...


I feel the trembling tingle of a sleepless night
Creep through my fingers and the moon is bright
Beams of blue come flickering through my window pane
Like gypsy moths that dance around a candle flame


The dim yellow light flickers as the flies attack the remains of my dinner. A stained glass stands half-empty, testament to a prayer never quite finished. In the shadows of the room, the ghosts of all the heroes stand still, watching mutely from their frames as another day draws to an end, powerless to prevent the passage of time. I raise my head and turn towards the noise.

There is some match playing live on the television.

My vision is blurred now. I wipe my eyes and see an epic struggle for ascendancy between two giants playing itself out on the screen. Like watching two ants fight over a grain of sugar. Only, the sugar doesn’t exist any more.

I am so tired of this. I close my eyes, and instantly, I can see clearly again. The colours and the sounds invade my consciousness and force me into another dimension. In front of me is this young, sweet boy so intimidated by the hugely foreign crowd, although he does his best to deny it. The vision melts into a mélange of visions, glimpses from the past real and imagined, all bound by the sweetness and joy of some incomprehensible lightness of being.

My gaze wanders to my side, attracted by a tapping sound. I try to focus, then realize it’s my hand that’s shaking –the pencil I am holding is tapping on the table. I try to control the shake, but it is impossible. It is like a withdrawal symptom. I am powerless to prevent this. I allow myself to drown within the visions again…

…In the warm-up area behind the main hall, he slumps into a chair. “Are you a fan?” he asks.

“I am just a ghost” I think.

“I am not a ghost” he says. “I am not ready for people saying ‘goodbye’ and ‘we will miss you.’ I am not dead. Yet.”

“What would you know about dead?” I mumble. “You’re the magician; you can resurrect yourself a thousand times.”

“You see what you want to see!” he shouts, “I am not a superman. I am a simple person, I never even had a proper education, never learnt so many things. I fall ill. I hurt, I feel pain. I pay taxes. I work hard. I fail, I succeed. I take walks; I worry about my children’s future, about security. Is this your superman?”

“But you’re the magician. I’ve seen you do things that are impossible, and with the artistry of a seduction.” I protest, while in the dark room now, I am sweating. This is not real. It is not happening.

“You are all fools!” he shouts, and impossible tears start in those dark eyes as I begin to choke. “There is no magician! I am just a hard working peasant who fortune favoured for my bravery. The artistry is real, the magic is the illusion. The artistry is cloaked in illusion! Here…is my cloak, and my ‘magic’ –you can burn it! The hard work and the artistry live in the land of the real.” and he took off his shirt and flung it on the chair, turned and faded into the darkness of the room…

But still the voices cried out to him.

Morning comes and morning goes with no regret
And evening brings the memories I can't forget
Empty rooms that echo as I climb the stairs
And empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs


I went on, into the night. Soon, the voices stilled themselves as the main hall emptied and the chairs sat bare, cold and empty. In my room again, the television flickers with a feeble light, the score is impossible to read. I lift a hand and point the remote in front of me, and with an apologetic click, the television blinks off into the darkness. The ghosts on the walls still look on mutely, but no one cares.

And I wonder if you know
That I never understood
That although you said you'd go
Until you did I never thought you would


The pencil drops to the floor. The lights turn themselves out, and the hiss of air subsides. All my artistry has now been reduced to the survival instinct. Now, is the time for the sightless silence. Here in this room now, there is just the I.

And the empty chair.



*verses from “Empty Chairs” and grateful acknowledgement thereof to Don McLean. And a separate, grateful acknowledgement to Taufik.