‘Isn’t it grand?’ She says.
They’re standing in the middle of the deserted street – traffic has been abandoned and there are no souls outside, only inside. Inside, on their sofas with their plates resting on their bellies, or seated behind dinner tables that may or may not be made of old oak and look grand in their tiny sitting rooms. Inside, behind their televisions or computer screens. Inside, where their life unfolds and revolves. There is no place for evolution in a square room, he thinks. He doesn’t tell her this. Instead, he looks at her with her fury, whirlwind hair, as she gazes up at the sky as if she can see the stars during the day.
‘What is?’ He asks.
‘Life.’ She answers simply. She tears her eyes from the sky and twirls around slowly, her arms spread at her sides, studying the houses where she suspects all the people are hiding because none of them are outside. ‘This delusion we inhabit, that we think we know, we pretend to have and want to perceive it as being real. But it’s not. Look.’
She’s pointing at the telephone wires that run above our heads, zigzagging their way down the street in both directions. He’s unsure of what to look at – telephone wires really aren’t all that magical and yet she’s looking at it like she’s never seen it before in her life.
‘Do you think people send each other messages along those thin, loosely hanging wires?’ She wonders.
‘They’re telephone wires.’ He replies unsure. He joins her in the middle of the street, his hands pocketed, and he too is looking up. ‘They’re still in use. People use them to phone each other.’
She chuckles. ‘I know what they are. But do you think people use them to send secret messages or something? A few lines of code along a few lines of wire. That way, they won’t have to leave their homes. That way, they won’t have to leave comfort.’
‘What do you know about leaving comfort?’ He retorts with a frown. She might have fury and whirlwind hair, her eyes like galaxies and wonders, but her skin was fragile and the soles of her feet flat like they’d been ironed. She had many miles to go before they would be travelled feet.
‘Oh. Not all that much. But I’m standing in the middle of the road, aren’t I? I am here. I’m venturing outside. I’ll be on a real adventure before you know it, trust me.’
He chuckles. ‘You’re going on an adventure?’
She bobs her head and knows he doesn’t believe her. ‘I am. I will. Just wait. This is the land where the streets are empty and yet they aren’t. Because, you see, right through there, there begin the lands and the seas of grass. Footpaths leading to magic. There’s much to be explored here and I am Columbus.’
‘Does that make of us the Indians?’
‘No. If anything, I am Columbus and the Indians.’
‘That sounds like a paradox.’
‘Life’s a paradox. We think we’re living. But we’re not.’
She’s back to staring up at the sky, seeing the universes only she can see. It’s like she’s inhabiting a whole other world. Like she’s never been here. He shakes his head and smiles at her. With soft footsteps, he returns to the curb and looks at the houses. She’s not following and keeps standing in the middle of the road, not bothered by the traffic that’s not there. A paradox. He frowns.
‘Isn’t it grand?’ She says, with a smile on her face.
‘What is?’ He asks her without words.
‘Life.’ She replies silently.
‘Tales from a distant past’ is a series that features pictures taken in England, 2012 – a series I still regard as some of my best work. It was created in the hopes to bring life back into those pictures taken the summer of 2012, both through visual as written work. Each picture is accompanied by a short story that is inspired by the image.