where anger surrenders to vulnerability

Creak. The sound alone denotes something old, possibly mysterious. But in this case, it served as in indicator of footsteps making their way up the old staircase after a body having slipped in through the street level windows. When I saw it was open, it was an opportunity too good to refuse, a window. I was able to prise it open a little more and as I checked up and down the empty street, I began to climb down. The kitchen appeared by candlelight, a freshly cut loaf upon the table. It seemed as if someone lived here judging by the still glowing embers in the hearth but it was a cellar, dark and without modern units or appliances.

Creak. The stairs announce my continued curiosity and unafraid, out of the time, I trapped up into the main entrance hall of the house. The last of dusk’s light crept through the little arches of window above the front door in the dark wooden panelled hallway. This place looks like a museum, I thought, but it wasn’t a museum more an amalgamation of ephemera and nicknacks in period collections, filling each room I went into. Someone’s strange obsession, but in London, there never has been any rules to follow. An eccentric must live here although it was exactly the same as it had been three years ago and with no one in the house, there had to be something of value I could take without anyone noticing.

There was a parlour decked out for a jubilee, but not this queen’s and each surface was crammed and covered with photographs, chinaware, souvenirs that spanned the decades of royalty. I looked around and pocketed a tiny porcelain pug, confident I could palm it off at a flea market. But my thoughts of profit soon turned into a space of sensuality because as the night fell, the street outside quietened and I became lost in the memories of the last time I had broken into the place.

I found myself waiting. I walked back downstairs and waited for when the shadows come, when the spirits are meant to walk and for him to come to me. Wrapped beside the embers of the fire, and eating slices of bread and cheese, I sat in the kitchen. Surely the memory of food and warmth would be so inviting that as the clock struck midnight, the smells of wine throughout the ages would entice him to return to this life. But he did not come to me and I stepped up into the drawing room, creaking along the dark panels of wood. Each photograph I stared into, I hoped to invoke the souls of similar sentiments but all I heard were the echoes of jubilees and none of them ours. Cups of tea, drained, teased me as if a marker to your existence. As if you had just stepped away, but I was waiting and you were not showing.

I looked for your face in the portraits in the parlour. I searched among the notes left on the table but you were nowhere to be found. What was it you said to me all those years ago? Had I imagined it when I woke in the four poster bed, the paint no longer crumbling on the wall behind our heads and you were stretched out, beside me, the velvet counter pane barely covering your skin, you smiling? That long night that brought you to me, my saint, my lover, my spirit, my ecstasy; that long night was filled with memories which didn’t belong to me, perhaps they didn’t belong to you. It didn’t matter. That night your skin told every story from 1600 to the present and my head spun in the intention of love as you brought it.

By three am, with no sign of you, I took my glass of wine and carried it up the dark wood staircase to step into the scratchings of Hogarth’s Revelries, tempted to clear the floor of the evidence of our last night together. You had been imitating someone you once met and as you fell backwards, and I tried to catch you, it was your laughter that rang in my mind for days. When I am alone, I catch myself leaning forward to kiss you. I’m leaning forward now in the darkness, I am calling you out of the chairs and the wooden panels.

I thought I heard music and so went upstairs to the lounge where we once danced. Do you remember swaying to the sounds of last Christmas’s carols, tapestry chairs and mountains of sugared gingerbread available? Your lips tasted of sugar, of ginger, of mulled wine and me. That Christmas you came to me, standing in the doorway as I looked up from my knees after I had stumbled drunkenly. Your hand stretched out, pulled me to my feet and buried itself beneath my sweater and shirt, stroking my back as you held me closer.

I shouldn’t be able to, but the silhouettes of children can be clearly seen in the windows. They should be afraid, in bed, waiting for the ghosts of evil spirits, of dead grandfathers and uncles who never were related. But I see them from the street lights as each ray pushes past the blinds. I slipped in here to punish the loss of you but now have lost myself.

I’m lost in the slumber of sorrow, and as I climb back into the four poster bed, the monkey still hanging above our sheets, I have noticed that the paint is restored, nothing crumbles and as my eyes close, the smell of you shifts into my nostrils from the warmth of the mattress and sure enough your skin touches mine.

My heart beat races and pounds as I dare not to open my eyes. I lie back in your increasing embrace and as we come into each other, celebrating silently a lust which spans the ages, I know I will wake to crumbling walls, holes in the floor and I will have to slip away before this house is opened and you will once again, be even less of a memory, a ghost of all lovers. But right now, here, as I breathe you in, I abandon all sense of intentions and surrender once again, to the dimension you occupy.

Text: © JL Nash, 2012
Images: © Roelof Bakker
Courtesy of Mick Pedroli, Denis Severs’ House, 18 Folgate Street, London E1 6BX, United Kingdom

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