Psychopolis*

More to confirm my state of mind than change it,  I returned to the bedroom and grimly picked up my flute. The piece I intended to play, dog-eared and stained, was already on the music stand, Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in B minor. The lovely opening Andante, a series of lilting apreggios, requires a flawless breathing technique to make sense of the phrasing, yet from the beginning I am snatching furtively at breaths like a supermarket shop-lifter, and the coherence of the piece becomes purely imaginary, remembered from gramophone recordings and superimposed over the present. At bar fifteen, four and a half bars into the Presto, I fumble over the octave leaps but I press on, a dogged, failing athlete, to finish the first movement short of breath and unable to hold the last notes in full length. Because I catch most of the right notes in the right order, I regard the Allegro as my showpiece. I play it with expressionless aggression. The Adagio, a sweet thoughtful melody, illustrates to me every time I play it how out of tune my notes are, some sharp, some flat, none sweet, and the semi-demi quavers are always mis-timed. And so to the two Minuets at the end which I play with dry, rigid persistence, like a mechanical organ turned by a monkey. This was my performance of Bach’s Sonata unaltered now in its details for as long as I could remember.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and almost immediately stood up again. I went to the balcony to look once more at the foreign city. Out on one of the lawns a small girl picked up a smaller girl and staggered a few steps with her. More futility. I went inside and looked at the alarm clock in the bedroom. Eleven forty. Do something, quick! I stood by the clock listening to its tick. I went from room to room without really intending to, sometimes surprised to find that I was back in the kitchen again fiddling with the cracked plastic handle of the wall can-opener.  I went into the living room and spent twenty minutes  drumming with my fingers on the back of a book. Towards the middle of the afternoon I dialled the time and set the clock exactly. I sat on the lavatory a long time and decided then not to move till I had planned what to do next. I remained there over two hours, staring at my knees till they lost their meaning as limbs. I thought of cutting my fingernails, that would be a start. But I had no scissors! I commenced to prowl from room to room once more, and then, towards the middle of the evening, I fell asleep in an armchair, exhausted with myself.

*απόσπασμα από το ομώνυμο διήγημα της συλλογής «In Between The Sheets» του Ian McEwan, εκδ. Vintage

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About Narrator

" But it is no use to justify yourself. It is no good to explain. It is weak to be anecdotal. It is wise to conceal the past even if there is nothing to conceal. A man’s power is in the half-light, in the half-seen movements of his hands and the unguessed-at expression of his face. It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires." H. Mantel

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