…what is not the case     

If Oscar were another man, another character, another someone-else, a different person, a different collection of whatever it takes to make any man, any other man, or a different mixture of the same old this and that, perhaps a little more of this, a little less of that, or that, or just some kind of reconfiguration, a subtle alteration, or even a renaissance, a new man, a whole new man, a new set of defining characteristics, a firmer step, broader shoulders, a different mind set, a new approach, a deeper or shallower understanding, an unusual grasp of the most usual things, something other, something never-before-seen, a whole new set up, a first-instance-of, a new species, an event in the evolution of a species, the new human being: homo-new, homo-better, or even homo-worse, just something homo-else… if Oscar were another man; if he were to be another man…

Or if only something happened, if only the world revolved around its axis like he had been promised at school, instead of the shades of grey rising and falling outside in a pathetic imitation of day following night following day; the same day, or the same night? Oscar couldn’t even tell if it was day imitating night or night imitating day, an eternal night or an eternal day, is it dawn or dusk, is the sun pretending to rise or fall, is that the milkman kicking over bottles or a drunk, is that a lark singing or a broken radio, are they the stars or the lights from the tax office…? If only the television were working Oscar could chart the flow of night into day into night by the rise and fall of the presenters voices, from the piercing cries of good morning to the hollow chuckles of good evening, you’re now about to watch this programme about a day in the life of a species of mammal who’s fighting for survival on the edge of the Serengeti, where predators roam the savannah and food is scarce and…

If the door were open and people would just come walking in (he hadn’t seen Smith for days, or nights, or either), at least then life would flow up around him and he could dip his toes in and splash around a bit in the shallows, or even be swept away by a deluge, a flood, if only there could be a flood, he could be carried away, carried anywhere… he should build a boat…

If Oscar were another man, he would build a boat, dam up the river, channel the water’s surge in one particular way, any particular way… it’s a way that’s wanted, a particular way – Oscar is a man without a particular way, without defining characteristics, just as likely to do anything so he does nothing, who does nothing as though it were anything, doesn’t climb a mountain, doesn’t kill the man who takes the last box of jaffa-cakes in the corner shop, doesn’t have an affair with the smiling, heavy breasted woman who lives across the street, doesn’t pick up the remains of the dead cat splayed across the path in his back yard, no longer conspires to ruin the life of his friend Henry, doesn’t chart the step by step fall, the orderly descent, the pre-programmed failure of his friend Helen, doesn’t really have any friends, doesn’t have any pets, doesn’t have anything to eat, doesn’t have a mobile phone, doesn’t have an inclination, doesn’t have a clue, doesn’t have a vague and indefinable feeling in the pit of his stomach that something is not quite right, doesn’t notice that everything is horribly wrong, doesn’t have a headache, doesn’t get off the sofa when there’s a knock on the door, doesn’t get up and look through the Venetian blinds at the front of the room in order to see who it could be, who is this person knocking on his door, what could he want, what could it be? It’s probably only the wind.

At this point I would have nothing to write about unless reality were to interject, unless reality were to interpose an object with volume and mass, preferably with the power of locomotion, this hypothetical object, hopefully a sentient being, not just a beating heart, but a consciousness, a human being, or the agent of some such human being, not just a noise, a cry for help or a cry for joy (each would be dealt with in the same dismissive manner by Oscar – he would dismiss them), hopefully not hypothetical, this realistic intrusion, but a matter of fact intrusion, and a welcome intrusion, so no intrusion at all, this whatever is to happen next, with the seconds counting down, not that there’s anyone counting down, not that someone, certainly not Oscar, started to count down from a ridiculously high number at some point in the ridiculously distant past, perhaps some figure in the thousands or the tens of thousands, or even the hundreds of thousands, so someone counting down for a week or a month or a year (how long does it take to count down from somewhere in the hundreds of thousands?), because this interjection is to be wholly unexpected, except by the reader, who is now expecting the unexpected, the about to happen, the certain to happen, the predicted, the assumed, the known about, the future, the around the corner, the nearly there, the just about to right now happen, here it comes, the future can almost be heard as it approaches the present, it is so close, so very close, like a large object falling from the sky, a fat bird or a light aircraft, possibly a hang-glider, its shadow on the earth where it will soon impact, and as this interjection gathers pace, as it approaches terminal velocity, having accelerated under the force of gravity for a sufficient period of time, as it is about to hit, land, splash, crash, smash, collide and make its mark…

If something were to happen. If only reality were to interject, pull Oscar to one side and say “excuse me – is this your newspaper?” – something as innocuous as that, but something none the less, then it could begin, we would be off, Oscar would be up out of that stupor lingering on the sofa in the half light of the living room, he would be on his feet, and once on his feet he’d have to use them, and once he was putting one foot in front of the other, or even walking backwards, even climbing the walls, even sinking into the ground, even spinning on the same spot, even walking on the spot, running on the spot, going nowhere, going into the kitchen, turning on the kettle, passing a dirty cup beneath a running tap, opening the fridge which he knows is empty, opening a window, letting in the fresh air, pulling up the blinds, looking through the empty boxes for a handful of bran flakes or a spoonful of chocolate spread, and finding a spoonful of coffee granules, he could just about manage the briefest of smiles, which would be caught by the grey light of the world outside.


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