Nuit and Fourleaf Clover
An opium dream takes Joe Byrne to places he couldn't have imagined. The idea for this was conceived after seeing David Storey's 'kitchen sink' drama In Celebration during it's run in the West End during the summer of 2007. The play concerns the three sons of a coal miner and his wife who return home for their parents wedding anniversary. In true 'social drama' style they take a hard look at their upbringing and display the chasms between the family members. The youngest son, a withdrawn and troubled man, was played by Orlando Bloom.
Some Kind of Paradise, and the third part, Curtain Call, where Joe finds himself literally in Orlandos boots at the stage door were written by Fourleaf Clover. The middle part, Gold Top Mornings, where he 'fetches up' in 1960’s Britain and the life of Steven Shaw, was written by Nuit. It maybe be best not to read too much into it and instead just read, keeping firmly at the forefront of your mind that we have most definately Left the Building with this one.
3 Chapters. Complete
Some Kind of Paradise
Eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath, and, to the guilty man, for one night givest back the hopes of his youth, and hands washed pure from blood; and, to the proud man, a brief oblivion for Wrongs unredressed, and insults unavenged. – Thomas de Quincy, Confessions of an Opium Eater.
He does it, he says sheepishly, shifting his weight on the stony ground from one foot to the other and backing his spine to rub up against the spindly tree, because he’s always done it. His own words make him smile gently, half to himself, because he knows that’s a poor answer and he wants to explain, to be helpful. It’s just that these days sometimes it’s hard to make the words come out right. Perhaps, he ponders with a laugh that doesn’t quite hide the unease in his eyes, that’s a skill that rusts from disuse.
Just Ned and Dan and Steve, and what might as well be silence under the measureless bowl of sky, day after day. Not much in the way of words needed when it’s just about whether you live or die that day. As for those occasional moments of exhilaration - a gentler sun on your face; the final surge of a horse as it carries you out of the river; evading the traps one more time - aren’t these things always better treasured for being unspoken? Other times, maybe there’s Tom or the others, and then sitting around the fire, it’s all about ideas so grand that the words torrent out on an easy stream of whiskey and bravado until you hardly know any more what you truly believe. When you’re a boy, fists in your mother’s skirts, barely catching your breath in your haste to tell her everything, you find out from the harsh looks, the dismissive pushes, that talking about what you feel isn’t what is expected of you. By the time you sit in school, legs dangling over the bench, the fear of sharp words or even blows lowering your eyes to your slate, you’ve learned to choose very carefully what thoughts you share. Much later on, you find that women don’t always silence you. Soft and giving, shining for you until it’s like sitting in the warmth of a fire, they lull you into lowering your guard and maybe saying more than you meant to. Perhaps it’s no surprise that out here it’s almost a relief not to have to express anything very deep or meaningful.
Ah well. To start at the beginning, back then it was just something to do. Him and Aaron, just a pair of young larrikins, them and the Chinese they’d always kept company with. Sticky black nights oozing into empty days. Decisions to be made, realities to be faced, all made hazy and distant by the curls of smoke. He never cared much for it though, did Aaron. He thought it a fine enough waste of time and he didn’t bother so much after a bit. Just another way they drifted apart.
Not like that for you though. From the start it was like coming home, as if your very heart knew it straight off and begged to be allowed to stay. There’s pleasure to be had in company, pleasure in a good horse, a fine view, a good meal. Yet more pleasure - and, aye, the pleasing too - with women. But this was pleasure like no-one could ever have imagined. Celestial vision they called it, and it was that right enough. But it was more too. It was a feeling of peace and belonging, far beyond anything daydreaming or deep sleep ever brought. It’s different now though. The effect long-since diminished by custom, now it’s merely a way to grab blindly for the a fleeting connection with the rest of humanity; sinking for a few hours into the relief of feeling the way you once felt all the time. The stuff’s still easy enough to buy – Ned writes it off to overhead – but it has the mastery of you, body and soul.
You can’t describe it, he says finally, working hard with cupped hand and pursed lips to light a cigarette. Everyone finds his own dreams through it and if you aren’t about to try it for yourself, well, it’s a poor job anyone can do of conveying what it’s like. He can say what it’s not like more easily. With the brandy or the whiskey, he says, his hands doing the explaining when the words don’t, the fire builds slow at first, warming you inside until after a bit you can’t think straight and right there’s the welcome oblivion.
With the stuff, right off you see the sense in everything, the order of the world all clear out before you like being on top of the ranges on a bright day. Lying in the cold, barely sheltered from the drizzling rain, the horses shifting restlessly, earth pushing up the damp into your very bones, the blackness descends over you like a blanket, inviting sleep. There’s acceptance there, love even. No crying out for people to understand you, or you them, no cold, no exclusion, no fear in their eyes, no waiting hangman’s noose. There’s no outlawry in opium dreaming.
He scratches his thin beard and trying to make his eyes kind, he says that maybe it’s like swimming in the creek. You know, how the water closes over your head and there’s another world down there. Your eyes clear, and you can see things but they’re blurred. But imagine you just keep on going down, no worries about breathing, and your vision gets clearer and somehow your body seems less and less important. No sense of the infinity of hard ground, or the eternal rolling rhythm of a horse, just peace and your own mind with another place to explore…