Sunday, 16 July 2006

Baking with faith

The window is open. The plump air gently sucks and pushes at the dark blue curtains, which contract and billow like they are breathing. Down at Tescos, shopping carts team with fruit, ice cream, wine, beer, and all forms of barbequeable meat. By Wednesday it is expected to hit 30 C. The air feels like invisible syrup one degree from bubbling, the painted haze of high cloud acting as the door to the oven.
Everything feels…swollen. Not swollen in the way that one is waiting for something to burst - this is more like an oozing bloat. Sweat is the gum when skin touches skin, except nothing fuses – just slides.
The Union Canal has all but stopped flowing. The banks continue to weave through the countryside in a semblance of movement, but the water itself is brown and slothful, cradling coils of limp grass that are slowly losing the will to float.
Is this summer? People packing up their hatchbacks, driving home and heading out to their enclosed gardens where they will grill slabs of pig and cow and cover them all in an orange-brown sauce made mostly of vinegar and brown sugar? Or balding men pulling up their white socks and strapping on their sandals, while their wives throw on some Genesis and top up the lemon squash with bottled water?
No. Something is missing.
The air vibrates with the potential of some great opening out – a candid, weather-induced fervour. Yet the heat is a touch too sullen; the scents mingle in a way that is just too…cultivated. Like a dinner party of polite odours. This should be the atmosphere of humid, everything-fried cafes, of jungles, of deep-south swamp. Of sultry Creole evenings, fleshy women fanning their brows with the perfume of carnival - a stir-fry tang of jasmine, Cajun spice, fish and sweat.
The slick temperature of magic and memory is here, but the electricity is not. Or so I thought.
Walking beside the canal yesterday, I noticed two discarded condom wrappers, one green and one orange. Ah-ha, thought I, imagining a pair of young lovers drawn to the murky edge just before nightfall. As they peel the cotton from their bodies, the last of the light bleeds around the sacrificed corpse of a lone Icarus cloud, its death squeezing the wine from the blackberry sunset.
Afterward (I’ll leave the heaving, clawing middle bits to your imagination), still panting as they attempt to turn their damp clothes outside in, they’ll stop and look at each other in wide-eyed amazement. The feeling of “what just happened here?” will surge through them like adrenaline through a forgetful parachute jumper. The silence will shudder between them as they separate, the night cooling on their bare arms as each walk home alone to spend a restless sleep under a thin, forever-bunching sheet.
These are the kinds of thoughts that renew my faith in enchantment. The precious, wordless energy that pulls people out of themselves and into the world. For that I suppose I will make and effort to stand the heat. For now.

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