I spent a fair bit of time alone after that. There weren’t many people as young as me on the ship – none, in fact. Actually there didn’t seem to be many people about at all most of the time. I couldn’t believe there were a hundred of us. I usually found a few people up on deck in their loungers, or if the weather was too bad they’d be dozing in the library. Everywhere had something of the feel of a rest home. People seemed to spend a lot of time dozing or just staring into the middle distance with their books in their laps and their teas getting cold.
I got my papers and charcoals out and tried to draw but then Ray and Solly came along and made some comments and I felt a bit embarrassed so I put it all away again. Why do I always feel embarrassed? I brought a book out and sat in the lounge with a coffee.
I’d been quite content there when Ray comes along and takes the book out of my hands and looks at the title. ‘“The Current of Favour” by Jeffrey Simpson’ he intones theatrically ‘What’s that about then?’
It takes me a moment to answer. I’m not sure myself. I’m only on the first chapter. ‘It’s about how people used to look at things back in the...’ he hands it back to me like it’s a piece of someone else’s used toilet paper.
‘God help us’ he says with a shrug.
But I can’t help noticing that everyone else is just quietly getting on with their deaths. Generally, understandably, the atmosphere is a bit subdued. Like Joe said, everyone’s in mourning.
I suppose it depends a lot on how you died, young or old, suddenly or after a long illness, and of course, who you left behind. I try not to think about that. A few people seem genuinely happy to be here, although in a quiet and contemplative way. Others cry a lot. No one seems to be particularly angry which is surprising. I’ve begun to eaves-drop and what I hear mostly is a sad acceptance setting in. No one wants to make a fuss, except for Ray and that lot of course. I wonder why that is. Lucy and the punks seem to be having a good time too, but they generally keep it down, and they’re civil to the rest of us at least. I listened to Matt playing his guitar the other day. I liked it a lot more than I expected. He said he used to be very Joe Strummer but death has made him a lot more Nick Cave.
I’ve got some big pieces of paper and I’m doing some watercolour and charcoal views. I can’t stand waiting for Ray and Solly to come and take the piss so I’ve set up in a spare room on the deck below. The light’s weird but I like it. I didn’t want to carry on painting too many memories but I can’t help myself. Actually I think this is my best work ever, much less literal than the stuff I was doing when I was alive. ‘Enigmatic’ I think is the word – amniotic oceans, primordial soup. I keep thinking I can’t wait to show Justine – she’d really love these shapes – but then I remember she’ll never see them. There’s no way I could ever get them to her. My brain only understands the difficulties of getting things to people as a problem of time or distance, of things having to travel a long way through primitive or corrupt postal services, bad weather or rough terrain. My brain cannot cope with the fact that I’m not in a distant part of the universe. I’m somewhere else entirely. Justine is not reachable in the future. Her life is not going on parallel to mine in a far away place so that I can meet her later. Nope, my brain still won’t accept it.
I try to imagine her now as a child, unaware that I’m going to be born some time soon, rather than as an adult with children of her own, mourning my death. I wonder what it will be like to be born, and then spend all those years as a baby, a toddler, a schoolboy? Is there any way I can bring these pictures with me through all that?
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