irreversible time by Steve Brockbank


The enemy, finally, is not the person who annoys us in the office e-meetings by contradicting whatever we are trying to say, nor even the security [person(s)] who have come to the office to investigate us and perhaps later to drag us off to be interrogated and then to jail. Instead the the enemy is the one who who comes into our house in the early morning like a friend, an old acquaintance, ingratiates themselves by calling us by our first names, sits down on the stool in the kitchen, tells us how to behave and think about the world, though the advice is generally loathsome and perhaps even after the advice they will tell us jokes. Sometimes we watch his hands tremble and try and remember the name of the disease that is killing him slowly. One day in the not to distant future as feeling leaves his feet and hands he will catch the Eurostar to the clinic in the Glarnar alps, coming to rest with the assistance of others, finally in the cemetery on the gentle slope behind the clinic. It’s not sure yet whether you will accompany the enemy to the Glarner alps or not, perhaps you will have to hold their hands as they die, then in the bright spring sunshine go for a walk in the foothills, humming some half remembered tune as you walk along the valley speaking to the now dead enemy about the arrival of fantomas in the capital…


…between his seat on a plane,as he looks up from the book he is reading and the suburbs of the city he is visiting, where he will be sitting in meetings in the quartier, a district, street, building, room, conversation, a moment of enlightenment that will pass… beneath the plane it turns banks to the right and the ground vanishes and all he can see are clouds and blue sky. Since he was young he has liked wandering around cities, this city is one he hasn’t visited since he last visited his mother. There will be  meetings in which the networks and transcendent  hierarchies are discussed and explained, around the meetings he is taken to restaurants where the discussions continue late in to the night, later still walks the unfamiliar streets, a gps mapper in his pocket that enables him to always orient himself to the hotel and office, though by the second day he’s know longer looking at the screen – until he needs to find bookshops, or places where his meetings with people are to take place. On the third day he visits his parents in their Roman villa just off the Via Vacuna, they ask him how long he is staying, – i fly back tomorrow evening he explains….


…He only had a carry on bag, enough for a three or four days, otherwise he would have lost hours queuing at Terminal five at Hearthrow, even then the queues were awful. On landing at Rome he walked into the arrivals lounge, walked through customs  into the bright light that forced him to put shades on, the heat washed over him. It was August. Summertime and through the heat the smell of traffic and coffee, the scent of something distant and familiar… In the town close to the monument in the centre he finds a food stall,  he was thinking that he would take some iced plum jam doughnuts with him to his mothers. He knew his mother would say that they are not as good as the Polish doughnuts they used to eat in Warsaw, but still that was better than nothing he thought. He hailed a cab, it was driven by a young Palestinian man, who had a thin straggly beard, perhaps in  his late twenties. He spoke with him in Arabic. He asked him if he was licensed?”  The  driver didn’t react. Of course, these people gesturing, slightly at the local population, will arrest you for nothing, look at them.  A disturbing answer, arrest you for nothing, these people. This wasn’t his country, just passing through and already it was made stranger by the driver. Though in a sense part of being here was because of an object inheritance. He smiled. He told him that he needed to go to Calvin, when we are there i’ll direct you. It’s a nice district the young man told him. I am visiting my mother. The car was gliding through the traffic –  Is there a  good Syrian bakery on the way ? It would be nice to take some pastries he explained. When he was a child his mother had explained how polish jews  were treated as badly as africans but it had never felt like that to him with his English rather bourgeios accent.  I know where we can go, the driver said, changing lanes and turning right, they make really great  baklağı as they did during the Ottomans. Really ? that was a long time ago he said. When they completed the drunkern walk of molecules through the city, he over tipped him… The receptionist told him his mother was probably on the southern terrace, tea was being served there for guests. He found her sitting with friends a backgammon set on the side of the table, a pot of tea with fours cups in the centre. Perhaps they had been playing four person backgammon. His mother stood up and stepped towards him to give him a hug, pleased to see him. They sat down at an adjacent table, he put the paper bags on the table, his mother waved for tea,  he spoke very little as she was being so effusive. Eventually as the tea arrived he asked – how are you feeling? She told him she was feeling very well. She had a lit a cigerette and there was a strange look in her eyes he realised as if inviting him to collude with her in something. How is the new room ? he asked her. She smiled and said, like an angel. How are Z and the children ? They are well he said, we are about to move out of London to a small town, a suburb really. Z is sorry she could not come, but the children have exams and…  From the terrace you could see the city below them.  His mother lit an oval turkish cigarette,  blowing smoke out towards the city. I’m glad you came back to my home. She pointed at the basilica,  in all these years Warsaw hasn’t changed at all, don’t you think ?



Stephen is a philosopher and engineer and lives on a remote island in the middle of England. His current blog is here.