Bent double like an old beggar under my stack of mismatched matchstick houses, knock-kneed, coughing like mad from too many fags, I cursed through the House of Mirrors where reflections pranced and jigged, turning my back on haunted faces, knackered, desperate for a rest that didn’t seem forthcoming, marching asleep, my boots killing me and filling with blood, drunk with fatigue, deaf to the derisive hoots of the owls nesting in the upper circle (“What a gas!”), so tired even the mannequins’ caresses didn’t interest me, their ecstasy of fumbling making me recoil so violently my mask slipped and I found myself shouting, stumbling, fumbling to put it back on but unable, incapable of maintaining my role, burning with shame in the limelight, dimly aware of the others on stage, floundering as I tried to remember what came next or whose line it was, thinking of the sea, trying to see the sea before me, the words in waves, the rhythms in blues and greens, the sea of dreams or dream of seas, and the Bird King drowning in it, the white eyes writhing in his face, his hanged man’s face, like a broken Mr Punch, a broken clock, a broken bird cage, a broken mirror, a broken self portrait, a broken forest, a broken smartphone, a broken ribcage, a broken record, a broken egg, coughing up blood, coughing like mad from too many fags, an old beggar asleep or dead outside the House of Smashed Mirrors.
My left half mirrors my right half imperfectly. Creases become cracks, an eye becomes a stab wound. My mouth twists up on one side, down on the other.
I play with the crows, most mornings. At lunchtime I turn my back on them and climb trees with my imaginary friends.
Do you think me childish?
We all fear falling. When I’m at the top of a tree I don’t dare look down.
My right hand is white. My left hand is black. I’ve a chequered past. I think you’d guessed that.
I found it in a cupboard in A Block. Couldn’t tell what it was. It didn’t come quietly, so I had to ask the Mirrors to extract it.
It shrieked and thrashed all the way back to the Quiet Room. I closed the door and left the men in white to work their magic.
A few hours later, I went back to the Quiet Room to have a proper look at it; I had forms to fill in. The Mirrors had gone and it had calmed down considerably. It brought to mind a plucked turkey. I sat down next to the cage and started on the paperwork. Had to leave several boxes blank: sex, age, etc. I didn’t even try to gauge diet, political orientation or dream life because there was no talking to it; it kept its eyes closed and its hands over its ears.
As I was leaving it whispered something that sounded like, “I’m the king.” I asked it to repeat itself but it made a rasping sound and defecated.
I don’t know what it was, but it had spirit. I’ll give it that.
House of Mirrors is an ongoing collaboration with Viviana Hinojosa. You can see more here.