“… in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard ...” (‘The Diameter Of The Bomb’, Yehuda Amichai)
“Today I awoke in someone else’s dream. How I arrived there I cannot comprehend.”
What had happened?
“Something or someone had roused me from the deepest slumber so I should see a flight of steep stone stairs floating towards me. The handrail was near enough to touch, but passed almost too swiftly for me to grasp.
“Finally, I managed to stretch; to place a foot on the lowest step. Then I clambered, infant-like on fours towards the top, only to turn around and to step, then free fall, further and still further until I reached the bottom again, landing clumsily but without injury.
“However, my satisfaction was short-lived. Sitting awhile in the stairwell, I then struggled to stand upright. As I turned my head I discovered scores of bone-thin men and women milling about the doorway of an unwindowed, concrete room, waiting for some entertainment to begin. This place was a bomb shelter.”
“A ‘bomb shelter’? ‘Entertainment’? Had there been an air-raid?”
“There had been no raid. Of that I’m sure. I’d heard neither explosions thundering nor sirens wailing. Indeed, the all enveloping stillness added to my growing sense of fear.”
Because I’d become ensnared in this other, unknown person’s head, everything inside the room was peculiarly familiar: the grimy, unadorned walls; the dim, naked light and the jumble of black plastic chairs with their attached arm desks. It was as though I had returned to school. But all the students were adult, some well past middle age.
“I was even more troubled when the group leader arrived. He was stern and overbearing; more like a military commander than a teacher.”
“Who was he? Had he been due to provide the ‘entertainment’?”
“He introduced himself as Leo Ingram, a professional therapist. He intended to conduct a workshop. I had believed we were to hear a lecture. But Mr Ingram made me a fool.”
“As he entered, I heard him say: ‘Hmm! We’ve plenty of space here. I want the room cleared. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me push back the chairs to make the circumference of a large circle. Then you may sit down.”
“He asked – no, told - us to rise to speak; to explain who we were, where we were born and our current situation. I couldn’t see the point. What business was it of his?”
“He led a meditation which left me cold. I was the isolated outsider. Again I didn’t understand what was happening; what I was supposed to say after the silence or the reason for our standing up to speak. Clearly I was the only one unable to contribute and that annoyed him. But I in turn was angered. I should not have been there and felt I had suffered unfair public humiliation. But I was unable to flee as I could not control the dream.”
”Any more …?”
“The games started. We waggled our arms and hands in the air; balanced one foot before the other; walked forward; backward; weaved in, out and around each other’s places in the circle. Some people changed position; others shook hands. For heaven’s sake, still more hugged and kissed like reunited lovers! I felt embarrassed simply watching them. Then I spoke. There was no lower place to plunge. I was at rock bottom; had come to earth and so dropped my own home-made bombshell
“’I’m leaving,’ I yelled, loud enough to crack the shelter’s concrete walls. ‘But before I go, I must tell you that you should not practice your highfalutin’ mumbo-jumbo in this space. How I got here, I still don’t know. If you are playing games to heighten participants’ ‘perception’ or ‘awareness’, first I must know how to extricate myself from this other, outwardly imposed self. Can you tell me?
“I sense that in its time, this shelter has saved people from being murdered. But I can feel other less fortunate souls still wandering here. They’re desperate to experience a notion of ‘wholeness’ and ‘integrity’ in their existence. If I’ve understood that correctly, then I don’t need your help, but they do.”
“Leo Ingram retorted, ‘As you believe with your brazen, over-confidence that I’m unnecessary to you, you’re upsetting those who do depend on me. Not everyone is as strong as you’.
“Then the impression of being with Ingram, his students, the shelter and the stairway all faded. I awoke here with you at my desk and began to write.”
“It is late. Put down your pen. Close my covers. Switch off the light and go to bed.”
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 28 April 2013)