How can it be so, this hovering sense of being both victim and perpetrator, both us and them, both me and him? Have we been expelled from an arcadia of fun where nature provided us with innocent automata, lowing and braying machines for our amusement?
I doubt it. I doubt it very much. I tell you what I think, since you ask, since you dare to push your repulsive face at me, from out of the smooth paintwork of my heavily mortgaged heart. I think there was only so much fun to go round, only so much and no more available. We've used it all up country dancing in the gloaming, kissing by moonlight, eating shellfish while the sun shatters on our upturned fork and we make the bon point. And of course, the think about fun is that it exists solely in retrospect, in retroscendence; when you're having fun you are perforce abandoned, unthinking. Didn't we have fun, well, didn't we? You know we did.
You're with me now, aren't you? We're leaving the party together. We pause on the stairs and although we left of our own accord, pulled our coat from under the couple entwined on the bed, we already sense that it was the wrong decision, that there was a hidden hand pushing us out, wanting to exclude us.
We pause on the stairs and we hear the party going on without us, a shrill of laughter, a skirl of music. Is it too late to go back? Will we feel silly if we go back up and announce to no one in particular, 'Look, the cab hasn't arrived. We thought we'd just come back up and wait for it, have a little more fun.'
Well, yes, yes, we will feel silly, bloody silly, because it isn't true. The cab has arrived, we can see it at the bottom of the stairs, grunting in anticipation, straining to be clutched and directed, to take us away. Away from fun and home, home to the suburbs of maturity.
One last thing. You never thought that being grown up would mean having to be quite so - how can I put it? Quite so - grown up. Now did you? You didn't think that you'd have to work at it quite so hard. It's so relentless, this being grown up, this having to be considered, poised, at home with a shifting four-dimensional matrix of Entirely Valid Considerations. You'd like to get a little tiddly, wouldn't you? You'd like to fiddle with the buttons of reality as he does, feel it up without remorse, without the sense that you have betrayed some shadowy commitment.
Don't bother. I've bothered. I've gone looking for the child inside myself. Ian, the Startrite kid. I've pursued him down the disappearing paths of my own psyche. I am he as he is me, as we are all . . . His back, broad as a standing stone . . . My footsteps, ringing eerily inside my own head. I'm turning in to face myself, and face myself, and face myself. I'm looking deep into my own eyes. Ian, is that you, my significant other? I can see you now for what you are, Ian Wharton. You're standing on a high cliff, chopped off and adumbrated by the heaving green of the sea. You're standing hunched up with the dull awareness of the hard graft. The heavy workload that is life, that is death, that is life again, everlasting, world without end.
And now, Ian Wharton, now that you are no longer the subject of this cautionary tale, merely its object, now that you are just another unproductive atom staring out from the windows of a branded monad, now that I've got you where I want you, let the wild rumpus begin.