In the Philosophical City

The next time we rendezvous it is by assignation in the Philosophical City. The venue is a church hall during an amateur performance of a play by Alan Ayckbourn. It's a fund raiser for the local school in that particular part of town and they're serving dinner as well as presenting the show. A three course meal. We meet in the dusky fragrant shadow of the brick Romanesque church, go in and take our places front and centre. There are carafes of sweet white wine and plastic jugs of red cordial on the tables. Soft white buns wrapped in tissue paper. We are drinking red not white wine and making surreptitious conversation while the lumpen food is served and eaten. First thing to notice is that our waiters are also the performers in the play. Second thing is that they are much better at being themselves than anyone else. Why would you try to make a suburb of the Philosophical City congruent with London, England, circa 1972? Besides they all yell. We leave during the first interval and go in the warm night air to a nearby speakeasy, on the way meeting Rex with a carton of Woodstock bourbon and coke under his arm and a pack of Winfield Red in the top pocket of his monogrammed shirt. The three of us repair to a balcony and begin our discussion. Hitler had some good ideas, says Rex, like the Volkswagon. But he was ruined by hatred. If only they'd let him into that Art School in Vienna. We come from water, to water we will return, Samsara observes. I don't disagree but say we are just as likely to freeze as to drown: all previous Ice Ages seem to have been introduced by a short, intense period of global warming. None of us trust scientists because they do not trust intuition and have never, eg, worked out why sometimes we know things that we cannot rationally know. This leads on to talk of dreams and Samsara says they are of three kinds: retrospective, quotidian and prophetic and that it is important to distinguish between the different modes. We drink all the bourbon and coke but do not smoke every cigarette. Rex goes off to his lost kingdom leaving Samsara and me together. She comes close so that I can smell her perfume: Shalimar? I ask. No, she whispers, Poison. By Christian Dior. Now, take both my hands in yours and close your eyes, I'm going to show you something. I do as she asks, feeling a scarcely bearable trembling in my chest. There is a sound like cascading bells falling and then what I can only describe as a whirling circular wind. Then, blackness. When she says open your eyes, and I do, we are in The Thousand Ruby Galaxy, on a planet in one of the Outer Arms that I know is her planet. Two violet suns in the sky and the lake glinting through the turquoise trees is the colour of onyx. When I look down at my body I see skeined about me the fine web spun by the accumulation of karma, shimmering like a silken veil or perhaps a shroud. Samsara's web is more delicate, more a fabric of air than my blood and soil. These webs or chains are not static, they twist and writhe, skein and unskein, constantly mutable and when I see that our two cocoons, if such they are, have reached out to entangle themselves in each other I am suddenly afraid and my craven fear breaks the spell. I come to sitting at a bustop in blinding sunlight in the same suburb of the Philosophical City. It is Sunday. There are dusky drinkers in the golden light of the Great Northern Hotel across the road, bees in the clover, yellow flowers on a gone-to-seed head of broccoli amongst the corn and beans and tomatoes in a kitchen garden. A baby fig. No-one much around. I stand in the shade of a paperbark tree reading a book about Paraguay until a bus comes to take me away from there. Leaving is like tearing the plaster off a wound in the heart.

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