THE TITLE OF NOW
I hadn’t slept all night. Scheherazade, after suffering a bout of lunacy and dancing, passed out on the sand and I eased her slender tender body into the one-man tent. She purred: it was as if she were dreaming while still awake. The mind was an unfathomable compass; our destinies are mapped for us in utero, you shall not prevent where you are heading. It’s a thought as honest as God.
What was wrong with her? How long would this last? I suspected exhaustion: perhaps artistic collapse. It cannot be easy being adored and not wanting it. In her tent, wrapped in blankets, she wriggled and shook as if possessed by an awkward being. Her scent filled the space like the odour of Jasmine but more intense and bodily. The light of a tiny lamp sketched her in the colours of charcoal, it was so delicious. Being that close to her was as if I were part of whatever fantasy she was walking through. I touched her bare belly and it sent shivers of human vibration to my feet like a concentrated orgasm. I lay and cuddled myself close to her, listening to her being alive. I became self-aware beside Scheherazade at 2:34am, other peoples sordid view of this would be a greasy violation. We judge love by our own standards. In the dark of a cold desert I wondered how far she would go.
In the morning I was up with the light. The desert floor was unstable for yoga so I took myself to the roof of her RV and from a constant height adopted, Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose III). A little Thai Chi, a little meditative order, a little abstract idiom. I didn’t just take photographs.
There was nothing to see from up there but vast yellows and blue further than you could think. We had come so far already. Stepping down I checked the vehicle for its provisions; they were few. Breakfast would be a simple affair, but without the proper supplies and Scheherazade still in her mysterious abandon we could die out here. My stomach tightened and my bowls weakened. I would need to take a certain amount of control over our situation and drive, find food, touch life; find the stuff with which to enable her freedom. I usually ran before breakfast and my girlfriend Alice would say I was usually up controlling something before brunch. But perspective is to understand a situation from where you cannot alter it. Take the youth unemployed and send them to a foreign culture and replace them with the equivalent in that foreign exchange. Change the world of work, and stop spinning those tired old plates.
Scheherazade was born from her tent around 10am; I positioned myself down wind just to smell her. Stale cigarettes in sleepiness are strangely erotic when she is your chosen need. She didn’t talk to me; I reckoned it to be a morning thing but she didn’t seem to mind me being near her. I could almost touch her skin, I was that close. Wrapped a cotton blanket around her shoulders and I felt the devotion of lovers. We were like a happy couple painting a wall after a bout of sex; we both had our dedicated space to occupy and to fill with colour and occasionally smile. She needed more cigarettes and I needed her to have them.
The heat was enough to make anyone retreat to known safety. There is power in the people of mankind; they make deserts bloom and a forest die to fit in with any of their immediate details. Deserts make you realise this, as do the seas. Change is always somewhere else; the truth was to walk into it. Photography makes you live out of the past; it is a life dedicated to memory, nothing can be constant. Life through the lens is silent and exact and often no life at all. Sometimes I think I miss what is happening to me by studying what is happening to other people. Did I get the shot or did I get the experience? Or does one cancel out the other? There was nothing left but to sit and ponder where she was taking me. I turned to the radio but she turned it off. So I raised my camera and cautiously took a shot of my driver, expecting. Boy, she was as gorgeous as raw unedited could be. In photography you become your subjects personality, lifting it, anticipating it, as a painter shall become his muse, as a musician becomes the song. She just drove; I looked away smiling with fortune.
“I’ve forgotten your name,” Scheherazade said without even turning her head to me. It was the first time she had spoken to me in nearly 24 hours. And it marked the beginning. I told her and she replied without hesitation, “I don’t like it. It doesn’t suit you.” And waved it away as if she would have no more of it.
“We pulled into a garage forecourt and she got out with her immediately to buy only cigarettes from the store, engine still running. She left expression hanging in the air almost as if it were a sign of flirtation, a detail of love. Scheherazade was a class above us all in leaving. I took the keys from the ignition, reached and closed her door and left the comfort of the car not wanting to be her bitch, waiting dumbly for her return.
My mobile phone was low on its meter, so I claimed the only working public phone by the side of the store. Needed to explain to my girlfriend what was happening, and maybe how long was I prepared to hold on to the photojournalist mantra ‘Lies can be written but the truth is ours to tell.’ Scheherazade deserved that much. Alice had somebody in the room with her when she answered and didn’t really want to talk. She sounded cornered and irritated; irritation is a natural cover. I apologized, told Alice that I was trying to fathom what Scheherazade was doing. Trying to hang on in there. Trying to coax her back to civilisation. But Alice didn’t seem to care. My heart was racing, I was talking but I didn’t mean it. All I could register was jealousy. I wished I hadn’t phoned and so did Alice. Pause… Then she said she had to go and rang off. Just like that. She hung up on me in the desert. That would be the title of now.
After picking up food and water we needed, I got back in the 4×4 and Scheherazade was smiling with her eyes closed. It was bewitching, as if she already knew. She opened one eye.
I asked where were we heading. Said, “I don’t care.”
She started the engine and put her foot down, the Mercedes exploded into battle and dust. I sat nervously by her side. The food from the store was rough; I had emptied out my wallet on the provisions. Now I was lost, penniless in the middle of the desert and my phone was out.
What we were doing didn’t seem to matter; what we would be when this was over did.