The Gaze

Robert turns another corner and abruptly stops. Stretching before him is an empty hall, one he has traveled a thousand times, except it is not empty. On every surface, the walls, the curving ceiling, even the tiling of the floor, paper people stand in suspended animation, holding hands, holding drinks, playing in a thousand idyllised landscapes. Their frozen posture seems affected, as if a moment before the whole hall had been a riot of song and dance. Sun cream sits poised in bathers’ hands, soft drinks have been lowered from lips. If only Robert would leave surely the whole carnival would recommence. All of them avoid his imploring gaze, looking to his left, to his right, or just beyond the toes of his advancing shoes. He is the uninvited guest, the foreign animal, an unwanted ……

And, chasing the tail end of his own illusive rainbow, Robert’s tread moves from asphalt to air, glances steel steps and rubber handrails.  His falling body finally captures their attention, those muscled boys and golden girls, eyes locking at last onto the spectre of a fast diminishing man. On the concrete floor many stairs below, Robert’s own splash of colour is the only design the ambulance greets.