Once again you take up your station, leaning on your Trouville doorjamb. From it you can see no less than four rows of elms. To the left, beyond a cornfield, two avenues meet at right angles, and between them is a gap, filled at the end of July with wheatsway and summer blue. The trees are the only form of curtains you have, giving you a couple of hours’ grace before the sun’s rays peep over the tops and dazzle your sleeping eyes open by catching the silvery parts of your bike, which is leant against the wall beside the bed. When your pupils have adjusted, you can make out the colour of the day, what kind it is, without needing to move or even raise your head to do so.
Directly in front of you, past the house of the third set of neighbours, a retired couple with an Alsatian who patrols their fence, is another line of arboreal defence, above which the sun travels, and – at present – the moon rises. This third line is met by a fourth, a row of sentinels stretching along the road to the right. Their convergence creates a tunnel through which light shines from the fields beyond. The gap in the trees and the tunnel through them are natural spots to focus on when you are leaning against the doorjamb, lost in music or memory.
During the long, sun-baked weeks, you and the day often reach an impasse, and then you retire to your sleeping bag, under the sedatives of a warm breeze and the sun. You remember the Sudanese man who spent his days holed up in the attic above you in Holloway, so quiet that you never knew whether he was there or not. His only means of expression was a smile that might signify either fortitude in the face of a bleak existence, or the weakness of one who used up all his energy in escaping his country. Whatever the spirit of it, to be able only to smile seemed sadly to render it meaningless, or so full of meaning that it signified the reverse of what was usually meant by a smile.
But for the noisy affirmation of existence that playing some music offers, you are as silent yourself. With the door open, the hum and the rhythm of the wind in the trees is like gentle percussion, a shimmering cymbal and a softly shaken maraca, which combined with the trilling melodies of the birds lets you doze contentedly even after a full night’s sleep, disturbed only by the domestic sounds of your neighbours and the barking of the German shepherd. You take semi-consciousness to such lengths that whole days are lost to unreality; though you might buy bread and eat three meals, these actions are infected and slowed down by the fictions of daydreaming, so that, say, lunch becomes a tasteless, repetitive crush of haricot beans and tomatoes, alongside a baguette bought in a daze from the early morning bread van, whose driver still tries to short-change you, even after six weeks and the opprobrium of his other customers.
When the door is shut on all the desired and undesired sounds of the day, and night surrounds you, gone are all the ways you have had at your disposal to deceive and avoid yourself. With only the sound of your blood in your ears, you watch the full moon rise orange behind the trees, the last external distraction, a circle of fire burning up the branches, the moon as you have never seen it before. It moves quite fast, until, whitening from yellow, strong shadows are cast on the tiles of your unlit room. Beneath it the trees are as different from noon light as the negative from the print.