26 Shigem and I on the dance-floor

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26   Shigem and I on the dance-floor

I tell Evelyn and Alaia I'm going to have a wander round, then I find a perch behind a railing by the dance-floor ... and there you are, Shigem, you beautiful creature. So what happened next, once you'd heard that voice and seen that face on TV, for all the world to hear and see? Well, first you sat there, gob-smacked; then your intellect chipped in, to tell you that your overwhelming feelings were triggered by a highly-crafted television spectacle that meshed with spells you had inside you anyway. You shook your head. Was beauty such delusion, then? you wondered, then remembered that you'd asked yourself this very same question once before, in little-boy language, when you were a little boy, with your toes in the sand beneath the serpents and the dolphins on the wall of the Convention Hall.

Just before you'd asked this in your little-boy words, you had run down the sand with tiny steps toward the sea, beneath a sky you carried in you—a sky filled with heavy planets, dark brown caverns and the glint of pink stars on gigantic deepest blue—a magic sky amid ten thousand less enchanted skies. The sea had been mercury, not sinking through the sand but sliding waveless across it. From the ocean, standing there, you had conjured copper snails, silver dolphins, uranium express-fish, chromium sea-snakes and worms of plutonium, and watched them dance in front of you, bursting and sprouting in the quicksilver bay while you paddled and you capered in the shallows. Dry shiny drops had splashed up from your hand when you'd stooped to flick the liquid up. Then the slope of the scene had curved up, until above you there had been a shaft with shiny spinning galleries rising to a sweet space of honeylight in giant circles telescoped within one another, out beyond, to where this face smiled down at you from here and now. Your ground had risen upward, with a great turn of gears ... but then you'd looked again and seen that all of that had not been real: there were no heavy planets, caverns, pink stars or deepest blue, no snails, dolphins, mercury, express-fish, worms or sea-snakes, and no shining shaft or galleries or honeylight or face.

Instead, you just looked east, across a flat dull sea, beneath an empty grey sky.

So then came the moment when you asked it, all those years ago: was beauty such delusion? You shouted out your version of it, out across the sea and up ... a question you'd forgotten till tonight and Sound & Vision. You were the sweetest little boy I've ever seen—and see today still, beneath your skin, behind your warm brown eyes. (Concealed in my futurity and great elevation, I was still here above you, of course, but how well you'd done to see me even once, from that beach. I bounce back an echo to you then, from here and now—but no, you turned away.)

The last of your innocence I see was aged six, when on golden days you'd picture a ride upon an ostrich through the sands of Arabia. Sun-birds would shriek and coo, electric flies would buzz, and sylphs and gnomes would speak in dimpled voices from the undergrowth (for this was your very own version of Arabia). Once you saw a chanterelle beneath a mauve rose: you dismounted from your bird and ate your tulipe à l'orange. Through the woods you spied a lake and scampered over to its shallows, where shubunkin and raspberry-tangerine-coloured ribbon-fish with helicopter ears buzzed and scuttled in the weeds, leaving spiral wakes. Glow-fish wiggled and a silver scallop winked from the sandy lake-bed. You looked up and dusk had fallen: tiny black horses and a mincing giraffe ringed a carousel built upon a cloud near the moon. Puffballs of shadow swelled huge among the hills, and rose and burst in the night in coloured fire.

Cut to age thirteen, and the sky-eggs are gone: I see you wander past the strip-bar Seductions, through its pool of seedy neon light, your face breaking out all over, just at the start of your eleven years of acne, while above you on the glass was the scarlet neon outline of a nude recumbent woman. In reply to her, across the street in Cindi's Beauty Parlor, now closed for the night, a neon sign "PRETTY NAILS" flickered, weak and pink behind the dusty glass. "Pretty nails," you murmured, gazing vacantly across at it, your legs and arms quivering inside as you spoke.

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