Cities and Desire
When a walker travels a long time through the wild regions, he feels the desire for a city.
The desire grows until he forgets why he has become a walker, what it was he walked from. When you’ve lived with the city’s voice all your life you learn not to hear it. But when you enter the beast’s lair for the first time, you hear every little growl, every yawn it makes, every second of the day.
It growls and burps and farts and snorts and does everything it can to drown out your lone voice in the crowd. Yet alone in the wilderness - with only shadows of faces, smoke and mirrors for company - he forgets its faults and desires its company.
The city of his dreams holds a thousand faces, each with its own to key to let free its seven magpies free. It holds a thousand souls, all at rest, each free to pass their time as they see fit: in conversation, in reflection, passing each minute generously around, guarding each second frugally. It feeds him, rests him, smiles at him, jokes with him, leaves him be when that is what he needs. Indeed, this city of his dreams is all that he desires: the only place he can be walking to.
He finds the door to his city of desire - open, inviting, refreshing - and he walks into its heart.
To every person, there is a key. Some keep them hidden, deep within. They never hint, never reveal that the key is there. Not by word, deed, or subtlest of clues. They keep it buried, because deep down it can do no harm. They remain safely locked, and alone deep down there, where no-one can see them rotting slowly away, safe behind a thousand locks.
Others show you there key before you even suspect that it might be there, open in their deception. Brazenly they reveal it to you, pretending even still that it is not a key, but another door that you must open, or not a door, but an open portal onto an unblemished soul.
The best, the rare light in a thousand, they have their key, yet it hangs round their heart; show you the door before the key, take you through to the unlocked room. And then there are the children. They are a key in themselves, a thousand thousand undiscovered locked doors waiting for them to unlock them, wander through to a brave new world of smiles and heartaches.
But as he plays, he finds a hole growing, deep inside. A flash of light, a twist of cloth, all distractions, but not enough to fill the hole. Not enough to sate its desire as it starts to grow.
As does he.
When he sees her, she seems enough. Hair and eyes and teeth all conspire against him, dragging him up against his will until the pleasures of a fertile imagination no longer seems enough, bend to different ends.
Whether he forces her into a hole that stretches to fit her, or whether the hole grows as he watches her, merging to her shape, he doesn’t know.
All that matters is he has a her-shaped hole sitting in her heart, and only she will do to fill it.
There’s so many things I want to do, while I’m still young.
I want to see the pyramids and have some foreign tour guide tell me about how they were built by aliens or some dead twelve year old. I want to see the Taj Mahal, and laugh at the dotty old dear that built it. There was a woman who’s really lost it: what good’s a palace to a dead man? She should’ve tried everything she could to stop him dying in the first place.
I’ve got things I still want to do, and I want to do them with you, I really do, but . . .
I can’t stop. I can’t get tied down by cataracts and broken bones and cancers and high fibre diets. I can’t look at you across the dinner and see a wrinkle that wasn’t there yesterday.
I’ve got things I’ve got to do, before I get old.
I have a name today. My name is Bette. Like Bette Davis.
I met a lovely young man on the bus yesterday - or last week. Oh. I met him, anyway, and he said I looked like - now who did I look like? Ginger Rogers. Yes.
Today my name’s Ginger. Like the spice. I haven’t tasted ginger in so long. It’ll be the rationing. I used to have a rack of spices and herbs - all the herbs under the sun. Ginger, oregano, cinnamon, that expensive yellow one. What is it? You look like a nice young thing. You’ve got nice eyes: like my daughter’s. Or one of her friends. Yes, one of her friends. She had green eyes. Saffron. The herb, not the eyes. Or is it a spice?
Shall I tell you a story? There was once an old old man who was going to die soon. Very soon. So do you know what he did? Of course you don’t. If you did I wouldn’t have to tell you, would I? He got his heart and he took it out and he hid it, so that Death couldn’t find it. Clever, eh? Hid it in a duck egg. Got the idea in a dream, he did. Then he took the egg away and hid that, so that even if Death knew where the heart was, she damned well wouldn’t know where the egg was. Wasn’t that a nice story?
Oh, I forgot the end. He died. Oh, no, that’s the very end. The egg wasn’t his, you see. He wasn’t a duck. So this duck went mad looking for this egg she’d lost. She died as well. Death’s not stupid. She’s not gonna fall for an old trick like that one.
She’s not gonna find my heart though. I’ve foxed her. D’you know where it is? No, me neither.