In the nick**, in the nick of time she escapes once only, but then is caught out again, dreaming of some other life, some other home, far away, the other side of the world… and then she is in the nick, buried up to her neck in the nick, hardly able to open her eyes, heavy as they are with grief and boredom. Can Nick measure our madness, our pain?
Why can’t we see our madness? Could I catch a glimpse in the mirror, by accident, as it were. Buried in the dark cellar in which the inmates play with their shadows. We are, she said, speed and desire. And, I added, we are caught by the short and curlies by the myth of science, a partial patchwork of barely begun work also known under the general heading of nihilism.
What about God?
Don’t be silly.
Ah, he said, and his brow creased up in serious thinking lines of pain.
Science is so fast and we can fulfil absolutely every single one of our desires, all our dreams: nothing will be denied us.
Don’t laugh like that, I tell the laugher in the shadows.
Is that Teiresias? she whispers, as though the shape is merely composed of smoke.
Old Nick more likely: the counter-tenor to God’s baritone blast.
And Teiresias flounders blindly, his feet lacerated on the razor sharp rocks of the desert.
The bell has rung.
Is that the end of the lesson or the end of the intermission?
A break would be welcome. Actually. Now you come to mention it. Though. Will the broken threads imply a loss of drive, a loss of continuity? An irretrievable loss? Or doesn’t it matter.
The surgeon said I might need a couple of weeks to get used to my new heartless condition. And he offered me the hope that I might be able to join the Cabinet. No bleeding heart liberals here. What with Gove and Gidiot (as Lucy Mangan calls him) what could be better; there’s not a better time to be reshuffled.
Though there was a questioning qualm in my should-be emptiness: I said to him, I thought a heart was necessary . . .
No, he chortled, like any good drug dealing surgeon of the brave new non-health service, whatever gave you that idea, as he took another slurp of absinthe.
* Borrowed from the poem The Lovely Redhead by Frederick Seidel LRB 30/8/12
**I have borrowed Nick from Anne Carson’s Antigonick. Nick is listed as a mute measurer.