…an accidental accumulation of anything   

Agglomeration… agglomeration… What does it mean? What does it really mean?

Oscar had landed on this word much as he landed on anything – through opening a page of his dictionary at random and letting his finger fall where it would.

However, the randomness of this process (or rather its un-randomness) dissatisfied Oscar. His finger was much more likely to land on the upper left hand corner of the left hand page of his dictionary. Consequently, he had to consciously vary where he allowed his finger to land, consciously veering off to the right and to the bottom of the page. Consequently, his finger more often found out the lower right hand corner of the right hand side page. In turn, he would counter this tendency with another conscious decision. But what had been lost was the randomness of this process. Surely, once you are consciously deciding on one part of a page over another, and for good reason, then the randomness of the result is surely compromised. Unless Oscar’s thought process was random in itself and the likelihood of it consciously deciding on the upper right hand side of the left hand page was just as likely or unlikely as it consciously deciding on any other corner of either page, then the whole process had surely lost its randomness. And Oscar had more than enough belief in his conscious thought processes to conclude that its outcomes – be it deciding on the lower right had corner of the left hand page of the dictionary, or selecting blackcurrant jam for his toast from the panoply of jams and marmalades on display on isle seventeen of the supermarket, or on choosing to locate the house of Mrs R P Merryweather, whether or not to piss through the letterbox and whether or not to poison her cat (Oscar didn’t think he had the stomach for murdering a human being, but a cat… a cat – a man could murder a cat and loose very little sleep) – that he couldn’t think of them as random.

So the fact that Oscar had to resort to the dictionary throwing up random words which would form the basis of a particular piece of writing he would work on, is illustrative of the plight under which he suffered as a writer – he had nothing whatsoever to write about. It wasn’t that he had writer’s block – that he just couldn’t get his ideas onto the page, it was that he had no ideas. He had the words to hand to express his ideas; Oscar had rescued his dictionary. But he had no ideas to put into those words.

The word “agglomeration”, what had seemed so promising when the dictionary initially spat it out, just as promising as had “foolhardy”, “anxiety”, “indictment” and “desultory” had seemed to be, was now proving to be completely lacking in inspiration.

The only thought which had occurred to Oscar was the way in which raindrops or drops of condensation come together on the windowpane, forming larger and larger drops, which eventually run down and disappear. The manner in which the larger drops formed seemed to lack any kind of process, which in itself suited the word “agglomeration” down to the ground – the random collecting together of unrelated things. And even though the drops of water had the relation of similarity – they were all drops of water, there was no particular reason why one water drop should join with another. But a far greater problem arose when he considered the result of this coming together of water drops. It wasn’t a random sticking together of clearly identifiable different pieces, which the word “agglomeration” demanded. It was just another water drop, a larger water drop, but a single item nonetheless – not a collection of parts.

So it was through a metaphorical leap, such leaps which he normally shied away from, that Oscar landed on the idea of how if he himself could be seen as such a drop of water dribbling down a window pane, a kind of erratic and irregular movement following the lines of dirt and grease on the glass, then his life could be seen as a series of agglomerations. Extending the metaphor, the problem in Oscar’s life was that these agglomerations never reached the critical mass which would enable him to flow off the pane of glass and get on with his life.

And what would his life be an “agglomeration” of?

When he thought about it, his life couldn’t be seen as an “agglomeration” because there just wasn’t such a process under way, neither literally or metaphorically, in his life. There was no kind of adding together, not of experiences, not of facts, not of things, events, happenings – no pounds, shillings or pence; there were no hard and definite life-changing events, which added together resulted in any kind of sum total, not even an accidental collection of unrelated parts, which would constitute something greater than what was there before. Oscar was more of an imperceptible sliding down a muddy slope than a building up and building out, any kind of addition of anything to anything else – he would have to look outside himself for the meaning of the word “agglomeration”.

But couldn’t he consider himself to be the altogether random and meaningless collection of unrelated and irrelevant memories which had piled up in situ for the last thirty years? There certainly was no causal or rational link between the size of his uncle’s swaying belly looming large on the horizon of his most distant and fuzzy childhood memory; the threatening demeanour of the newspaper seller at the corner of Cross Street; the queasy feeling forever linked to spaghetti Carbonara; the smell of burning nylon rope accompanied by deep regret; the merger of the screech of a poorly played violin with deep loathing; the fear which stains every image of an open car boot, the smell of a tyre’s rubber, the smell of oil, the feeling of a tyre’s thread against his cheek; the indignation rising over images of too many people squashed into any form of public transport; the disgust which renders even the faintest image of a faraway amusement park – red and blue big top, big wheel, roller coaster, rows of light bulbs – almost opaque; and the surreal colouration of the faces of all of the woman he slept with before they distort their own faces in disgust.

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