Drawbacks of Timelessness
Being four thousand and twenty two years old has its drawbacks but none that you might imagine. Lela Glen stared into the mirror, lit inadequately by 6 incandescent 40 W bare bulbs and steadied her hand to apply the false eyelashes on her right eye. The nicotine stain on the inside edge of her index finger reflected back in the mirror. It was so dark it could be mistaken for a birthmark. Drawback number 1.
She gets to bed at around 4 am, the show finishing at 2.30 am. It takes her about an hour to disrobe, remove the eyelashes, the lipstick, hang up the sequins, put away the heels, stand under a hot shower until all the hairspray and foundation has rinsed off and then, towel off and pull on sweat pants. It’s 3.30 when she allows herself to meet the side of her that feels heavy, cumbersome and uncoordinated and in those few moments before sleep calls, she sinks into the chair in front of the television, usually watching half an hour of The Sopranos or Deadwood. At night Lela dreams of raven haired crowds and the names Utu, An and Enki echo through 9 metre tall waves which crash through her mind leaving the sun, wet and glistening in a sky all shades of blue. She doesn’t know Utu, An or Enki beyond what Wikipedia shows her and none of this makes sense. Even hypnosis for past life regression hasn’t revealed the source of these voices. She cannot remember these shadows. Drawback number 2.
Her memory seems more comfortable operating in the short term, which is frustrating considering she has never indulged in pharmacological pastimes. Around her, colleagues and peers have worked their way through different decades of stimulation. She has never partaken. She never remembers being young so there has never been a time for illogical decision. Lela has no photographs from the past, just paper tablets covered in this squirly shorthand, which no other can read. Consequently she writes everything down in note form, using her own strange symbolic scripting to record and relay. Each written note is precisely A5, no matter what material is chosen for such abbreviated records. She wishes she could retain information for longer, but it’s just too hard and if she pushes her mind and doesn’t manually record, a grey space appears and the moment is lost forever. Drawback number 3.
The headdresses she has acquired over time, fill one of the closets she fitted herself, three years ago when she came into this life. Each one exquisitely sculptured to capture an emotion or atmosphere she so carefully constructs, of course, matching the sequins and heels for each show. Her favourite, layers of reds, yellows, blues, oranges and black, with accents of white pearls and crystals at the edge of each layer, sits upon a frame, 50 cm high. She reaches inside to touch the silken colours and to re-experience the texture of layers and accepts that she cannot remember its origin. She understands the weft and weave of each and every fabric. Each thread communicates its journey to her. Each knot and stitch recalls the laughter of thousands of years of happiness and each fray and hole stands testament to dreams unattained. How can she possibly communicate this to anyone else? Drawback number 4.
Voice Modulation as a Hobby
Lela was once asked to advertise a voice modulation unit when it was thought that she had eyes engaging enough to convince the shy to try it. She resisted at first as she thought it was a prank or even a scam but soon she realised that it could be so much easier with help. She tried out the unit for three weeks, each afternoon on waking, she would hook herself up to the computer, initiate the software and listen to how her voice could rise and fall with the softness of ganache as opposed to bungee jumping her way around the soft palate. She loved the fact that no one else could hear her and soon, it became clear that the pleasing results of such recording and output could stay with her long into the evenings which didn’t require her spoken voice but in the snapshots of the perfect lip-sync, at the height of applause and in the perfume of the perfect fit, she hears the sound of her own modulated ventilation. By the time she agreed to do the commercial, the company had found another model but she was left with the software and on rising, cigarette in hand, coffee in tiny portions, she would often put on the headphones and mic, and play, allowing her voice to discover new corners and definitions.
Her favourite item of clothing is an antique kimono. Lela adores it and as she slips into it, wearing only her underwear beneath, the silken weight of it upon her shoulders smoothes away the consciousness her rough and sun darkened skin. The hand painted pink flowers on the light pastel green silk have tiny golden dots added to the centre of each hibiscus. Unassuming and delicate, these tiny specks shine like crystal embroidery and each time Lela moves an arm and sees the shimmer, she smiles. In her naps after her 7 pm protein shake, she often meets the voices of the petals of the flowers that graced the heads of new brides. Each petal holds a timbre and vibration that clearly reflects the dreams and wishes of each wearer. In such short snatches of communication, Lela becomes a gatekeeper and without toll or timepiece, she helps each perianth reach the tone they need in order to complete each wish, each goal and when she opens her eyes, although she forgets the process, she is always left with traces of gold upon her top lip which reflects with the kimono gilt patches.
Adoption is Always Adaption
Each culture brings with it a sense of adaption – whether it’s a new kitten in the home or a lover who is permitted to stay overnight. Each decision ushers in the movement of boundaries, new fences and piles of old wood, which need clearing before the next year begins. That’s a pagan thing, to use the New Year as a rite of passage and why not? Beneath it all, each varied structure of value and belief, we are all human except for the fact that that we were not all created equal. There are those who walk among us who are shackled by the illusion of mortality and although they strive to fit in, and often succeed, their renunciation of one life is embedded between their shoulder blades, never to be seen by the naked eye. Should you x-ray such a person, you’ll notice a twist in their spine that belies a decision, which once cost them the heavens.
Lela looks at the suitcase, which normally lives beneath the bed and is lifted out for cleaning once a week. LGG are her initials; Lela Gefen-Glen would not fit easy and the three points of gold leaf upon worn leather are the only tag to remind her of a choice which belongs to a time when ziggurats were erected and cuneiform made sense. She is tempted to open the suitcase, each week, but the case is locked and she has long forgotten where she put the key and doesn’t wish to break the catch. The suitcase is heavy and each time she picks it up, there is a sharp pain that stabs her for a millisecond between her shoulder blades. She has no idea why this occurs and each week it happens, by the time she replaces the case beneath the bed, she forgets the pain and her mind returns to the list of gentle deeds she cares to perform for neighbours and friends on a daily basis. Sometimes these actions comprise of nightly jaunts out, in one case, weeding and tending the front garden of a pensioner who lives two houses down. Once the weeds were gone, Lela would pass by the garden and drop seeds in the front. Over time, a fragrant blend began to grow and as faded hands and worn skin fumbled their way to open the gate on pension collection days, a smile would fill and replace loneliness which lived each moment inside that house. Lela has never told her neighbour who to thank but still enjoys the same sense of erudition of the soul for which she was created.
Lela carries with her a depth of sadness and shame of which she has no idea how she owns. Her solitary response to daylight is her penance and her only reprise has become a series of acts in the darkness, releasing twisted beauty under the motion and sounds of the theatre of this life. Through each time frame, she has adopted whatever messages she needs to carry and in that, Lela has changed gender, culture, ethnicity and attachment. She has had no choice, because once she lost her wings, she needed to adapt to the lives she was facing in perpetuity and so, every day, she was resolved to lift the mantle of pain and pass to another, any other, the tiniest grain of hope she could muster.
Text: © JL Nash, 2012
Image: Leonardo da Vinci [1452–1519], Virgin of the Rocks, 1503-1506, oil on panel, 189.5 × 120 cm, National Gallery, London. The Virgin of the Rocks is the name used for two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, of the same subject, and of a composition which is identical except for two significant details. One painting is exhibited in the Louvre, Paris, and the other in the National Gallery, London (shown here). For a few months in late 2011 and early 2012 the two paintings have been brought together in an exhibition about the paintings by Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery, London. Both paintings show the Madonna and Christ Child with the infant John the Baptist and an angel, in a rocky setting which gives the paintings their usual name. The significant compositional differences are in the gaze and right hand of the angel. There are many minor ways in which the works differ, including the colours, the lighting, the flora, and the way in which sfumato has been used. Although the date of an associated commission is documented, the complete histories of the two paintings are unknown, and lead to speculation about which of the two is earlier.