At first the shadows did not worry barrister John Doe much, even when he began to notice a more solid quality to them; thicker and not as easy to penetrate; more difficulty walking through them – as if they had a life of their own, becoming slightly obstructive, hindering his movements. This happened when he used words to describe them. If he did not speak they were soft shadows. Did language have something to do with this? Were words themselves taking on concrete forms? He often thought about women, in a sexual way. If he spoke of them his words formed shapely feminine bodies.
Words were his stock in trade; written and oral words were essential to his daily practice as a barrister at law; the sentences in Statute Books, legal texts, Reports of Court decisions. His library was full of words and he noticed they had gradually taken on a solid quality, ceasing to be mere words on a white page, but dark and solid as a building or a bridge In fact it was not just the shape of the letters making up the words, but the meanings they took on and the shapes those meanings themselves made. The meanings were often louche. Often they became solid and he needed to walk around them, avoid bumping into them or tripping. They formed as spoke
At first, these aberrations did not concern him much. They related to speech. Later he realized it was not only spoken words that troubled him, but written words were taking on those same powers; that quality of creating objects in a concrete form, described by the words themselves. Sometimes stiff like cement - and they hurt; other times they were soft and plastic. Since he conversed daily with other lawyers, judges, clients, words were his tools of trade. He needed them to negotiate, persuade judges, juries. It was appalling that dark shapes appeared, conforming to the configurations, concrete or amorphous, of each subject under discussion. And this was not the only problem – they began to fill up the rooms he occupied and he found himself crowded out by a conglomeration of diverse objects. He dared not speak of sexual matters, as on one occasion he looked up from his desk when talking on the telephone to a client, to see a nude woman sitting on the floor making gestures inviting him to undress and play games that would be dangerous to his reputation, particularly if a colleague entered his chambers uninvited. He tried to remove her but only succeeded in hiding her behind a computer desk, where she continued to coax him to engage in sex with her.
On another occasion he rested his head on his desk and went to sleep. On waking he was startled to find his face rested on a woman’s stomach, just above the butterfly ‘V’ of her pubic hair. She was stretched out on the desk, lying on her back and completely naked.
After these incidents he kept his comments to the bare minimum, fearing what might happen. Doing this his chambers became less murky and often whatever formed from the words he spoke, was blurred and indistinct, browner in color, less impenetrable. Even then he was careful in telephone conversations, not as dangerous as when he spoke face to face. When the women he thought about materialized on his desk, inviting him, he was aroused and, not being made of stone, he would have an erection.
At night darkness became more intense and his bedroom more impenetrable. Sometimes it he got up he tripped on some dark shape or pushed his way through something not there when he gone to bed. Trapped in a thick layer of shapeless substances, he fought his way out. After the experience of having naked women in his chambers he did not speak to other women.
He knew now that it all had to do with language, that his concept of women in the physical world was constructed from words he used and the subjective meanings he gave them – not merely dictionary meanings. When put into sentences, they became solid, imprisoning him in the meanings given to them not only by himself, but also those meanings provided by his forefathers, even meanings outside dictionaries . Those meanings were unbreakable, at least by him – hard, impregnable as granite. Even the songs of birds and the grunts of animals were obstructions. He needed to circle around them or push through them.
Women were his worst problem, particularly when they wrapped their legs around his body, forcing him to carry them, refusing to let go or unlock their legs. This was difficult to cope with, specially when he needed to use the small library ladder for a text from the top shelf in his bookcase. The weight of a woman in that position was just about as much as he could cope with. Even worse, when he went to the men’s toilet with one of them locked onto him, her legs secured around his waist – in this position he would have to unzip his fly and expose his half erect penis to urinate.
He consulted a psychiatrist – is there a cure? He was told he was compensating for his wife’s extra-marital sexual partners. He had learned that Helen had often paid for lunch after a virile and satisfying performance by a well endowed young lover, a performance she might rate as above 5 on what she termed her ‘sexual Richter Scale’ – and if they humped her at least twice she might give them a present as well; much more if she floated out of her body, board-riding her lover through the turn and curl of a special experience – her mind in those enchanted gardens of the Karma Sutra or Indian bedrooms, love extended through long afternoons of touch and play, thrusts and calls of “Kiss me! Kiss me!” – or adopting a new position or turning again - “Don’t stop quick! Quicker!”
Helen’s lovers enjoyed his largesse, driven through
Mid-week he appeared in an appeal for a female client who had been convicted in a lower court of Malicious Wounding and Criminal Assault. It was listed in No. 4 court. His client, a Real Estate Agent, became angry with a purchaser and pushed her violently while they were descending the stairs of a house being inspected with a view to purchase. The purchaser had fallen violently.. She injured her spine severely. As well she claimed damages from both agent and vendor.
John’s morning had been oppressed by the usual impediments resulting from speech, although he had avoided conversations, even with his secretary. The drive to his chambers had been difficult, as a woman draped herself across his knees in a sexual position. The streets were darker than the previous day. Entering the
In the lift other lawyers were talking and did not seem to notice the words they used created solid shades of matter within the lift, filling the interstices between them, some sharp like the autumn leaves of pin-oaks,. He was startled when a woman barrister began rubbing his crotch. When she first started doing this he pretended not to notice, looking around to see if any of his fellow passengers knew what was happening. Apparently only one did. He tried to move away but she tightened her grip and when he pulled back it was painful. He was glad when the lift stopped and he was able to escape, but on exit he did hear the words “Sex Maniac.
Disconcerted by the darkness of the hallway to Courtroom No.4, he took his client’s arm. She had been granted bail pending the result of the appeal. She was alarmed by the suddenness of his action, He pushed hard against the obstructing shadows, (which did not seem to impede the progress of his client), and entered the courtroom.
To make matters worse, though all the lights were switched on, they made little difference to the dark sepia atmosphere of the court room, the feeling that the whole interior was filled with dark colored cotton-wool. He felt the cotton-wool was hardening, but was still soft enough to penetrate and low above the floor. He waded through with difficulty.
When he untangled the woman’s legs he found the going easier. The effort tired him and sitting down, he opened one of the texts he had with him to support his case. He hardly dared read the words on the page, but felt the need to refresh his mind on a particular point of law.
At first the text he read did not disturb him, but soon it began to form into a thick gelatinous mass as the abstract theories in the precedent, blurred and hardened into more dangerous shards than those formed from the words of his fellow lawyers in the lift.
Realising what was happening he quickly shut the book and, as the judge entered, pushed himself into a standing position so he could see through the texture of the autumn colored light that had dimmed the room. Even the shape of the judge was fuzzed and John thought the judge looked like a comic strip Quasimodo.
He remained standing saying :” I appear for the Appellant Your Honour.” As he did he watched the words cross towards “The Bench” in a heavy wavering way, but more solid now than those words that had disturbed him in the legal text he was reading- and the “Thank you Mr. Doe,” responded by the judge, moved like a javelin in slow motion colliding half way between them as his own announcement crashed into them. In doing so they fused into a single mass which, despite its weight, hung in the air halfway between him and the judge.
In the witness box his client, introducing new evidence, said “I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth” proceeding through her evidence to shape what, in her mind, were the incidents that led to the injury suffered by her assault on the purchaser. The lawyer saw sharp edges of pain and suffering, long desolate nights before recovery, deprivations that had accompanied them and the whole background to this present accounting. The prosecuting counsel made much of them. They filled the room with dense and corporeal shapes, pressing against him. He found it hard to breathe properly. Even the air weighed on him. The room darkened even more. The lights misted to dim pinpoints in the brown and sepia darkness. Looking down at his own clothes he saw they had become a dark chocolate color, smeared with lipstick from the women he carried, dripping with a substance like coarse honey – or was it his own semen. He did not remember ejaculating, but that was a possibility, since the last woman whose legs enclosed him, had managed to disengage his penis from his trousers and thrust it into her. He could feel his shoes fill with a cloying substance as the opposing counsel argued opposite submissions. He was very uncomfortable and when the honey-like substance collected in his crotch he almost panicked and felt he would have difficulty rising from the chair, that he may be stuck to it. Or was the substance white ? He was even mote disconcerted.
His speech was solid, vehement and turned more easily into geometric shapes, slurried across the floor like invading magma and set solid, quickly. Though the judge did not notice, the words clung to the bottoms of his, the judge’s trousers, as well, and the hem of his judicial robes, holding him firmly at the elevation of the bench above the bar table. His opponent’s words were circular, elliptical, their character not well formed. It was difficult to discern what shapes they made. This did not escape the judge The words spoken by his opposition were more like the words on a comic strip, drawn in by a cartoonist in black and white and contained in a small frame with a line linking it to the mouth of the comic strip speaker. They remained static, of little impact.
There was a long silence and he saw the judge’s mouth moving to review the facts and the further evidence presented – the judge was unaware of the terrible condition of his clothing and how some substance it covered him like a thin film of semen. The barrister wondered how the judge could tolerate the discomfort. He was wet through, but he seemed to like the feel, even when it reached his neck. The judge did not seem to notice the nude woman approaching the bench. Was it the appellant?
The judge began to speak again, glancing at a text near him and reading it from time to time. He said: “I do not believe your client Mr. Doe and will adjourn the case sine die and you can arrange to fix a date in the near future for sentencing.” The Appellant’s barrister felt slightly sick because of the condition of the judge’s robes and the density of the speech that had built up in the room during the hearing - still in a plastic state like the semen smearing the judge’s trousers. Finally the judge stood up and as he did so, words dripped from his robe into his shoes, a volatile, sticky mass. But the judge did not notice this as he turned and shut the door to his chambers. The Appellant’s barrister could imagine his reaction on discovering the mess he was in – and that he had a woman hanging from his waist, but then that was no longer his problem. Another, a pole dancer followed – clutching the tail of his judicial robes.
He knew he should have followed his client immediately she left the courtroom – shouting ”I’m disgusted at your behavior”.
“I’ll never consult him again.” This to the judge’s associate.
She was shaking with rage and very agitated. It was obvious she was a Christian, and John Doe thought that whatever sex she might have, she would not enjoy and it would probably happen in a darkened room or at night when she couldn’t see the body parts used for intercourse or who it was. John Doe could not understand why these thoughts were in his mind. He realized too late he should have followed her and apologized or explained, since words spoken by the judge had begun to set and were so thick and dense he could hardly move through them. Also another woman had appeared and tried to take his genitals in her hands. If he didn’t get out now he would be encased forever where he stood.
But he found he could not move and the empty courtroom had already darkened. He was trapped in all the words, phrases and sentences that were setting quickly into a solid block, with him in the middle, like an insect in an amber paperweight. Trying to move he found no way to escape the concepts the words had created. As he stood there they tightened, bright amber and surely would taste of honey; or the semen those women had smeared over his unzipped fly – and they seemed to be all over him again – a nightmare of exposed flesh.
He rushed to the nearest ‘phone to call the psychiatrist. He was afraid now that it would not be very long before he felt the hand of a police officer on his shoulder – and hear the fatal words – “You do not have to say anything, but whatever you say….”