A Concert Pianist Trapped In The Past, North London 2002
Buildings ressembling cashew nuts. A church spire, matching in colour. A hill. I float restlessly, down the hill, past the brown-reddish buildings.
The people have come for me. After all these years, they've tracked me down to London. They find me in the front room of a house.
It's over.The ringleader strikes me across the face. A backhander. It's years since anyone did that.
They leave. Or, at least, I think they do. Nothing seems certain anymore.
A few houses down, people sit in a square or a circle, praying.
Afterwards, these people tell me they've prayed for me all week, their concern mounting with each day. I nod, exhausted, and thank them. Their prayers haven't stopped the ringleader from striking me, and I can still picture the damp red buildings on the hill.
And then, I awake.
I come to with a jolt, body taut with tension. The bedroom light is on; I've got used to leaving it on.
I half sit up in the hastily made bed, wearing clothes from earlier.
I listen out for a car engine. For voices.
The dream again. Always vivid.
I rest my head on my hand, the aftertaste of cigarettes lingering. I'm totally alone.
The silence buzzes. I can nearly hear it.
An imaginary car engine nearby. People from my past close by, observing the house, ready to act. My heart pounds from a mixture of fear and excess tobacco and alcohol. The flatmate is out. The downstairs of the house is empty.
My room faces the front. The window. I imagine shattering glass. A brick coming through the window with force. The ringleader outside. Ready to enter.
Once before, they came to the house. That was during my A level year, when I lived in Manchester. I hid in a corner of the dining room. The doorbell rang and I perched against the main cabinet where the sacred books were kept, holding my breath as the ringing continued and the dog barked. I pictured the ringleader going in through the back, climbing the garden fence. And then, the bell rang again.
I roll a cigarette from the stubs in the impromptu ashtray and take take long drags, coughing as the smoke grates my throats and gets deep into my lungs. The glare from the light hurts my eyes, but I'm too afraid to sleep without it. I can still hear the silence; it gets louder as images replay. The buildings in Manchester; damp looking, rainy from moisture. The church spire at the top of the hill. Rows of shops. Privet hedges.
Glass smashing, like it smashed on another occasion in Manchester when someone chucked a brick through a pub window close to where I lived and people ran. Some screamed. Even then, I stopped to take a drag on a cigarette, needing the acrid taste of tar, the rush of nicotine, the cigarette more important at that moment than my safety.
I tense again, listening out into the distance. The tinkling of broken glass breaking the silence as a car engine sounds simultaneously. The ringleader locating me, just like in the dream and in other dreams.
I glance at the phone beside the bed. An empty flat. The early hours of the morning.
I light another cigarette, made from previous stubs. My electronic piano sits on the chest of drawers, dusty from the disorder in the room. Bach. Mozart. Chopin. Liszt. I've studied them all. I play and perform works by these computers, always from memory in concert, but now the music scores are aged and faded tired, like myself.
The ringleader can't find me. He won't. Even the phone is registered in someone else's name.
Outside, the night lingers. The minutes tick by on the electronic clock without making a sound.
Finally, I drift into an exhausted sleep.