From Jester To King LXXX
By Simon Barget
Lockdown my end. First the fall-out from the relatives. Everyone gathered around and you feel how they’re looking for their bit of validation, their acknowledgment their moment to shine. Everyone wanting to be right. Everything so fragmented so that whenever I looked up it was always one person doing something in their own little world hardly even taking account of the next person, almost like everyone’s got their own enclosed bit of floor space, one showing off the new kids’ smoking machine, the next person taking a lug, my five year-old nephew having a go which I think’s a bit excessive and then when I try to stop him everyone tells me it’s absolutely fine because it’s just vapour. Then little Eric Engian, the boy who never grew up. Starts brandishing a knife, thrusting it at around in this mock-comic charade, the hearty buccaneer, but the knife is one of those serrated ones in the black plastic moulding, and when he comes thrusting at me, I cannot be sure that he doesn’t actually want to stab me, so I pull away, and then he just follows me round, so basically what we have on our hands is someone trying to murder. Why he thinks this is funny, well, but more importantly, how he manages to get away with these things, what, just ‘cos he’s rich and cocky so people don’t question him, well you know how the sentence ends. But in general everyone seemed to be constantly harassing of others; if someone did one thing, then someone would suggest another, if someone passed a remark, someone would pass the opposite one and why people have to be so nit-picky and prissy all the time is a major bone of contention.
Then I went out for a walk and the lock-down was lifted. I walked all around the green in bare feet on account of the weather. You should have seen all the people in Marks & Spencer, shopping for clothes, as if they’d all completely run out of them, as if this was the last time they’d be able to get them and as I walked past the window there were people wall-to-wall inside shoved up against it, and then all the other market stalls were buzzing with people and the pubs were open, with lines of people with beers in their hands all around the block, some holding two -- there was this sense of defiance as if people were making it absolutely clear they had a right to this freedom, to their beer and their M & S -- so I asked one guy who to seemed less inflamed and more sensible, I said something like, well it looks like it’s been lifted and then I asked him what his livelihood was because I felt concerned for him, and I can’t remember what he answered but we had an immediate chemistry and we started walking whilst chatting which is quite an intimate thing, watching all the hordes doing their thing, observing from a steady distance, and I felt like I wanted to take this relationship to the next step, to become friends but I was at a loss as to how to do it and eventually we parted. Then I went back and I told some of the family. I said the lockdown’s lifted. And I knew they weren’t going to believe me, and that it was going to be difficult for me to prove it, but my uncle’s cousin got on to his phone, did some googling and quite miraculously someone had reported exactly the same thing in a lesser known local newspaper with an online presence. Then I can’t be sure he wasn’t joking, because Roland tends to like to send people round the houses. And then I thought wait, have I imagined this whole thing but I hadn’t and let’s see how long it lasts perhaps it was only to be for a few hours.
And so I went off to New York, zooming about in my 911 up the New Jersey Turnpike into New York State and then all the way back down into the City. And when I got there I put it in a lot, went up through the subway, suddenly felt like I wanted to go back home, then there are a few guys by the entrance so I ask them how I get back to the City, I say City but what I mean is upstate, and though these guys are more local than you can imagine, they just look at me blankly then laugh, and I wonder whether it’s because of my accent, but it turns out that they genuinely have no idea how to get to the City, and I don’t know why but perhaps I’d had the bad luck of happening open the only three New Yorkers to have no idea where anything was. Then I wondered where Cary was I realised she’d left me -- I literally saw her fly right past me – that meant I wanted to make it home even quicker than previously when I see all these black-suited NYPD cops guarding the down escalator I’d just come off of, the one back to the parking lot, so now the lot is closed and I can’t get my car and just have to wait it out in limbo.