Think of something – anything – think of it like it’s really there, like you’re about to grab it and pull it to your chest, like you own it – you feel that? You feel that!
I’ve been working on a construction yard lugging around objects with Serbs, crew-cut Poles and Danes from Jutland. Equipment, piping, stuff thirty times your size trolleyed around like toys. This week: steel-tube cathedrals for the sea hoisted whole into a massive Danish sky.
Me, I’m by the workers’ huts mostly, with my clipboard, my collar up, fjord-wind on my cheeks, hardhat and steel-cap boots. I note the angles when the cathedral rises, when it hangs and when it rests in the waters. It blows me away every time.
After the hoist, the Danes smoke amongst themselves and speak Danish – oodsk’de gansk’eurjeh’ twiege larsk – to my ear, sing-songs played in reverse, but I know it’s all crap, shit, fucker, whore, curses on Albania for the draw in the world cup qualifier the other night, the night we went out – the whole yard – forty-man strong strolling into Ålborg. I felt like a Viking conqueror. But Christ do these Danes drink! Holy mother of God! If the human spirit can be dissolved, these Danes know how.
In the yard, I stick with the Poles, and mostly with a painter called Vaichek, from Krakow. Paint-gun, gas mask and white pressure-suit. On his chest is a patch that reads VAICHEK that I keep reading every time we speak – VAICHEK VAICHEK VAICHEK – but underneath the gear, in his heart and mind, he’s a linguist – a scholar. Ai paint for de money, he says, producing seven fingers, seven times de money. I called him a sell-out once for fun, but he swung his gun around and debated me in seven languages. Vaichek, put it down, put down the gun, I didn’t mean it.
The first night, in the workers’ hut, I tried to think of something; I tried to think of it like it was really there, like I could own it, but nothing showed. So instead I reached for the money in my pocket and pulled it to my chest. Fresh money. Kroners. Call me greedy, but the first night it worked. The first night only. After that, I was left to my own devices, and had to conjure that stuff up all on my own, like those sparks out of JK’s boxes.
The trick is - I figured it out - the trick is you start with something small, a thing (people are hard; you do that later).
Tomorrow, another cathedral hoist. I’ll take angles again and talk to the Serbs – translate (that’s why I was hired) – I’ll tell them to get on with it, to get the hell on with it (foreman’s words), the whole day with my clipboard, my Bic, the sun poking me in the eye, fjord-wind on my cheeks and that something special, that something almost real – first a thing, then a person – close to my chest.