholic, a ‘never-do-well’ named Charles Wilden [xx]. All that is known about him can be said in a few sentences, within parentheses. He sold knickknacks, like boot scrapers for example. He had no wife, and no children. And Wilden waived off his rights to that photograph in return for five dollars from Enstrom. Five pious dollars? 

But let’s leave that niggling question aside. There’s something else in that image, a beguiling detail which can be easily overlooked. That concerns the book on the table before the old man, its spine facing the wall behind, away from prying eyes, which the photographer indexed in the waiver of rights as a copy of the Bible. That book which is thicker than any copy of the Bible, however, turned out to be something else [xxi]. Maybe Enstrom didn’t have a copy of the scriptures around. A random decision set in motion by contingency? Or maybe, he had some mischief in mind. Be that as it may, according to his family members, the book Enstrom had placed among other things before Wilden was in fact a dictionary [xxii]. 

What does the old man’s stooping body convey then? Weariness, inebriation, or faith in help from elsewhere? Or all of that at once? Or is he a slumped figure musing on words, and too many words at that? One clutches at thoughts that are already words which drag along pictures as the mind wanders off. Are you too drowning in words somewhere, parked at some uncertain point between despair and grace? I wonder what pebbles you have strung to your eyelashes for them to droop thus. That sounds like tenderness, although mawkish, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is. But then I immediately realise how much that ekphrastic image pleases me. Really, where can virtue find a space amid such clutter, and even if it can, is it completely severed from everything else that surrounds it?

Piety attributed to Grace, its upright stance, is one that has already forgotten the old man in that image then. Underneath grand images of goodness, unpleasant stories slink around. Like lizards mating behind black and white photos of nameless ancestors on the walls of your mother’s home. But sometimes, a tiny detail in a frame can be a gaping wound [xxiii]. Something unsaid about Wilden creeps through that hole. Something of his bent figure, something different from the ones allowed by faith which can only be of submission, supplication, or of confession perhaps? As for discovering what that is, neither history, nor hearsay is of any help. 

Then again, from another angle, maybe the image Enstrom clicked was not necessarily of a particular individual named Wilden. He is already unparticular (is that a word even?), an image within the larger image: one that represents any elderly believer saying grace before his humble meal. In that sense, the book which is not a copy of the Bible, when placed in that scene can only be a holy book. I didn’t even doubt it when I stared at the photo, even though I fancied that it had all my attention. Only later did I notice the size of the book, once the swarm of stories surrounding the image alerted me to it. In that case, the holes are in my eyes. But then, what connection has correctness to an experience of beauty [xxiv], or love for that matter? 

*****

The aftertaste then is of a sense of yielding to the remoteness of what one looks upon, and the nearness of erratic seeing. Such uncertainty perturbs but it lets loose other habits of imagination, at the very least, a somewhat confused nod to that which is not seen. When in the grip of something that consumes from without, and which my senses feed on in return, I’m aware of its potency. Like when I’m here on this bench, in a corner of this place I love which allows a temporary abandonment. I don’t know where this sense of release that chases intimations of failure comes from. Maybe it arrives only once the need to tame the inscrutable is dropped. Or maybe it’s a trick of the mind. Or something that this place with many faces inspires. This place whose very existence is something of a mystery in the times we live in. A pub that doesn’t advertise, doesn’t update, that offers no ‘happy hours’, but has always sold cheap draught beer and decent food with enough gustatory delights from nowhere in particular. 

I look around, and think I must be the oldest person on this floor. The table farthest to my corner seat is occupied by a man, no longer visibly young. He is studying the menu card. His eyes pore over its grimy pages like those of an accountant, or maybe of a lover. Next to him on a chair rest two cotton bags with those unmistakable letters in blue. Blossom, the old second-hand bookstore, is just a hoot away from here. And diagonal to my seat, a young couple is having an animated conversation under Marley’s eyes. I can’t hear their voices which are drowned in the haunting waves of “Riders on the Storm”. I can only see the back of the girl’s head. And her silver nail paint which blushes from the faint glow of her dying cigarette. The boy opposite her, I suspect, has stopped listening. I want to see the girl’s face when she suddenly goes quiet. As if in response to her silence, the boy carelessly hand-combs the hair on his crown. Maybe the girl is sweating too. My pitcher certainly is. And around them, around all of us, the shadows glide. Now they jive on the top rail of a chair’s backrest, now they play hide and seek in Dylan’s pretty curls, and then disappear among stubbed cigarettes with the shape of her lips… 

Maybe assaults of beauty step in to assuage, since the other thing, truths about the real tend to be elusive. A salve that stings. Wait, I lied again. Pecos has certainly made a few attempts to update itself. An air conditioner has found a place on a wall, right above the mural with the well-known refracting prism that doesn’t need an introduction. The machine doesn’t really condition the air in the summer months since the doors and windows are usually left wide open. And the songs, same old, same old, are played from a computer these days. That machine is not exhibited anyway.  The rest is pretty much the same. The menu card hasn’t turned into a sticker with a QR code yet. It looks like a child’s drawing book: spilled over, dog-eared. A new mural supposed to look like Cobain has appeared on the wall to my right, to cover up the plaster that had fallen off it. His eyes, sunk back into the crevice on the wall, resemble those of a dead fish. 

Paul, an elderly waiter who has been working at Pecos for a long time has lent me a backstory. His smile rippled across his two days’ stubble when he reminisced how those faces on the walls had come to be. They started occupying the walls one by one, over time. All of them, drawn by several artists who would stray in, alone, or in groups, and spend many merry hours here. They took over the walls, claiming something of Pecos. And then, also left behind something of themselves here, along with the faces they drew. The dead musicians on the walls now sing in the dark.

But yes, for all its quaint charm, Pecos is a sadder place during daytime. The fans fixed to the walls rumble. They wheeze. A rib or two are plainly visible in a few places. As if something had clawed into its body, and ripped the flesh off its gut, to accommodate switch boards with power plugs in uneven cavities. And its floor, like that of a train with aluminium sheets thrown over, and fixed to whatever is underneath, looks worn out. But Pecos still chugs along. Like how one is of no definite age in one’s dreams, this place, once darkness has fallen, is of no specific time, or is of a collapsed time. 

*****

But then, one has to leave. I gather my things, some of which are proof of a certain self I hide behind. I grope through the packed shadows around, and a song I do not know the name of. From a sudden attack of prudence which usually strikes late, I turn back to check if I have left something behind. A skittish beam of light from the road tells me that my shadow is following me, clipped to my heels. And that, there’s no trail. I didn’t plan to bump into a table-end, but bump I did. No one sat behind it, and no one elsewhere noticed, or so I hope. Do awkward apologies make its recipients feel awkward too? I don’t wait for confirmation, and pretend to be invisible. Tomorrow there will be a grey pebble above my left knee. It might swell into a misshapen fruit, and then gradually fade away. My left thumb attempts to shush the throb in my leg as I resolve not to cast even a side-glance to the blue-green guardian of that staircase. He tends to blink his eyes, or roll them when people leave. My sensible shoes won’t be of any help. “That’s because the shoes are. And you aren’t”, reprimands the judge within. But am I climbing up, or going down when I’m still thinking of that dog in his song? The one without a bone. Outside, here and now, is still outside. But that board with its coins in utter disarray would soon take control. I can already smell their noise.

 

Endnotes

[i] https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/pecos.

[ii]Hall, Winston A. https://www.asurampage.com/archives/pecos-rich-in-translation/article_898d08d4-0668-52f9-8b01-3963d549b2c1.html.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] https://forreadingaddicts.co.uk/word-of-the-day/word-of-the-day-latibulate/#:~:text=Latibulate%20(verb),hide%20oneself%20in%20a%20corner.

[vii] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/latibulize.

[viii] The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New. Harper Collins, 2016.

[ix] Ibid. 

[x] The Journal 1837-1861. NYRB Classics. 2009.

[xi] Earth Memories. Redcliffe Press, 1983.

[xii] Zurich, Kunsthaus. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/great-works-silence-17991801-henry-fuseli-1811332.html.

[xiii] Ibid. 

[xiv] Monk, Ray. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. Vintage, 1991.

[xv] Ibid, p. 366.

[xvi] Ibid, p. 369.

[xvii] Ibid, p. 369.

[xviii] Ibid, p. 379.

[xix] https://www.etymonline.com/word/distraction.

[xx] Lee, Stephen J. “Man in famous ‘Grace’ Photo Mystifies Historians”, Grand Folks Herald. http://www.bakkentoday.com/event/article/id/230720/publisher_ID/40.

[xxi] Weber, Tom. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/06/20/giving-grace-celebrating-minnesotas-state-photograph-on-its-100th-birthday. 

[xxii] Ibid. 

[xxiii] Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. Vintage, 2000. 

[xxiv] From a quote attributed to Werner Herzog. Original source unknown.

 

———————–

 

Priya Dileep

is a

Contributor for Panorama.

Priya Dileep lives in Bangalore. Writing her 'author-bio' gives her stomach cramps.

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