Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Windsong – Breath of Being (Chapter 18 – The Uncontainable)


Being The Beginning
Sunday, January 23, 2011


1 The Exchange
Sunday, January 30, 2011
bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings
Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis
Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes
Friday, February 25, 2011
al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme
Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light
Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman
Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way
Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos
Tuesday, May 10, 2011


14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus
20 Mauvais Pas
21 Sinan Qua Non
22 Spirit-Level


23 Witness
24 Alcibiades
25 Ney
26 Birdsong
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being

Becalming Unscientific Postscript

Chapter 18

The Uncontainable

“Here, at last, is the definition of image, of all images: it is that
from which I am excluded . . . I am not in the scene.”

Roland Barthes
Fragments d’un discours amoureux

Rio was very relieved when she could finally open the taxi door and get out. She paid off the driver and waited for him to turn around and leave the way they had come. It had been a hair-raising journey as the driver had equated speed with potential compensation. After screeching down the cobbled streets away from the Four Seasons hotel he had swung the taxi out onto Kennedy Cadessi, against the lights, and had maintained a reckless speed until just after rounding the Topkapi point where he had to slow to negotiate the hordes of commuters getting on and off the ferries at Eminonu terminus. It was a brief interlude before the taxi, with Rio hanging onto to the door handle as if her life depended on it, accelerated away again and entered, with abandon, the maelstrom at the intersection of Resadiye Cadessi with the Galata bridge crossing. In what seemed like a kaleidoscope of colour and motion Rio watched through half-closed eyes as people, cars and bicycles loaded with goods surrounded them for a moment, before magically clearing in their hurry past to disgorge into the old city. Once through the taxi had followed the highway that skirted the Golden Horn and she had just begun to relax when the driver suddenly veered sharply, across the highway, into the maze of small streets that climbed, narrower and narrower, up the hill towards its apex at Egri Kapi.

This was a different Istanbul, she thought as she looked around, and the poverty of ramshackle homes built up against the south side of the Theodosian walls bothered her. In the small playground near the boarded-up Tefukserai – the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, which after the Conquest was both a zoo and a brothel – she had ignored the stares of curious children before eventually finding her way to the square where the Kariye museum, the former Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, was situated and the repository, her guide book had said, of the some of finest Byzantine mosaics in the world.

The museum, although open, appeared deserted. After paying her admission fee Rio turned left to walk along the outer narthex and to stare up at the extraordinary mosaics. In her thoughts she regretted that she had not waited earlier for Jack in the hotel, as there was something she had wanted to say to him and the quietness and splendour that surrounded her now would have helped. She hoped he had found the note telling him where she was going and asking him to meet her later at a restaurant nearby to the museum. After some time she turned into the inner narthex and found herself in front of Tomb H, the tomb of Demetrius Doukas Angelus Palaeologus who had died in 1340.
‘Hello Rio,’ a voice behind said quietly.
She jumped before turning around. ‘Don’t sneak up on me like that, Flanagan.’
Thou art the Fount of Life, Mother of God the Word, and I am thy slave in love,’ he said, smiling.
‘Get over it, Jerome,’ she shot back at him, dismissively.
‘I meant the inscription on the tomb,’ he replied, pointing to the wall.
She didn’t look. ‘I have a guidebook. I know what it says,’ she lied, holding the book up. She knew that the hastily bought, glossy English version of the Aksit selection available at the kiosk, omitted any such explanations.
‘I’m sure that all men want to be your slave in love, Rio, given half a chance,’ Flanagan said sincerely.
‘For all the satisfaction it has brought me,’ she replied, truthfully.
‘Whose fault is that? What do you demand of them?’ he asked.
‘That’s it, Jerome. I perhaps do not know how to love but give myself willingly to loving. Men cannot deal with that “demand”, as you put it.’ She waited for him to reply and when he didn’t, continued, ‘What about you? Do you always lie or are you just passionate about lying?’
Flanagan shrugged. ‘I suppose this is as good a place as any to try and explain.’
‘What do you mean?’ she asked, puzzled.
‘Look up there, at that picture,’ he said as he pointed to a mosaic on the west lunette beside where they stood.
She noticed again how his hand shook and then on seeing her puzzled frown how he quickly dropped the hand again, to indicate with his eyes instead.‘What about it?’ she asked.
‘Those two scenes are from the apocryphal Gospel of St John: firstly Joseph taking leave of the Virgin to go about his business and then Joseph being angry with the Virgin on his return home, six months later, when he finds her heavily pregnant. How does one explain to someone else that a messenger Angel bearing the word of God made you pregnant and that you succumbed willingly to its intent, and its message? A difficult moment in any relationship, wouldn’t you say?’ Flanagan smirked.
‘I’m no virgin, Jerome but I certainly do not like being lied to or deceived.’
‘I did not mean to Rio. Honestly. I truly wanted to protect you from any danger. Was not what happened to Joe Reilly and Phyllis proof of that?’
‘No! You had left before the robbery was discovered. You dumped me and came here to chase the bloody book, to chase your apocryphal grail. . . since you’re so fond of hidden imagery.’
Flanagan looked at her for a moment. ‘You are right, Rio… and you are so wrong! In truth I don’t give a shit anymore about the Book, or any other idea or aspiration, which seeks to provide a message or promise of future fulfilment. I owe the future nothing for it has done nothing for me. I do owe the present something, my being, your being. . . Alanna’s being.’
‘Alanna?’ she queried.
‘She’s in real trouble, I can sense it and I’m not sure what to do.’
‘Are you responsible for her? I thought you and her were no longer attached.’
‘No. But having loved each other once, there are conditions attached. Responsibilities if you like. That’s what I meant earlier about being a slave to love.’
‘I don’t understand what you’re getting at, Jerome.’
‘Similar to the reasons for my marriage proposal to Alanna, I was worried for you. I felt something awful might happen and wanted to prevent it from happing to you. That is love, Rio, at least my kind of love, the responsible kind.’
‘It’s not my kind, Jerome. Never can be.’
‘Afraid of responsibility?’
She ignored the challenge. ‘How did you know about the danger associated with the Book?’ she probed.
‘I didn’t at first. I had heard about its existence of course, but only in a gossipy way. Then Mac and I suspected that old Prof Symmonds was chasing something extraordinary. He was always secretive about it, but when he was killed –’
‘Killed? Mac said nothing about that to me.’
‘I always suspected that Symmonds accident was no accident but Mac felt I was fantasising. In fact it’s only very recently that it was confirmed for me. Anyway I knew that whatever Symmonds was after held great danger. That danger excited me, drove me on to find out what he was after, and having found that, drove me on to find the Book. My Grail.’
‘What’s changed?’ she asked, looking back up at the mosaics.
‘Me. It’s no longer that important or relevant. I . . . Now I’m hoping that if Phyllis is alive, that if we get hold of the Book, we might be able to use it to negotiate. It must be the only reason for her disappearance. A bargaining tool.’
‘Yeah sure! You . . .’ Rio stopped short and could sense his eyes as they bored into her. She hadn’t thought about this possibility and wondered whether to believe him or not. Also, in a moment of introspective insight, she suddenly realised that she had come to Istanbul for one reason and one reason only: to beat Jerome Augustus Flanagan at his own game. Nothing more or nothing less would do. To her shame, she now admitted, helping Phyllis had not figured highly in that equation. She flushed with the thought and hesitated before turning back from the mosaic to face him. If he looks anyway smug, Rio had decided, I’ll hit him.
She need not have worried. Flanagan had turned his back and had made his way, through a throng of newly arrived Japanese tourists, towards the exit. She hurried to catch up with him. He paused to look up at the Virgin Blachernitissa and the Angels, the mosaic over the inner wall above the entrance, the last mosaic to be seen before leaving the building. He turned to her with sadness in his eyes and weariness in his voice, ‘The inscription translates as The Mother of God, the Dwelling-Place of the Uncontainable.’
The Dwelling-Place of the Uncontainable,’ she repeated aloud, struck by his explanation, before she followed him out into the sunshine. After her eyes had adjusted to the bright light she had the sense of someone watching them from the shadows. She looked around. Nothing seemed out of place … and everything did, she thought.

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