Snapshots of Performance Art for Writing Group

I was feeling shoogly.  At Clapham Junction a girl took the emptied seat.  I wasn’t going to make her feel bad about it.  What did I have to do to get a seat, faint?  A burly young bespectacled man offered me his.  My thank-yous reddened his face.

A beggar woman in Liverpool St asked if I’d….  “No.  I’m busy,” working out which train to take to Clapton.

Dominika was sighted through the door of unit 11.  I paid £4 and had my right wrist stamped red.  I was herded away from Dominika to take part in a curtained-off corner where we were a group of patients the therapist wanted help from with a dummy.  I took longer than any of the other men to suspend my disbelief.  The girl next me was the readiest.  The controller affected to take down what the dummy was saying and asked among other things if we’d had any problem with change.  I never counted mine.  The young man other side the girl on my right had difficulty changing Scotch pounds.  “They’re legal currency,” I said.  We had to name the dummy.  “Dummy,” I suggested.  Then Ego since I think it was being called Id.  “Igor,” the comptroller said but it was of indeterminate gender.  “Leslie,” I suggested, since it could either be spelt with an ie or ey.  We had to hold hands.  “I’m not tactile,” I said.  We held hands.  The controller stood up by the dummy and made it touch her breast.  She railed at the dummy.  I said, “That’s not very therapeutic.  That’s what the simple do – and why are you asking your other patients to help?”  Somebody had to hug the dummy.  The man on my right held it up and the dummy’s shoe fell off and his pants down.  “Cinderella,” I said.  It’ll be masturbating next.

Quentin and Dan came and were roped in for a session.  I wasn’t sure how valid it was as art.  “You’re critical,” Sian said.  I had to agree with that.  I had a glass of wine for £3.  The table-tending girl asked if anybody had a lighter and opened a beer with it.

The roper-inner staged her own performance.  People had to write out questions with the answer rain.  Three people including the young man who’d trouble with change had to choose adjectives and call them out where the performer indicated as she read out her spiel.  His was extrovert he had to repeat because he’d pronounced it introvertedly, and large.  Another was intense.  That over and the three were back in the audience they had to repeat their adjectives in response to a more complicated set of directions during the next bit where a volunteer had to answer the questions.

“Not one of his answers was rain,” I said to Quentin, who smiled condescendingly.  He’s less socially awkward than I am.  “Oh!  It was a set-up!”  He also smilingly asked would I be blogging this occasion.  “Nah!”  I couldn’t remember my own words that made people laugh, never mind theirs.  Dan said the answer to his question was reign.  I approved since it’s the answer I’d’ve framed a question for.  Outside I told him I’d dumped my publisher.  “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.  “No.”  He said he’d only four submissions that were any good for the book he was editing this year and wanted about ten.  “Have you written anything for it?” I asked Quentin, who had.  “Did it meet the criteria?” of neo-decadence.  Quentin nodded, after consideration.  “It could be crap and Dan’d publish it,” I said.  Justin’s didn’t and he’d set the conditions, “But he is co-editor…,” Dan said.  Somebody referred to me as a writer.  “Quentin is more a writer than I am,” having published lots.

Beehive arrived.  Mwha, mwah.

Zoe and another girl did their thing with typewriters and boards with words projected on them that became inarticulate, to articulate emotion, for them to dance and writhe to.  A more attractive Jackson was behind Dominika.  “We’re going out for a smoke,” I told Quentin but it wasn’t a smoke.  Jackson had given it up because Dominika asked him to.  He didn’t know if it made any difference.  “You looked different to me.  I had a friend Paula who wished she hadn’t smoked so much because it affected her memory.”  It might alleviate dementia.  I was trying to keeping my mind active.  “How old are you?” he asked.  “Seventy-eight.”  He didn’t think I need worry yet.  “Did you ask Dominika to give up drinking?”  No because he drank too, though not as much as she did.

“Jackson’s given up smoking,” I told Quentin.  “He’s behind you,” said Quentin.  So he was.  “I was telling them you’ve given up smoking.”  “Weed,” Jackson underlined; he still smoked.

Sian gave me her phone to hold for the duration of the performance.

I was out again with Jackson, smoking, when that climactic performance was starting.  The young man of the change and ‘large’ I’d laughed at was pressing against me and giving me a sexual charge that inactivated me as I monitored the effect of his covert performance.  Judging it diminishing, I belatedly pressed back reciprocally.  He moved off.  I concentrated on the overt performance of Sian, Zoe on drum and Dominika on guitar, the last with least to do in the first bit but in the second reading pensively from Genesis culminating in man’s replenishing the earth to much shrieking and collapsing, Zoe on all fours.  “The twist was a long time coming,” I remarked to Jackson, who moved away.

Each of us interpreted this differently, so outside I asked Dominika what it was about: man’s dominating the earth and the earth’s not relishing the submission.  “Wouldn’t you have to believe in the premiss,” of god’s giving man dominion, “for the end to be effective?”  Dominika thought tradition enough.  The young man of change, large and charge joined our group with a girl, his face contused or swollen with some emotion regarding me.  An obtrusive photographer came good in taking a photo of me, doffing my hood, Quentin in his broad-brim, and Dan.  I saw my white head was in the photo, thanking the photographer.  Dominika hugged me.  “I’d forgotten the farewell ritual,” I said to Dan.  “You can’t just go off.”  In that case…, he said, giving me a hug too.

“This’ll do,” I may have said of an aisle seat on the train back.  A young man diagonally opposite was crunching through a snack packet.  When the train filled up I moved in and he moved his pack from the seat beside him.  In the window reflection he stared into my eyes.  I believe I blushed.




About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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