King Ludwig II of Bavaria walking alone in the Hall of Mirrors at his palace, an exact replica of Versailles. (candles lit – all of them!) It took the servants, 30 to 40 of them, about half an hour to light all the candles of the chandeliers. Some could be lowered from the ceiling; others needed ladders. And when all was ready and lit and bright and shiny, the king would come in … – dressed in a long black coat, slightly stooped, deep in thought. (servants exit) Some would slip back downstairs, to the quarters underneath the long Hall, and come down in history as those who would hear the king pace up and down the Hall – longer than its namesake at Versailles – “although ‘would’ is a misuse of language, as the king only spent a total of eleven days in the palace he’d had built to, perhaps, only feel what it must be like to be the Sun King. This way, please.”
“But you know this better than me, if people make the greatest fuss over little things … yes, something in the news … no, not worth anybody’s attention, yes, then it’s because they won’t give in to the big thing they’d love to talk about but can’t … yes, they would lose their human independence, you know this … he makes light of things so he can laugh…” – long interruption. Outside the red traffic light trickles on the fogged-up windows, and headlights are humid circles of irregular drops, as cars cut in in front of the bus, to the right, to the left, major road work ahead, a lane closed off to circulation, the law of the jungle on slippery black tar. – “… that’d backfire. What does his face look like? … I thought so. And the other’s the same? Listen, hold on, I’ve got to open the umbrella…”
It was one of those who look so misplaced on public transport in the daytime, something along the lines of “we’re all walking through the darkness but some of us believe there’s light somewhere, and others don’t.” This creature belonged to the latter. She would have shone like no other on a night bus, the passing shadows of orange streetlights blazing and fading in never-ending rhythms on his face, like wavelengths on a graph when they curve up and down, perpetuating the same motion only each time in a different dress, in a different haircut, in a different pose, eyes that sparkle frighteningly from the cruel white light of a phone, or when they’re caressed by the warm light of the world outside. This creature could be on all night long and no one would feel it strange – the driver would have pleasant company.
Because they’d lit a fire, dancing shadows of a black hue were being cast onto the orangey reflections of the floor, the walls and a stretch of the ceiling. The fire crackled in the old fireplace of majolica tiles with scenes of rural life and two birds joining beaks in an intertwining of summery branches full of leaves and tiny flowers. It all felt warm and gave off a scent of happiness. They were fools who didn’t know what was happening to themselves. By tacit agreement they closed their eyes and reopened them as a vehicle passing by in the street outside swirled flashes of white light through the cracks in the closed shutters. Subdued noise. Everything felt like orange-flavoured chocolate. Then the friends came, and the music played slowly – a transfer to lyrics and chords of major and minor. The distant city lights glistened, stealing the light of stars.
Early-morning refreshment of a late-night talk, which drags on as that of a book, elaborate thinking going on unconsciously, a 19th century book – the author knows everything, and tells you that the protagonist will keep that memento till the day she dies in old age (she’s only 15 now.) It seems at dawn a whole new meaning is to be found in what was said, was going to be said, was going to be left unsaid, that too has revealed itself over the course of the night. Went to bed, set the alarm for 7 but knew instinctively that come 6 both eyes would pop open, limbs would stir and the bed covers would feel uncomfortable. The weather is colder, it seems they’ve painted the bus stop another color. This bright yellow drives me crazy! Human eyes can’t encompass the entire reality. The frame around things stays the same, and yet always changes.
Let go. Strands of barbed wire cover the stone angels that had once custody over the land, rusty the former and moss-eaten the latter. It was a villa and now a park, locked, no one knows why. Somebody coughs, while the sun begins to shine through non-existent clouds and the murky glass of the window, and the puffs of smoke of some electronic cigarette – surprised passengers didn’t know it was allowed (“It probably isn’t!”) – there’s a funny sketch on a girl’s Youtube channel and she’s not aware of the man behind her sneezing without covering his nose, or of the Judy Dench lookalike who just got on. She looks around – she knows she resembles a celebrity – then takes her seat, waits. Nothing worse than a terrible impersonation, and she fits into the role splendidly. You can hear a round of applause from the girl’s earbuds, when JD gets up, off, and walks ahead into her ordinary day.
Martì, or the sound of his name, is back – from another post, from another life – and he seems to be doing fine. A big city can easily morph into a small village when already seen faces strike a particular impression twice, usually for no reason at all. Martì does look all right. Nobody yells his name this time, he isn’t with his lady friend (loud voice), and did she end up having to sell that important thing he didn’t want her to sell? It looks as if Martì has found the money instead, immersed now in a piece of local news reporting some gruesome yet everyday crime. Perhaps his squinting eyes, or his clothes, he’s thanking his lucky star it’s not him in the article, victim or perpetrator – balancing the opposites – simply because the tram’s going through an area of town where he, to all appearances, wasn’t born.
In the neighborhood when he’s out walking at night after dinner – a constitutional it used be called, I believe – he’s looked at rather strangely. No, he doesn’t have a dog. (used to have one, but that’s not the point.) No, he’s not taking out the garbage. Well, you don’t have to have a dog. Have we come to that? Do we need a purpose to walk? As much as he likes it, maybe it all started with solvitur ambulando, whatever problem you may have, walking will solve it. Or maybe it was agriculture and the sedentary life. Or perhaps even before that when at some point somebody somewhere asked the first “why” of (un)recorded history. The moon looking down in its white splendor probably doesn’t count the faces that look up at it on a night like this. That would give it purpose and we’re told the universe doesn’t have any.