Yes, it is true: For years now she has been governed, like an eel, by readiness, electric-ready. It is an acquired government of instinct – if one can still speak of human instinct. Of course she could alternatively call it a prescience – governed thus by an intuitive willingness to yield herself to the vast unseen; eel ready before the unveiling real; an electric instinct: pre-human, proto-amoeba, pre-predatory – in anticipation of the voracious day.
The thought gives her pause.
She is in her forty-fourth year, independent with no dependants, and, by all accounts it seems fair to say, almost self-determining. What will she make of the opening? If she were to ponder the alternatives, rival one temporary solution against another, b against c, a against b, c against a, something might emerge. But what – a crossword? She can no longer ignore the inevitable: change will be thrust upon her. Forced to accept the inexorable, forced to enter into the campaign of choice, she will be thrown into combat without any relief. Independent? Yes, perhaps. But self-determining? Well, that presents a more intricate puzzle. If determining of her self includes accepting what she herself has not as yet wanted to accept as being of her self, then yes, perhaps, perhaps she is. But is this self-determining mode the only choice against modern serfdom? Selfhood against serfhood. Is that what it comes down to: a single letter – l over r – separating this life from that, separating she, Suzanne, from – from what? Is that the choice? If so, her life is beginning to resemble a back page crossword puzzle.
Instinctively she wants to decamp, flee, as one flies from fire, as an inner-city rat scurries from the sound of rising water.
Think, she tells herself, immobile in the chair, her thoughts unloosed like sand, a myriad particles bestrewn. Think! Yet her mind seems quite unwilling to engage reflection, indisposed to claim the error-strewn bits, unable to reach and gather, relate and collate.
Independent with no dependants, what will become of her?
She lets fall the three-page document and turns from her desk, adjusts her gaze and looks out beyond the reflection – of head and shoulders mimicking her in the aluminium framed window. Whether because the prospect of the city unsettles her or because she is lulled into a torpor, her mind will not react as instructed, but on the contrary gyrates thoughtlessly, unwilling to engender the first germ of a cogent response.
It has come home to her that what she terms prescient is no more than a sensory art of self-preservation, a form of anti-combat, and therefore, by definition – via corollary – a readiness for combat: hand-to-hand, foible against foible, in a dance unto death, into its very throes.
Gazing calmly beyond herself, a knock on the door jolts her back from the prospect, startles her out from her reverie, from abstraction, tugging her swiftly back from the oblique confines that offer her a form of errant distraction.
The door opens. Voices float into her office, a hubbub of voices. Uninvited, they fill the air with chatter, her air, her professional-personal space – her occupational lebensraum. Her lips have ceased to pout; she is aware of this, knows she pouts, knows too when she refrains from pouting – thinks she knows. Chatter chatter chatter.
The woman’s voice reaches her, comes on a lilt, familiar, a lilt that flirts with the intimate. The impersonal-personal question, does she wish to join them for lunch?, seems all too personal, almost unseemly. She has no wish save to decline. Her spontaneous reaction is to shake her head. Not today, she replies, thank you – her chin aquiver; of a sudden anaemic, wanting herself to be firm, forthright, unremittingly determined.
Outside the light is positively radiant. The sky an august blue. Glorious. Again she pouts, pulls a hapless frown. Time: the great redeemer, vindicator, healer, victor, irremediably the sole victor. Will she have the occasion to accord her mind, to consider and reflect; will she have the time to take stock of this-that-and-the-other?
She cannot deny it any longer: she must gird her loins. This she knows.
From somewhere just out of hearing comes a flutter, as if a feather had fractioned the air and from its winnowing came a murmur: you do not belong, it says, you do not properly belong.
A whisper. No more than an undertone, a mere quiver in the pale cosmology of abstraction.
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