The Colour of Nothing
The ceremony was weighty with ritual. A bishop officiated, incense floated in the air, nuns sang in wobbly unison and a crowd of extras from the homeless charity next door filled the pews. Oh, and a gaggle of dazed family members bobbed up and down, out of time, to the cues.
Clarice was going out in style, in Westminster Cathedral, no less.
We had gathered in the Lady Chapel.
‘Clarice would like that,’ we foolishly told each other.
Just as we had said, ‘At least she saw the millennium in,’ as she had died a fortnight after this latest turn of the century.
But what could one say? There were no words with meaning for this, just sounds issued from mouths that might otherwise howl.
There was something stately in the whole affair, in this worthy act of charity. Clarice was a stalwart of the Catholic homeless charity attached to the Cathedral, a benefactor not a volunteer. She was a bona fide inhabitant of the borough of Westminster.
Two extremes of monetary possession live in this triangle of wealth, this heart of our nation. Clarice as far removed from the social sphere of the Duke of Westminster as it is possible to imagine; and yet here she was, the centre of our attention. And here she had been, rocking up against Lords and Ladies on a daily basis, charming the silver out of their purses; she always was an audacious one.
Although this public act of religious humility, synonymous with foot washing, hair-shirts and penance, was vaguely sick-making, we had to keep pulling ourselves back to what was really happening here, a solemn marking of the end of Clarice’s living existence.
It didn’t help that the Bishop, following the example of the nuns and Clarice’s raggle-bearded friends, called Clarice, Clarry. We had never known her by that name. But Clarry was their Clarice. And she was more theirs than ours, here.
Of course she would have loved this, the vaulted ceiling of gold leaf, the stars of blue and painting of Mary in her blue robes. Was there ever such a glorious combination as blue and gold?
Clarice had been a firework of a human who had lit up the dark with all of the colours. Of course, we would still light up the dark of our minds with shafts of colour when we thought of her. But that was just the memory of her. What of Clarice now? What are the colours of nothing?
Scientists say that even empty gaps have a colour; that quantum air-kisses between nano-sized balls of gold, change the colour of gaps.
Clarice was always one for falling into gaps, slipping into cracks. She had always loved colour. I like to think of her between the gaps, soaking up the colour of nothing.