The paths
I look up and catch a glimpse of the path along which I've come, or I picture myself doing so, the traces already laid long since, awaiting my arrival, or if not my arrival that of someone like me who might act as the agent for whatever was meant to happen, a role fulfilled on this occasion by me, as events turned out. Let's say it was a result of circumstance, the product of a particular conjunction of factors, both internal and external, if such a distinction can be made, a moment in the turbulent buffeting of experience when the confluence of forces points in one direction and the flow carries us like a swimmer lacking the strength to breast the current. But this implies a struggle and there was none. How or when that moment arrived is difficult to say, whether I willed it, however unintentionally, or was taken unawares, caught off balance as it were and provoked into action where in other circumstances I might have proceeded differently. That moment can never now be reconstructed with any certitude, the impression already a blur, the sequence of events becoming confused, so that in the telling of it I find I have invented a version which now obscures other possibilities, omitting important details, a rationalisation after the fact hiding an obvious motive I can't or won't acknowledge, and of which I remain completely unaware. Yet I remember moving, and considering for a fleeting moment whether this was the right thing to be doing, a passing instant in which I might have opted for a different course but did not for reasons I can no longer articulate, and perhaps never actually debated with myself, those other options simply appearing like paths into a wood glimpsed from the window of a moving car which someone else was driving.

The voice
The other three had names, George, Anita and Katherine, and brief descriptions of some of their physical characteristics were provided. For example Anita's nervous laugh, the way her long black hair became unmanageable when she was caught in the rain. But they remained hazy, people I felt no great affection for, and perhaps was not meant to. My own identity was more seriously in doubt. Until then I had made little impression on the narrative, a kind of genial bystander no one recalled having missed. I could only hope that at some point someone might call my name. How did I know so much about these other people, even about things which happened in private between them, events which I could not have known for certain took place even had they told me about them, or at least not known the truth? I was no more than a diffuse presence without definite character, a companion in all but name who saw everything and was nowhere. Having no specific role but to witness I felt neither envy nor delight at their varying fortunes, my shadow lingering in the background like Katherine's golden retrievers, and even they ignored me.

The woman
In the next scene the same woman enters
and the light changes to amber. A cloak lies
thrown across the back of a chair. Her hair
is coppery in this light, her image blurred as if seen
through a window fogged by condensation. The curling
tendrils of a vine press the glass. As the camera
pulls back we see an empty sitting room. Someone
is playing Ligeti's fifth piano etude
in an adjoining room. The woman is stepping
into a taxi, her face concealed
by the fur collar of her cloak, if it is the same woman
The music continues, as though in our memory.
We glimpse a hoarding. A theatre
near the taxi stand is showing The Seagull
The driver checks the woman in his mirror.
She could be anyone. The light changes to green,
the taxi pulls away, and the woman removes
her cloak of anonymity, her hair shaken loose. The street
is lined with leafless trees. Her face changes
as the light changes, her head pressed to the glass.
The room is empty though the lights are on. It might be
a hotel room. Tendrils of a vine pressing against glass.

The landslide
The morning after the landslip the usual crowd of fortune seekers arrived. We watched them through the antique naval binoculars Dan gave us, sitting out on the sundeck. They were erecting some sort of apparatus on the beach, a high pitched whine generated by the electrical equipment driving the seabirds frantic. It had rained steadily for weeks and there was nothing unusual about the cliff face sliding into the sea. We'd seen it enough times to make it a foregone conclusion. Dan said he could imagine it blindfold. They all had hip flasks and drank steadily while they worked over the spoil in a flanking manoeuvre. The one Dan calls Ôthe colonel' was in it up to his knees, wrestling with the tangles of rusty wire. His t-shirt said: Mix & Match, a sort of personal motto, or maybe a slogan advertising something. Of course they won't find anything, they never do, though they keep coming back. Dan thinks it will all blow over when the rouble strengthens.

   © Simon Collings 2016