FOR A WHILE, before I started to suspect she was rehearsing, it had to be for some terrible performance art piece for an awful crowd I never wanted to be a part of, I fancied that she was playing up purely for my benefit.
Assuming a frenzied clamber onto furniture followed by throwing her body hard against the floor, in an act replayed over and over again, could pass in anyone’s mind as playful.
If there was music, I couldn’t hear it.
The first time she acknowledged my existence, it couldn’t have been because I’d let my guard down, my guard was never going to protect me with all that twitching and shuffling, she looked me straight in the eye, a stare so hard it made me wipe mine, a gesture that would mark me out as weak, weak little bird-dog, who couldn’t meet her gaze at a distance even a mother would describe as safe.
The self-conscious audience. How amateur.
Little by little, I forced my body to learn to replace its shadow. The mesh curtain no longer a safety net, all traces of rain and snow wiped away, I stood, always upright, wearing a quarter-smile, and with eyes she could only describe to her art-house friends as ‘dancing’.
By winter, my confidence grew so tall, my own form had taken to art, thrashing around my room, climbing anything higher than the ground and flailing myself off it. A copy, of course, but displayed as inspiration. The days when she’d just stand there, staring, they were the best days, the days I caught her smiling even better.
When the time came for her to throw in the big performance, I missed it. Story of my life. Who can say if it was the story of hers? Some nights I lie there mapping out a hundred ways it might’ve been me, other nights I’m less cavalier, wishing that it had been anyone who had been there to catch her, anyone at all.
It won’t happen to you. That much I can promise you my darling, that much you can be sure of.
I think I might even know your name.
By Shihab S Joi
Hat-doff: Robert Smith/ Simon Gallup/ Porl Thompson / Laurence Tolhurst/ Boris Williams