off the coast
a splash quite unnoticed
William Carlos Williams
This is how it feels, to fly featherlight, in a sort of Daedalian imitation of movement; that strange-familiar sense of watching from above, sunlit and golden and triumphant, and then slow, deliberate plummet downwards, hurtling in a controlled dive of feather and wing and wax towards the ground –
But you can never really shake the feeling of being a traitor cruelly conspiring at your own suicide, the feeling of being caught relentlessly between scorching sun and crashing sea and watching, helpless, as they collapse inward on themselves – on you – as they grow nearer and nearer and nearer –
Everything in these days has begun happening so much more quickly, grey-time double-stepping, go go go, until you can no longer tell which of these things are hours, and which are minutes, and which are speeding seconds; you can no longer tell fire from ocean-foam, light-rain from blood, and your days are only quick-phrased sentences punctuated by darkness (moments of blue-black, but days the colour of dust, and that only in good light; brown-fading-to-black, in the atmosphere of a house which is equal parts tradition and torture).
And in a slower world, you might have been surprised by the way you can no longer find the words you need. You sit near the window as the shadows stretch across the room, quill poised perfect at your fingertips motionless and ready, until with a sudden sharp sound a drop of ink splashes itself onto the parchment, spreads shapelessly outward; you carefully trace meaningless slow black-blue spirals, until the parchment is dappled twice with stiff black lace, once in ink and once in shadow.
But still the words, taunting things, refuse to come.
The world as Sirius sees it, you think, is a network of sharp angles in contrasting monochromatic splendour, black-and-white and sketched in broad sweeping lines and quick upward strokes, straight-then-bent like the way he stands, or the way he laughs, sound arcing downwards like some sort of jagged lightning; brilliant and, for a moment, blinding. And there is only room for one meaning of right, and one of wrong; things diametrically opposite, you have thought, and idealistic, and crazy.
(You watched Sirius writing, in the evening, once, quill scratching across parchment in a manner both impatient and perfectionistic, biting on its end while hunting for words until the ink pools and shadows the corner of his mouth; then, staring at the parchment for a moment before brushing it roughly off the table, and slamming the door of his room on his way out.
The next day, he left. Perhaps you should have known.)
You have always seen the shades in between, the precepts which defy classification into the moral and the amoral, and fall instead into the realm of the accepted and the unaccepted and the well-believed. You have known the hundreds of cast-shadows and tones, and the way one grey fades, slowly, to another; but now you are beginning to find that the world and the things within it fall regimentally into place, bounded by stark harsh reality in a painful either-or.
You don't like this world – this new, strange, unambiguous thing. You just want it to be the way it was before.
There were, you remember, so many of those moments, the seconds at the beginning of the world's end.
It is a thought at once frightening and satisfactory and carries with it a feeling of being something already well-known, one of those thoughts which you know nothing about and do not understand and yet cannot but think; somewhere, in the twilight, in the half-light on the edge of memory, one of those screamed arguments or those whispered words or those orders (obeyed, not-obeyed) – one of those seconds, you think, although you are not sure which one it was – one of those seconds was the moment when the world began to fall to pieces and crumble to dust between your fingers.
And this is how the rain and the wind go; tremulously, whispering, empty slow sounds.
You wonder what it must feel like to be Icarus, to be silhouetted for a moment, triumphant and glorious against the sun, and then feel the searing trickle of melting wax down your back and smell burning feathers (acrid, you think, and bitter on the tongue); but you know how it feels to watch yourself falling -
The worst thing about Icarus's fall was that he fell unnoticed. Or so you would have said, perhaps, further away from the end.
But this is not really the end, you think, this hush (the still point, perhaps, in a turning world) not the last still-silence, because in it there is still room for a heartbeat, and one more, and -