underneath plate moves - for M.D.

unpublished text
August 2013

With the pressure of his hand on her breast
the lace left a slight, almost imperceptible
trace on her skin

They said it was
like the pieces of a dismembered body
strewn all around

This morning as he arrives at the office
Johnny Walker thinks
like almost every morning
I have to get out of here
But like every day
he stays there
he does his job
handling money from the others
scrutinising funds
taking important decisions
yes to these guys, no to those
He looks out of the window
31st floor of the tall tower
sees seagulls flying
with almost no wing flapping
just taking advantage of the wind
the strongly blowing wind
which comes from the sea
Somehow I’m like these birds
he thinks
I follow the stream
I ride the wave
these birds seem to enjoy it
but I

Johnny Walker has what you call
a pretty good life
important job in a financial office
nice family
caring wife and two young children
a big flat in the centre
From there he can see the whole city
laying at his feet
he sees bright poured lights
in the night
How different this life is
from that of his childhood
He never dreamt of having a life like this one
he didn’t even know such a way of living could exist
he had been living in a place
where people had very low means
Well, as a child Johnny had been quite happy
he liked playing football with children from the neighbourhood
or when his father read him stories
scary, sometimes marvellous tales
They never went on holiday in the summer
but he liked to explore the surroundings
and spent days and days
searching for peculiar and colourful stones to complete his collection
There was an awkward atmosphere in the town though
he couldn’t have explained why
his mother was always sad, and worried
and when she talked to his father, or to neighbours
Johnny had the feeling they were talking about diseases
that were about to hit their town, or already had
he heard words such as redundancies, alcoholism, druggies
he couldn’t understand their actual meaning
he just tried to make his parents happier
he worked hard at school
and invented a lot of jokes for them
to make them laugh
Johnny visits his parents once in a while
but has almost forgotten everything about this period

He now has a far more comfortable way of life
than they will ever have
and somehow
there is a big gap in his mind
so big that sometimes
his brain hurts
his thoughts struggle
hidden memories arise
and suddenly their meaning strike him in a flash
and somehow
he feels bad, guilty
His wife tells him often
that people are entirely responsible for their lives
that his parents could be happy even if they don’t have much
but still
why so many differences?
That's the way it is
she says
How much he sometimes disagrees with her
Johnny envies his wife’s way of thinking
without digressions, hidden meandering
a bright right way
and only far further down
in a dark area of her mind
were the ideas, situations, realities
that she didn’t make hers
This seems somehow healthier to Johnny
than his complicated reflections
He can’t help it
but he gets more and more often disturbed
often in his dreams
by images coming to his mind
images from his childhood
back and forth
tides on the shore

Johnny is worried
he doesn’t really know
what to do with these memories and thoughts
he’s disconcerted
he tries to speak to the people around
they politely listen and say
that anyway, there is nothing we can do
that regarding such big social issues
we are all powerless
There are times where Johnny considers enrolling in politics
he meets representatives of a few parties
but it doesn’t work
they find him too blurry
they look for more structured people
Some other times, Johnny tries to forget
enjoy the present
and what will be will be
This works for a while
it is somehow a happy period for him
but when his oldest son turns six
he begins to ask him about the world
why are things like this?
why are people like that?
why do some people sleep in the streets while we live in a big flat?
where will I live when I grow up?
all these questions make Johnny very sad
because he can’t answer

Then one night
Johnny Walker can’t sleep
he can’t avoid thinking
turning ideas over and over
he goes out
runs across the empty city
runs until the shore
he wants to scream
to the sea
to pour out every single thought
that has become too heavy for him
he could spend the whole night here shouting
he can’t say a word
it is like
his voice has disappeared
he feels like he is strangled
he falls on the sand
wants to cry
but he can’t
as if everything was stuck
inside him
he waits laying down
he feels he is overwhelmed
with contradictions
desires and wishes
hopeless dreams
common ideals
everything mixed up
and held so close
that nothing moves anymore
he can’t move for a long time
That night he barely finds his way home
and sleeps like the dead

The day after he is still mute
he can’t speak to anyone
he can’t explain what happened
although he tries
to his boss at work
to his wife at home
but no one understands
After a few days he is fired
after a few weeks
his wife asks for divorce
he has so little time to pack his stuff
to say goodbye to the children
He doesn’t know where to go
he walks to the shore
stays there for a while
in the whole city this place was
his favourite
looking at the sea makes him
incredibly peaceful
That’s where I’m going to live
he thinks
and he did so
He knows that now
it would be hard to find a job in his former field
so he tries everywhere
it is tough, in the rush of urban life
no one pays attention to him
for sure he’s not as good looking as he used to be
he can’t even speak
Only in one place he finds someone
who seems attentive
a mason
who is looking for someone to hire
this guy hates to hear people chatting
that’s probably why he doesn’t hesitate much
before hiring Johnny
he begins tomorrow
it’s a deal

Johnny Walker feels relieved
with this salary he could maybe rent a room?
make himself presentable
and convince his ex-wife to let him see the children?
Johnny cannot fight against this woman
who knows every lawyer in the city
but still
spending time with his children is
what he wants most in the world
and he has to find out
how to proceed
Next day he begins his job
he has to help the mason
to make bricks
these are traditional bricks
made out of clay, with moulds and ovens
old-fashioned style
At that time they were in great demand
and even though the mason asserted
you could build a skyscraper out of his bricks
they were mostly used to build the interior walls of the flats
rustic decoration was highly up-to-date
Johnny has learned quickly
and soon
he can make bricks by himself
he likes this job
he feels useful
close to reality
unlike when he was working on financial markets
smoke screens
he thinks

One day the mason receives an order
for twenty thousand bricks
colour dark Sienna
When Johnny hears that
he starts to shudder
dark Sienna was his ex-wife’s
favourite colour
the order was for her indeed
for the new flat her new husband bought them
In the process of making these bricks
Johnny can’t stop thinking of his children
he finds it amazing that these bricks
will one day live with them
beside them
will hear every detail of their lives
their joys and sadness
their dreams
he wishes he could be one of these bricks
After several days
and several long nights cogitating on this
he feels like he is making
his ex-wife’s dress for the new wedding
what is more
thinking that a random man will raise his children
while he is still fighting to be allowed to see them
makes him sick

One morning he is looking at the bricks he already made
incidentally he remembers a familiar situation
he’s a child, and stays during hours in front of a brick wall
looking at it as if it was a mystery
as if he could find a secret
in the irregularities of the hand-made rectangles
he could perceive forms and letters
a horse
the letters of his name
a hat
a car
same as he used to do staring at the clouds
Suddenly Johnny gets up
goes and takes some wet bricks
he looks for the ones that have irregularities
the imperfect ones
With a needle he accentuates the cracks
until this draws
a letter
a word
a form
his gesture is very light because he doesn’t want this to be seen by anybody
otherwise his ex-wife could refuse the order for bad quality
otherwise his boss could fire him
The next days he writes and draws
everything he wishes to say to his children
stories of his own childhood
questions and advice about school and friends
his thoughts about the world and society
and also
he writes the address of the mason’s workshop, draws the map
everything spread out
on twenty thousand bricks
dark Sienna
You could barely see something
even though you know it’s here
maybe with the orientation of sunlight
shadows in the night
he’s convinced that children do that
stare at a brick wall for hours
get lost in it
as he did
Some weeks after
the order was delivered at the ex-wife new home
and he never hears about that again
for several years

He still hopes that his children will find out
come and visit him
In the meanwhile he feels better
maybe better than ever
he feels like
he has recovered a voice
not the one he used to have before
a smooth bass voice
that women found usually very attractive
but a more abstract voice
From now, and from time to time
he writes his thoughts on bricks
simple ideas
he sometimes just writes words
sometimes sentences
or poems
when he does so, he thinks of every child in the city
he wishes them to be aware of these ideas
he wishes to spread those
like seeds in the blowing wind