Thursday, November 30

Fish

In the front of barbershop, next to the windowed door and all the windowed façade, there is a fish tank that is as wide as it is tall as it is deep. At the bottom are many coloured little pebbles, fake plants and a cartoonish skull, un-jawed and aghast. The first time I noticed the tank there was a fish in there, among others, a fabulous goldfish with its tails and its fins all white golden orange and them blowing in the invisible wind of water. The walls of the barbershop are red and the floors are black & white. Then there is the fish, and I have described the colour, although perhaps I have not emphasised quite as much as I should have done the colourful swish of its fins as it passed the time in its small tank. The second time I noticed the tank the fish was on its side; in a peculiar manner it aimed to swim upwards but not moving a millimetre in the water. The other fish – two of them, both black – swum around the vertical vertebrate and probably uttered—‘Ah yes, your time is near, friend.’ The little fish paddled, its fins swaying, blustering kind of like a curtain but not moving. The third time I noticed the tank the white golden orange fish was gone. Its flaccid body had most likely been plucked out by a hand smelling of other peoples’ hair (bearing scratches, nicks and cuts) and flung none too sentimentally into a toilet or bin. The fish covered in hair, other peoples’ hair. The two black fish remained.
Today, as part of the contract on a past job, I had to revisit the site exactly one year after completing it. I attended with an older, more experienced colleague, and the act was diluted somewhat by his presence, as I used to travel there alone, and would have liked to travel alone with my nostalgia, but even so I was approached by a flood of memories! It is strange. At the time a year ago, I had made the journey to site so often that I could have done it blindfolded. When I stopped at the café on the other side, to buy a coffee as I did every visit, not one member of staff did I recognise; it is some months now, they must have all moved on, I reasoned. The pub that we frequented – me and the contractors and tradesmen – was still there, although now bordered on one side by a new building (high-end residential). How fondly I remember that pub, where contractors would sleep in the toilet all night and go back to work the next day, and the landlady’s dogs, and my friend in a relationship with the landlady and delivering tales of her excitable come saturating the bedsheets as she delivered me platters of chicken-wings—‘Thank you! thank you! they’re delicious!’ And I said to our colleague—
‘It seems so long ago that I was here and yet no time at all!’
I said to my colleague—
‘I liked Jamie, though. Fuck, I liked all of them!’ and it all seemed so long ago and yet no time at all. They were all elsewhere now, some of them at different companies.
At lunch I went out by myself and took a stroll, walking by the old drinking holes. I regarded them briefly, taking in their brick structure, the green wood, stains on the pavement and the smell of cold Victoria. There is only one gender to the broadness of Victoria street as it extends toward the river, and she looked so Victorian, splendid, torn apart by brutalist architecture and stitched together by the rays of a cold winter sun. Pausing at the road, wondering where I would get lunch, it is beyond me to approach the street with anything besides the ghost of Virginia Woolf gliding along before me. ‘Excuse me, ma’am.’ One can only be formal to such a spectre. I went back inside.
As offensive as I felt visiting the location without those who impregnated it with the delight that I came to reminisce, I accused myself of an injustice, a crime indeed. I should not have gone there without them. I thought of us and not me, because to be just me and not us permitted the place to feel empty and barren. I could not determine how much time had passed, not accurately, but it was the scene of something great that had come before and then disappeared all too quickly.

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