As a child I was shown into a dimly lit room, where sat several elderly and unhealthy looking men in differing armchairs - some elegantly upholstered and in quite good condition, others threadbare, even if also perhaps at one time elegant.I was ushered in, in hushed voices, entrusted by my elders with the apparently important and honoured task of bringing these gentlemen – for men seems too prosaic – their afternoon coffees.
They were all silent; some reading, some writing - though doing more in the way of looking seriously at the facing page than actually writing, and some merely staring into space, whether purposefully or purposelessly I had no idea and, being a mere child, the purposefulness or lessness of adults' staring mightn’t have been the kind of thing to set me wondering.
I noticed a circumference of chalk around each armchair, and asked the adult accompanying me what was the chalk about. “If they rise and step beyond the chalk, then they will perish.” Why that might have been the case I didn't think to ask; I simply took it as truth, which maybe it was. There was space for the sitters to take about one step forward from the chairs before meeting these chalk boundaries. There were several strong types standing around on guard, and with these precautions I expected to see sudden stirrings, risings of these seated gents, and then these guards springing into action to offset calamity. However, though I came daily for quite a while, and though the guards were ever poised and alert, nothing remotely like that ever occurred. In fact, they hardly stirred an inch - little movements of hands and even less of heads the only contradictions to immobility. To be honest, never mind the guards, I don’t know why they even bothered with the chalk.