My apparatus slowly pumps away.
My eyes flicker beneath my lids through catalogues of dreams never to be found or repeated.
I’m all tucked in, well looked after. I’m all blue in crisp pajamas and my sheets are green and crease-free because I’m a stone at the bottom of a riverbed.
Twinkle twinkle little star.
I pivot in my dreams as if I can hear what the doctor tells my wife in the room, what he’ll tell me when I finally skip from the hard road to this soft bed, awake again.
My hand slowly paints over my sketch.
A madman with a knife towers over his wife and child!
A gentleman bleeds from the head thanks to a fallen flower pot!
In each picture the Madonna shines in the corner and I breathe a sigh of relief for the family. The wife and child were saved, and the gentleman didn’t bleed to death in the street. Living to tell the tale, they painted these offerings back in the 1800s in thanks to Our Lady who watched over them in their darkest hours.
I’m carrying Tommy as Claire carries me along through the gallery after another physio session.
Tommy’s a snoozing bundle in my arms, and I smile down at him, finally realising I have a lot to give thanks for, no matter my state. I’m awake again.
‘This is amazing...’ Claire muses in front of me at one of those paintings of a Black Madonna.
I still haven’t decided the colour of my Mary.
I began by sketching the people in the road outside the station. I sketched the pelican lollipops and zebra stripes. The policeman in the UV jacket on his bike. The blinking blood red ambulance.
I was the last thing I placed in this composition.
Tommy still couldn’t walk, but he could say my name, crawling on the carpet towards me as I tried to raise him onto his feet by clap, clap, clapping in the air, shaking a maraca. I tried to imagine a surge in my own legs. They needed more time, my therapists said.
I remember listening to the circling, twinkling harps of my angel rocks back and forth as the escalators carried me to the light and mouth at the top. A million screens flickered around me with the same synchronised image of a comedian in a fat suit and drag, nothing quite so grotesque.
We’re kept slow as the world bustles around overground.
I have a lot to give thanks for - my bloodied body hanging onto the threads of life was actually like a peaceful rock slumbering at the bottom of a riverbed.
I’m safely submerged again, open my eyes in the cool blue.
Holding onto railings, I walk out of the water, watched by physiotherapists with clipboards. Claire and Tommy are waiting for me in the clean white examination room. I’m showing signs of improvement they say.
I finish Her image. Outside the door, Tommy crawls the carpet towards Claire, who’s shaking a maraca.
Claire carries him from the examination table into his chair, his hair still damp. That James used to be dead to the world terrifies her, a whole era of time gone after falling through a trap door. There she would miss the next part of this rotating world’s hand-in-hand walk with time, leaving her behind in the park.
‘And the dish ran away with the spoon’ she reads to Tom in his cot, before turning on the circling chimes of the baby mobile that hangs above him.
‘Twinkle twinkle little star...’
Claire holds up the red yellow maraca. Behind her is my framed ex-voto. Tommy gurgles and begins crawling on the carpet in between us. I begin clapping for encouragement and then we start all over again, and again. Tommy lets the pacifier go from his mouth and with a bending of physics he’s up on his feet, into Claire’s arms. The bee has flown, and Claire sets him back onto the ground to see if he can do the same into my arms, clapping in the air. Tommy accepts the challenge, blonde curls in a sway, his arms wide open, and I lean forward and pace to meet him halfway, taking him up and away in my arms, Claire screaming in ecstasy.
Her image beams at us from the corner of my painting as I pirouette, a love all around us.
Raised in both Italy and England, Giacomo Lee currently writes and teaches in London. His debut novel Red Trick is forthcoming on Blank Screen Books, and other works by the author can be found in zines such as Poxymash, The Beat and Quail Bell, along with the 2010 New Asian Writing anthology.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Street artist unknown.
Sleigh Bells was one of the biggest indie bands of 2010 and this is a remix of a track from their debut album Treats.