On an April afternoon, in between sun and rain, Emily is yet again emotionally purchasing food in another random chippy place. At the same time, Chris is entering Kings Stables Road just a few streets away, as he wishes to examine performance space for upcoming Hidden Door Festival.
These two seem to be worlds apart right now — but actually, they are connected in a constant move through the subtle net of all living things. In the evening they will meet quietly and talk about this day that they will have lived through separately, but together.
Emily: Proximity of a window is really important for me in a coffee place, when I come to sit and write. Before finishing my cup of coffee I usually move table three to four times, until I find the spot which is closest to perfection. Only then it is when I actually start writing — although I don’t try to tackle important topics anymore. I have recently decided to just describe what I see — fat people eating cake, Italians enjoying tiny espressos, dogs running around in the rain outside. What else is there to say?
Chris: Red light doesn’t bother me enough to stop my bike, unless there is a car clearly approaching me on a junction. I can see all of them now — vehicles and people — dancing around me in unpredictable patterns. I don’t try to predict though; I just follow their moves continuously so that I can slip somewhere in between the traffic, unharmed. When I find a street to be too narrow, I jump on the pavement. When a dog approaches me too fast, I shout to scare it away. On my red bike I cruise around whole Edinburgh, which still seduces me after five years of living here. I never wear a helmet — it would cover up my field of vision and I wouldn’t be able to see the sky.
Come with us and observe closely throughout the present day — as you read these words, imagine a city map, seen from high above. Look at all the dots moving around the map — these are people getting on buses and speeding up, then getting off and walking at their own natural pace again. We are just some dots among others.
Now, notice how streets join each other and how sometimes they are cut by irregular strings of small rivers. Observe the monotonous play of streetlights going on from early morning — green, flashing orange and red, pulsating in their lazy rhythm. It seems that world has been like this forever. How can we know whether we have ever lived in caves or been what is now called pagans? The only real moment for us to talk about is NOW.
The now starts whenever — for example on a cloudy Scottish morning in April, when Emily is still dreaming through the very last of her sleeping adventures. She is quite occupied there, going out to dinner with her disabled service users, whom she supports at work during waking life. One can tell that this girl is a beginning dreamer — she still uses most of her REMs to toss and turn her everyday experiences. She is still not as lucid in her dream as she would like to be.
While Emily’s mind is slowly emerging from the ocean of unconscious, Chris starts producing first kitchen sounds of the day — boiling water and pouring nourishing liquids in his jars and bottles. He minds his own business in the morning, not running to Emily’s room straight away just to say hello and give her a kiss. As strange as it may sound even to herself, she has started to appreciate that enormously, as her own morning routine could freely develop next to this tall peaceful creature living on the opposite side of the flat’s hallway.
As she hears him closing bathroom door for a morning poop, she finally makes it to sit up in her bed. She meditates for a few minutes before she proceeds to the routine day’s activities.
Emily: On the bus I always go to the upper floor of a double-decker and sit as close to the front as possible. My eyes are often blinded by the sun, especially in the mornings, when I usually travel south. These moments teach me patience for breathing and observing my thoughts. How fantastic the images that my mind produces can be! I often catch myself visualising the future as I expect it to unfold — green slopes of French Alps or an evening meal of avocado and oatcakes.
The pictures come and pass, come and pass, and gradually they blend together with feelings of anxiety, guilt and fear. These are the ones I experience on a daily basis; bus is a fantastic place for all of them to come and knock at the glass window of my awareness. I usually sigh, get up and turn the handle — they all flood me together with fresh spring air coming into a speeding bus. Before I get off, I sometimes leave a gift on the bus for one of the next passengers — like today when I pretended to “accidentally” drop a little blue pencil under the seat.
Chris: Light and colours come as waves to rape my awareness with what I like to call feelings. These are the moments when I let the outside world take over and I don’t have the urge to be in control anymore. I go out to the windy reality and even though my fingers and toes seem to be freezing, I stand still and observe. My tools vary from physical eyes to the lens of my good old Nikon camera which then lets me re-see people’s facial expressions, sunsets, rains and rainbows. When I observe, it really feels like I don’t exist in separation from all that is. When I observe, there is nothing else to do and nothing that could possibly be missed.
After a refreshing morning bike ride, Chris is now exercising his patience listening to Jack — his new service user who demands quite some attention to sweeten up his morning coffee. On some level they are in tune with each other, both enjoying the cosmic music of Jean Michelle-Jarre from Jack’s amazing sound system. As long as they agree on the musical level, Chris has nothing against listening a bit more about terrible backaches and seizures. He feels an urge to move about — as he stretches his back in a yoga posture, Emily becomes aware of her spinal position on the other edge of the city, Mayfield, Midlothian.
She was the one to teach three simple yoga moves to Chris, but at the moment she needs them herself. Bending over tables full of colourful drawings made her lower back hurt — she stretches her body while joking with one of the workshops’ participants, Katie. It has been a while since Emily enjoyed herself animating art workshops, and now she feels it is good to be back — especially that she finds the co-leading artist, Matthew, to be a like-minded person. He is a yoga practitioner too, and there must be some non-verbal connection between them, as he offers Emily to give her a lift back to town. A thought crosses her head to invite him to the Hidden Door rehearsal performance.
Chris’ mind is currently occupied with the very same performance, which they are developing together with their friends Michael and Silvia, managers of Lethally Harmless Productions. In the here-and-now Chris calls Michael to ask about the exact location of the performance space. The two friends agree to go and see it together in about an hour, provided that all the necessary circumstances occur and they manage to find a common point in their days’ agendas. Acknowledging the location of the space, Chris simultaneously hangs up, gets off the bus and smiles to a pretty girl who passes by. Sun touches his bold head from behind a cloud as he approaches the bike that he had left here a few days ago.
Emily: I want to love him, I have this intent or maybe a desire to love. It is composed of all the beautiful images of us travelling, evolving and making a positive impact on the world, as a duo. I ask myself what would it mean for me to give him true love. The best answer I managed to find so far is: to let him be his own way and let his presence in the world be enough for me in terms of what I need from him. Only when I find myself in this mindset can I manage to perform a loving “doing” towards him — like cooking soup or giving him a massage. And anyway, I know I can’t love him before I love myself. I remind myself to let him be free and then I realise that he is free already.
Nothing has brought up as many tears in me as his presence. It might sound as if he was hurting me on purpose, but I am far from assuming that. The moments when I cry the most are usually the ones when he sits still and lets me perform the show.
Chris: Her presence can be so sweet and then so annoying just five minutes later — just because she tries so hard. I often notice the look she gives me when she doesn’t know what to say or how to respond. This look makes me laugh sometimes, but can also trigger anger. I want to love her, but the idea of both of us dependant on each other scares me away. Especially when I see she wants me to be next to her so badly. Therefore, it seems beneficial that soon we are going to have some time apart. I need my space and she might soon discover how much she loves hers. This is why I am also not sure whether she will want to come back. After all, I know she has all the reasons to see me as an asshole.
While talking to Matthew in his car, Emily gradually awakens to the present moment. It happens to her once every couple of days, that she feels energy radiating all around and embraces the power to reject all ego and just be.
Matthew drops her off next to the Meadows and light rain starts soaking through her being as she crosses the grass and walks up towards George IV Bridge. A Marie-Curie fundraiser is about to approach her, but Emily sees this happening in advance and she decides to be the one to initiate the conversation. While listening to a not very often practised speech about how awesome Marie-Curie Foundation is, she receives a phone call from Chris.
He is just a couple of streets away, next to Edinburgh College of Art, and he calls to ask how to find Artlink office. This is the point of the day when they connect for a very brief moment. She sees him with her inner eye, going around in circles on a bike, one hand on a handlebar and the other holding the phone. He senses confusion and sudden hurry in her voice, as she realises her battery is almost dead and she still needs to call Silvia to set a meeting point for this afternoon. They hang up with a happy “c-ya-later” and carry on with their activities.
Emily finds herself facing anxiety again — the awareness of Presence evaporated somewhere suddenly, after the disturbance of the phone call. But this energy didn’t disappear, as Chris seems to be taking over. With increased confidence, he steps in to the Artlink office which suddenly appeared in front of his eyes right after he called Emily. He deals with a woman at the desk, gets back the money he spent on George’s bike and a minute later he jumps back on this very bike. Michael is not making it to see the space in King’s Stables, but Chris still has enough curiosity and time to go there on his own. He feels as if he owns the street while rolling downhill towards old depot buildings now transformed into an alternative art area.
Emily realises it is only going to be minutes before her phone dies and she is desperately trying to reach Silvia, who is at the moment working and cannot pick up. Emily decides to text her so they can meet in the exact spot from which Chris called her a minute ago — Sainsbury’s next to the Edinburgh College of art, 4:50 p.m. ‘See you there’ Silvia replies and Emily experiences a brief moment of relief, after which her mind urges her to occupy it with something new.
Soon enough, just before another round of rain, she finds herself yet again emotionally purchasing unhealthy food in a random chippy place. At the same time, Chris enters the Kings Stables Road around the corner to be the first of the crew to examine performance space for the upcoming Hidden Door Festival.
Chris: I am curious what is going to happen behind the next corner I approach. Do I encounter a human being, an animal or maybe just cold stones covered with stinky pee of a homeless man? I try to surpass the level of routinely looking at things and question what is commonly believed. I can’t be happy until I find a perfect job, they said. I can’t live without food and water, they said. But what I haven’t experienced can always be questioned. And although the answers don’t always come immediately, I try to remain curious enough to wait patiently after I pose the question. When I allow myself to receive the answer, it arrives right on time.
Emily: In order for me to be able to look at the flow of life with a fresh eye, changing outer circumstances is not enough. Actually, I am now closer to believing that what happens externally doesn’t matter, in a sense. I can travel through China and still be in my thoughts of what is missing and what I don’t have. Or I can work with Bryan as his support worker, and consciously move through this experience, regardless of how annoying he happens to be on any particular day. In the second case, no matter how overwhelming it feels and how much time Bryan spends on the toilet — I realise the peace of this world. But, I wouldn’t normally share such thoughts with other people — it seems to sound too pretentious for many of them.
Out on a rain-salivating street Emily is forced to bring attention back to her physical body again. She is now feeling a bit sick — chips with cheese were not what her body required, after all. Apparently, the feeling they brought up in her body is required though — therefore it is happening.
She still has a couple of hours before meeting Silvia, so she gets excited about the idea of letting herself sit somewhere cosy and write. Despite having Lothian Buses day ticket in her pocket, she enjoys a walk to Fountainbridge, gradually accommodating to the heavy chippy feeling in her stomach.
Chris is at the same time getting lighter, releasing pee off his bladder and placing it right on the wall of one of the old depot buildings in King Stables. It is a bit of a thrill for him, because the lady manager of the area is right behind the very same wall, being interviewed by a journalist with a Spanish accent. Chris manages to cover up his jimmy just before both ladies come out of the building.
The journalist leaves and the manager is about to show the performance room to Chris — however, she decides that she needs to move her car first. While they are walking up the stairs of the old industrial depot, Chris notices that it is raining… inside.
Quite the opposite in Costa Coffee, where Emily is now making herself cosy and comfortable over a cup of coffee and her notebooks. She has recently decided to let go of the idea of becoming a famous writer as soon as possible — for now she wishes to let herself enjoy the act of simply putting words on paper. She looks behind the window at the heavy rain that she managed to escape. Her phone went dead a while ago and she finds it funny that she’ll soon have to ask the couple from the neighbouring table about the time. But that’s going to happen in a while — in the here-and-now she is scribbling down seemingly random notes that are to become the root of this very story later on.
Chris didn’t manage to escape the rain —and not that he was trying to. He is now back on the bike, possibly riding this particular one for the last time ever, as he is on his way to deliver it to the actual owner, George, who lives in Dalkeith. Riding in the rain is always demanding and Dalkeith is located higher than Edinburgh — therefore Chris needs to push on the pedals harder than usually. His light green trousers are gradually becoming darker, as they absorb more and more raindrops. Right after he enters “the historical town of Dalkeith” the Sun shows up again and when Chris greets George at the door, his bold head is already dry. A few minutes later, deprived of the bike, he walks into Lidl to satisfy hunger. Then, he will get ready for the rest of the day’s journey, on which he is soon to embark with Bryan.
Chris: Settling my life in Edinburgh has been important for me to realise the consequences of staying in one place. Even though this city keeps enchanting me each day, I feel that the whole world is my home, and I have the right to explore my own home. A couple of months ago the intent became clear in my head — I am going to purchase a van and drive it to explore this planet. What else is there to do apart from seeing all edges of Earth?
After the idea crystalized in my head, I realised a twist in my perception of the physical reality. Whenever I go out to the streets, I notice vans. It is like an algorithm — is this car a van? If yes — is it the appropriate size and type? Do I see myself driving it? I know that bringing my attention to it and immersing my mind in the intention will eventually bring the idea of travelling from the imaginary into physical realm.
Emily: Travelling has been with me since I remember. Obviously, it changed form over the years — from holidays spent with parents, it gradually evolved into sailing trips, hitch-hiking adventures and…long walks. Walking became an important and peculiar part of my experience — it seems to be mainly due to the fact that my mind connects this simple act to the idea of complete freedom and independence. It still strikes me that in order to travel afoot, my body is the only vehicle I need.
Without having to worry about my car or bike, I am able to access any rocky hill, cave or muddy forest. I move slowly enough to engage closely with my surroundings. Simultaneously, walking is a metaphor for a particular kind of journey, the one that I can only be pursuing one step at a time: the inner exploration of my being.
After filling in quite a few pages of her notebook, Emily decides it must be time to ask what time it is. The people from the nearest table provide her with the necessary information. A couple of minutes later, she leaves the cosy cafeteria to meet Silvia in the rain which is now becoming a bit lighter.
The minute she sees her in front of Sainsbury’s, Chris enters Bryan’s house listening to his mom bragging about her son’s awkwardness displayed every time a carer comes to pick him up from home. An impulse to politely contradict this statement crosses Chris’ mind, but as he looks at Bryan staring blankly from the corner of the room, he realises that the awkwardness is really there — and can’t possibly be denied.
He can’t help laughing and neither can Emily when Silvia tells her the story of how Paul — Michael and Silvia’s temporary flatmate — forgot his keys this morning and found himself locked out of the house for the whole day, in his gym outfit. The girls wait for him to come and pick up the keys, and soon Emily laughs again as he finally appears, still in his shorts, jogging around to warm up in the cold rain. After the keys have been passed on, Emily and Silvia are finally ready to go. They reach Kings Stables a couple of minutes later and Emily’s first impression of the place is the smell of pee next to the building’s entrance.
Bryan might not be the most easy-going service user of all — although his company is certainly invaluable when comes to identifying Chris’ emotional triggers. Disabled as he might seem, Bryan has definitely mastered the skill of finding his companion’s “buttons”, which he then cheekily pushes to annoy the person he is with. This time is no different — as Chris walks with him to his Daycenter’s 10th anniversary party, Bryan keeps stopping, turning around and touching all the trash bins on the way. What would be a 10-minute walk for most people takes them half an hour — but Chris considers it to be a success anyway. He learned that, with Bryan, you never know whether you are making it at all.
And suddenly it happens again — Emily and Chris are worlds apart, but once more they connect for a brief moment by a similar state of mind. Yet, they pay no attention to that — how would they know anyway? Transfixed on the material surface of things, they are both doing their best to play their current roles.
She scans the raw space of Kings Stables, walks around the room where they are going to perform in a couple of weeks. Introducing herself to two dominating smells — mouldy moisture and bloody rust — she simultaneously acknowledges Silvia circling the room with a camera in front of her face.
Meanwhile, he settles into the position of an observer too, as he takes a seat next to Bryan to make audience for the pompous show performed by the Daycenter’s CEO. The lady is dressed very appropriately, high heels go well with her elegant scarf that she plays with while reciting lines about the importance of education. Chris chuckles discretely over his cup of herbal tea when she refers to Gandhi as her “mentor”. In a while, everyone will have a chance to relax and lose focus, as the next point in the programme is a short documentary film about history and mission of the Daycenter.
Chris: When I find myself trapped in thoughts, disconnected and distracted, most of the time it happens when I am missing my only mother — Nature. As this year’s hard winter started fading, a day came that I finally kicked myself out of this comfortable cosy cave that I sometimes also call my room. Immediately after the Sun touched my skin, I sensed the difference — I knew I was free again. There was nowhere to go, therefore I could go anywhere. I sat on the grass for a few minutes and it felt as if my distracted mind found a way of coming to peace. As I touched the ground, I was instantly more grounded.
Now, as the spring proceeds, I try to remember that there is a place where I can always go and reconnect with this profound feeling of belonging. This place is Earth — every fragment of it that is still unchanged by human interference. There are still more of these kind of places out there than one might suspect.
Emily: I suspect that the possibility of going out to Holyrood Park and finding myself there after five minutes has been helping me a lot in the past months. It helps me maintain, and further build, my sanity in this world which I often see as one full of distractions and meaningless conversations.
I tell myself to find time for going up the hill and looking at the lake. What kind of life is it if you don’t have time to do these things, I ask myself. So I walk to sit down next to the water and look at the birds. They seem not to question their place in the world and when they run in circles, it is just for the sake of pleasure, not because of an endless search for their purpose. We, humans, have mastered the latter — searching, but also chasing and wanting.
As I am no different, I try to go up there and learn from the seagulls and swans cruising the lake. They tell me that there is nowhere to go and nothing to find, but I can rarely comprehend this. After a while I get up — sometimes more and sometimes less peaceful than when I came — and I go back home, picking some water from the spring on the way.
As the final chapter of daylight begins to unfold, the clouds are giving way to the descending Sun and colours of the Earth become more intensified. There is a lot of warmth in the landscape and the Holyrood Cliff greets Emily and Silvia as they walk back towards their homes, discussing all kinds of affairs — from food they had in the morning to lucid dreams. Emily’s anxiousness is building up again, as she anticipates the final Skype interview with Elisabeth — an owner of a guest lodge in the heart of the French Alps. This conversation will finally determine Emily’s plans for the upcoming months.
Her increasing excitement balances Chris’ stability of thoughts as he explores the space of the Daycenter’s building — Bryan got himself immersed in a conversation about Peppa Pig anyway. Step by step, Chris finds that there is plenty of rooms which he didn’t even know existed. First on the way — music room where he plays the piano. Second — conference room, where he finds himself face to face with the CEO lady, explaining to a group of people her passion for working in the Daycenter, while one of the disabled guys is desperately trying to gain her attention.
Chris shakes his head and moves on to the kitchen where he is greeted by two overenthusiastic girls. ‘Welcome to the healthy room!’ they exclaim and simultaneously point towards bowls full of all kinds of fruit. Chris feels so surreal that he performs a reality check in this place full of somehow odd people and circumstances. After he makes sure that he is not dreaming, he decides that the best thing he can do is to eat plenty of fruit, since Universe has provided them for free.
Emily is already at home, eating leftovers from the chippy place and talking to herself in an attempt to regain the clarity of mind she experienced in the early afternoon. The more she tries, the more her mind gets distracted — she chuckles at all her thoughts in front of the bathroom mirror, combing what she notices to be a bit greasy but nice-coloured hair. The less she prepares, the more peaceful she gets, therefore she decides not to procrastinate what is inevitable and logs in to her Skype account. Emily is now available to talk and so is Elisabeth, as the green icon next to her avatar clearly indicates.
Chris is at the same time available to go out of the Daycenter, as he feels he has partied enough stuffing his belly with mango and raspberries. Spotting Bryan on a sofa in the corner, he finds a graceful excuse to leave the celebration — Bryan is very desperate to still visit the King’s Theatre this evening. More enthusiastically than usual, Chris brings his friend to the bus stop where they catch number 3 to town. As he listens to Bryan’s passionate comments about Mary Poppins and other upcoming shows, Chris spots a nice sharp blue pencil rolling on the floor of the double-decker. ‘Just fine for writing in the dream journal’ — a thought crosses his mind as he puts the pencil in his pocket.
Elisabeth asks about Emily’s feelings towards going to France without Chris. Emily feels at ease talking to her and she instantly knows she got the job. Chris stands in the cold in front of the King’s Theatre and watches Bryan as he makes sure that the building is closed — for the fourth time now. Emily smiles as Elisabeth describes the accommodation she is going to get in the lodge — a small cottage in the middle of a garden. Chris drags Bryan away from Tesco and towards the bus stop, as it is time to go home. Bryan slaps himself. Emily calls her brother to share the freshest news with him — she is going to France in two months. She cannot focus on the conversation, therefore she hangs up after a while and decides to go out for a walk. To Chris’ surprise, Bryan slaps himself again in frustration for not getting a new CD today. Emily produces a few tears as she watches the lake in the strong realisation that she is not going to stay in Edinburgh forever. Chris forces Bryan to the bus and tries to cheer him up, while the latter wraps himself up in his hoodie to display dissatisfaction. Emily releases all the tension as she walks through the dense night, becoming increasingly present. She picks up a call from Michael and tells him the news. Chris frees himself from his burden friend, as he brings him back home to be left under his mom’s caring wings. He gets a bus back home and finds it interesting that during the whole journey the driver doesn’t have to stop at the traffic lights even once. Emily cries a bit more and happily breathes in some more air before directing her steps back towards Abbeyhill. Chris enters the flat, grabs his green towel and heads to the shower. Emily checks on her radishes in the garden, then walks in the flat, too. He dries his chest and puts on three pairs of socks. She sits down in the kitchen and writes down a couple of sentences to remember this day. He enters. She closes her notebook.
Chris: Seeing her after a long day, sitting at the kitchen table, became so familiar over these past few months. Today she is radiating something powerful — I know she is feeling strongly about going to France. She has cried a bit, I can tell — I have no idea how come she didn’t run out of tears yet. As I approach her, she smiles — I know I already have the power to bring smile to her face. And this is peculiar, as I do not know how much does she trust in me. Is this smile coming from within her, or is it just a cover for all the tears that are still left? That is still a mystery to me. She seems strong, but I am not sure if she could be my partner for longer. She seems to be looking for stability and a husband, which I will most probably never be. She says she wants to go with me in a van and she is strong enough for that, but I don’t know whether she is brave enough.
But despite all these thoughts: tonight we are yet again in the same kitchen, preparing our food. Tonight, she is my wife — she makes us some salad, kisses me and talks about her day. Tonight I am holding her in my arms one more time. What comes tomorrow is out of our reach anyway.
Emily: The moment he enters, heat arises in my chest. I have a lot to tell him today — but before I do, I try to observe his moves and spot his face expressions. Is he feeling tired, irritated, calm, connected, playful? I can’t really label him this way anymore, so I take a moment to acknowledge my own state — excitement and anxiousness about what is going to unfold between us this evening. I have prepared some food which always seems to work well for our conversation at the table, maybe because it helps me feel appreciated — he always responds with a genuine “thank you” to the food I cook.
These days dining is one of our main ways of spending time together — along with watching films, walking, talking and sometimes working on a new performance. Do I love him? Yes, to the best of my ability. Do I hate him? Yes, but very seldom. And I can’t really picture what happens to us in the future. Now I see him as the most neutral of all human beings I have ever met — all he does is reflect my emotional states.
I am changing so much under his influence, but I don’t consider it a threat to my authenticity anymore — I know it was very necessary for me to meet and live with him under one roof. Soon we are going to part, and I feel like it is much up to me what happens next — am I brave enough to go with him in the van?
But, despite all these thoughts, I know one thing — tonight we are in the same kitchen yet again, sharing the table and all that is on it. Tonight he is my husband — he grabs my ass, washes our plates and tells me about his day. He shakes his head in this unique way and I touch his foot under the table. Tonight we are together — what comes tomorrow is out of our reach anyway.