I am walking down this well trodden street, the year is coming to an end. The air is chill, the flow of commuters beginning to ebb. Regent street, Oxford street and Soho are not my favourite place in the capital, that goes probably to Bloomsbury and its little bookshops, yet I am always, sooner or later, coming back here. Some places have a special resonance, an aura of recent or not so recent memories that I cannot help but cultivating, as if, some day, they could become useful.
So it is for the Apple store, an unavoidable visit if I happen to be around Oxford Circus. This morning I am looking at the new laptops, sculpted objects of sheer beauty. I love all toys, tools, cameras, computers, engineered objects that are the wonderful witnesses of our age. In some mysterious ways those human creations have as much erotic appeal as other “toys”, and my wife, Sarah, says that I am a covert tool fetichist: I love drills and screwdrivers, engines and hard disks… Smiling to myself I walk into the store, greeted by youth and more smiles. The new laptop stands there, silvery, chiselled, on one of the glass tables, surrounded by a group of excited boys and girls. I take a walk around the store, waiting for the little crowd to disperse.
Then my phone rings. I am surprised, who could be calling me at this hour in the morning? I have left the business behind for nearly a year now. It’s a distant voice which I do not recognise, a woman voice. “I have left a message on your wall” she says, and rings up. A message? I walk across to look at keyboards. I intend to get a wireless one, a small white and light object I can use with my Mac and my Pad, the tools of the trade.
My wall? I have only one Facebook page, dedicated to my novel, or rather my novel to be. It is public, but not that interesting. There is very little on it, a brief synopsis, some characters sketches. I walk back to admire the laptop, a young female assistant decides to chat me up, talking soberly about the wonders of the screen, its resolution, the power to transform photo editing. How did she guess I was a photographer? Maybe she did not, I just look the part for being able to afford the premium price for this Mac. Indeed I am, but I take those decisions, buying or not, very slowly, I browse for ever. We talk amiably for a few minutes. That phone call irritated me. I loathe unsolicited contacts without reasons. But I have also decided to postpone a decision about the beautiful Mac….
Sarah’s out until the evening. My plan for the rest of the day is to go and exercise, and then write, until she comes home. I walk back to Charing Cross, now less crowded than when I arrived earlier. Waiting for my train I check my page. There is indeed a message: “Meet you on the shore in Chi.” Meet who, and where the hell is Chi? And when!? I have ten minutes to kill before the train leaves. I think it’s a joke, or, perhaps, I want to believe it’s a joke.
I am intrigued, curiosity has succeeded to annoyance, as my mind refuses to forget. Yet I have plenty of other, more important, subjects to think about. The novel is not progressing very far, not by lack of motivation, but I have not really put into place the filters for all those other distractions that are as many obstacles to concentration. People write to me, former colleagues, old customers, and as Sarah says, ghosts from my past! I don’t know about ghosts, the majority of the letters and messages are about money… I am creating different mail boxes for different purposes, not least since I will soon need a writer’s “identity” to conduct that side of the business. Did I say “that side”? Well, this must be a distortion, some lapsus linguae, from the past. This, IS the business, and I should forget about much else…
But I can’t, people, trees, rivers, mountains… and much else besides, occupy my brain. Recently I have been thinking more about my “little” sister Jane. Perhaps I should introduce her properly to you, reader, since she has, much later on, an important role in this story. Jane is my younger sister, I used to say by “baby sis”. Baby she’s no longer, but a tall and beautiful young woman, successful in her modelling career, great friend of my wife, and also great traveller and photographer. Jane is a long standing Second Life resident, a world she considers as part of her business, where she promotes herself and her art. She’s often invited me to visit, but I never found the time nor the interest: I’d rather speak with Jane face to face. In reality the geek in me fears showing inadequacy in front of a woman I much admire, be she my sister, perhaps, particularly since she is my dear sister. It’s come to my wandering mind that Jane might know what and where “Chi” might be. And I prefer to ask her, even at the risk of being smiled at, than to conduct a search for it, which I expect to turn out frustrating.
The mysterious caller did leave a link on my wall. But this led to nowhere, just a “404” error. So I am no more advanced than I was after receiver the call a few weeks back. In the meantime Sarah and I have started to plan next year’s summer holiday. There is nothing like the beginning of winter to think about summer! And for us it is a rite. Fact is, summers are the height of our loving life, I dare say, erotic life. You see, we take to the hills, to the rocks, sometime to difficult summits… and yes, those are our preferred background for loving, the higher and the more remote the better. So, as it were, planning for those evasions, is a sort of foreplay, a prelude. This takes time, although we tend to gravitate – is this the right word? – In the same region. Mountains and sun worshippers we are.