by Reading the Signs
by Reading the Signs
Think of a cubist painting, or the effect you get playing with transparent pictures. It comes from my mind, it’s what I see inwardly, but it’s as real as people and things in the physical world. Around you as we speak, for instance, there’s a man in a grey suit, sitting at a desk with a bundle of papers. Red ribbon. They’re legal papers. Something to do with a house. I see daffodil. Small birds. You’ll be selling your house in the spring and getting another one.
I used to think everyone had this other way of seeing and just pretended they didn’t because it was more polite. So when my father went out for cigarettes and a pint of milk I thought they saw him at the telephone kiosk telling a woman he couldn’t wait for the next time, and knew that the woman was called Margie and she was younger and prettier than my mother, and that one day he would leave us to live with Margie in a flat with a balcony by the seaside. I thought everyone could see all that, but it was nicer to pretend they didn’t. I always knew what I was getting for birthdays and Christmas. They told me about my great-grandfather who had the Gift. They called it that but made it sound like an unwanted one that you couldn’t get rid of. A kind of burden. You have to learn how to tone it down. It’s like adjusting the volume on your TV. You can’t switch off, but you can make it so you don’t have to pay much attention.
And now there are colours around you and they are all different shades of red. Yes, sometimes the pictures are in code, hard to read. Red is for danger, seeing red, anger, red rag to a bull. Blood. There’s blood on your hands and you’re washing it off, no, someone else is. There’s a lot of blood and you’re asleep. You’ve had an operation and the surgeon is washing his hands. And now the red is fading, it’s fading quickly. Everything is white but it’s not winter, I can see roses. You are white and very cold.
I don’t go out much. It’s tiring for one thing, seeing double all the time, living a double life; because the things you see are often not what people want to hear and I never tell lies, it’s the truth or nothing. They keep coming though, like you, wanting to know about the new career and promotion, let’s say, or if life is going to get better, richer, sweeter, and they don’t know – how could they – that next week, next month, the car will skid out of control, there will be an accident, a rush to hospital, emergency operation. Then the pictures stop. Remember the Cat Stevens song - “And everything emptying into white?”