A Moment Before


Two, holding hands. It makes no difference which is which, as long as they are holding hands there is no need to distinguish one from the other. They are holding hands, perhaps they have been holding hands forever, but that too is unimportant for now they are holding hands. As for the future (what future?), we shall see.

Let us continue. They are standing, no sitting, they are sitting. On what? On wooden crates, or barrels, it is irrelevant, but either on two of one or the other, either two wooden crates or else two barrels, never one of each, not at the same time. They are sitting on two barrels, or crates, whatever the case may be, and they are holding hands. They sit there, staring stiffly forward, their only acknowledgment of the other being the hand that they hold just as stiffly as they sit. They seldom blink. They sit, they stare.

Where are the crates (the barrels) ? The barrels rest among ashes, a bed of ashes. Why is irrelevant, the fact that the two sit holding hands is relevant. The fact that one, either one, while they are holding hands, one yawns, a mouth opens, eyes front, staring, hands joined, the jaw drops and out comes a yawn. The other one just stares, sits, blinks and stares.

The one’s mouth again closes, having finished the yawn, eyes front, sits blinks, and stares. All around them are ashes. They sit on two crates or barrels, wooden among the ash. Two wooden figures, on two wooden barrels, or crates, whatever.

Later. The other one, the one who didn’t yawn, didn’t even react to the yawn, the one who has been just sitting, staring, blinking, closes their eyes, no longer stares, but sits with eyes closed, wooden and stiff. The one that yawned continues to stare, blinks and stares, sitting stiffly on crate or barrel among the ash. Everything goes black.

When the light returns, this is much later, or merely a short time later, no matter, when the light is bright enough to see by, the two figures are seen to be sitting stiffly in their original positions, holding hands as before, eyes wide, staring, and blinking. They still hold hands. They still sit on their crates or barrels, but all around them are oranges, no ashes, only oranges. Perhaps the ash is beneath the oranges, the important thing is that now there are oranges all around the two on their crates, those who hold hands. That is important, the fact that they hold hands, they hold hands sitting stiffly among the oranges. And they stare, blink and stare, among the oranges.

One of them, either one, as they still sit with hand joined to the other, raises their free hand, which has been hanging stiffly at their side. They lift this free hand and place it upon their knee, woodenly, mechanically.

Both remain seated, stiff, eyes open, staring, blinking and staring among the oranges. Neither reacts, both refrain from further movement. For the longest of times they sit, staring, blinking, mouths closed, or slightly open, sort of gaping, that’s fine, they sit, stiff, hands joined, gaping among the oranges. They both wear black.

Later, how much later is not important, but later, the one whose free hand still hangs limp at their side, that one’s head is tilted back. Both stare, both blink, both remain seated and stiff among the oranges.

Later, perhaps it went black, later it is light again and you can see them sitting there, on their barrels or crates, holding hands, erect and stiff, each with an arm stretched out, straight and stiff, at shoulder height. They sit there, mouths open slightly, staring, and occasionally blinking, surrounded all around by water, their crates (whatever), bobbing slightly. They hold hands. They stare. They blink. The water recedes, slowly recedes.

Now they are on the floor, that is sitting on crates (barrels) which rest on the floor, no ashes, no oranges, no water, still holding hands, arms still stuck out straight and stiff at their sides. They stare and blink.

The floor, like the crates or barrels, is made of wood, somewhat swollen from the water, and therefore not quite even, causing one of the two figures, either one, to lean slightly to the side, away from the other, their barrel or crate tilted on the uneven floor. They still hold hands, still stare, still occasionally blink, but a little sound, a sort of whimper or moan, comes from between the other’s, the vertical one’s slightly parted lips. Nothing else, they sit, hands joined, staring, one leaning, one whimpering, both occasionally blinking.

The floor is dry, it has been that long, they have been sitting, whimpering and tilted, log enough for the wooden floor to completely dry. However, now the one sits whimpering no longer, arm no longer straight out but hanging stiff at their side, the other arm slightly extended, as if holding hands. This one sits, staring stiff and upright upon their crate or barrel, mouth closed, eyes open, only occasionally, very rarely, blinking.

The other one’s crate (or barrel), the one which was tilted, is lying, unused, slightly askew, beside the one who remains. They no longer hold hands, there only being one hand with nothing to hold. this one, all in black, still stiff, still staring, only rarely blinking, sits there, on their crate, or barrel, one arm straight against their side, the other arm slightly extended, as if holding another’s hand. There they remain, staring, eyes open, mouth closed, until someone comes along and knocks them over.


Paris, December 1989