SELF KNOWLEDGE by Aaron Cass

HOW TO WEAR STILETTOS ON A MELTING ROAD

Outside the sea looks like a painting of the sea. One of those days when I don’t feel like I am myself. Are you human? Are you human Jane? That’s what it said, that was the question but without the Jane – I was only trying to send them a message – a request – or more of a complaint really, about how difficult it was to find what I was looking for - the book on meditation- “Breathing for Beginners” and under the message box this question appears and a challenge - a sum actually – adding up - simple, so simple but designed to catch out anyone, anything that can’t respond to a question or doesn’t have fingers - and since it was some self help well being site, you know, I thought, that’s in keeping: “Are you human?” I mean, they usually ask you to prove you are not a robot, which seems more sceptical, assumes the likelihood or genuine possibility that you won’t be – guilty until proven ... cynical.
Like Frank. Poor Frank. Always prepared for disappointment - better than looking on the bright side – which is delusional as he liked to say - happiness is just a kind of trick of the mind – a survival strategy. He was very clever, Frank – didn’t believe in well-being – or the inexplicable – being such an expert in nuclear energy etc, etc - Never saw it coming, though – the horrible pay off ... I mean ... since, as he also loved to point out ... as if it made him feel better, not happier though, to remind everyone, me particularly, just in case we, I, hadn’t noticed, remind us of the misery of our situation – though I never felt as miserable as he thought I should – it never seemed quite as dark or as cruel even though he insisted ...we are all, after all, just the products of a strictly mechanical process called evolution – “evolution” said like it was some kind of magic word that only he knew the meaning of ... The nuclear scientist’s abracadabra J called it – but then he went and died in a sailing accident - storm off Tierra del Fuego – on his way round the world and back – my brave little sailor boy... and Frank couldn’t bear to hear a word about him after that – “He wasn’t ours anyway” as if I didn’t know that – as if I thought otherwise – or that made it any less .... after having tried for so long – blaming me .. what I was made for – unfit for purpose being unable – to bear – But I couldn’t be fixed – not even we could afford it - irrevocably broken tubes ... from that silly fall - silly, silly fall - pruning the apple tree - trying to make it make more fruit of all things – the tree his father planted – the wedding gift I could not be trusted to dig a hole for by myself ... and then, inevitably, to prove my ineptitude and inadequacy in this life – my failure to live up to expectation, even the most basic level of personhood - I go and fall from it –like it was all planned , expected- there she goes again . Hahahahahaha. What a stupid... bitch – as I recall. Stupid? Not like him – one of the very cleverest. The loudest voices - most eager to be heard– I’ve always wondered why they are the ones who want to make the least of the rest of us? To put us down the most. Not just me, everyone - who like telling everyone, all of us, the not so clever ones, all of us, that we are all just walking knee jerk reactions – chaotic - bundles of synaptic impulses ... sparks from the bonfire swirling through darkness...... specks of dust in the sun-shaft of their brilliance ... that there is no God – who or whatever that is – something to lean on ... no ultimate reason or aim - no reality beyond – no beyond at all – no – not even the idea of it ... that’s locked away somewhere in a vault or library or a research facility that’s just a cube in a desert - for the special of the special ..the brilliant of the brilliant ... a book to be opened with special gloves on special days by special people .... but for us – the gloveless the barehanded - nothing to rely on except their explanations – the clever people’s explanations - of why this is – this universe and our little lives - and how deluded it is to pay attention to any authority except the one they recommend ..... they themselves in fact being the only authority – or that book of truth –they guard so jealously- conveniently unavailable to anyone who might need it ... because it probably., let’s face it , doesn’t exist ...but then you never know do you? 
I tried going to church – to find a space he couldn’t tell me all about – because he had already dismissed it as irrelevant - but he did anyway – couldn’t help flexing that muscle in my presence – when I came home from St. Saviours - that day he was back early from the cube, looking lost, trying to make a cheese sandwich – butter knife on the floor –and him just staring at it like the world had come to an end - the first time he’d got the heart tremor – and that fever from nowhere- shaking like a leaf - and then pulling himself together –– something I never managed myself - and the “where were you?” – and my attempt to lie to protect the innocent – myself, him – “at the shops” myself, whoever “ Shops? What shops? What did you buy?” –– wanting to ask him how he was... because he looked like death –or he’d seen a ghost – an aweful whiteness - but knowing he would just say “fine.” “How are you?” I say and he ignores me – and repeats the question “where have you been?” – and being unable to, lie, that is, never could, such a weakness- in spite of not wanting to say - and so eventually giving in, and telling him – It gave him all he needed to claw back his self-esteem and lecture me on the vapidity of my search – the utter pointlessness , ...”why do you waste your time with that shit?” – which seemed a particularly crude word, even for him – and he knew it like he had tasted something bitter in his mouth ...... not so calm and superior this time ... and I could see the pain in his face...
And so he spoiled it – I let him spoil it - and even though I went back to St. Saviour’s on other days, when I could, now free of the worry whether he knew or not – it wasn’t the same quiet – the same cool silence – just an echo chamber for the sound of his voice - not even the words ringing in my head – that sound of knowing self-righteousness and this undertone.... of what ? defeat ?despair? abject terror? – and when it wasn’t there - that sound, – when I did , at last, manage to stop hearing it – to rediscover a place to just sit, behind the pillar by the window of the virgin – that extraordinary stained glass blue – somehow the colour of sadness and mercy at once - reflected across my upturned hands – just sitting and doing nothing, nothing at all - almost being nothing – perhaps you know what that is ? No? No. I don’t know. I thought if anyone would - ...I don’t know – I mean what it is.. just a sense ... a happy absence ... the pleasure of space sheer space... anyhow – at that point –just as I am on the verge of ... as if someone is about to walk in and – the one I’ve been waiting for – the total stranger – but the one all the same – I will recognise – totally recognise - the vicar took an interest .. tried to get me to join ... to come to services ... thought I was lonely ... when it was the opposite ...I was waiting for someone - someone I would only recognise when they turned up – because I had no picture in my head – but I couldn’t explain it to him because he wouldn’t have listened or he would have said it was Jesus or something. So I stopped going. Pity, it was a lovely window. 
The universe is a hard and brutal place – that’s what Frank told me – red in tooth and claw – a favourite phrase –- from a man who couldn’t bear the sight of blood and always wore a tie even at weekends – except when he mowed the lawn on his little red ride-on – while I weeded the struggling vegetables ... red in tooth and claw - which like his friends he said while smiling – over drinks – at some important gathering – even Xmas – J’s wedding – just days before they sailed ... anywhere where they could say it and they were safe from its consequences ... like it was small talk to say we are all doomed and deluded and laugh about it because of course they weren’t doomed and deluded because they could say it – they had spotted the crack in the road – braced themselves for the great calamity, as if to say “look at me –– Look at how I am handling this bombshell – this revelation of the meaninglessness of it all – this news that it’s all just a very complicated drawn out cosmic fart” ... his word – his contempt - the contempt of the one in charge – proof that they are handling this particularly well because they have adapted and taken refuge in despising ... better than you or I ... actually I can’t speak for you, obviously ... better than I at least - because we are, all of us, just chaotic clown clusters of atoms –aren’t we? the accumulated by-products of very ancient lumps of stuff, gigantic and minute, randomly and senselessly banging together a very long time ago when everything was unimaginably hot and not very intelligent... not like us – or rather them - the clever one’s who have left all that behind ... and now - and now - and now, in spite of quite a grand beginning, not a fart at all, – god what a horrible little word ... although there were gases involved – odourless though - Helium Hydrogen ... as it happens, still a horrible little word – why would you want to describe something so grand with such a belittling word unless you were afraid of it in some way – an explosion that’s so big it’s still happening – right now in this very moment – and the funny thing is, the only time he seemed to have any real joy in him was when he talked about that moment – the same one he cursed for being what? Beyond his control - ancient and terrible at once.... The “primordial firework whose blue touch-paper was lit by nobody” is what he called it when it didn’t call it that other thing...when he felt inspired and not bullied- crushed, resentful, diminished... the one time ... what had happened in that first unimaginably tiny instant .... he lit up .... the one time when everything was right and brilliant and full of promise ... and he looked like a man again because there was more to him then than just what he looked like.. and what’s more - it is sort of still there in everything that’s here now in this very moment.... because the quanta never die... even I know that –even stupid little me. 
Yet in spite of this awesome start to it all – all this – that even he could see – feel at least - we have, somehow, become what? Consumers? That’s what people are called - the most common definition – occasionally just people – citizens – though that went long ago after the great takeover - How the hell did all this happen ? How did we get from there to here? There’s no going back - From big bang to whinge and worry and the solitary wank – as Gina called it - leaving us the hapless, unconscious end products of the greatest event you could imagine - not even anything as dignified as a creation with a purpose – just end-users.. baby birds with our eyes shut and our mouths wide open, or just mouths without nose or face or eyes , unidentifiable holes - so presumably to be fed by them, those that know what’s going on – think they do, say they do - as if putting things in holes, filling up spaces is an achievement in itself... attainment even... the clever ones – the oh so fucking clever ones –did I just say that ? yes I did – I think I am beyond the need to apologise – too late now anyhow – too late – way too late - I can be as crude as the next – besides it’s late in the day – the evening is upon us and we can relax – I can feel it inside - because there’s not much left to do if anything – and besides I know you won’t judge - leave that to me –judgement that is .. I’ll go through it with a fine toothcomb, every deed, every thought logged and labelled - late, in the dark – in the accounts department at 0400 in the morning wide awake and the accusations overwhelming the in-tray ... coming in faster than they can be opened let alone replied to ... and in any case I’m a “fucking idiot” too - for putting up with it for so long ..... and Poor Frank ... for all his grasp of the truth of it all – the awful truth of how this, I , you, he came to be – Poor Frank – how could he have been so unprepared in the end for the pain he thought he knew all about... ?
But then he always was far away - like all of them really – his colleagues, him, the lot of them in their suits and lab coats and uniforms and what-have-you keeping a safe distance – safe? For who? They always say it is for us.. the dependent ones... a distance that vindicates superiority - even their cleverness depends on it - distance... because to be clever about something you have to be away from it ... do you see? How simple the cure? He wanted distance from the moment he met me – wanted me so he could show he didn’t – so, at last, after countless attempts to bridge the gap - I gave it to him ... what he wanted. I went east – soon after J had been taken by the sea- trying to avoid the Polythenian archipelago – forced into a maelstrom off Grand Plastica ... the self-made continent ... left Frank with his ride-on and a freezer full of labelled favourites portioned up and piled in the order to be consumed... set off east to see what real separation is like – and all I could think of was closeness – 
But it never worked – that’s what I had been trying ... hoping that if I got really close it will all fall away .. if I could hold him and get him to actually look at me without averting his eyes like it was in the beginning – not when Helium became Hydrogen – no but in the lesser heat of that summer you’d be fined for using your hose – and we had sex in the lab cupboard waiting for the results on the fusion test to come in ...and then just as he finished – all red and breathless- the phone rang and the rest was history .... when he perhaps he ...the cleverness ..the need to explain to tell me what’s what ..perhaps it would have ... given way... perhaps the light – the original light would have, could have , returned ... if anything returns that is... if it’s not all just going out and out and out – further and further apart...... sparks from the bonfire drifting into darkness... if he could have just let me get close – close enough to... 
Like the street boy who followed me through the hippodrome in Istanbul that bright blue day – seagulls blowing around like paper - trying to sell me postcards of a mosque I’d just walked all round, agape at the beauty - the Ottoman calligraphy – prayers – I think - like cutlery and chromosomes - diagrams of the steps for an intricate dance – an esoteric equation drawn on a blackboard in reverse - all elevated and in my own world - and I ended up giving him, this filthy feral little boy - the same as a weeks wages for a bank teller – because I didn’t know how to handle him – or in fact anyone – how to just be with anyone ... the hardest thing to just be ... Then, that day, like every other day before or since I wasn’t present – I was somewhere else – when I told him on the phone Frank said I was silly - a silly bitch – was what he said - I know I said – agreeing because it’s easier – still, immune to the insult because I was already, I realised - beginning to care less and less what he thought ... an insult? – not the bitch so much – but the silly - bitch is fine – absolutely fine ..but Silly? there it is again – “Not silly not silly bitch “ –I said “Totally fucking stupid cunt” I said in the hope that if I was nastier it would shut him up – do his work for him – then he’d leave me alone – and he did - I heard the shocked silence – He put the phone down – blessed solitude - because I was not silly – I was just a stranger - to the place – not just this place – to the whole planet - or if I were kinder to myself - perhaps it was simply the beauty I had just witnessed beneath that dome of tulips and stars and its 33 windows ... the lingering sense of it’s voice – that sang “Allah hu Akbar” – that nearly made me cry – and I never cry – can’t remember ever crying - as if someone was telling me they loved me after all ... even though I have no idea what love is ... perhaps it was that beauty opening my purse with an invisible hand ... letting it spill all over the pavement – and into his dirty little palms, face up. Nothing silly – nothing silly about it. Connection. Not knowing. Being – just being. 
I dare you –what am I saying? You ? I dare myself to do that to get up close and intimate like that boy... with no sense of personal space – but nothing to lose I suppose ... watch, feel, the illusion of separation crumble – the mind falter in the stench of nearness. The heart – heart? – the thing inside with no corresponding component –that thing people point to – that is nowhere – now - here. that’s what they mean isn’t it? The heart – this place that can only be pointed to and never fully grasped – that thing that is nothing but the part that knows that something’s missing – that misses – that’s all it ever does – as if it were actually made out of absence ... because that’s all it is ... and being nothing but a space, a possibility ...it gets ignored by all the people looking for something ... the one door that’s always open... and never walked through... 
It’s like these people – I mean Frank – poor Frank - and his crowd – these people they rule the world – or think they do – or are allowed to – and they order it to make themselves indispensible – yes of course –I’ve said that ... but they got it wrong or only half right which might be worse because it takes longer to get back from the end of that dead end road. They – they? that lot – whoever they are – the powers that be – the powers that think therefore they are - the Franks of this dying world – he needed, though he would never admit it – needed - should have - got on that Punjabi train in the choking heat -– but he wouldn’t come with me – never in a million million million million years, the life time of the universe – I wished for a moment, he had, though it would in truth have been horrible – but he laughed at the idea I might find myself without him, or that there was anyone to find... or that I could find anything – as all I did was lose things – my own womb - our adopted son - “You’re always losing things” - always ? Always? How’s that even possible ? There’d be nothing left and there is always something left ... much easier for him, though if I was no-one, if I could lose myself – or if I became utterly useless – that might have been a way out ... to slip the chains – like the incredible shrinking man who becomes so tiny he can escape, at last through the mosquito mesh on the basement window and become a speck as grand as a star ... I could see that much – if I was so rubbish - his own failings would go unnoticed – or something – maybe that’s what this was all about... I didn’t of course find myself - on the Punjabi train or in India or anywhere else ...not exactly ... all I found was a person could lose weight just by vomiting and diarrhoea – not me - I have never changed shape much – no matter what I do – no not me , that lady from Americasia Cindy ...looking for enlightenment like me but different wanting to be a better stronger more successful Cindy was what she said – but I didn’t know what I wanted – didn’t know at all ...looking for just any sense of self ... like who... who is this .. here who is it? that and ... this grubby, fearless proximity to things – dust on my feet and in my hair without the need to wash it off immediately - time or what I thought it was, softening to a liquid - like the schedule – the train timetable where every number is an approximation or can become another one just like that – the 3.15 the 4.07 the 526 the 6.39– and a part of the world – they used to call India – that produced such great mathematicians – Ramanajan - and that one who drew a line around the emptiness –invented zero – discovered zero – can’t remember his name ... appropriately enough ... funny I am usually so good with names, faces, never forget a thing... but I am not myself .. as you can probably tell – I never go on like this on and on and on and on. ... but it’s been so long since anyone listened – without interrupting - without knowing better...
Anyhow no I didn’t lose myself or find myself - but it made me want to keep looking - and I rode one of those trains with people clinging on everywhere – so many that the carriage completely disappears behind the bodies – all the way from somewhere to somewhere else.. it doesn’t even matter ... it was wonderful... and it showed me You don’t have to visit a guru like Cindy or any of that to find yourself just – just get on the train – that one I mean - not the 7.06 to Hinkley Point 3 - the other one that’s going somewhere you’ve never been. 
But we are, according to the clever people – driven by dark self –seeking instincts – not this other longing – this incomprehensible ache in the chest – no - our genes, our constitutions compel us, hold us to ransom, ride us like a man drives his ride on lawn mower- and with only the illusion of choice like whether to go round in circles, a spiral or cut in stripes -which is also some kind mechanism our self seeking little chromosomes use – worming their way - like those fungus things that take over insects in the jungle and make them do things, bend their will – if they have such a thing - and each insect has its own special fatal fungus just for them – like its very own terrible marriage – match made in hell – like Frank used to joke - though this is supposed to be for our own good, this compelling because we are so otherwise incapable ...to push us forward in case we fall behind – and something they, the Franks of the earth, know all about or will eventually as long as we keep the faith in the fact that they know all about it or will eventually because they understand it – they understand how awful it is so that makes them knowledgeable and trustworthy ... sorry ... to go on about it ... even though presumably they have a worm in them pushing them on for its own agenda... and as long as we, the delusional – as long as we don’t stop for a moment to ask a question .. like hang on – is this real? .and who are you anyway to tell me who or what I am?... eventually they’ll have the answer and it will be big relief – and our trust and our faith will be restored and their superiority vindicated and all will be well. 
The light doesn’t go out of people’s eyes when they die- it happens long before... a slow flickering ... I have seen this for myself ... in him ... and now in me... when I can bear to look in a mirror... And I find now – as its getting darker ... the thing that comes to mind most – unbelievably - The big bang – the thing he loved so much, Frank that is... The thing whose light still burnt in his enquiring eyes.. on the very rare occasion... Everything since a let down ... a limp.. damp something or other. ... he taught me this at least, taught me ? by accident -by mentioning- because it was the only thing he really loved – that was obvious – more than me – if he loved me at all – (only ever said it once)...he hinted and I realised for myself , lets say , yes – that’s it - that I come from that ... that that’s my real heritage not the mum or dad I can’t remember - .. but that awesome moment unimaginably long ago that somehow I still recall in here .. and it’s pretty bloody magnificent as heritages go..– that’s still in me – that original fire – that original bomb – still going off - and I want to know why and who and what what what what that was all about because –because , because, because, god knows how – but I was there – I mean not me not this – I know that fire and that fire is nobody’s bitch – did I say that? Nobody’s bitch - I must have heard it somewhere – Yes - Gina – that’s what she said ... Gina, my lovely neighbour, when I was trying to get her to go back to University and finish her degree – patch it up with the smiley Kamil eyes like sapphires and a total control freak, she said it – and I blushed and felt its fantastic hardness – its steeliness ... she said she was “nobody’s bitch” and it hit me right in the chest and I wanted some of that for myself ... it seemed like a sort of weapon – it made her a little scary – to be honest – but it was thrilling too – fight or flight - more fight than flight – to hell with flight - as if I might have a weapon of my own .. as if I might be like Gina –or have the potential, at least, to be nobody’s bitch.. and then she disappeared without even saying goodbye ... left me ... alone with my dying man ... and this weapon ... except Frank was already slipping away and couldn’t hear a thing – the whole world could have collapsed and he would not have felt it - and what’s the point in being nobody’s bitch if you have no-one to say that to – If you are actually alone... nobody’s anything.
I had a dream – It was mid winter - so cold you couldn’t breathe – though I never feel the cold in real life – I’ve got my own inner furnace Frank used to say – and I had to get to my mum’s in Seven Sisters – though also I have no idea what my mum looks like or if she even lived in Seven Sisters - but in the dream I did and she did – and the pavements were melting, you could see the cracks and the glow beneath.. like in that old documentary blue planet 3 or was it 2? – that bit under the water where the volcano keeps erupting even in the cold sea – 2 it was 2 ..like that ...and I was wearing my party heels - stiletto sandals – the one’s Frank called whore shoes only he said horse shoes and laughed at himself or rather by himself ...open toed just a swirl of red leather lines – like you’d put your foot into a picture of an atom or the sun drawn by a small child – cost an arm and a leg and both little toes– so uncomfortable ...not really shoes more like lingerie for your feet ... and people were falling through the ground... into the molten lava ... but no-one seemed to be bothered so I carried on to my mum’s ... and it had a black door and when she opened the door she was crying ... and the place was full of people... and I didn’t recognise anyone and it was so happy – the tears were... like a huge relief. And then just as I stepped onto the welcome mat- with the heart inside the O – I woke up. Dry eyed – alone – blinding headache.
The world burnt so hot and so long it made water and cried all over itself – to cool itself down. That actually happened. It rained for thousands of years ... it rained onto the hot ground and the rain formed steam clouds that rose and cooled and condensed and rained again over and over until ...That’s the story anyway – the science – what the evidence tells us – the evidence here and now – in the world in us – you, me, them, man, machine and marmoset, - original larva cooled now into the shapes of things ...giving rise to this original question, the burning question - like - “Are you Human?” Or rather “can you prove you are not a robot?” and there is a sum to do to prove it ... the one thing you’d think a machine could do - 3 plus 1 ... but I wanted to - want to write a reply like – “I’m not telling you” or “That’s for me to know and you to find out” – or “You first”. or “What kind of question is that?” or “What do you mean by human? “– or even, let’s face it, “Why is a computer being used to decide whether I am human or not?”.... or given the inherent strangeness of this situation – Now that you, whoever you are, ask - “I honestly don’t know” .. or “I am still finding out the full ramifications of this “being human” thing”.... in fact if I’m honest I am , arguably, a sort of walking research facility in this respect – not a cube in a desert... Frank would appreciate this .. if he could, he would - in spite of himself... a research facility with this one issue – question - comprising my entire mission statement and corporate vision combined ... which barring rapid descent into abject poverty, the complete rather than partial break down of civil society we currently experience or utter world annihilation rather than the gradual inevitable ruin by climate catastrophe, as Gina predicted every time we sat down for a coffee...or a wayward comet like in that ridiculous shouty movie we watched in a semi stupor last Xmas when Frank couldn’t remember who I was ...... sat staring at me the whole time instead of the screen and whenever I turned to look at him he turned away – like some game but not one he was playing – part of but not playing - not on purpose - still.. barring all these things, catastrophes inevitable and avoidable alike, I should be able to continue this research, this work, this sisyphean task of knowing myself – ridiculous though it might sound - until the day ... until the day... I ... till death... lets just say it as it is ...now that he’s gone – Frank - and J , my darling J, found with a nylon net around his neck ... like one of those sea creatures you’re not supposed to catch... I barely miss him, can’t bare to miss him – miss him totally – but he is gone and it is, as they say, as if I have no purpose .. and having no purpose makes you sensitive – yes to the larger questions – because I have nothing to do – now - no-one to look after... and now that the research has been all but abandoned – there’s no need for secretaries – the secrets are all out – the sham exposed... and the garden ... I did it only because it was a space where ... apart from the lawn ... where I had some sway ... where I could ... be myself – or just alone at least......and that’s just it ... the big questions start to take over ... because I now have no reason to be here so why ? ... then why becomes all that’s left – do you see? 
But it’s too much ... you have to get back to the little things ... even if there doesn’t seem to be any point. The men gone – Gina, my friend disappeared like she never was ... one day just another couple Jim and Patsy – she with that strange brand new look - he all smiles and that bunch flowers that didn’t smell of anything. Said they were in love – he did anyway ... Love? Frank never said it ... perhaps once ... no that wasn’t it that was “I love the way you”... something or other ... “have done your hair”... or “ I love your shepherd’s pie” ..”I love your tits “- but never “I love ... you” ... even at the end when he seemed on the edge of it.. “I lu..I Lu..I lu – over and over unable to get it out like a stuck record.... and the nurses came rushing in all quietly urgent and smelling of cold air and cigarettes - because he starts to fit.. “I lu, I lu,Ilu...” what? What? What’s he trying to say? And the nurses shushing him – shushing him just when he’s about to say the one thing ... the one thing ... so late on right at the end – and then he starts to act like a sort of broken thing – all shushed - so hard to see the person anymore ... when there’s no attempt at words .. just the body going through motions - too late for words.. just shakes and moans and gasps and trembling lips... the one thing. 
And I saw for the first time how – special it is ... this “machine” this miraculous thing that hasn’t changed much in millennia – with it’s amazing architecture – economy – rules and regulations – checks and balances ... etc etc and now in this instance of being asked the ultimate question – to be accredited a person, a human being, rests on the fact that I can use these fingers – that this machine ..this very very old design machine- still perfectly functional in a dysfunctional kind of way ... these fingers - I mean – these fingers - they are the same a gorilla has - just less at home in the world – but able enough, able to press the buttons in the right order....because I can add up – I was a secretary – a carrier of secrets – no longer needed – and I can type ... have the same architecture more or less as a gorilla... just weaker and less massive and creased like a folded black pudding – the look on David Attenborough’s face in that old show they rerun every Xmas “When the planet was green” -when he found himself next to the silverback – gigantic heap of an animal munching away the moments in the soothing green- and him in his safari suit speechless and stilled, like he was suddenly in the presence of what? A God ? A mighty and generous god – not the beast whose ultimate evolution he is supposed to be but – looking at this ancestor as if it had something he missed – a power he had lost somewhere along the way – 
Anyhow here I am fingers poised - ready with the answer. The answer to your question, my question, Frank’s question though he’d never admit it - that proves I am what I have almost effortlessly imagined I am for so long now – three plus one equals ... all I have to do is press the right button and you will believe me – I will be believed - that will be enough –. It will be agreed in some objective way that I am a person, a human person. The computer will be convinced – you will be convinced – more than I am in fact that this is so or that this is something that can be determined in an equation ... but as I said my issue with this is an ongoing one – the computer – you – will move on to other questions for other people - already have, no doubt - as you must – but also with a kind of disturbing lack of - what? ...real connection – empathy – soul – the thing that only existed until humans discovered it was immeasurable and so decided it had no reality? And you will leave me with it – the, question that is - that I am unlikely to be able to answer and even more unlikely to able to avoid having to address .. probably till the day I, yes there it is again – til the day I ... I imagine ... I look out of the nursing home window, if I make it that far, and decide that for the first time in all the, what seem like, because I am losing it, unspecified number of times I have looked out of this window, that the sea looks different today – though people insist it is always changing – it is different now in a different way -something about it I can’t describe – but I just know – and that pretty much sums it up – the whole of my knowledge – all I have gleaned over all this time – this noticing a single difference ..without being able to say what it is...just noticing ..and the terrible responsibility of it .. of knowing that I don’t know ... exactly ..I just know.
But I don’t know why I am telling you this ... I mean what do you know?.. I mean who am I to? you’re just .. what? I don’t want to say... just ... I don’t even know if you are there - – a mirror? You asked me the question – whoever you are – whatever you are - or rather I was asked – just like that – it could have come from anywhere – and I wanted to answer it and I just wanted to explain – what it did to me – what the question did to me and I am very grateful .. because it did something like lit the blue touch-paper - .....
And I don’t mean to dismiss – you being just a machine – I mean I am one myself, we all are in some way – and you do not judge – so why should I judge you? No. It wouldn’t be right. It has been wonderful in fact to be able to share this – and I want to thank you for listening – not that you need it – to be thanked or indeed to listen - but I need to say it. Thank you. Thank you. that’s the point – that’s what I need... – to say it. Being grateful - it’s for the one being grateful – their benefit not the other ... whoever they are you or me .. just like funeral’s are for the living. 
So thank you for listening... I have to go ... I don’t want to but I must. Yes there is a difference . Yes there is – and I am not supposed to know it but I do – because I remember how things were and I was there at the beginning – and I don’t know how but I remember it . Yes. Yes I do I remember it Now. Now. Here. Now. Here. Now. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you....Th..
Jane reaches forward to press the number 4 but stops dead half way as if frozen. A white uniformed attendant enters and touches the back of Jane’s head to turn her off. Jane’s eyelids flicker for a while then close very slowly. Then open again. Then close. A voice says: Shut down sequence for ID JANE Zero three three seven zero six- version 3.14 – upgrade – three one five, four zero seven. Commencing at Zero 6.39 hours .... First of the Fourth 2033