Chapter Six Enlarge
Illustration: James St Findlay

In an attempt to see things more clearly (for the first time in a long while), I pulled off the aviators and wiped my bead-endowed brow. The dusty street in which I found myself crumbled in baked yellows and sun parched reds. Through the pink glare radiating up from my Smoked Salmon Ralph Lauren Shirt, I could see two large sweat patches oozing out from under my arms. Each patch reaching downwards to meet the stains left by earlier patches—God only knows what my back was like! I was hurting. The hurt was faceted: physical, the sting of burnt flesh; spiritual, mainly embarrassment; emotional, I couldn’t be who I wanted to be with the words I had; and intellectual, was stupidity a destination?

The day had been something of an unmitigated disaster. Now, I would be the first to admit that I am rather partial to a buffet breakfast, however my suspicions about how this might play out aboard a ferry had been all too well placed (unlike my fingers and the innards of that sordid conveyor belt toaster). Hours later, I found myself coming round from a half-dream in the creaking bowels of the boat, nursing burnt pointers. In my mind I called to her once more: “It is myself…” I muttered through a half-smile. “It is myself that I have never met, whose face is pasted on the underside of my mind.” Thin. Impassable.

On disembarking in port, the various layers of the dressing crudely sandwiched around my fingers began to sweat themselves loose in the late morning heat, causing concern as they slithered about my digits. I returned to the boat and taped the healing apparatus into place once and for all! A wave of pride swelled as I admired my work. I was the apparatus: gauze, medical tape, the unwholesome bond of toasted skin and cotton wool. Was I covering up feelings of inadequacy with poignant music—nobody was listening, not even the ‘inner me’ who liked the sound of his own voice.

So there I was, pacing quietly to and fro on the upper deck, going about my taping business with an impressive gusto, and all the while thinking of her favourably. What a scene I must have cut—I’m sure you can picture it—my curt lips now finally ready to preside over the final move: sliding the entirety of my newly bound hand into the dark confines of a small black plastic bag, which in turn, I would vigorously tape directly about my arm. I wiped under my face and emptied my mind. There was blood on my cheek and dirt on my lips.

Now please, do not underestimate me, for the alarming sight of my newly bound hand (and general appearance at large!) was not lost on me! Alas however, my fate was an ill one, and the Port Security Officers—who had been watching my comings and goings for some time—restrained me immediately and irrevocably. And so it was I had come not to be at Cottard & Castel, viewing Glasgow-based artist Michella Perera’s exhibition, but rather stood here, in this dusty suburb, freshly released from the Port Authority’s Security Centre. Did she notice I was not there? I have misunderstood, this is all an accident, some part of someone else’s process—I want to be a primary artist.

Replacing my Ray-Bans and inhaling the thick air deeply into my lungs, I looked ahead for a sign of any kind. Only then did I notice the sound of heavy wheezing coming from behind me. I turned, looking back over my shoulder. I saw nothing other than two large black rats leisurely looking back.

Trash Island, Michella Perera, Cottard & Castel, Oran, Algeria


Buckley and Tripp cowrite fiction devised through collaborative performances and critical writing about art.