ivor seghers
заморский провинциал

"I view life as a fortuitous collaboration ascribable to the fact that one finds oneself at the right place at the same time”.
Brion Gysin

Francis woke up clutching a well-worn blue checked shirt. It was too early but the sunlight of may and birds chirping outside left him no chance to fall asleep again. Ray has not yet come from the night shift. The flannel felt soft; Francis buried his nose into it for some more lazy moments, then sat up on the bed with a grunt. He threw the shirt in the general direction of the chair where Raymond had left it, and got up.

Gas flames hissed. Francis pulled at the belt of his dressing-gown. His gaze strayed from the espresso-maker to the tree outside. Birds. What is the use of living in the largest city in the world? Chelsea is like bloody country. They lived in a cheap rented apartment, on the second floor of a reasonably decrepit two stories house built in the 1920s.

He opened the window to get rid of stale smoke, then hunted for cigarettes. Ray always left some unfinished packs lying about. Francis smoked occasionally, when he was not around. He had no addiction whatever but a cigarette made him wonder what Ray feels and therefore reminded of him.

Lighting one up from the stove, Francis thought of Paris, then of Salvador who was rich and glorious even in the thirties, and more so now. Richer, more colourful, more complicated with every year – so his art evolved. Francis could be like him but chose differently. He inhaled the smoke cautiously and wondered if it was even a choice. His own life was gradually stripped of all adornment, going straight to his own truth, deeper and deeper, losing so much on the way: his position in the art world; colors, techniques, jobs, friends. Was this his true nature, or did he depart from it, leaving it somewhere on the way? He could not tell. Bare necessities remained: food, shelter, Ray.

Paper was by no means permanent, be it typewritten copies of poems, publications or collages. It was quite possible that nothing would remain when he dies: nothing would be preserved. Based on the theory of the survival of the fittest, he was a freak. Funny that Darwin and Roman Catholic church agree on that.

He took the last drag at the cigarette, poured the coffee into the cup and migrated to the typewriter.

(I got carried away and wrote a WW2 flashback).

There was that thing about Ray and cigarettes: they merged together.
“Do you have cigarettes?” was almost the first thing that Francis heard when they met in 1944.
It was then that Francis Brion, ambulance driver, found an US Allies Forces soldier on the ground of what was battlefield only a few hours ago. The boy had no external signs of damage. Probably passed out from shell shock. The ambulance men lifted him into the truck and went on to collect more severe casualties. At the hospital, when the load of wounded soldiers was nearly sorted out, Brion jumped into the truck that seemed empty, and saw a man stirring at the back, in semi-darkness.
“I am okay,” the American shouted too loudly, still a little deaf.
As soon as he sat up and finished the flask of water that Brion gave him, he asked:
« Do you have cigarettes?”
He still sounded parched. Thirsty as he was, he seemed to crave smokes more than water. Brion sat close to him and fished a cigarette case out of his pocket. The American had nice hands, thin and bony, intelligent-looking. They shook when he pulled the cigarette out of the case. He shivered all over: November was chilly. They huddled closer, instinctively, and bent together over the precious match. He made a few long, eager drags, exhaling smoke, it seemed, not only from his mouth but from his ears, his shaking succeeded.
“You can take these. I’ll get more.”
The American choked with surprise.
“I could kiss you for that,” he said, a husky excitement in his voice.
Next moment, Francis felt his cold hands on his ears; and on the lips, a whisp of smoke. What, did he get high from a cigarette? Was he testing him? Did he notice anything (what exactly)?
All the same, when their lips touched, Francis could not help kissing back, even though he balled his fist for the upcoming tussle.
They parted when they could breathe no more. Francis looked down, leaving his face studiedly blank, giving the American the opportunity to pretend that nothing happened and go his own way. Especially as the man seemed quite recovered. Especially as Francis had not even got a proper look at him. “When in doubt abstain” was Brion’s motto lately, and he meant to keep this kiss for his lonely remembrances just as it was.
“I am Ray. Raymond Morrow.” he heard.


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