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Brutalist Stories #32

My Beloved Accomplice

National Theatre - London

I stop us both and point to the man smoking a cigarette leant against the concrete wall in a dark-brown, three-quarter length jacket. I turn to her and she nods, she knows, she gets it, we’re in sync and for a moment, we just watch him.

His hand raises to his mouth, a drag on the cigarette is taken, there is a flicker in his eyebrow, a twitch in his arm, and after a moment, he exhales. The smoke is pushed out of his lungs by his diaphragm and he blinks a few times before closing his eyes. Continuing to exhale, his shoulders slouching, eyes closing, he leans into the wall, the hard concrete like it is the softest surface he’s ever felt.

My hand creeps into hers, our fingers clasp and we’re stood watching him and we’re wondering, why is he alive?

He blinks, rousing himself from the thought that momentarily encased his mind, his memory, his being, and takes one last drag of the cigarette. Flicking it away and walking on, his jacket billows lightly behind him, feet clack on the marble floor and he is gone.

Her fingers grip tighter around mine and I turn to look at her as a hint of a smile creeps out the side of her face. I give her a little tug, and a nod of my head indicates which way we’re supposed to go.

Walking and there’s all the people, surrounded by this concrete mass, their pink and brown flesh in such stark and loving contrast. I stop, and she takes an extra step and I grip and pull her back, she turns and I let her know with a purse of my lips that there’s a moment here, just like the other one. A quick dart of the eyes and she sees the clock hanging from the ceiling.

We watch its perpetual hand, gliding round and round and underneath it the people who start off over there, and come closer and pass us by. One must wonder if there is any recognition in them of their time and presence in this space, and their movement through it. They each have a destination, they must, the one in their immediate future and the one at the end of what will be the line of their life.

I’m not sure they know, but do they really need to? I turn to her again, my beloved accomplice as the people pass us by and the hands turn on the clock and the concrete weighs heavy and the universal thump hammers away at us all. We stand here forever, as we always have, as we always will, time is flat and in this moment, there is only the infinite.

That’s our point.

To see this moment, right here, and all moments in time’s flat disc as it spreads out infinitely all around us. A moment in the past and a moment in the future and we’re not the ones to ignore it, not like all these around us, we’re the ones to embrace it. That’s our point.

Her and I.

My beloved accomplice.

Building inspiration:

  • National Theatre – London

Musical inspiration: Deaf Centre – The Day I Would Never Have