As James Edward Henry—known universally as Jay—stands before the fresco in that street in Seville, his face lifted to the sun, his neck arched and tight-pink where the suncream did not stretch during yesterday’s snooze on the terrace, he explodes.
(For the purposes of the tape, it is worth noting here that the Merriam-Webster dictionary provides three definitions of the word ‘explosion.’ The first two, concerned with the act of exploding and a large scale, spectacular expansion, are too obvious and lacking in any real merit to be noteworthy. No, what Jay experiences is the third definition: the release of occluded breath that occurs in one kind of articulation of stop consonants. An altogether more interesting proposition.)
At the beginning was the first.
Out of the black and into the soup.
The day is too warm to be described as merely warm. Hot would barely do it justice. Seville, even this late in the summer, is nudging the mid-thirties and we are barely an hour after breakfast (coffee and orange juice, pastries and some slices of an unknown, yellowish cheese for him, camomile tea and a peach for Blue, of whom more later).
Order from chaos, a taper lit by a wish that the universe might know itself. Playing the long game. Everything that follows simply followed. Star-made horses stampeding.
Jay squints up at the wall, yellow and orange and blue and green climbing in through the polarised lenses of his tortoiseshell sunglasses (Steve McQueen 714s, by Persol), colours dripping from a deity’s easel, made liquid by the sunshine and coating his eyes. The street is bisected by shadow, one side under-exposed and in hiding, awaiting its big ta-da as tourists seek sundowners on its tabled sidewalk later; the other side, his side, the mad dogs and Englishmen side, is brighter than bonfires. On the wall a saint, faded and ephemeral, glorifying God with a basket of roses or maybe they are calibrachoa, or bidens, more suited to the heat, this heat. She reminds him of someone, a memory in the back of his mind, so far back he is not able to fully recall it. The River Guadalquivir crawls inside his thin, white cotton shirt, carving its way to the waistband of the blue Diesel jeans that he now knows were a mistake, his coyness about men in shorts uncomfortably misplaced.
He tries to make out the writing contained within the tiled patterns bordering the saint. Words swim, in Spanish, in Latin, in Arabic. Eventually he reads You loved me like a distant star. And he knows that he has read that before. Somewhere, he has read that before. In a book, no, somewhere else. You loved me like a distant star, he reads. And he thinks, says out loud, “Maybe I did,” and then he explodes.