Weaver Fish | Edward Mc Whinney
I stood on a weaver fish at the edge of the water in Calafell. It felt like stepping on a razor blade. The pain was excruciating as the poison screamed up through arteries and veins paralysing the left leg. I hobbled up to the Ambulatorio where they soaked the foot in a basin of water and sodium bicarbonate and a nurse jabbed my arm viciously with the tetanus injection as if to say, stupid idiot, wasting our time. An intern who was learning English was eager to talk; the words fell together all right but were confusing enough in the long run. He lived two blocks from the University and had a bird called Verdi and was writing a paper about a condition that pertains to an unknown quantity of people and in fact his task was to quantify the number of sufferers, for sufferers they must be if it's a condition, though I couldn't figure out what the symptoms were. I have as yet no name for it, he said. Some days he goes to a bench in Plaza Reial in Barcelona, did I know it, to write his investigation, because any or all of the people you see in public might have the condition so anyone you might happen upon could well become the central thrust of the enquiry, therefore leading you to the heart of the matter.
By this time I felt that I had a very stupid expression on my face. There was one thing I had learnt during my travels, that it might take endless time to produce a facial expression that conveys the right balance of dignity and humility. Now that felt like an original thought of my own but then I came across something like it in a documentary about Salvador Dali's woman, Gala. A facial expression like that of Gala's takes many centuries to be formed. In fact, there are old souls and young souls running through the world and Gala certainly was possessed of an old soul, really old, formed over millennia. The multitudinous pieces are scattered everywhere. It takes so much time to pull them all together. It was frightening to think that fate might not grant you that time. And all the decisions that had to be made and all the people that had to be avoided. A fellow back home I could refer to now as the Weaver Fish, sprang instantly to mind. What kind of a man would refer to a fellow human being as the Weaver Fish, I hear you ask? The answer, a mind driven demented by rooms full of bad air, wrong decisions and Nosey Parkers. The Weaver Fish; here he comes along Washington St. There's nowhere to escape, nowhere to hide, no back alley to run up and stay out of his sight. The head of the Weaver Fish lights up when he sees me. It bops with glee. The venomous spines along the dorsal fin ready themselves for the attack. He does a kind of dance on the path. Everything about him makes me feel grim. I have a split second to glance up at the dark, grey sky falling down dizzily onto the spire of St. Augustine's within a painful, humid density. I have a split second to glimpse everything hateful about my life there in that place. It all races through me with the strength of an eternal caravan of images, and then the Weaver Fish has the spines of his poison-fin in my face. How's it goin', what's happenin', how's the craic? His words are full of barbs. His laughter is intermittent, ironic and comes laden with toxic prongs. He makes me feel so bad. Let's remember it was the day after you kicked me out, the day you'd finally said that we should split up. And then something extraordinary happens. Normally, I'd stick it out, chew the breeze with the Weaver Fish, grimace meekly, smile obsequiously, accept his balm-pot opinions and advice, try to squeeze myself into the compartment he has for me in his slippery brain, make the social effort you know. But extraordinary to relate, I didn't do it that day. Of course it was to do with the way I'd left you, you know the final farewell and all that, and it was to do with my decision to pack up the job and get out of the country. I looked him square on. I looked him straight in the eye. I muttered something incoherent and started running. It was crazy but I did it. I ran. And as I ran I thought; now I know why all the people keep on driving, driving, it's because the most frightening thing of all is not being allowed to be alone with your thoughts. That's what ran through my head as I bolted through the streets of my native city, with its endless movement of traffic and people, the grating, grinding dullness of it all. One day soon I would be alone anyway, New York, San Francisco, Seville, Barcelona. It didn't matter once it was a big, mad city with more than two million people, all of whom were unaware of my existence, for whom I was another man who does not exist. I ran along Washington St. and through the English Market and the Weaver Fish could go home and tell everyone about it. And they could draw their own conclusions though the only valid one was that here was one former yes man who had decided that he would no longer even try to fit into the compartments they had for him, yes I had this notion that it was time to learn another language, start all over again, get away from all the nosey fuckers with their ready-made dull compartments that for some reason it suited them to have me in. It would not do if you had some kind of an edge on them. There was a writer called Roberto Bolano from Santiago de Chile who died of hepatitis in Barcelona some years ago at the age of 50. He knew for a long time that he was dying so he poured everything into his writing. Reading about that kind of man, and he was just one of many, and that kind of thing unnerved me greatly and made me guilty. Why? When he wasn't writing Roberto would go to the Café Centric to play table football. All Summer he worked weekends as a “vigilante” in a camping site, because he needed real time to pursue his dream and that was to write which is what of course he dedicated himself to for the remainder of the time, living frugally off the Summer earnings. Formal, humdrum work of any kind could not get in his way.
When I limped back into my apartment in Castelldefels that day, having travelled back on the train, my head was spinning and my blood bubbling. I sat inside the brown shutters gazing at the palm tree, its huge fronds swaying gently in the breeze. There was a serious argument raging upstairs and the smell of something rotten frying. The heat outside was asphyxiating and the trains flying through. Everything seemed to be flying, everything so hectic, the village market in full sway, weaver fish poison in my brain, yes the atrocious velocity of everything assailed my senses like the poison speeding through the veins. An ambulance cut an alarming passage through the market crowds, heading for the ambulatorio with someone else on board to listen to that intern's discussion of his thesis. By now I had figured out the name for the condition under investigation, it was the Human Condition. No wonder I'd fallen in love with the palm tree outside the balcony. It was so strong and steadfast, only its friendly fronds, gently gyrating to the clicking of the cicadas, its electrons so calm as to be almost passive.
I lay back with a bottle of water and turned on the fan, forever they had surrounded me, Weaver Fish, Nosey Parkers until I had to chase them all away like flies.