I stand at my window looking down upon the cars on the flyover, flattened
against the tarmac so as to stay grounded. 'It's almost as if they could
float away,' observes my Corazón, needling me in the side with a toy bayonet.
'As if they're hanging on.' Behind us plays a podcast: a 1978 issue of La
Prensa, translated and read by an Oxford
Professor of Latin- American Marxist Insurrections & Their Subsequent
Struggles Against Capitalist Imperialism Studies. He keeps stumbling over
prepositions, unsure of to or from, behind or in front of. Which makes it
difficult to know what's going on. 'Please stop poking me,' I sigh, exasperated. 'I'm trying to
listen out for that letter I sent in.' 'It's not as if it's hurting you,' she says, 'and besides, they're never going to
publish a piece of fiction'. The faltering drone intones another solemn
obituary and I contemplate the high-rise sky, a dizzying expanse of darkest
blue conceding to pink on the horizon: 'Gravity is comforting, sometimes.'
'Then why don't you just jump,' she cries, jabbing me hard between the ribs,
'and don't come dragging yourself back upstairs when you realise you had a
pretty good view from up here.'
I'm filling light bulbs with ammonia, not to do anything with as such, but
purely for decoration. I place them in a row along a shelf, each rolling bowl
supporting the next like old friends in youth and health, posing for the
camera. The Durruti grenade throwers: Killed in Madrid, 1936. 'It wasn't like that when I was young,' Sandino says
from the sofa. I turn and look but only see his picture, glued to a makeshift
placard, resting up against the cushions. 'We only had three rifles between a
hundred men.' 'And your hands, and a hole in the ground to be buried in,' I
pre-empt him. 'That's all they gave to you who had nothing!' The image is
silent and I feel a sense of vindication, as if I was there. 'We also had
friends,' says Sandino, under his wide-brimmed hat. I splutter, and make as
if to hold the placard aloft, but don't want to look like a televised
protester shouting and out in the cold. Instead, I draw the blinds to make
the world look black and white. 'Murder,' says Sandino, and his mouth doesn't
move. 'On the borders.'
Untying the tourniquet on my arm, I don my red and black face scarf, drawn
across my nose's bridge, secured between my head and neck. The pinprick wound
above my elbow weeps a thin religious trail, evidence of my attempts to see
if I can feel. Falangists roam the street below, shooting anyone bordering on
the act of using language. They cannot see my mouth, cannot know the origin
of the oaths that will be thrown at them. As soon as they break the door
down- a poetry of retribution. I turn to see Franco, clad in a suit of
shining armour, holding a sword, tip-toe towards the front door. 'Murderer!'
I begin. 'Historical re-enactment nerd! How did you get in?' 'My helicopter landed on the roof,' he says.
'Tell me, which way are the stairs?' 'Bastard!' I yell. 'Stupid moustachioed
arsehole!' There is no reaction. I remove my face scarf and try again. 'I'm
going to lead my men,' he says, opening the door. 'But I am on the Left,' I scream, following to the threshold.
'Wouldn't you rather leave me dead?' After he leaves, I notice that the wound
on my arm has ceased to weep. In fact, I cannot even see it.
I lie on the lino floor in light that is black and white, on and off, here
and there. The light is certain in its aspersions and I am amazed at how it
soothes my fear, casting shadows everywhere. The harbingers of substance.
Alone on the sofa my Corazón sits, disgruntled and bored with the silence.
'Why can't we have the soundtrack on?' she whines with an audible rancour. 'I
can't make out what's going on and it looks like there's going to be murder.'
'I thought it might be fun to write the dialogue ourselves,' I say,
re-opening wounds with my fingers. 'As if you could,' she scoffs aloud,
'write anything realistic.' The sticky blood collects beneath me, pooling
pretty well. If I continue to let the flood, I might even pass out (though I
cannot see the black turn red, and feel a lingering doubt). My Corazón has
enjoyed directing my gaze to the window tonight, where the glass is fully
intact. 'When did you get it fixed?' she mocks. 'I must have been dreaming of
'36, amongst the death and destruction.' I'd entertained the hope that it
would remain shattered as I dragged myself back upstairs, clutching a piece
from the tarmac. On the screen, teenagers holding guns congeal with punk
bands playing songs, everyone's faces concealed. 'It's drying up,' says the
voice from the sofa. 'Want me to open another one in your side?' 'No thanks,'
I sigh, 'I'll do it myself. Pass me the toy bayonet.' This might take a long