Tourmaline: Nedforum (part one)
First commentary box, first impressions.
Street scenes offering more to list under possibles, fewer proofs. First view given in black and white. Anton detailed objects, people, relationships, left, right, upper, left, right, lower, instructing the software to cut and reassemble accordingly.
Reject narrative. Closer or largest person not the star. Coincidence of position.
Second view, natural color.
His reports were expected to be not in the medium of list-making, but sensible, useful conclusions. His notes on paper occupied pages, nouns branching into sentences, paragraphs highlighted. Who of importance might inquire after this cog of rare insight, the system prevented his guessing. But Anton wanted a number of things…
Vonnie Swisshelm’s remorse (he would never take her back). Palma, at times forced to board in his house, come to him begging for this and that. At other times, type his manuscripts, suffer his rejection of hers, answer his letters and phone. Herward, a visitor again, under orders again, to pretend (again) offering an ear. In Anton’s friendless life, he had most wanted someone, a man, to walk about with.
Second job…first impression…
Three figures moving past the guarded entry, head down each, long-strided. One, certainly, had got close enough, a pace or two, a body’s width…from the black, blank panel, the woman in commando sweater, biker-length pants, high socks and short boots, face obscured by her radio-helmet, nose under mirrored visor.
Anton did remind himself he knew this uniform. He knew the elastic tension, having worn it. The weapon under each cuff was a sonic lozenge, dealing collateral agonies if a bullet needed deflecting.
What was the guard to the passerby? Or the other two, outside the parked cars? The face was angled. A glance in curiosity could not be punished. Curiosity itself…
Or yes. He wheeled back, and the movement led to an eyelock with his tablemate. She had trained him; he could ask her a question.
“Work it out for yourself, Anton. But…” A smile, and she relented. “Keep still, please. Don’t go squeaking your chair over the tiles like that.”
The grimace he returned was apology. “Thinking with my arse. Sulya. We don’t attribute. But there are underlying causes, states of emotion. If I were sorry about life, mad at the G.R.A., and…”
She wheeled to a better view of his screen. “You, Anton? Do you mean how are they syncing the bombings? What if the pic has nothing to do with it?”
“That was how Palma and Frederick planned. They staged an act without communicating. A token passed from one to the next…the person being ninety percent of the message. Token me, the subject takes it one way, token you, another.”
“Oh, I don’t care. Palma is with them now. If this is news…why would it be? You know they beat everything they wanted out of me. They should blame her, twist her arm, if she’s keeping secrets.”
The antic mood came, the tendency to be short of breath, when he talked of torture and vengeance.
Sulya said, “Anton.”
“They’ve been picking off the guards. I was a guard, you know…because, not valued. Poor bitch there, not valued.”
“Tea break for you.”
The canteen sat well away from their building. A walk of a few blocks, a park cut through; here, both blooming flowers and a dusting of snow. A holiday feeling to stir nostalgia, yet no holiday. He couldn’t say to Sulya, “Look, the lights are out.”
The blue and white fairy-lights might always be there, snapped onto branches, a thing you would not rationally have gone seeking…only, for G.R.A. reasons, turned on today. The sky was heavy, pavements wet. Spring Dismal Day, he thought. Everyone snug in their coats, their shoes and trousers of equal prosperity.
He interested the G.R.A., whether or not his willingness to tell on Palma was helpful to them. She had a ministry job now, what Sulya had under Jocelyn.
“Love, love, love.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Who’s that speaking?” He gave his melodrama an acted gesture, wishing he did scare Sulya, that his inconsequence were less apparent than his oddness. “A woman at fault, who caused all this.”
“Oh, you’re on about the Jocelynists.”
She tugged him by the sleeve, and they jogged together, spying a short queue inside the huge yellow windows. Anton took a sugar cola and both pastries on offer. Sulya took tea and toast. Anton was much the thinner.
Yes, he could still have a friend, if Sulya held patient. She, of course, interested them. They worked, and breaked, and were monitored, side by side.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)