Fluff on the Ceiling Fan
She had fluff on her ceiling fan. It just sat there on the top of one of the blades, taunting me with all its grey curly dirtiness. I used to stare at it when I lay on her mattress in the morning, often when she was up already and I was in the bed alone. Sometimes when she was there with me, in the bed, we would joke about that single piece of fluff, sitting on the edge of the blade, poised to topple over into our world, but never doing so. I'd say to her that I was going to clean that ceiling fan and finally get rid of that dastardly piece of fluff so it didn't torment us anymore. She said that she hadn't noticed it before, at least not until I mentioned it. I think I actually did clean that fan and remove the fluff but I don't quite remember doing it, because actions like these are easily forgotten and the desire to do it was always stronger than the memory of doing so. In any case that piece of fluff came back. It was another piece; of course; maybe taken from the huge mound of grey curly dirty fluff that all the separate pieces come from in this world, or it could have been the same piece that decided to sit in exactly the same spot, precariously like before, to really taunt me. She even told me there was fluff on her ceiling fan again, but I never saw it or had the chance to remove it again.
Christian Martius (2014)
I Follow the Dog
Rush hour. Black and dark blue fabrics; leather shoes, bags over the shoulder. Faces look forward, never up or down, just straight ahead towards an indefinite object. Behind the buildings there is an unseen horizon. Legs march on the sidewalk, determined and certain, attached to the bodies focussed on getting home. I can see them, the line of people, at the next intersection and I anticipate joining them, becoming compatible with their walking rhythms, their steady gait, the ability to negotiate space and the desire to be somewhere else.
But there is a dog. It walks in front of me, traverses from right to left, ambles even, in the relaxed manner of an animal that knows what it is doing and knows where it is going but is in no rush to do or go anywhere. Dogs don't come downtown. If you want to see dogs you go to the lake or the city parks or those neighbourhoods that have trees and leaves and children in them. But there it is, a terrier I think, with dirty blonde curly hair, padding along on the sidewalk, unperturbed by the volume of traffic, as if it always walks with such ease at this time and in this place, heading in the same direction as all the people going home.
This dog is alone. Not technically alone because of all the people. There is just no companion nearby. And if you believe that humans own dogs, rather than it being the other way around, there is also no owner to be seen. And the people that walk on the sidewalk with the dog don't even notice that it is there. The suits and the shoes lost in their thoughts don't notice the dog, at all. And I worry that the cars and buses lost in their thoughts won't notice the dog either, and the dog is walking towards them.
Christian Martius (2016)
Where the Wind Will Take Us
Stare at my father. In my teenage years he chased a boyfriend out of the house. He ran down the road with a rolled up newspaper. Glasses hung around his neck and slippers slapped against the tarmac. It was almost vaudeville. Was it so long ago?
Stare at my father. He blew up my paddling pool in the summer or tickled me when I thought I was being funny. He's shrivelled now and silent. His hands are placed on his lap. His skin is the same colour as the inside of the casket.
I'm a black dress, chipped nail varnish and tears. My brother comes up beside me and says nothing. We don't get on. He looks like my father but today I can forgive him for the way he treats me. Arms are lowered. He has learnt to shut up, at least until this is over.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Gloria the Christian who lives next door. I wanted to take her gardening shears and snip her head off.
"How's that for a reason?"
This was on the day we learnt my father was going to die. He was in recovery. Hope came back into our lives with a flush of health. We believed our father would get better, even when he said. "I'm not going to survive this."
"You don't know that for sure," I'd say to him and really mean it this time. This was after the chemotherapy finished. When the skin stopped being grey. After his stomach was cut open. After tumours were removed and after the first phone call that turned my knuckles white.
My eyes could not look at Gloria. A floral print begged for my attention and the shears were waiting. The clang of a dustbin lid was the only real answer. The chances of survival equalized before they dwindled. Despite the tumour's malignancy or the number of lymph node glands it touched. My father could have come back. Who decided that he shouldn't? So, I leave Gloria in her garden with her God.
My brother stands next to me in the funeral parlour. He doesn't have to say anything. We both know we took him for granted. We let our own lives get in the way. When the illness came we paid attention, but I guess it was too late by then. Father always held onto our balloons despite the helium that pushed them away. We didn't know that one day he would let go and leave them to the wind.
Christian Martius (2005)
Another Green World
For a brief period, between being an infant and a school-kid, I lived in the countryside. Fields surrounded the house that was home. When standing on a hill all you could see was a single straight road, a solitary brick building and a lot of fields. The sight could have been of one huge field divided by carved out rectangles of walled vegetation. It certainly seemed that way. You could imagine the whole world was just one big field, from that vantage point, and that singular road traversed the globe in an unwavering direction, like a straight line drawn around an orange.
Life back then was spent in the grass. The green blades did not just sit under your feet to go unnoticed by your shoes. They rose up and grew taller than the bodies upon them. They changed colour and sometimes they danced for you. We spent a lot of time in the grass because it was what surrounded us the most. Even when we were in our beds at night, and bound within solid walls of our own making, the grass hemmed us in and stretched out for as far you could see.
My earliest memory is of that grass. I remember feeling lost and alone in a field and the blades enveloping my tiny body, blocking out the sun and trapping me in a green tendril embrace that mocked the blue behind it. That grass made me feel even more lost and alone than I already was, but it was never malevolent, it just seemed to indifferently reflect my status.
Sometime later, years in fact, a friend told me, while we looked on at children on a trimmed city park lawn, that feelings that manifest in your earliest memory organize and determine your emotional landscape for the rest of your life. It was one of those statements that felt both true and untrue. It felt true because I've never not felt lost and alone. It also felt untrue because I've since seen my childhood memory again. My communion with the grass appeared in a scene in a movie. It played out on celluloid exactly how I remember it. The film even had the same camera angles and coordination of colours. This makes me believe that the memory is not mine. Although, I am sure the grass still grows tall, changes colour and dances indifferently in a world of fields, even though I am no longer in it.
Christian Martius (2015)
You were a child once. Your features and limbs were smaller. When you used to come into contact with people the same size you are now they looked big. They even scared you with their hugeness. You didn’t really suspect back then that you’d be as large as they were. We are all the right size now. We’re big enough to walk the streets unsupervised. We’re big enough to hold emotions we don’t understand.
There’s evidence of another time in a perfect square of remembrance. Start in a palace of old toys and bad furnishing and turn the pages. You will get bigger. You will get older in every picture. Family holidays, birthday parties and weddings, this is your life as it’s told in the book. From childhood to adolescence you were the one standing at the back with funny hair, scowling among parental smiles. And what happened to the photo-booth lovers? Ghosts framed in front of a ragged curtain, they smirked and gave themselves away. They would never look at you that way again; they would never look that way again for anyone.
The images will stop one day, but before they end you will get smaller just like the people that were bigger before you. You will shrivel and shrink. The eyes will dim and the smiles will no longer be there if you look hard enough. You will stand at the back with funny hair and a scowl that is there for a different reason. You will look at those photographs and notice you’ve already gone.
Christian Martius (2006)
Louis Armstrong on the Moon
Sometimes a date is a man telling a woman that Louis Armstrong landed on the moon. You sit there and listen to this garbage but your mind is already elsewhere, thinking of other mundane subjects beyond the mundane subject of the conversation. But this isn't a conversation. He just talks at you. He pays no attention to your words and hopes, somehow, that you will be impressed by him.
But then you think, as his voice drones on, that seeing Louis Armstrong on the moon would be brilliant and this person has actually, inadvertently, conjured up an event that you could only hope to experience. A Jazz band could shuffle into place on the dull ash-like dirt of the moon and on a podium could stand Louis Armstrong smiling like he does, famously, with those eyes and mouth. Planet Earth would hang in the dark space behind him, just over his right shoulder, like a distant forgotten bauble. As the tiny white holes in the black twinkle, a shooting star traces over the lunar horizon and the band begins with the sound of a familiar trombone. What a Wonderful World is sung, and love emanates from a dead, gray rock, with a jazz band, towards the only nearby place with life.
And then you are back on Planet Earth. Your gin and tonic looks flat and the man in front of you is now telling you Stanley Kubrick directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And you think to yourself, what a wonderful world.
Christian Martius (2015)
“Do you ever feel like you are running out of time?” That was one of the first questions she asked. She also accentuated the word feel in the sentence, as if it had more than a couple of vowels in it, which made the corners of her mouth stretch back towards her ears and her eyes squint a little.
It sounded like feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel.
I knew at that point I could no longer accept the reality I had been given, when I thought I hadn't been, but clearly had.
So, I said yes.