Exactly Zero

A woman with memories of love wants to get to grips with her place in the world.


1. Exactly Zero

The street was alive with voices and noises.  Zara’s head was alive. Colours everywhere and the insistent oppression of image; soaking from walls and windows, I am numb, she thought, this has always been too much; the world etc. She walked for a long time; out of the district in which she lived then out of the town to where the spaces, imageless and natural, rolled on forever like hope. Once there she sat among the grasses and the trees and made a wish. The daffodil spores helter-skeltered up on the soft wind into the wide and invisible world of the sky, pulling her wish up with it, to be spread across the air like tiny fingers pressing gently on time and on space.  She leaned back and the air went into her quietly, apparently clean; she was on her elbows looking at the clouds which had eaten her wishing and thought and thought and thought. Always with the thinking.  Always with the feeling. Mixing up in knots everything that had ever crept into her skull-bone.  Sequences of events attached to her Here and her Now; it was like being pulled on a rope up into the air by a huge balloon.  In her head there would be no people in the world that revealed itself beneath her, people complicate things, with their words and smells, they make things so good sometimes that to lose them is worse than anything, but having one moment of connection is worth an infinity of yearning, she struggled with the thought of yearning for that long and revised it to ‘an age of yearning’ and said it to herself with her fingers in her ears so all she could hear the words differently. She did this in the bath sometimes, dipped her ears, no, submerged them in the water and amongst the gurgles of plumbing spoke to herself, her voice amplified and deepened, sometimes a poem, other times a shopping list or – or – back to the people one can’t live without. Such people make life occasionally difficult. She was by the sea now in her mind; the wind was hers and hers alone as it disturbed the water lapping against the eastern shore of ______, songs jostling in her for attention.  What was it about him? Was it the curve of his face which was like a mountainside, geometric nature in which the bluest eyes existed?  His voice? That mean look in him, the out of focus gaze, confused and lost somewhere, when he finished making love to her?  She knew it was none of these things and all of them at once – she knew that in fact love was an evolutionary delusion and there she was by the sea at the end of summer when the wind was beginning waiting for him to come back from the shop across the road with a drink and she was so happy but also so sad because she knew that one day, in some way, they would be sharing their last moments together.

The day he left to go to work and didn’t come back was strange. Absurdly silent in parts and more vivid in both colour and substance.  It was almost as if the world had not stopped turning for others as it had for her.  The trees moved; a solitary leaf turn-tumbled to the ground and she knew it meant something, but didn’t know what until later when she sat somewhere and someone told her and then he was dead.  The days began to collapse into surreal collections of bits and images, fragment language and sometimes she would cry for six or seven hours solid, not able to even touch the photograph she had hidden in her wardrobe, hidden where she knew it was and this was when she began to want to be alone.

The sun is amazing.

Eight minutes it takes the light to reach her humble eye.  Her retina was a single tiny point in the cosmos taking in photons like an intricate B&B half hidden in the universe.  When she thought of what was between her and it she felt dizzy, all that nothingness, occasionally interrupted by light, light moving at one speed only, a speed that nothing with mass or anything carrying any kind of information could exceed.  In her mind she concluded that without light there could not be love. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t true.

The sky was now filled with daffodil spores, twisting and curling, spiralling to and fro, finding spaces to be in, the light of the sun reflecting, refracting from and through, a matrix of silent loveliness.  This is what a storm of love must look like, she thought.  She had dreamed last night that she was reading The Waves by Virginia Woolf.  What an odd thing to do, dream that you are reading someone’s thoughts, the thoughts of children, words dancing everywhere.

They had got up the morning after staring at the ocean to watch the sunrise but it was raining and cold and they both had hangovers. The clouds kept them from the sun or the sun from them, it was cold and he had his hood up and she was tangled round him and electrified. Or was she? Perhaps this was an embellishment of grief.  Beatification of the dead by unreliable memory.  She remembered the feel of his limbs.  How sometimes he was a bastard; but not often, they’d argue about trifles because they were so full of love the love wanted to go for a walk where there was space (pause) she tried to remember times he had been a bastard. The problems of becoming someone else like entangling, no, like letting a virus in.  One day they will go and leave you; empty ivy branches with nothing to curl around.  She knew now that there was more to her than him, than them and that feeling would grow soon. The next day he went to the shop to buy her a drink and she imagined she watched time ripple through him, attached to him forever by something she could neither see nor understand reminding her of Woolf again. She knew that love was an evolutionary delusion, but a delusion which had moved empires to ashes and made the sane mad, jealous and cruel.

The air was now thick with spores. The wind was a breeze and not a wind at all.

Through the clouds of dancing spectres she saw a figure moving towards her, and it said, Are you waiting for someone?  She recalled her legs open wide and his mouth, oh God his mouth, in her mind saying something, arms, his skin less soft than hers on hers, the urgency of movement, she wanted him to be lost in her with that look, she wanted to love him with everything but to give everything to a delusion, to someone who will one day go and this means more than history which is the story of men, not of women, women through the ages making themselves available for men.  To what end other than tears? And now she was confused.  She enjoyed being confused.

Later, thirty minutes perhaps, returned to the realness of the street and the rumble-hum of the cars, the saturation of stone with images and artifice, window dummies dressed, the stillness of money, the madness of words everywhere, Fuck, this is the state of things, people make a real mess, they meddle and they meddle, and shit on everything like a dog that doesn’t care or know it’s doing wrong.

And through the steady undulation of faces, arms, eyes, she saw a figure, somehow differentiated from the rest coming towards her, Are you looking for someone? he said.

No He’s gone and he’s not coming back. The street was alive with voices and noises.  Zara’s head was alive. Zara was alive.  The sun was out and there were plenty of daffodils everywhere when she walked out of town. And this here, this now, this array of light and atoms, was exactly zero, and she was, most of the time, exactly one.  

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