She took to leaving for mysterious dam-related projects and in my new free time I learned to monitor the movements of shadows across my bed and walls; in the end I got out a tape measure and notebook. Tiring of this I invented knots and bows with the tape measure, finally getting it tangled beyond use. Time now was more like a giant gellid pool extending to all sides than a clean sealine in the distance, and to make up for it I declared war on each clock and watch in the house and by extension each electrical device. But when the items, dismounted and dismantled, lay spread out in all their scrambled quiddity I felt a wave of shame like never before. I looked for plates, throws, papers to cover the mess, asking myself how would I take my revenge if I came home this?
It was time to take some sort of action, we agreed. The dam too was leaking, the other night it was all they could do to plug it with poles, paper, leaves, she said. It was an emergency, she said. Have you been having a lot of those, I said. It’s always hanging over us, she said. Maybe you should look elsewhere, I said. Maybe you should look elsewhere, she said.
Now and then I tried my luck with one of the words we’d made up, sometimes she bit the hook and softened, let me have my catch again, it’s surprising what a made-up word in some corner can do now and then.
It was a simple question of whether you wanted to feel at home in the world, we agreed, then agreed it was meaningless question.
I’d never seen our neighbour until the afternoon I came home with a new kitchen clock; she entered her door at the same time as I did mine, leaving me obscurely annoyed. I refrained from dismantling the clock as soon as I laid it on the table but denied it its battery as long as I could.
The way they gridlocked time in the wine-bottling factory was as case-hardened as some of the line managers, some of whom played with speeding up the conveyor belt when certain combinations of packers and lifters they didn’t like were lined along it. We didn’t all enjoy it equally. For my part I knew I had to stay alert and ready. I gulped my lunch at the far side of the alley where I could watch the empty football field. At night I swallowed pills when cheap supermarket wine didn’t do the trick.
Most things were wrong when I heard the neighbour’s voice, nothing as they say had prepared me for it, and what seemed right after hearing it was out of reach. Some time later I detained her by the neutral curve of the stairwell banister on some point of municipal order. Our words wound right up through the stairwell as if it were a throat. She of course felt no such thing for all I knew.