Chapter Two – Words From An Ivory Tower
…she’ll be coming down the mountain…
There are days that Emma comes down from her mountain, leaves her ivory tower. She has chosen seclusion, and her home has neither telephone nor television. It is a small house, perfect for one, with a view that drops away on three sides and it is more than enough space in which to find the sentences she searches for: well hung words and ballsy phrases. And it is a big enough arena to battle with the discord, that at times tears harshly and at others is an uncomfortable ache. She relaxes by the water and has long claimed regular status at the small café on the marina; an extra parasol for the shade is open above her. Hidden under the umbrellas and her sun-hat, and behind a clutter of pot-bound palm trees and an open lap-top computer, she feels secure and connected. This morning she isn’t writing; she does that at home in two clearly defined blocks of time: the a.m. and p.m. ‘sessions’, and she does her writing in her lounge, at a desk, with a view commanding more than the one that she has now. Aldo, the aging Italian owner of the café allows Emma to plug into his telephone-line and access the internet connection that is her only contact with the world, beyond the skirts of Dassie Bay. With typical Italian generosity he offered his services “Aah, bella signora, no one should be alone!” Conversational Italian is well within the ambit of Emma’s language skills, and she keeps Aldo sweet with gestures, as easy as thanking him in his mother tongue: ”Grazie signor, you are a scholar and a gentlemen .” He was both, and the only person in the village that she passed more than the time of day with.
Dassie Bay; she had never heard the name before the rental-agent had mentioned it. She had recognized that as a good sign and wasted no time in viewing the property. Emma was looking for something small, she meant manageable. She was looking for something cosy, she meant hidden away. She was looking for something with a view, and she had meant what she had said. The cottagey home even came with a name: Four Winds. Tempus fugit is an adage that she keeps alight in her mind, and she had promptly signed the twelve-month lease , was gladly looking forward to moving in on the first day of August. As fate would have it however, and proving the saw that there’s many a slip…Emma’s flight landed two weeks later, and she carried herself over her threshold on August 16th. She reads the letter again, is poised to dispatch it, a child on the edge of a pond, wondering how deep the water is. Will she, or will there be another night of restless rolling sleep, and another choking morning, tied in twisted sheets? Emma closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, and says to no-one, quite softly, “why is this so goddamn difficult?” She knows of course, and her finger quivers over the button, a guillotine, and today, the blade falls, and it falls and it falls, and it severs the cord holding her truth from Michael , and that truth is loosed into the ether, destination London, and a silent icon winks: “Message Sent”.
The god that Emma damns is merely hypothetical, she had denied the existence of anything beyond the rational, beyond the frontier of comprehension, the day her mother died. An old fifteen, she had turned her back on the notion, the absurd motion put forward by believers of all faiths and creeds, that a God existed. An all-knowing infinite omnipresent benefactor, could only live in the fantastic ramblings of befuddled people, wasting time bemoaning their lot; usually it was a lot that they had, and moaned anyway. Emma is a can-do kind of girl: Miss Efficiency, although no one has called her that in years. She takes the hands she is dealt and with conservative aplomb plays them by the rules. “Perhaps you are destined for an interesting life, rather than a happy one?” Emma recalls her friend’s remark, which had seemed so insightful at the time, and it calls back to her in answer, to remind her. “It has been interesting, “but that is not enough she thinks. She had learned from Michael that one partner’s love is not enough to carry them both. Miss Efficiency wants the freedom that comes from being alone and she has found it. The other side to Emma, echoes emptiness and the hollow sounds that she hears, when she listens, are cheerless.
He is here today the beautiful man, with messy hair and tired eyes, he sits in that corner on some mornings, sipping lattes and chewing on the end of a ball-point pen. He is one of her nodding acquaintances; someone with whom she might share the time, as a number only of course. On their first morning; she had caught him passing glances, as cheeky as notes in the classroom, but he had noted her daggered disapproval. An: “I’m sorry” smile, with an, “I had to try” shrug, and the daggers of her discontent, were sheathed in her own smiling acknowledgement. The smile had been too cold, and she wishes that first impressions faded faster than they do. She has become used to the face and his tentative grin; it is one of the ways she measures the passage of a day. She looks towards the sloop that he leaves from and goes to, and the yacht sighs against the jetty. She wishes now, that she had held a dozen of her daggers back. Perhaps today, if he flashed her a bit of his cheek, she might respond with one of her own. He looks easy, uncomplicated, a lot like fun, and they have at least one thing in common, well one that she knows of; the crossword puzzle. She steals a glance; his knitted brow puckers answers from the cryptic clues. She hides her smile at his frustration behind dark glasses, and wonders if there will be a second chance to meet. She calls for a bill and ignores the gatecrashers; late arrivals to her inbox, and shuts the laptop down. The letter is sent. Now she is free to move on. And that, after settling up with Aldo, is a short walk up a dusty goat-track to the front door of Four Winds, ten minutes all in.
Emma is far and away with her mind, too far to hear the eager overtures made by the air. On her way down the hill she had hoped for a chat, and circled her mesmerized friend. She held whispers of gossip close to her chest, trailed gossamer threads of intrigue, but her friend isn’t listening, not this afternoon; lost in a world of her own. The breeze cannot linger, not any longer she impatiently hastens along. Maybe tomorrow or the next morning, Emma will lift her face to the wind and share of her moods with an air.