by Rebecca Pyle
He hadn’t been crazy all those years, or these years. He was sure of it. Or he was sure all were crazy, all people were echoes of echoes, and the twisted parabolas of those echoes pulled you into their wave-echoes, distorted you, tilted you. In Australia or any other country you were the resistance to those echoes.
A party solved them. Assembly of echoes, people hearing echoes of themselves as they talked, comparing their echoes to others’. The bright clothes. Dull and bright voices. Desperations, some painful to see: he wished all persons knew how to hide their desperations, so you could believe in them, believe they had strength and reserves. Variations in sadnesses of eyes: by sadness he judged all eyes. The girl in the art supply shop: her eyes tilted down as if she was a log in the forest and rain dripped down at the outer corners of the log, onto ground. Why was she so quiet? She was like him, he saw, he sensed. She knew everyone was a present-tense puppet, a fool. She would have understood if there was any way to tell her (there would not be, he suspected they would rarely speak to each other) that all women made him feel as if banks of a river were flooding and would wash away all he owned, unless he fled their presence.
His greatest fear was women wearing brocade. Rare in real life, but he sought them out in art museums: he could then run away. Brocade was like spinning, already-spun, spiderwebs, maths of calculation, trap. All the ships that kept churning the ocean, carrying what made the fabric, or fabrics already made, to be sold to rich! To be worn in houses which, mostly, no longer stood, unless preserved by great wealth, the wealth and power of hoarding—he hated brocade, hoped to hate the women who had worn the brocade or posed in the brocade, but after running away from
their huge brocade-bedecked oil portraits, he at home, disturbed, remembered their eyes and eyebrows above the multi-hued and textured brocade fabrics over their bosoms, remembered the their tendrils of hair, remembered even the shape of their ears.
The houses that slid into ocean, America, his houses which would have been. Five, total. A distorted ventriloquism? His fault, or someone else’s? They were only—matter. Materials. The ocean, great and hateful witness and dissolver, was greater. His trying to prove you didn’t need to be an architect to build a house: you could figure out how to make something stand? You could bear it if someone else’s architectural plan, foolhardy, punishable by neglect, slid into sea. Especially if your seed-money, your funds, were from someone you sought to defeat, by wasting their money, reserves, as foolishly, as preposterously, impraticably, as possible. Those buildings gone to their terrible and beautiful Atlantis, after he was trained at last to be architect, able to prevent such a thing happening again, armed with the coldness of logic of materials and stresses and weights, the ugly side of architecture, he was able to go to Australia, where the British flag had run one of its chariots-of-fire endurance races, arrived alive and departed alive, left a fat proud slice of flag for him to cling to. The ugliness and desperation of its stylized stars! That blank exhausted hard mid-blue! Symbolizing the horror of almost endless sky and ocean, the sickeningly-long ocean voyage, the wondering if anyone really noticed you were gone. The baking sun. And a Union Jack to jail you.