…what will happen unless something else happens
Oscar exists over an extended period of time, and it is this very extension which is the root cause of the trouble, some trouble, this trouble anyway, and so this entry. Because time moves on. It waits for no man. Time doesn’t wait for Oscar, in the sense that it doesn’t stop for him, whilst everywhere else water is falling down a waterfall, lions are stalking their prey, grass is growing, television programmes are beginning and ending, pages are turning, mountains are being formed and continents are moving. Time goes on in the same old day-follows-night, minute-follows-minute, tick-tock pattern for Oscar as well as for everything else.
But Oscar only appears in fits and starts. And he’s not a collection of fits and starts. He’s a human being. I’m a human being. He’s got an existence which is wholly independent of the words which record it. Oscar’s determination spans weeks. It is not a matter of odd moments. Oscar’s momentum cannot be a matter of odd accelerations into view. It’s momentum. Momentum. It’s continuous. It’s waking up at six in the morning and eating muesli in the dark, and shaving with cold water and shampoo, and walking briskly to the tram stop, a distance of eleven hundred yards, step by step, kicking an empty fag packet, and feeling the cold, and watching seven pigeons make a meal of an eighth, and sitting in the tram, and worrying about getting caught without a ticket, or worrying about having bought a ticket unnecessarily, and seeing the ticket inspector standing on the next platform smoking a fag and not bothering to inspect passenger’s tickets, and sitting next to some smelly old man reading the paper spread in front of his invisible face, and counting the minutes, the stops, the number of traffic lights that can be seen from the tram, and so much more, then getting to work, and sorting through the mail for the day, and thinking – Oscar’s always thinking of course – Oscar knows what it means to think, at least he thinks he does, and that’s what matters, and then watching each sub-editor, news-desk junior and every body else hang their coats in the same corner of the open plan office and stagger into the kitchen for a coffee. That’s what determination is. That’s momentum.
And besides, there’s more to Oscar than determination. That isn’t the sum of all his parts; and, what is more, he is even more than that sum. If he was to add up all his parts there would still be parts left over, parts which weren’t counted in the first sum. And although a second calculation would probably address this discrepancy, Oscar still felt that he was more than that, the sum of his parts – Oscar felt there was more to him than what there was to him. Oscar knew, at least he suspected, that there’s more to him than that. There has to be, Oscar thought.
And then there was a whole lot of running around after a whole lot of other people. Oscar rarely got to see Helen who busied herself in another part of the building. Though he did see her at least once every day, once even sharing lunch with her, three times arriving in the morning with her, but she had always left the office before Oscar had a chance to leave: which was Oscar’s understanding of the term “rare”. Oscar’s relationship with Helen at this point could best be described as distant, one of polite yeses and nos and I believe-it-to-be-sos. However, seeing how the other men in the office looked at Helen, Oscar realised that he might just choose to be determined to win her affections. When he got home every evening, she was already locked in her room. Oscar ate his dinner alone, thinking of his determination, fearful of it waning, of it stopping, turning around, running away and disappearing behind the corner. Oscar couldn’t decide whether to be determined to win Helen’s affections. He had, he supposed, enough to be determined about.
(Another long string of things happen to Oscar before he next appears, sitting in the office doing almost nothing.)
Oscar was sitting at his desk thinking about how to look like the person who was the right man for the job. When Oscar wasn’t running around after one person or another, or picking up a ringing phone, or watching Helen from a distance, or watching the other juniors at the news desk run around after other people and pick up ringing phones, or when he wasn’t keeping an eye on the little figure of Jimmy the Nod creeping around the office picking up files, he was sitting at his desk thinking about how to look like the person who was the right man for the job. When he exhausted that almost inexhaustible series of thoughts, Oscar had one or two minutes to consider the bigger questions of life. But Oscar couldn’t come to any clear decision on the meaning of life, the point of it all, how to live the good life, the morally right thing to do, nor an objective measure of human happiness.
Oscar next realised that his determination, (Oscar was determined to be determined), his momentum (momentum is everything), and his seeming (seeming to be the right man for the job), were monopolising his faculties. However, he didn’t have time to consider this further. The sports sub-editor threw a balled up piece of paper at him and told him to get a move on you lazy bastard. Oscar moved on.
One notion that did manage to rise above the commotion of Oscar’s brain at this time was the concept of fate. Not being a believer in anything, Christmas, god, luck, the evil eye, aliens, conspiracy, nor other people, Oscar was almost a believer in nothing. But to believe in nothing was to admit defeat. And to believe in yourself doesn’t count. So to believe in fate was as good as anything else, and it didn’t require any kind of religious observance or club membership.
An amazing coincidence was to be the spark which occasioned this idea’s entrance into Oscar’s already churning Mediterranean sea of thoughts, the idea of fate, the idea that he wasn’t a collection of random happenings, spikes in determination, putting his head above the parapet, not that he felt under attack, though he would have liked to be under attack, or at least to feel that he was under attack, the feel embattled, backed into a corner, which he thought about convincing himself of, though he did manage to convince himself that there was someone watching him, at least that he felt that there was, that it was as though there was someone watching him all of the time, people, there were a number of people, a whole audience sitting and watching him, waiting for his next step, people who knew the ending, like in a story, people always knew the ending, unless it was a really bad story, or post-modern, or in French. But what it was, what it was which raised the idea of fate in Oscar’s mind, already described as a churning sea of thoughts, was the appearance, miraculous, of a picture of a young Tommy Kilpatrick, smiling, his old colleague at Didsbury Girls’ Grammar School, in an old file, under the name of Bill Simmons, in which he was described as an infamous malcontent, an alleged sociopath and a vigorous agitator. His height, age and other details were listed, as was the fact that he walked with a pronounced limp ever since an incident involving a stolen tank, an infamous gang of forgers and an anarchist safe house in the grounds of a decommissioned insane asylum.
Fate plays such tricks on us, Oscar said to himself, as the pieces put themselves together. And this too is how Oscar himself is strung together; it is fate which is stringing his yeses and nos, and thoughts, and appearances, and words, and sitting on chairs, and opening cans of beans, and eating digestive biscuits together; joining the dots; that’s what fate is doing: the part that’s more than the sum of his parts, it’s the glue, the glue sticking those parts together, the person known as Oscar, the stream on which he travels, the road, the footpath, two roads diverging in a yellow wood.