In the departure lounge of Limoges airport, I have contraband walnuts in my bag. But I don't look guilty, no, no, no. Not a bit. Why? Because badass international criminals like me can smuggle contraband walnuts without so much as a blush or a twitch. The lady at Passport Control does, however, study my passport for an uncomfortably long five seconds - and so she should. It's the photo. They nearly didn't let me into Australia last summer because of that damn photo (on account of it showing me as clearly of Pakistani heritage, which in real life I'm clearly not - well, at least I don't think so). But I figure that if they're wondering why I'm a Pakistani in my passport photo, they're probably not worrying about the walnuts, so it's all good.
So. Ryanair Flight No. FR1633 to East Midlands Airport. As we board, Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' is squeezed into our ears yet again like the balm it's supposed to be. But it's not balm. It's embalming. It's aural embalming fluid. My eyes sting with all the sherbet-yellow plastic while my blood's replaced, surrepticiously.
Am I dead yet? Is this Heaven? This is what Heaven - if it exists - must be like: as packed as an orgy but deeply, deeply unsexy because you're only allowed to touch elbows. Never lips or genitals. Only elbows. And if there is music in Heaven - and surely there is - then it must similarly be poured into your ears, and constantly, like the singing of the Sirens. But while this music might, on Earth, for five seconds, be considered ecstatic and dramatic, in Heaven it doesn't stop. It can't. Otherwise there'd be... what? Disappointment? So it has to go on and on and on, with no variation. Pleasure in Heaven has to be at a constant pitch. Timeless. But the Vivaldi here has stopped, thankfully. Which must mean that I'm still alive. Which must mean that this Ryanair flight is not Heaven, after all.
Odysseus plugged the ears of his crew with beeswax while he stood tied to the mast with naked eardrums - all so he could experience the ecstasy of the singing of the Sirens. What they don't tell you is that his crew were so pissed off with him by this point that they rowed really, really slowly. They weren't daft. They knew that after five seconds that glorious, ecstatic Sirensound would get boring, then irritating, then horrific. It would become like bloody Vivaldi.
All of which explains why Heaven cannot exist.
And if that goes, God's got to go too, of course. Expelled from this sherbet-yellow flight from Limoges, flying over northern France. I imagine Him as a fine spray, expelled from the undercarriage. Tomorrow, early of a morning, a French farmer will cross his yard carrying a red and brown rag of a dead chicken in one hand, and a bunch of rusty carrots in the other. He will stop in his tracks and smell the air, and smell God, just briefly, like spores, or horse-breath, in the tang of the morning.
February in Dordogne. The brightest light jumps along the fluorescent tubes of snow which lie cracked in all the ditches. But the fields, which stretch from ditch to ditch, are thawed and non-commital in their colours: silvergreen, silver-tope, ashy-ochre. Toto, the best dog in the world, is a white, wire-haired terrier and swears he can hear rabbits deep underground, swears he can hear meltshapes of darkness. When he jumps into the ditches he dematerialises, then jumps out and bolts on ahead.
Who needs the song and dance of Spring - all that green and juice and ruckus - when you can have this? The landscape retracted to its starched bones. No lust. Not yet. No panic to seed and be sown, which is a hankering after self-duplication in hypothetical elsewheres. Just the bare, muted now. The enough of now. No God. No priest. No shrink. No one to pay heed to the scurry and the hide-and-seek of my thoughts, but me. No one to be responsible for them, but me. No one to care for them, unconditionally - if I have the balls to do that, but me. No one to call them home, but me.
All the ponds wear blind-man's lenses of ice.
Lapwings idle west.