Collision with the infinite. by: Suzanne Segal External-identifier: urn:acs6: collisionwithinf00sega:epubdb3deac-b0e Collision With the Infinite by Suzanne Segal, , Blue Dove Press edition, in English - 2nd ed. By Suzanne Segal. IT WAS IN THE SPRINGTIME that it happened. I was returning home to my apartment on the Left Bank after attending a.

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Suzanne Segal. *Download PDF | ePub | DOC | audiobook | ebooks. The autobiography is the extraordinary story of how a young Jewish woman from the . Suzanne Segal. All rights reserved. The Realization of Suzanne Segal. ~ An excerpt from the book Collision with the Infinite. Suzanne Segal (–) was a writer and teacher about spiritual enlightenment, known for her sudden experience of Self-Realization which she wrote about in her book Collision With the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self. .. Print/export. Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.

I lifted my right foot to step up into the bus and collided head-on with an invisible force that entered my awareness like a silently exploding stick of dynamite, blowing the door of my usual consciousness open and off its hinges, splitting me in two. In the gaping space that appeared, what I had previously called "me" was forcefully pushed out of its usual location inside me into a new location that was approximately a foot behind and to the left of my head.

From a non-localized position somewhere behind and to the left, I could see my body in front and very far away. All the body's signals seemed to take a long time to be picked up in this non-localized place, as if they were light coming from a distant star. Terrified, I looked around, wondering if anyone else had noticed something. All the other passengers were calmly taking their seats, and the bus driver was motioning me to put my yellow ticket into the machine so we could be off.

I shook my head a few times, hoping to rattle my consciousness back into place, but nothing changed. I felt from afar as my fingers fumbled to insert the ticket into the slot and I walked down the aisle to find a seat. I sat down next to an older woman I had been chatting with at the bus stop, and I tried to continue our conversation.

My mind had completely ground to a halt in the shock of the abrupt collision with whatever had dislodged my previous reality. Although my voice continued speaking coherently, I felt completely disconnected from it.

The face of the woman next to me seemed far away, and the air between us seemed foggy, as if filled with a thick, luminous soup. She turned to gaze out the window for a moment, then reached up to pull the cord to signal the driver to let her off at the next stop. When she rose, I slid over into her seat by the window and bid her goodbye with a smile.

I could feel sweat rolling down my arms and beading up on my face. I was terrified. Suzanne Segal The bus arrived at my stop on the rue Lecourbe, and I got off. As I walked the three blocks home, I attempted to pull myself back into one piece by focusing on my body and willing myself back into it where I thought I belonged in order to regain the previously normal sensation of seeing through the body's eyes, speaking through the body's mouth, and hearing through the body's ears.

The force of will failed miserably. Instead of experiencing through the physical senses, I was now bobbing behind the body like a buoy on the sea. Cut loose from sensory solidity, separated from and witnessing the body from a vast distance, I moved down the street like a cloud of awareness following a body that seemed simultaneously familiar and foreign.

There was an incomprehensible attachment to that body, although it no longer felt like "mine. Incapable of making sense of this state, the mind alternated between racing wildly in an attempt to put "me" back together and shutting down completely, leaving only the empty humming of space reverberating in the ears. The witness was absolutely distinct from the mind, the body, and the emotions, and the position it held, behind and to the left of the head, remained constant.

The profound distance between the witness and the mind, body, and emotions seemed to elicit panic in and of itself, due to the sensation of being so tenuously tethered to physical existence. In this witnessing state, physical existence was experienced to be on the verge of dissolution, and it the physical responded by summoning an annihilation fear of monumental proportions.

As I walked into my apartment, Claude looked up from his book to greet me and ask how my day had been. The terror was not immediately apparent to him, which seemed oddly reassuring. I greeted him calmly as if nothing were wrong, telling him about the class at the clinic and showing him the new book I had downloadd at the American bookstore on my way home.

There was no conceivable way to explain any of this to him, so I didn't even try. The terror was escalating rapidly, and the body was panic stricken, sweat pouring in rivulets down its sides, hands cold and trembling, heart pumping furiously.

The mind clicked into survival mode and started looking for distractions. Maybe if I took a bath or a nap, or ate some food, or read a book, or called someone on the phone. The whole thing was nightmarish beyond belief. The mind I could no longer even call it "my" mind was trying to come up with some explanation for this clearly inexplicable occurrence.

The body moved beyond terror into a frenzied horror, giving rise to such utter physical exhaustion that sleep became the only possible option. After telling Claude that I didn't want to be disturbed, I lay down in bed and fell into what I thought would be the welcome oblivion of sleep.

Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self

Sleep came, but the witness continued, witnessing sleep from its position behind the body. This was the oddest experience. The mind was definitely asleep, but something was simultaneously awake. The moment the eyes opened the next morning, the mind exploded in worry. Is this insanity? Is this what people call a nervous breakdown? What had happened?

And would it ever stop? Claude had started to notice my agitation and was apparently waiting for an explanation. I attempted to tell him what had taken place the day before, but I was just too far away to speak. The witness appeared to be where "I" was located, which left the body, mind, and emotions empty of a person. It was amazing that all those functions continued to operate at all. There was no explaining this one to Claude, and for once I was glad he was the kind of person who didn't persist in pursuing a subject I didn't want to pursue.

Suzanne Segal The mind was so overwhelmed by its inability to comprehend the current state of existence that it could not be distracted. It remained riveted to the incomprehensible, unanswerable quandaries that were generated in an unbroken stream out of this witnessing state of awareness. There was the sense of being on an edge of sorts, a boundary between existing and not existing, and the mind believed that if it did not maintain the thought of existence, existence itself would cease.

Charged with this apparently life-or-death directive, the mind struggled to hold that thought, only to exhaust itself after several fitful hours. The mind was in agony as it tried valiantly to make sense of something it could never comprehend, and the body responded to the anguish of the mind by locking itself into survival mode, adrenaline pumping, senses fine-tuned, finding and responding to the threat of annihilation in every moment. The thought did arise that perhaps this experience of witnessing was the state of Cosmic Consciousness Maharishi had described long before as the first stage of awakened awareness.

But the mind instantly discarded this possibility because it seemed impossible that the hell realm I was inhabiting could have anything to do with Cosmic Consciousness. Living on the verge of dissolution for weeks on end is stressful beyond belief, and the only respite was the oblivion of sleep into which I plunged for as long and as often as possible.

Chalfenism versus Bowdenism Magid, Millat and Marcus , Crisis Talks and Eleventh-hour Tactics The Final Space Of Mice and Memory Acknowledgements I am grateful to both Lisa and Joshua Appignanesi for contriving between them to get me a room of my own when it was most required. Thanks are due to Tristan Hughes and Yvonne Bailey-Smith for providing two happy homes for this book and its author.

I am also indebted to the bright ideas and sharp eyes of the following people: Paul Hilder, friend and sounding-board; Nicholas Laird, fellow idiot savant', Donna Poppy, meticulous in everything; Simon Prosser, as judicious an editor as one could hope for; and finally my agent, Georgia Garrett, from whom nothing escapes. Archie , "Every little trifle, for some reason, does seem incalculably important today, and when you say of a thing that "nothing hangs on it" it sounds like blasphemy.

There's never any knowing how am I to put it? At He lay forward in a prostrate cross, jaw slack, arms splayed either side like some fallen angel; scrunched up in each fist he held his army service medals left and his marriage licence right , for he had decided to take his mistakes with him.

A little green light flashed in his eye, signalling a right turn he had resolved never to make. He was resigned to it. He was prepared for it. He had flipped a coin and stood staunchly by its conclusions.

This was a decided-upon suicide. In fact it was a New Year's resolution. But even as his breathing became spasmodic and his lights dimmed, Archie was aware that Cricklewood Broadway would seem a strange choice. Strange to the first person to notice his slumped figure through the windscreen, strange to the policemen who would file the report, to the local journalist called upon to write fifty words, to the next of kin who would read them.

Squeezed between an almighty concrete cinema complex at one end and a giant intersection at the other, Cricklewood was no kind of place. It was not a place a man came to die. It was a place a man came in order to go other places via the a But Archie Jones didn't want to die in some pleasant, distant woodland, or on a cliff edge fringed with delicate heather.

The way Archie saw it, country people should die in the country and city people should die in the city. Only proper. In death as he was in life and all that. It made sense that Archibald should die on this nasty urban street where he had ended up, living alone at the age of forty-seven, in a one-bedroom flat above a deserted chip shop.

He wasn't the type to make elaborate plans suicide notes and funeral instructions he wasn't the type for anything fancy. All he asked for was a bit of silence, a bit of shush so he could concentrate.

He wanted it to be perfectly quiet and still, like the inside of an empty confessional box or the moment in the brain between thought and speech. He wanted to do it before the shops opened. Overhead, a gang of the local flying vermin took off from some unseen perch, swooped, and seemed to be zeroing in on Archie's car roof only to perform, at the last moment, an impressive U-turn, moving as one with the elegance of a curve ball and landing on the Hussein-Ishmael, a celebrated hal al butchers.

Archie was too far gone to make a big noise about it, but he watched them with a warm internal smile as they deposited their load, streaking white walls purple. He watched them stretch their peering bird heads over the Hussein-Ishmael gutter; he watched them watch the slow and steady draining of blood from the dead things chickens, cows, sheep hanging on their hooks like coats around the shop.

The Unlucky. These pigeons had an instinct for the Unlucky, and so they passed Archie by. For, though he did not know it, and despite the Hoover tube that lay on the passenger seat pumping from the exhaust pipe into his lungs, luck was with him that morning. The thinnest covering of luck was on him like fresh dew. Whilst he slipped in and out of consciousness, the position of the planets, the music of the spheres, the flap of a tiger-moth's diaphanous wings in Central Africa, and a whole bunch of other stuff that Makes Shit Happen had decided it was second-chance time for Archie.

Somewhere, somehow, by somebody, it had been decided that he would live. The Peculiar Second Marriage of Archie Jones The Hussein-Ishmael was owned by Mo Hussein-Ishmael, a great bull of a man with hair that rose and fell in a quiff, then a duck tail Mo believed that with pigeons you have to get to the root of the problem: not the excretions but the pigeon itself.

The shit is not the shit this was Mo's mantra , the pigeon is the shit. So the morning of Archie's almost-death began as every morning in the Hussein-Ishmael, with Mo resting his huge belly on the windowsill, leaning out and swinging a meat cleaver in an attempt to halt the flow of dribbling purple.

Get away, you shit-making bastards! It was Varin's job to struggle up a ladder and gather spliced bits of pigeon into a small Kwik Save carrier bag, tie the bag up, and dispose of it in the bins at the other end of the street. Fatty-man," yelled one of Mo's kitchen staff, poking Varin up the arse with a broom as punctuation for each word. One day, so Mo believed, Cricklewood and its residents would have cause to thank him for his daily massacre; one day no man, woman or child in the broadway would ever again have to mix one part detergent to four parts vinegar to clean up the crap that falls on the world.

The shit is not the shit, he repeated solemnly, the pigeon is the shit. Mo was the only man in the community who truly understood. He was feeling really very Zen about this very goodwill-to-all-men until he spotted Archie's car.

What is this doing here? I got delivery at 6. I got to get it in the back. That's my job. You see?

There's meat coming. So, I am perplexed.. I don't employ you not to know. I employ him not to know' he reached out of the window and slapped Varin, who was negotiating the perilous gutter like a tightrope-walker, giving him a thorough cosh to the back of his head and almost knocking the boy off his perch "I employ you to know things. To compute information. To bring into the light the great darkness of the creator's unexplainable universe.

A minute later Arshad returned with the explanation. We're not licensed for suicides around here. This place hal al Kosher, understand?

If you're going to die round here, my friend, I'm afraid you've got to be thoroughly bled first. And in the moment between focusing on the sweaty bulk of a brown-skinned Elvis and realizing that life was still his, he had a kind of epiphany. It occurred to him that, for the first time since his birth, Life had said Yes to Archie Jones. Not simply an "OK' or "You-might-aswellcarryonsinceyou've-started', but a resounding affirmative.

Life wanted Archie. She had jealously grabbed him from the jaws of death, back to her bosom. Although he was not one of her better specimens, Life wanted Archie and Archie, much to his own surprise, wanted Life. Frantically, he wound down both his windows and gasped for oxygen from the very depths of his lungs. In between gulps he thanked Mo profusely, tears streaming down his cheeks, his hands clinging on to Mo's apron.

I've got meat coming.

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I'm in the business of bleeding. Not counselling. You want Lonely Street. This Cricklewood Lane. Archie Jones attempted suicide because his wife Ophelia, a violet eyed Italian with a faint moustache, had recently divorced him. But he had not spent New Year's morning gagging on the tube of a vacuum cleaner because he loved her. It was rather because he had lived with her for so long and had not loved her.

Archie's marriage felt like downloading a pair of shoes, taking them home and finding they don't fit. For the sake of appearances, he put up with them. And then, all of a sudden and after thirty years, the shoes picked themselves up and walked out of the house.

She left. Thirty years. As far as he remembered, just like everybody else they began well. The first spring of , he had stumbled out of the darkness of war and into a Florentine coffee house, where he was served by a waitress truly like the sun: Ophelia Diagilo, dressed all in yellow, spreading warmth and the promise of sex as she passed him a frothy cappuccino.

They walked into it blinkered as horses. She was not to know that women never stayed as daylight in Archie's life; that somewhere in him he didn't like them, he didn't trust them, and he was able to love them only if they wore haloes. No one told Archie that lurking in the Diagilo family tree were two hysteric aunts, an uncle who talked to aubergines and a cousin who wore his clothes back to front. So they got married and returned to England, where she realized very quickly her mistake, he drove her very quickly mad, and the halo was packed off to the attic to collect dust with the rest of the bric-a-brac and broken kitchen appliances that Archie promised one day to repair.

Amongst that bric-a-brac was a Hoover. On Boxing Day morning, six days before he parked outside Mo's hal al butchers, Archie had returned to their semidetached in Hendon in search of that Hoover.

It was his fourth trip to the attic in so many days, ferrying out the odds and ends of a marriage to his new flat, and the Hoover was amongst the very last items he reclaimed one of the most broken things, most ugly things, the things you demand out of sheer bloody-mindedness because you have lost the house. This is what divorce is: taking things you no longer want from people you no longer love.

Kitchen sink, si? Apart from the home-help, he had to contend with Ophelia's extended Italian family, her mental-health nurse, the woman from the council, and of course Ophelia herself, who was to be found in the kernel of this nuthouse, curled up in a foetal ball on the sofa, making lowing sounds into a bottle of Bailey's. It took him an hour and a quarter just to get through enemy lines and for what? A perverse Hoover, discarded months earlier because it was determined to perform the opposite of every vacuum's objective: spewing out dust instead of sucking it in.

Be reasonable. What can you want with it? You don't need this. Archie took the plug out and silently wound the cord round the Hoover. If it was broken, it was coming with him. All broken things were coming with him. He was going to fix every damn broken thing in this house, if only to show that he was good for something. He take-a her mind, he take-a the blender, he take-a the old stereo he take-a everything except the floorboards. It make-a you sick.. And it was my blender. But he wasn't one for confrontation, Archie.

He listened to them all for another fifteen minutes, mute as he tested the Hoover's suction against pieces of newspaper, until he was overcome by the sensation that Life was an enormous rucksack so impossibly heavy that, even though it meant losing everything, it was infinitely easier to leave all baggage here on the roadside and walk on into the blackness.

You don't need the blender, Archie boy, you don't need the Hoover. This stuff's all dead weight. Just lay down the rucksack, Arch, and join the happy campers in the sky. Was that wrong? To Archie ex-wife and ex-wife's relatives in one ear, spluttering vacuum in the other it just seemed that The End was unavoidably nigh. Nothing personal to God or whatever. It just felt like the end of the world. And he was going to need more than poor whisky, novelty crackers and a paltry box of Quality Street all the strawberry ones already scoffed to justify entering another annum.

Patiently he fixed the Hoover, and vacuumed the living room with a strange methodical finality, shoving the nozzle into the most difficult corners. Solemnly he flipped a coin heads, life, tails, death and felt nothing in particular when he found himself staring at the dancing lion. Quietly he detached the Hoover tube, put it in a suitcase, and left the house for the last time. But dying's no easy trick. And suicide can't be put on a list of Things to Do in between cleaning the grill pan and levelling the sofa leg with a brick.

It is the decision not to do, to un-do; a kiss blown at oblivion. No matter what anyone says, suicide takes guts. It's for heroes and martyrs, truly vainglorious men.

Archie was none of these. He was a man whose significance in the Greater Scheme of Things could be figured along familiar ratios: Pebble: Beach. Raindrop: Ocean. Needle: Haystack. So for a few days he ignored the decision of the coin and just drove around with the Hoover tube. At nights he looked out through the windscreen into the monstropolous sky and had the old realization of his universal proportions, feeling what it was to be tiny and rootless.

He thought about the dent he might make on the world if he disappeared, and it seemed negligible, too small to calculate. He squandered spare minutes wondering whether "Hoover' had become a generic term for vacuum cleaners or whether it was, as others have argued, just a brand name. And all the time the Hoover tube lay like a great flaccid cock on his back seat, mocking his quiet fear, laughing at his pigeon-steps as he approached the executioner, sneering at his impotent indecision.

An unlikely compadre possibly, but still the oldest friend he had a Bengali Muslim he had fought alongside back when the fighting had to be done, who reminded him of that war; that war that reminded some people of fatty bacon and painted-on-stockings but recalled in Archie gunshots and card games and the taste of a sharp, foreign alcohol. Try a new life. That is what you need. Now, enough of all this: I will match your five bob and raise you five.

The place they sat in, where they met each evening for dinner, was half cafe, half gambling den, owned by an Iraqi family, the many members of which shared a bad skin condition.

Marrying Alsana has given me this new lease on living, you understand? She opens up for me the new possibilities. She's so young, so vital like a breath of fresh air. You come to me for advice? Here it is.

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Don't live this old life it's a sick life, Archibald. It does you no good. No good whatsoever Samad had looked at him with a great sympathy, for he felt very tenderly for Archie.

Their wartime friendship had been severed by thirty years of separation across continents, but in the spring of Samad had come to England, a middle-aged man seeking a new life with his twenty-year-old new bride, the diminutive, moon-faced Alsana Begum with her shrewd eyes.

In a fit of nostalgia, and because he was the only man Samad knew on this little island, Samad had sought Archie out, moved into the same London borough. And slowly but surely a kind of friendship was being resited between the two men. He flicked them with the thumb of his left hand in one elegant move, making them fall to the table in a fan shape. Who'd have me now? It was hard enough convincing anybody the first time. You have not even met the right one yet. This Ophelia, Archie, she is not the right one.

From what you leave me to understand she is not even for this time ' He referred to Ophelia's madness, which led her to believe, half of the time, that she was the maid of the celebrated fifteenth century art lover Cosimo de' Medici. This is just not her day! Maybe not her millennium. Modern life has caught that woman completely unawares and up the arse. Her mind is gone. And you? You have picked up the wrong life in the cloakroom and you must return it.

Besides, she has not blessed you with children.. But there are second chances; oh yes, there are second chances in life. Believe me, I know. You," he continued, raking in the lop's with the side of his bad hand, 'should never have married her. Finally, two days after this discussion, early on New Year's morning, the pain had reached such a piercing level that Archie was no longer able to cling to Samad's advice.

He had decided instead to mortify his own flesh, to take his own life, to free himself from a life path that had taken him down numerous wrong turnings, led him deep into the wilderness and finally petered out completely, its bread crumb course gobbled up by the birds.

Once the car started to fill with gas, he had experienced the obligatory flashback of his life to date. It turned out to be a short, unedifying viewing experience, low on entertainment value, the metaphysical equivalent of the Queen's Speech.

A dull childhood, a bad marriage, a dead-end job that classic triumvirate they all flicked by quickly, silently, with little dialogue, feeling pretty much the same as they did the first time round.

He was no great believer in destiny, Archie, but on reflection it did seem that a special effort of predestination had ensured his life had been picked out for him like a company Christmas present early, and the same as everyone else's.

There was the war, of course; he had been in the war, only for the last year of it, aged just seventeen, but it hardly counted. Not front line nothing like that. He and Samad, old Sam, Sammy boy, they had a few tales to tell, mind, Archie even had a bit of shrapnel in the leg for anyone who cared to see it but nobody did. No one wanted to talk about that any more.

It was like a club-foot, or a disfiguring mole. It was like nose hair. People looked away. If someone said to Archie, What have you done in life, then, or What's your biggest memory, well, God help him if he mentioned the war; eyes glazed over, fingers tapped, everybody offered to download the next round.

No one really wanted to know. Summer of Archie went to Fleet Street with his best winkle-pickers on, looking for work as a war correspondent. Poncey-looking bloke with a thin moustache and a thin voice had said, Any experience, Mr. And Archie had explained. All about Samad. All about their Churchill tank. Then this poncey one had leant over the desk, all smug, all suited, and said, We would require something other than merely having fought in a war, Mr.

War experience isn't really relevant. And that was it, wasn't it. There was no relevance in the war not in '55, even less now in ' Nothing he did then mattered now. The skills you learnt were, in the modern parlance, not relevant, not transferable. Was there anything else, Mr. But of course there bloody wasn't anything else, the British education system having tripped him up with a snigger many years previously. Still, he had a good eye for the look of a thing, for the shape of a thing, and that's how he had ended up in the job at Morgan Hero twenty years and counting in a printing firm in the Euston Road, designing the way all kinds of things should be folded envelopes, direct mail, brochures, leaflets not much of an achievement, maybe, but you'll find things need folds, they need to overlap, otherwise life would be like a broadsheet: flapping in the wind and down the street so you lose the important sections.

Not that Archie had much time for the broad sheets If they couldn't be bothered to fold them properly, why should he bother to read them that's what he wanted to know? What else? Well, Archie hadn't always folded paper. Once upon a time he had been a track cyclist. What Archie liked about track cycling was the way you went round and round. Round and round. Giving you chance after chance to get a bit better at it, to make a faster lap, to do it right.

Except the thing about Archie was he never did get any better. Which is a pretty good time, world-class standard, even. But for three years he got precisely The other cyclists used to take breaks to watch him do it.

Lean their bikes against the incline and time him with the second hand of their wrist watches. That kind of inability to improve is really very rare. That kind of consistency is miraculous, in a way. Archie liked track cycling, he was consistently good at it and it provided him with the only truly great memory he had.

In , Archie Jones had participated in the Olympics in London, sharing thirteenth place Unfortunately this fact had been omitted from the Olympic records by a sloppy secretary who returned one morning after a coffee break with something else on her mind and missed his name as she transcribed one list to another piece of paper.

Madam Posterity stuck Archie down the arm of the sofa and forgot about him. His only proof that the event had taken place at all were the periodic letters and notes he had received over the years from Ibelgaufts himself. Notes like: 17 May Dear Archibald, I enclose a picture of my good wife and I in our garden in front of a rather unpleasant construction site. Though it may not look like Arcadia, it is here that I am building a crude velodrome nothing like the one you and I raced in, but sufficient for my needs.

It will be on afar smaller scale, but you see, it is for the children we are yet to have. I see them pedalling around it in my dreams and wake up with a glorious smile upon my face! Once it is completed, we insist that you visit us.

Who more worthy to christen the track of your earnest competitor, Horst Ibelgaufts? And the postcard that lay on the dashboard this very day, the day of his Almost Death: 28 December Dear Archibald, I am taking up the harp.

A New Year's resolution, if you like. Late in the day, I realize, but you're never too old to teach the old dog in you new tricks, don't you feel? I tell you, it's a heavy instrument to lay against your shoulder, but the sound of it is quite angelic and my wife thinks me quite sensitive because of it.

Which is more than she could say for my old cycling obsession! But then, cycling was only ever understood by old boys like you, Archie, and of course the author of this little note, your old contender, Horst Ibelgaufts He had not met Horst since the race, but he remembered him affectionately as an enormous man with strawberry-blond hair, orange freckles and misaligned nostrils, who dressed like an international playboy and seemed too large for his bike.

After the race Horst had got Archie horribly drunk and procured two Soho whores who seemed to know Horst well "I make many business trips to your fair capital, Archibald," Horst had explained. The last Archie had ever seen of Horst was an unwanted glimpse of his humongous pink arse bobbing up and down in the adjoining room of an Olympic chalet. The next morning, waiting at the front desk, was the first letter of his large correspondence: Dear Archibald, In an oasis of work and competition, women are truly sweet and easy refreshment, don't you agree?

I'm afraid I had to leave early to catch the necessary plane, but I compel you, Archie: Don't be a stranger! I think of us now as two men as close as our finish! I tell you, whoever said thirteenth was unlucky was a bigger fool than your friend, Horst Ibelgaufts P.

Please make sure that Dana and Melanie get home fine and well Daria was his one. Terribly skinny, ribs like lobster cages and no chest to speak of, but she was a lovely sort: kind; soft with her kisses and with double-jointed wrists she liked to show off in a pair of long silk gloves set you back four clothing coupons at least. She turned, smiled. And though she was a professional, he got the feeling she liked him too.

Maybe he should have left with her right then, run to the hills. But at the time it seemed impossible, too involved, what with a young wife with one in the oven an hysterical, fictional pregnancy, as it turned out, a big bump full of hot air , what with his dodgy leg, what with the lack of hills.

Strangely, Daria was the final pulse of thought that passed through Archie just before he blacked out. It was the thought of a whore he met once twenty years ago, it was Daria and her smile which made him cover Mo's apron with tears of joy as the butcher saved his life.

He had seen her in his mind: a beautiful woman in a doorway with a come hither look; and realized he regretted not coming hither. If there was any chance of ever seeing a look like that again, then he wanted the second chance, he wanted the extra time. Not just this second, but the next and the next all the time in the world. Later that morning, Archie did an ecstatic eight circuits of Swiss Cottage roundabout in his car, his head stuck out the window while a stream of air hit the teeth at the back of his mouth like a wind sock.

He thought: Blimey. So this is what it feels like when some bugger saves your life. Like you've just been handed a great big wad of Time. At the traffic lights he flipped ten pence and smiled when the result seemed to agree that Fate was pulling him towards another life.

Like a dog on a lead round a corner. Generally, women can't do this, but men retain the ancient ability to leave a family and a past. They just unhook themselves, like removing a fake beard, and skulk discreetly back into society, changed men. In this manner, a new Archie is about to emerge. We have caught him on the hop. For he is in a past-tense, future-perfect kind of mood. He is in a maybe this, maybe that kind of mood. Approaching a forked road, he slows down, checks his undistinguished face in the wing-mirror, and quite indiscriminately chooses a route he's never taken before, a residential street leading to a place called Queens Park.

Go straight past Go! Tim Westleigh more commonly known as Merlin finally registered the persistent ringing of a doorbell. He picked himself off the kitchen floor, waded through an ocean of supine bodies, and opened the door to arrive face-to-face with a middle-aged man dressed head-to-toe in grey corduroy, holding a ten pence coin in his open palm. As Merlin was later to reflect when describing the incident, at any time of the day corduroy is a highly stressful fabric.

Rent men wear it. Tax men too. History teachers add leather elbow patches. To be confronted with a mass of it, at nine in the a. Then, when the circle was completed, he would nod several times.

We're in a mellow place, here. Know what I mean? Archie shook his head, smiled and remained where he was. Are you high on something?

Merlin pulled on a joint and looked amused. The white bedsheet hanging down from an upper window. Across it, in large rainbow coloured lettering, was painted: welcome to the 'end of the world' party, Merlin shrugged. Bit of a disappointment, that.

Or a blessing," he added amiably, 'depending on your point of view. It was kind of a joke, you see, more than anything. I flipped a coin and thought: why not? Besides, I think you're a little advanced in years.. Kind of a commune scene. I can't just let anyone in off the street, you know? I mean, you could be the police, you could be a freak, you could ' But something about Archie's face huge, innocent, sweetly expectant reminded Tim what his estranged father, the Vicar of Snarebrook, had to say about Christian charity every Sunday from his pulpit.

It's New Year's Day, for fucks sake You best come in. Detritus of every variety animal, mineral, vegetable lined the floor; a great mass of bedding, under which people lay sleeping, stretched from one end of the hallway to the other, a red sea which grudgingly separated each time Archie took a step forward. Inside the rooms, in certain corners, could be witnessed the passing of bodily fluids: kissing, breast-feeding, fucking, throwing up all the things Archie's Sunday Supplement had informed him could be found in a commune.

He toyed for a moment with the idea of entering the fray, losing himself between the bodies he had all this new time on his hands, masses and masses of it, dribbling through his fingers , but decided a stiff drink was preferable. He tackled the hallway until he reached the other end of the house and stepped out into the chilly garden, where some, having given up on finding a space in the warm house, had opted for the cold lawn.

With a whisky tonic in mind, he headed for the picnic table, where something the shape and colour of Jack Daniels had sprung up like a mirage in a desert of empty wine bottles. Just as Archie reached for the Jack Daniels, the white woman shook her head and made the signal of a stubbed out cigarette. Some evil bastard put his fag out in some perfectly acceptable whisky.

There's Babycham and some other inexorable shit over here Archie smiled in gratitude for the warning and the kind offer. He took a seat and poured himself a big glass of Liebfraumilch instead. Many drinks later, and Archie could not remember a time in his life when he had not known Clive and Leo, Wan-Si and Petronia, intimately.

With his back turned and a piece of charcoal, he could have rendered every puckered goose pimple around Wan-Si's nipples, every stray hair that fell in Petronia's face as she spoke. By ii a. In return, they told him he was in possession of a unique soul for a man of his age.

Everybody agreed some intensely positive karmic energy was circulating in and around Archie, the kind of thing strong enough to prompt a butcher to pull down a car window at the critical moment. And it turned out Archie was the first man over forty ever invited to join the commune; it turned out there had been talk for some time of the need for an older sexual presence to satisfy some of the more adventurous women. That'll be me, then. I'd rather go to bed than get into this. Freed finally of this obligation, he sat on the stairs, letting the row continue above while he placed his head in his hands.

He would have liked to have been part of a commune. If he'd played his cards right instead of starting a ding-dong, he might have had free love and bare breasts all over the gaff; maybe even a portion of allotment for growing fresh food. For a while around 2, a.

Nobody's fault, thought Archie, mulling over the balls-up, nobody's fault but my own, but he wondered whether there wasn't some higher pattern to it.

Maybe there will always be men who say the right thing at the right time, who step forward like Thespis at just the right moment of history, and then there will be men like Archie Jones who are just there to make up the numbers.

Or, worse still, who are given their big break only to come in on cue and die a death right there, centre stage, for all to see. A dark line would now be drawn underneath the whole incident, underneath the whole sorry day, had not something happened that led to the transformation of Archie Jones in every particular that a man can be transformed; and not due to any particular effort on his part, but by means of the entirely random, adventitious collision of one person with another.

Something happened by accident. That accident was Clara Bowden. But first a description: Clara Bowden was beautiful in all senses except maybe, by virtue of being black, the classical.

Clara Bowden was magnificently tall, black as ebony and crushed sable, with hair plaited in a horseshoe which pointed up when she felt lucky, down when she didn't. At this moment it was up. It is hard to know whether that was significant. She needed no bra she was independent, even of gravity she wore a red halter neck which stopped below her bust, underneath which she wore her belly button beautifully and underneath that some very tight yellow jeans.

At the end of it all were some strappy heels of a light brown suede, and she came striding down the stairs on them like some kind of vision or, as it seemed to Archie as he turned to observe her, like a reared-up thoroughbred.

Now, as Archie understood it, in movies and the like it is common for someone to be so striking that when they walk down the stairs the crowd goes silent. In life he had never seen it. But it happened with Clara Bowden. She walked down the stairs in slow motion, surrounded by afterglow and fuzzy lighting. And not only was she the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, she was also the most comforting woman he had ever met.

Her beauty was not a sharp, cold commodity. She smelt musty, womanly, like a bundle of your favourite clothes. Though she was disorganized physically legs and arms speaking a slightly different dialect from her central nervous system even her gangly demeanour seemed to Archie exceptionally elegant. She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not as with most of the girls Archie had run with in the past like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it or when to just put it down.

She gave him a wide grin that revealed possibly her one imperfection. A complete lack of teeth in the top of her mouth. Have Clive and dem people been talking foolishness at you? Clive, you bin playing wid dis poor man? Clive and I have different views about a few things. Generation gap, I suppose. You're That dat of'.

I seen older. Well, come and join de club. Dere are a lot of us about dis marnin'.

What a strange party dis is. You know," she said brushing a long hand across his bald spot, 'you look pretty djam good for someone come so close to St. Peter's Gate. You wan' some advice? He always wanted advice, he was a huge fan of second opinions. That's why he never went anywhere without a ten pence coin. Marnin' de the world new, every time.

He had unhooked the old life, he was walking into unknown territory. Clara was nineteen. Archibald was forty-seven. Six weeks later they were married. And it's about time people told the truth about beautiful women. They do not shimmer down staircases. They do not descend, as was once supposed, from on high, attached to nothing other than wings.

She had roots. More specifically, she was from Lambeth via Jamaica and she was connected, through tacit adolescent agreement, to one Ryan Topps. Because before Clara was beautiful she was ugly.

And before there was Clara and Archie there was Clara and Ryan. And there is no getting away from Ryan Topps. Just as a good historian need recognize Hitler's Napoleonic ambitions in the east in order to comprehend his reluctance to invade the British in the west, so Ryan Topps is essential to any understanding of why Clara did what she did.You're That dat of'.

You know," she said brushing a long hand across his bald spot, 'you look pretty djam good for someone come so close to St. She suggested its theme, helped to paint the banner and hang it from the window; she danced and smoked with the rest of them and felt herself, without undue modesty, to be quite the belle of the squat.

And like a cat she responded to the dusty sunbeam that was coursing through a high window on to the waiting couples. He squandered spare minutes wondering whether "Hoover' had become a generic term for vacuum cleaners or whether it was, as others have argued, just a brand name. Who felt? And Ryan Topps answered. Related Pages on this Site. For more info see Our main page on Suzanne Segal The personal self was gone, yet here was a body and a mind that still existed empty of anyone who occupied them.

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