“Do you want to talk about it, Dean?”
I appraised Annabel with a solid eye. It was a novelty. Of late she had been less than vapour. Nowhere. Right now she was across a table and clutching a bottle of beer. She was a formed as iron.
I said, “That’s why I brought you to start with.”
She didn’t smile, “All those months ago.”
She had dark hair, long, and it curved around her face and onto her shoulders. Her lips were full, with a light gloss. She wore a pale pink shirt and a black jacket. The night weather was mild. There was a Mediterranean sense to her. A tan in her skin and hazel in her eyes. I stared. Her figure in past had faded and changed. I wondered why this form took a solid hold.
“Well?” She took a drink from her bottle. Her lips wrapping around the mouth rather than tipping the contents into a gap. She held her eyes on me. I couldn’t think why she felt real.
“I liked it.”
“Why?” It wasn’t with an accusational tone. She wanted me to justify myself.
“I don’t know,” I looked around to pause. We were sitting outside an old shed on stools that had padded covers. The table was a cut back wooden wire cable reel. “Do I have to know why?”
She did smile. Lips together, cheeks raised, eyes creased around the sides. It was all slight but noticeable. She was having fun with restraint.
“You do. That’s the whole point remember.”
“Yeah, okay.” I began aloud. “I felt important in being there.”
“Because it was special.”
“Because it was unique.”
I knew what she meant. We, or more accurately I, had just seen dance performance Kekkai. It was held in a former wool shed. Four dances performed on a sparse central stage. They moved around and used objects such as a tube of water, a rock, stone fragments and lengths of string tied to struts. When they spoke they mostly spoke Korean, and the sound meeting the dance was comparable to radio static but with the harmony of drops of rain on a tin roof. The work was the production of Korean and Australian dance companies. It might have been a melding of traditional and modern dance exploring one idea from the view of different cultures, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
“I could do contemporary dance.” I rested my beer on the table. “Jarring movements, erratic actions, occasional falls to the ground. That’s far more obtainable that the nutbush as far as I’m concerned, and more entertaining. I think I’m naturally a contemporary dancer.”
“So you were entertained?”
“Yeah.” The bar was closing. It was past last round. “At least, as the blind man said after fellatio. ‘I didn’t know what was going on but I enjoyed it.’”
Thankfully Annabel laughed. I don’t know why it was important that my fiction of a companion should find humour in my joke. It even was unclear, ironically, why her laugh of two beats was so audible to me. She wasn’t real. I knew that.
“You didn’t know what was going on.” She didn’t hide her smile this time.
“It’s not like you could! Understanding modern dance is like trying to understand a cryptic sudoku. You have to know the mind of the producer and the rules of the game. I don’t know dance or sudoku, but it can look nice. I can appreciate the appearance. It’s like any painting but one that moves.”
The consideration returned to Annabel’s face. “So you didn’t make a link to the big question?”
“Yes, when they said in English at the start, ‘What is memory?’”
“Do I have too?”
“Yes.” Her nose wrinkled. He brow farrowed. She sipped her beer and put it down and wriggled on her seat, leaned in then back, “No actually. You don’t have to.”
“I thought of Flak.” I answered her question. “The stories told by Michael Veitch. That was really good.”
Her head gave a short wobble and she said, “If you like that sort of thing.”
“You’re not real so you wouldn’t care about history or the human spirit.”
Her appearance then locked. Her mouth open and eyes clear. Not breathing. Not because in fact she couldn’t, but because in fact she didn’t move. A still life of Annabel sat. With a shock like electricity she faded out and back, but was diminished.
“How dare you!” Her shirt, the pale pink one unbuttoned to the top of her breasts was lighter. The jacket missing entirely. Her arms didn’t again touch the beer before her. The bottle had become empty. A spent item that had been left on the table by unintrusive staff. Her jaw was not firm and her hair held lines of grey. Not grey from age but grey as a pale reproduction appears in a photograph.
“Sorry.” I consumed my beer to the angle’s share quota. I didn’t meet her eyes until a count of six. In the firming darkness they were harder to see. I looked to the appropriate space in the mid of her face and said, “What I mean. Well. What I was saying is that the stories in Flak were recounts from fighter pilots. People who did things in World War 2. Old people who had outlived all their co-pilots and comrades. I’m not saying they lied, but like anyone else how much of what they say can be accurate. Who’s memory is unquestionable?”
Annabel’s mouth had closed and her eyes obtained some focus. She didn’t speak. I continued, “I wrote an internet dating profile. I met someone. We talked about our profiles. She was worried hers wasn’t accurate. I said that our view of ourselves is never going to be accurate. Somebody else will always have a different view of us. You know?”
She didn’t answer. She had a frown.
“You know? Our memory comes from us and we’re always changing. Even you.” I looked to her and hoped for a reply. A glow came to her.
She crossed her arms on the able. The staff took the chairs from an adjacent table into the shed. I picked up the angle’s share and drank it.
“What do you want to do with me?” She said and wasn’t impassive.
“What do you mean?”
I reached for my bag and put my book, pages and pen inside. “We’ve been to the garden. That was great. Good music, free, families and all that. Went to some galleries. The dance. The play, or story telling. What else do you mean?”
Her faded body stayed seated at the table, her arms were crossed upon it, her face and eyes watched me as I stood and began to leave.
“You know what I mean.” There was flatness in her voice.
She wasn’t real. I didn’t have to answer. I left. As solid as is possible in imagination, she couldn’t be beyond imagination.
**Notice: This Castlemaine State Festival is on until March 22, 2015. Visit castlemainefestival.com.au for more information.**