© Chris Rose
pop, trip and thump… (parts i, ii and iii)
Gillian deems all hospital waiting rooms are conspiratorially outfitted in something between fern and pigeon blue – blue carpeted, the chairs “seated and backed in similar nausea”; and in the kind of textile to “twist your guts inside out when rubbing your fingers along it.” Although she hasn’t as yet offered anything resembling a theory to support her… notion.
Phillip’s never noticed a colour – amazing, when you think of the hours he’s spent in Northern General’s A & E, the hospital nearer to home! Only an atmosphere, a caring if clinical atmosphere, in which and whereby his seat represents the centre of the universe. Curious, for the Copernican he now claims to be, should you ask him, it’s at these moments, hardened to them as he’s become over the years, that he’ll still sense the presence of some grandfather figure, tendering a vague if reassuring wink.
He’s certainly the centre of attention at present, and it would take more than a cracked skull to demoralize him; or as he himself puts it, when an attending, attentive young thing, boat-capped and beautiful, advises that he “might want to depress the dressing on the wound”:
‘’Won’t depress me whole, Miss, ’won’t depress me whole!’ However serenely, with a furtive spit of a deviant bloody drop having dived from his right eyebrow.
He has Gillian hugging in left-side, you see – Gillian Python, you remember her; Henriette, younger daughter of Chrysale & Philaminte, who happens to genuinely care for Phillip, no strings visible, or so Phillip’s story goes.
Whilst on his right, might I introduce you to French Élise. She’s the play’s souffleuse, or prompter, and who humbly confesses to being its biggest fan – “À être assise tous les soirs à côté de tout ce talent!” To be seated night after night beside this array of talent! Save that, as of a minute or so ago, Phillip refuses to entertain her lyrical waxing. Rather, as of her most public ‘coming-out’: her thoroughgoing display – if only in Phillip’s wounded head, truly – of intimate involvement with the learned Vadius; otherwise known as Lucas Belhomme, the Anglo-French academic, “hardback” version. What she sees in him, he’ll never know!
Funny, for all the carping about his Gallic vipers, those out to drain him of life’s very juices, what he ought presently to view as a saving grace, well, insulted hardly summarizes the feeling, convinced as he is that the current unrelenting blood-gush decorating his forehead will hardly clot for such. And he can but wonder where he might have gone wrong…
During which time, I’ll fill you in on how all three of them arrived here together.
Simple enough: could Phillip have turned up at the drama studio in a more dramatic fashion? He who’d walk the plank for his public, for his art – oh, yesterday evening’s endeavour formed but the brook to the parent lake; the show must go on!
In truth, this was merely the impression he hoped to convey to the troupe: when, in reality, the last thing he’s set for is treading the boards – he wouldn’t mind sneaking off to support Bobby and his bass for a start! And last night’s heroic act was a question of saving face, no more, while this evening he all but cried out: Look, here’s the proof!; and: I’m not exactly phoning in sick…
Anyhow, Mad Max lived up to his name by acquiring what looked like the nearest vehicle to hand – what with the hospital dominating the skyline but three or four hundred yards up the street, he might well have had it back the owner none the wiser. A host of young actresses scuttled for the remaining places, in the compassionately purloined four-seater.
‘You bleed like a pig from a bang to the head,’ he said, throwing the car into gear, a line Phillip recalls having heard before. He just can’t remember where or when…
What he, Phillip, failed to take into consideration was the effect his bloody valiant gesture might have on those he maintains are blighting his existence – without doubt his education: the Gallic vipers. I use “maintains” with regard to Emmaline, you know, his psychiatrist-cum-lover, with whom, of a theatre-free evening, head in her lap, Marlboro Red between lips, he’ll all but shed a tear.
Well, at least Élise has turned out to be spoken for, and of her own volition, it would appear; meaning that, when coupling her enthusiasm with Lucas’ aloofness – even on stage, like he hates to hear the sound of his own voice; an academic who hates to hear the sound of his own voice, which Phillip struggles to accept – it’s clear who made the moves… something else Phillip is struggling to accept, or why they weren’t towards him.
But yes, things could have been worse, than finding himself sandwiched between a French viper with an evident Phillip Rowlings allergy, and an English Python: Gillian Python, who genuinely cares for Phillip, no strings…
… or no strings until, seizing the moment, whether so moved by Élise’s new-found forthrightness, or Phillip’s potentially ill-timed ‘heroics’, or both, she pops the question – POP:
‘Would you like to come out for a drink sometime? When this is over, I mean, you know, the play? I guess what I’m trying to say is, will you go out with me?’
Save that’s as far as she gets, when someone finally calls out his name. And not through a tannoy, as has been the case for the patients while he’s been sitting here. His name’s claimed the personal touch:
‘A Mr. Phillip Rowlings please, to Dr. Longing’s office…’
Personal touch, indeed. Though the caller is quick to turn her back…
* * * * *