Where was he? There is nothing that quite matches the deluge of ice-blue sorrow and melancholy that one feels when the person they expected to see is nowhere to be seen.
London. The capital. 1954. Revelling in the butterscotch cream of dripping, liquid summer. Drizzling puddles of pomegranate red splashing against rich, wet passionfruit colourant. The Monday afternoon traffic left a series of angry motorists and opportunist pedestrians scattered along the milky tar of the hot road surface. It was nearing the end of summer which for London was always a close, saturated affair with the heat trapped beneath the buildings erect equidistant to the beckoning amber horizon. The hot beams from the reddening sun shot out blisteringly towards the bowler-capped proles and top-hatted gentlemen; all with their unique role to play in keeping London spinning in concert with the eye of the non-judgemental sun for another day. Another day. A day is a long time in London. It is said that a man could marry, become wealthy and have his front teeth knocked out by the sympathetic beggar coin hurled his way by the cold hand of a rich man all in one day. In the centre of the city, the weak summer air tried desperately to gain access to the streets opposite the tall and menacing buildings but to no avail. London had the beating of the summer breeze in the summer of 1954 and it also had the beating of the inner-city birds who lay sprawled out in lazy protest at the obscene conditions. Not event the nagging and pestering jibes from their rambunctious and exuberant offspring could throw them off their lackadaisical compass this day. Below the clanging clocktower, a row of red buses queued up guzzling all manner of thickly-laden and unrelenting impurities out the back. They were queued up akin to a row of empty red toothpaste boxes, indeed were it not for the odorous tattooed, hairy arms of the drivers hanging out the windows in self-loving splendour, one might have thought that this was exactly the case. Rebounding and reverberating off the walls and car bonnets was the whimsical and banterous ramblings of the roguish market traders. It gave the inner city a unique backing track, a chorus of men and women conversing in the most fluent and poetic way possible to earn a scrap of gold that would stretch far enough to quell their protesting stomachs for one more afternoon. The rich, zesty smells from the market stalls also attacked one’s nostrils as soon as one stepped out onto the pan fried, drizzling tarmac. As for breathing, it was almost an impossibility.
Aside from the birds there was not one human who did not have something on the agenda for the day; there simply was not time to catch a breath. Not that time would be enough anyway given the harsh smog mixed in with the harsh, sapping heat. Fresh air was not to be had in such a place as this. That summer was the time of a great influx of North American migrants to the country seeking respite from the increasing chaos of the busying cities boasting their track records in realising the American dream. Unfortunately for them they were vacating one hoarded, busied area to another that was in mirror symmetry. London was increasingly becoming something of an ugly sister to the American dream and everything that it stood for. The liquid drip of green money had begun to penetrate the soft underbelly of the working man’s economy. Out went the morals and ethics and in came the deadlines and suits. There was no honour in a hard day’s labour anymore, there was nothing romantic about working assiduously for nothing else than to stay alive just one more day. The North American visitors clogged up the roadsides with their street maps handily affixed to their large rucksacks – they looked like cardboard cut-out clichés of what one would imagine a migrant to look like. Within a day they were dispelled of the notion that they had left their homeland for anything better than they had. For, in truth, humans are the same everywhere when it comes to the west. They are out for their own ends. That is not to say that there is malice or ill-will involved, well not directly anyway. If these people do not look out for themselves they will not survive, they will not make it to the highest film of custard sat atop the kings table.
Nobody will ever understand. Nobody ever can. Nobody ever could. It is a road a man must walk alone. A road uneven – a road to an end as certain as the strawberry bloom will brighten the most hardened, coarse lime leaf. There he stood, that troubled young 24-year-old man with a glacial blue veil draped over his sullen, tiring and vacant eyes. Eyes that no longer comprehend or register anything which they behold. The earths vanity self-importance and hatred swirl past these uncomprehending pale blue wearied eyes, leaving no traceable impression. For a reaction he could not muster, not a flicker of expression nor a node of sadness. It looked as though he had already long since passed away – what remained was merely a construct to tie up a few loose ends, to appease a family unwilling to let go. At home there lay stockpiled many prescription tablets of various colour and description. Their purpose clear only to the troubled young man; a way out, a second chance, his final farewell. The troubled young man stared intently at me as though trying to figure out my personality from my body. As though he were trying to uncover who I was using his eyes only. He came to this exact same spot every Monday after he finished work. This spot was the London National Art Gallery – I, a figure in the painting. I am unclear as to who composed the painting. I have heard that it was the work of a talented and lyrical artist named Elrico del Potro from Venezuela; although I am not one hundred percent sure. If it was, you can be sure it was composed with utmost dexterity and vivacious spirit as is the case with all the pieces this great man has composed. The troubled young man would stand in the same spot every time he visited the gallery late on a Monday afternoon. On this occasion he was wearing a cheap, impecunious suit with uneven cufflinks worn away by over-use – the mark of a man who only had one suit to his name. He wore it resentfully, his muscular and wiry frame stood up straight and uncomfortably against the fabric and all that it stood for.
The troubled young man worked in the heart of the city amongst the bustling cabs, nasty snarling people and caterwauling whores. A quick look down to his shoes and one could spot that he walked to and from work on a regular basis; such was the emaciation of the wooden soles which were at the verge of throwing in the towel for good. I never did find out the exact job title which the troubled young man had; although my belief is that he was a low-level store employee in a department store. It is my best guess given how he was always able to be at the gallery for mid-afternoon every Monday. Furthermore, his apparel was especially suggestive of a man not terribly well off – to say the least. Between customers, the troubled young man would spend his days staring listlessly into the distance unaware of his surroundings. His listless stare could penetrate walls, such was its potency. To him it is almost that he never existed in that department store, he was as much a lifeless fixture as the mannequins which stood, corseted at the window-bay. He could not understand how his elderly colleagues could stomach the nature of this work for so long. It was so insalubrious, so uninspiring and so deathly. The troubled young man was a creative spirit who wanted to spend all his days delving deeper and deeper into his hothouse of creative ideas for short story writing and painting. It was as though he had never quite shed the snake-thin skin of his childhood as we all must do at some point – however reluctantly. Despite his disinterest he would pride himself on his politeness with both customers and staff alike. However, it is obvious that by this point, the paper-thin strand of rope that was binding his life together was beginning to evanesce with alarming rapidity. The fake happiness he would have to project to friends, family and colleagues was now beginning to sap all the energy that he had – he was now running on empty. It is a funny thing to live in such a state of suspended animation, it is as though the carousel horses were riding by him with increasing unawareness or worse total uninterest. He knew deep down that it would not be much longer though; he would end it all soon. The pain of the experience is the only thing that had stopped him from following through until this point, but he was now growing more intrepid with each pointless day that clicked by like a song change on the radio of life.
The troubled young man continued to stare at the painting, continued to stare directly at me. It is hard for me to remember exactly when I fell in love with this man or even why he is any more memorable than any of the other tens of thousands of faces which I see on a weekly basis. There was such earnestness and tragedy in those sagging, cerulean blue eyes, maybe I could relate to him – maybe that was it. I wanted to help but at the same time, knew that I could not. For nobody can help. If someone is unwilling to help themselves there is nothing that anybody else can do; they are on a one-way course much like a freight train affixed to a never-ending line. He was also an incredibly handsome man, although he carried himself as someone who was totally oblivious and ignorant to this fact which only served to make him even more attractive. He had a strong jaw, dimpled in the centre, all coated with a grizzled and trimmed beard stubble. It was obvious to anyone that this troubled young man also spent time on his physique which was strong and rigid at the chest and shoulders. It was odd that someone so handsome could think so little of themselves as this troubled young man so obviously did. It was written all over his face; one could almost see specs of his face blowing sideward, off into a new life, a new idyll. This was a man disappearing slowly from plain sight. Yet I could not help how I felt – those eyes, those eyes. There were so many times on those Mondays where I wished I could just reach out from the painting and grab his hand and tell him everything would be alright. I used to spend the entire weekend before his visits worried that he had hurt himself, worried that he had ended it before I got the chance to tell him how I felt about him. That would be the most horribly cruel twist of fate; we should always tell those we feel strongly for what we wish to tell them. For if not, there would not be a scintilla of happiness to be had in the lands between the crushing royal blue oceans. Nor would there be a scintilla of happiness to be viewed by others which is equally tragic – for it grants the legions of unhappy hope for what could be had. I resolved to tell him; he had to know that there was someone in this world who cared for him, someone who wished to share effervescent snippets of joy which rain down from the liquid spring of gods bottled dreams.
I know that it is irresponsible for me to wish these things for what was the reasoning behind telling him. It was for me, not for him. Yes, I loved him and yes, I longed to tell him but only to hear what he would say in return. It was not coming from a place of trying to help this troubled young man; he could not be helped. Besides, a grown man can fight his own foes by himself and if there comes the day he no longer chooses to do so, then he shall fall on his sword of his own volition. I loved him though, god how I loved him. That day, he stood staring at the painting for over an hour as others came and went in shorter snaps of time. Most Mondays, the troubled young man would stand before the painting for as much as 30-45 minutes. I was concerned that he lingered for longer this day and began to wonder if it was because he was intending on ending his life that very night – that would surely account for his change in behaviour. There lies the crux of the problem of falling in love with someone who is hellbent on their own self destruction. It is known right from the start that this other person is going to leave you broken-hearted and share mornings with you only very briefly and very fleetingly, yet you still enter it with a wellspring of hope and naivety. However, if we did not have that, would we ever truly pursue anything with one cent of dedication or will?
The troubled young man would always stare at the top left of the painting which had a series of mountains blessed with verdant, swaying trees. I often thought that he looked at this section of the painting for so long because he wished to rush headlong into these trees and feel free – feel alive again. For this man was not alive – not even close in fact. I knew that too. What was I falling in love with? Who was this man really? Why did he hate himself so much? Was there any substance to his self-hatred or was it all in his head? I cannot help feeling though that for me his pain and affliction made him more endearing, there was mystery there, however hurtful or troubled. The troubled young man always looked so unsure of himself when he stood opposite the painting. He had the look of a man who had convinced himself that everyone was looking at him, judging him, heckling him. Although he knew in his heart that this was not true, he could never convince himself fully of this. Therefore, his hands were possessively fidgeting his cufflinks, or he would take one finger and scratch it with his other fingers. This behaviour was so repetitive that his finger had become somewhat discoloured with dried, coarse skin. He would also shuffle on the balls of his feet as though he were trying to rid gum from beneath his shoe. The latest nervous habit he had picked up was to incessantly empty his pockets knowing full well that there was nothing in them, but it would at least avert his eyes from onlookers who were not onlooking. It is hard to imagine the torture going on in the mind of a man who could not be relaxed at any time, he could not switch his brain off even for a second.
The troubled young man could not maintain eye contact even with his family such was his self-unease. When encountered with direct eye contact the troubled young man felt as though he were looking into to two bullet sharp spears hurtling towards his face. In defence, he would shuffle his eyes down towards the floor, there was safety there, he was at home there. There were no humans there, nobody to sneer at him, nobody to snarl at him, nobody to jeer him. That a man could only find safety and solace where no humans were present readily sums up why he was so troubled. It is always difficult to trace where a man such as this first went off the rails, or first veered off course from what could be considered a normal life. Although a ‘normal life’ is a phrase that ought to be viewed as being as ephemeral as the tide sloshing in and out or cuckoo spit dripping downward from a plant bud. It is over and done so quickly, that there is no time to really cultivate a life that would even remotely resemble any definition of the phrase ‘normal life’. It is customary I suppose to trace it back to childhood or school life. The troubled young man certainly had a hard time fitting in at school, he was late to puberty and possessed an unmanly interest in poetry, art and prose. All of which served to make him stand out markedly from the rest of his class; he was also woefully unsuccessful with the opposite sex. A trait he has carried drudgingly into young adulthood. Nowadays, there is no doubt that he could become multiples more successful if he would get out of his own way, but he always figured that he would never be alive long enough for it to materialise into being anything close to a pertinent concern for him. Besides, in his mind he found it highly objectionable to enter a relationship with someone knowing full well that his intent was to end his own life. This thought process is really the genesis of why he now lives a wandering, lonely life. He narrowed his own clique, he burned bridges with his family. If only they knew the real reason why he had done these things they would probably stick around and help the troubled young man. He also knew this to be the case but knew also that his problems were his own and that it was nobody else’s concern. He did not want to put his problems onto anybody else, there is enough misery in the world already, the troubled young man thought.
It is amazing how I can assume this whole back story having never spoken a word to the troubled young man – there was just something about his wearied, flailing stare that filled in the blanks. The troubled young man moved closer to the painting, closer to me. He often did this. I truly believe that he thought this painting to be the best painting in the world. You could just see the way in which the painting reflected in the liquid sheen atop his bulbous, black tar pupils. The troubled young man stood transfixed by the top left-hand corner of the painting once again and stared intently into the canvas, so much so that the oil pastel began to retreat in a self-effacing weep. The troubled young man then rested back on the balls of his feet and swivelled round towards the exit of the coffee-beige room. It is hard to believe that such grandiloquent and ground-breaking art could be stored in such a menial, tedious arena. His walk suggested that he was neither in a hurry, nor purposefully slow to elongate the day. Instead, the troubled young man walked with shuddering, slow and stunted steps, his eyes trying to take in the majesty of the housed pieces one last time before leaving. As he left he clasped his hand on the exterior wooden frame of the chiselled, auburn door. The callouses on his working man’s hands the only thing that stopped him from receiving injury, such was the force of his prolonged grip.
That next morning – Tuesday – London again awoke to a fine summers day, with the fusion of smog and heat wetting the sweat patches of the odorously fat newspaper salesman. The troubled young man walked unknowingly past the stinging odour on his way to work. When he walked to work there was nothing that could throw him off his stride, it was as though he were on a conveyer belt, trudging foot by foot towards endless tedium. He glanced up one of the countless, dusty alleyways and spotted a cat chasing a frightened chalk white pigeon from a puddle of stagnant, sewer waste. The chalk white pigeon glided with majesty up into the air, landing and resting with authority atop the guttering of the nearby apartment complex. The troubled young man continued his walk, intersected with prolonged pauses as he had left his flat especially early that morning to try to beat the baking hot sunrise. To no avail. By the time he was half way to work, the heat of the day had already melted down onto the roads and pavements like magma expurgating over the sides of a red-hot furnace volcano. London was sweltering, it was stewing. The sky was as thick and close as the warmest embrace from your truest love. The sun arose with a beaming stream of liquid, wet amber hue which spewed out all over the rooftops and blinded the stray dogs. It would take them several minutes to readjust their eyesight to the fierce light of the day. The rich amber was an almost poetic counterpoint to the daydream blue of morning sky which nascently surrounded it. London really was a gorgeous, idyllic and rightful setting for this palate of invigoratingly warm and lucid colours. It was a day befitting of the change to the troubled young man’s life that would soon occur.
Taking in all of London’s vibrancy with his world-weary eyes, the troubled young man then came to a sudden halt at the street immediately opposite the department store where he worked. As he looked across, the morning rush had already begun. The store manager had obviously let the customers in early, such was his want – the store had been underperforming recently. By all accounts it was racing headlong towards foreclosure before the year was out. A taxi cab came past and blew up a harsh, coarse mixture of dust, grime, sand and exhaust fumes which assaulted the sense of the troubled young man who was finally jolted out of his temporary halt. As he checked for a break in the traffic he rested one of his feet on the road beneath the steep grey kerb and just as he moved to complete the stride he immediately paused. It was link a windup toy that had ran out of assisted buoyancy, like gods hand had clipped the string propelling his kite. The troubled young man stood while the cacophony of London energy reverberated violently around him. ‘Get out of the way!’ ‘Are you gonna stand there all day?’ ‘Get moving!’. None of these violence-laced ribbons of speech served to make any impression on the troubled young man. As a loud beep came from a truck freight moving at glacial pace towards him, the troubled young man retreated speedily back onto the steep pavement side where the tar smouldered in agony. By the time the truck freight had passed, the troubled young man had already shifted his body in the opposite direction. It was clear that he had no intention of ever going back to work. He loosened his cuff links and slung his jacket still muddied from the run in with taxi cab over his shoulder and began walking deep into the heart of the awakening city.
The troubled young man had been walking for about 15 minutes crisscrossing the side streets aimlessly and with the random precision of a racer snake coiling after a prepubescent lizard. He then resolved to buy himself a soda drink – it was a hot, burning day after all. He crossed the street one more time to a news vendor who had a shelf full of multicoloured and assorted sweets, drinks and confectionary behind him. It was like a chorus backing to an opera singer. ‘I’ll take two Coke’s please” said the troubled young man.
The man who stood at the news vendor stared distastefully at the troubled young man. It was nothing personal, he just hated serving men at work, it made him feel insecure. He coated his obvious displeasure with a wafer-thin drip of customer service politeness “Certainly, right away good sir”.
“Appreciated” shrugged the troubled young man, for there was no need to go overboard with the politeness the transaction would be over almost as quickly as it had begun.
The young man swung his still muddied jacket over his opposite shoulder, giving him greater purchase with his hand as he tried to kick back the seemingly welded shut lid on the can of coke. Finally, the metal relented, and he could consume the stream of ice-cold black sugar which sailed cyclically down his expectant rose tongue. The sugar sweetness gave his stride a renewed level of urgency and purpose as he paced to the end of Parker Street and on to Fenburn Avenue. Fenburn Avenue. There was an art gallery there. The art gallery that I am stocked in. Why was he coming in on a Tuesday? First the extended visit on Monday and now a first time visit on a Tuesday, something was definitely up. The troubled young man retired at the cross between the two streets and leaned back against an out of use bus stop for some shade. He crushed his can in his hand and fizzed it to the floor with the grace of a nonchalant gentlemen. A crooked old lady was wandering past as he did this and glared disapprovingly at the troubled young man, but he cared not. Why would he care? He knew in his mind that it would all be over soon anyway, he had ditched his job, the wheels were already in motion. It was now a question only of what he would do aimlessly and pointlessly in the meantime. He reached into the pocket of his jacket which still sat draped over his muscular shoulder and took out the other can of Coke he had bought earlier.
He had intended to drink it later, but what the hell it was hot enough already. As he sat drinking the can of Coke he began to engage in some people watching. It had been a while since he had done some people watching, he never had the time because of work and paying bills. It does thieve one’s time somewhat. He looked over at the pavement, diametrically opposite to where he was sat, catching intermittent glances of people in between the salt and pepper dots of cars swishing past at nothing like legal speed. There was one woman who caught his eye. She was walking with two large shopping bags and the beads of sweat were gushing down from her large forehead onto her pink, pencil-thin dress. The sweat had built up around her cleavage to grant her breasts a much more pronounced look than they would have otherwise. But it was her face that piqued the interest of the troubled young man. It was the way the light of the day glistened in the cerulean blue of her widow-like eyes. She was not by any means what would be considered conventionally attractive but there was just something about her unashamed dejectedness at the state of her life that attracted the troubled young man. Her face though. Isn’t it funny how our dreams gallop so quickly away from us that the horror one registers upon their face at their departure, stays everlasting. There is no cure for a dream unrealised, it will wrench itself to the back of your neck and proceed to pull you gradually closer to the floor long enough that you shall give in and drop yourself to the floor in protest. O.K I give up.
The troubled young man tracked her with his eyes all the way along the roadside until she disappeared up a narrow lane, and like a pink flash – she was gone. When he people watched he would always be left spellbound at the point of no longer seeing the person. Where were they going? Were they returning from somewhere? Have they ever been on this street before? Would he ever see them again? He flirted with these questions for several minutes before his tired brain jumped ship on to another chain of thought. The troubled young man sat in a trance for a while, his heavy head rested on his strong, supporting and wedged fingers. As each car drove past he thought to himself each time that that would be the last car that he would ever see. It would be over soon the troubled young man thought to himself. I will be in pain no more. After a short recess from the trance-like, empty stare he gave the intersecting traffic the troubled young man stood up straight and stretched out his calf muscles. He had been sitting for quite a while by this point. He threw his other empty can of Coke with the same suave gallantry as the one before and revelled for a split second at how close he had managed to leave the two cans together. It was only fortune, but nevertheless he liked to toy with the idea of there having been just a modicum of spirit world-influence whisked briefly from gods unrelenting mixing bowl. The troubled young man walked briskly along Fenburn Avenue towards the art gallery. One last look at the paintings he thought. One last look at what can be achieved by humans when they set aside the tedium of their ego-cladded hubris for a half second of the live long day.
The troubled young man walked into the room with a new look on his face. It was different to anything I had ever seen before. It was a look of acceptance. His destiny inexorably stuck to the lids of his soon to be closed eyes. Closed for good. He was atypically unsure of himself for the gallery was busy that day. The room was filled with between 22-24 people, who all came to see the new display of the work of Grandville – a brilliant French illustrator whose works encapsulated his pithy, unique and wry wit. It was unveiled first thing that morning by the curator of the gallery. There it was – ‘Juggler of Universes’ – in all its grandeur and majesty. The illustration was printed on a large vertically sprawling canvas, closer to the ceiling than to the floor. The illustration featured a wild-haired Jester juggling multi-coloured universes in arch-like precision. The piece was truly striking such was the contrast in colour between the main figure of the illustration and the castle-grey ink shading background to which it was affixed. The Jester had a menacing smile in the illustration, almost as if it knew secrets of the universe that nobody else would or ever could truly know. He knew something we did not, he knew many things which we could only ever dream to know. Maybe it was the germ of all that has since grown to be – we will never know for sure. At the foot of the illustration a man stands in reverential horror at that which stands before him. There was certainly a dark element to this illustration, a fascinating undercurrent of violet-tinged chutes of the unnerving, the unsettling. For the first time when the troubled young man entered this room of the gallery his eyes were not focused solely on me. Instead he let his eyes lead his piano tapping stride towards Grandville’s masterpiece.
The troubled young man found solace in the unnerving display of this knowing Jester, burdened by the knowledge that he could never relay. For the minds of his onlookers were too miniscule to comprehend the richness of his knowledge, the wisdom of his eyes and the lyrical movement of his hands. The troubled young man stared at the painting wishing he could be slung headfirst in tandem with the spinning orbit of the universes, maybe then it would all make sense to him. Maybe then he would understand his purpose, his reason for being, his purpose. The castle-grey background appealed to the tranquil glint in the troubled young man’s watering eye; it was all too much for him – it looked like he had just had a profound realisation of who he was and was supposed to be. After a while, the crowd dispersed in awkward jostling and stilted posture. All that one could hear was the occasional muttering and ranting about the heat. ‘This heat’. ‘This heat’. The troubled young man stood rooted to the ground, staring piercingly into the canvas, it is a wonder the canvas did not suffer some trace of indentation such was the darting potency of his eyeline. It was almost biblical, the experience that this troubled young man was having. In this room, his heart was beating in concert with the cyclical spin of the Jester’s universes. Visceral, it was immensely visceral. The painting was almost alive, it was surely coming alive. The troubled young man pondered on what this experience would be like if it were happening for real, if universes really could be handled so sparingly and lackadaisically. It served to underline how finite and ultimately meaningless the universe is and all that it stands for. Chance, luck, opportunism and songs.
After what seemed like forever, the troubled young man swivelled towards me, his true painting love. Now that we were face to face once more, I could trace the tracks of his pearl white, translucent tears. This man was broken. I wanted desperately to help him, but I knew that it was not my place. This man was at the end of his road and I knew it deep down inside. This was going to be his last day, but I did not want it to be, I wanted him to come here every Monday and look at me. I always wanted him to be by my side to give my life meaning, energy and colour. The troubled young man looked at his feet for a second, akin to an unruly child awaiting a slap in the hand from their painting. He fidgeted with the coat that was hanging over his shoulder ceaselessly. It was the only way that he could feel comfortable outdoors – outside the safety and seclusion of his self-imprisonment. If only he could just let someone inside, maybe they could shine an incandescent light on all that was ivory black in his short, storied life. Again, he stood in amazement at the work of Elrico de Potro – his true favourite artist. I kept thinking it odd that he was there, shouldn’t he be at work? Why was he here on a Monday? Maybe this was going to be my last day with him, had he plans in place for that very night? I was beginning to think for sure that he did. But I loved him, didn’t he know that?
Of course, he did not know that, how stupid. I am a figure in a painting, I am not of this mortal plain. Still though I could not let this troubled young man leave this world without knowing how I felt. He had to know. It was only right that he should know the extent of my feelings for him. When the last stragglers from the crowd which gathered beneath the Grandville parted, I reached my hand out from the painting – I felt fresh air on my skin for the very first time in my life. The troubled young man sprung backwards and dropped his jacket in the floor, he then tripped backwards over the jacket and fell flat on the floor. I was beckoning him with my hand in the air, but he just held that horror expression on his face – he could not comprehend what was happening. Finally, I reached out far enough to grasp his sweaty palm and I pulled him away from his grey, nothing existence. I freed him. He was free now. The troubled young man swirled through the portal into my world, his eyes snapshotting the kaleidoscopic colour charts wheeling round and round. There was soft lilting music playing as we flew for what seemed like an eternity, him grasping tighter and tighter to my leading hand. The music was quickening into an almost balletic spring. Then, with a firm camera shutter click, the portal enveloped back into itself and trampolined us out into the painting. The young man fell especially clumsily, almost like he had never fallen before. The soft, pliant grass the only thing that stopped this fall from being something one would consider painful. The troubled young man quickly got up onto his feet and let go of hand. He stumbled back in a manner I would describe as cartwheel flailing.