From Jester To King
By Simon Barget
So I’m sitting on these cobblestones looking up at the people and I’m in normal respectable high-street clothing, you know blue or grey jeans, one of those plain H & M sweatshirts under my wool-mix hoodie Ted Baker jumper and then my green John Lewis coat, none of the items more than three years old, and I’m clean and I’m looking at all the people going past and I’m wondering why they’re all pretending they’ve not seen me.
I know they see me, I sense it deep down.
I’m sitting on the cobblestones in respectable clothing and they know I don’t want money though they might prefer to think it.
They know why I’m there because it’s undeniable this impulse, it’s deep inside us and I’m part of them and they’re part of me.
And so I’m sitting cross-legged on these cobblestones and every so often a person goes by, young, old, kid from the estate, lady with walking stick, guy walking his dogs; every so often someone comes past and every time I look up at this person, this unique patchwork of flesh beset by a whole host of thoughts memories and feelings, mind churning overtime to keep in what’s private, the niggling frustration that they know they aren’t hiding also built into their demeanour, every time I look up at this person they strike me as so open and knowable, and I’m looking at them without an agenda, without needing anything, and all the while there’s this ongoing dialogue, this non-verbal communication, and we’re saying the things that need to be said without even talking.
I don’t feel needy. All the judgment is gone. I can sit there as a human. It is a relief and it feels good just to exist. I am taking responsibility for the only person I can, for one Richard M. Bloom.
And so I can understand why I’m doing it.
But here’s the catch.
I’m sitting there making myself available and no one is stopping and I start feeling aggrieved and frustrated that every single person is so blind and blinkered so shut-off and closed-in and the world is so wrong and perverse that a person can’t stop and have a conversation with another, everyone obsessed with exuding their savviness, and it’s absolutely unthinkable that it would be enough just to be ‘you’ whatever that entails, and the real and authentic things only come in as a coda like when something goes ‘terribly and badly wrong’ (not my words) and someone you know’s father falls down a flight of stairs in his own home god knows how it happened, hardly even a flight, striking the left upper side of his head on the stone floor at the bottom, what they call the parietal bone, and even managing to get up a few seconds after and say I’m ok Jacqueline can you just leave me alone for one second, not that you were there to bear witness, finally agreeing to go to the Whittington because he feels woozy and within three hours the man slips into a coma never to come out, a sixty-three year old man so completely healthy and lean, riding his bike every morning, eating well and in moderation, and when it finally happens his son sets up a WhatsApp group because it’s easier that way and the son is immediately bombarded by what strike him as actual credible heartfelt messages of condolence, sincerest well-wishes, forty-five fairly similar messages pinging in on his iPhone, but it’s still something, more attention than the guy’s had in his life, how shocked they are and what an able and kind man he was, emphasising the man’s kindness more than anything, in any case more attention than the son has had in his life over the funeral and the days trailing away after, and all the people coming over how they remember one thing or the other, they all have an anecdote, but one incident you remember that no one happens to mention is the time your aunt and two older first cousins are over from Auckland and they’d all finished eating as a family at about 14:45 on a Saturday and Robin and Jo who are your best friends to this day eventually turn up and the father has painstakingly prepared and set aside two heaped plates of blemish-free breast of roast chicken Moroccan rice and potato salad from what was left over from lunch, two heaped plates on proper table settings with proper table mats and serviettes half-folded into the glasses for two juvenile reprobates plus an incongruous glass of red wine in these oddly-shaped rectangular glasses we Calsinos happened to use as wine glasses, not what Robin or Jo were used to as nineteen year-olds and once all is laid out the father disappears back to the sanctuary of his office as if to deny all responsibility, anyway no one would know about that incident and all the fuss peters out roughly two weeks later, and though it’s been almost two years since my father fell down that staircase, I have not dreamt about him at all and I would like to have thought that if anyone was going to stop on those cobblestones wherever they are, then it would be him and that he would tell me, that he….god it’s so yucky to be craving validation at this age… he would tell me that he believed in me, that’s it, that I was worth stopping for and it didn’t matter what people did or didn’t do as long as I knew I had every right to think I’m a good person because he thought I was, and who better to judge?