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The Black Table
The Black Table
Published by Ibrahim
4 Weeks Ago
The Black Table

written on the occasion of an improvised exhibition/ dérive/intervention in Hastings, UK last weekend

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THE BLACK TABLE

Not all places are locations.
You know the kind: they go almost unnoticed when you pass them, even if you do so every day; when standing in such a spot it seems the memory of it begins fading before it has even taken proper shape. Of the people in such places, one wonders what lives they lead, what kind of life had led them here. But before you look away with a vague sense of unease, the impression has already dissolved itself, and you press on through the crowd, under the double blaze of incipient neon and a fiery sunset. Shadows lengthen into the sterile white display windows of digital hardware stores. Brand names, headlights reflect on metal. The city heaves and belches towards the weekend.
Friday!

After a particularly gruelling meeting with the supervisor, who had seemed mercilessly intent on dismantling your report, you are both ravenously hungry and far too angry to do anything but walk, walk, walk in an attempt perhaps to dissipate the fury or else cover it with fatigue. The result, soon enough, is that hunger and fatigue have chained your heels to the implacable resolve to sit down and eat, weighing down your feet, slowing your pace, to a halt. You look around you. An unknown area of the town unfolds itself darkly, quietly in all directions. Noises of the town centre linger on the air as if drifted in from over a high wall. The buildings suggest the thick untreated concrete of Mussolini-era mausoleums. The nearest light emanates from a window painted with the letters CSINE, and in a more curvy hand above it: EAERN. In the brightness, a row of tables laid with black tablecloths against which the cutlery and plates are offset like jewels.
Once inside, you waste no time in asking for the menu.

The waiter obligingly brings you a laminated leaflet, frayed as if a nervous person, or a dog, has been biting the edges. The prices are listed clearly, but the names of the various dishes are, like the window sign, irregularly spaced groups of letters: ENGF, OG, HAI. Looking up from the menu, you conclude that the other customers, whom you had not noticed before, present a similar aspect of being there in an unreadable way. One wonders what lives they lead, what kind of life had led them here. You can infer which kind, though; the kind lived in the grimy space under the turn of the farthest staircase at the railway station; that knows each underpass on the other side of which the sky always seems overcast.
Exasperated, you call again for the waiter and ask him:
"Would you recommend anything in particular?
The answer: "Your choice, sir, is your own."
"I'm afraid-," you try to adopt a tone of ironic bemusement "-i lack the necessary information to arrive at a choice."
"There's always the chef, sir."
"Yes, what a fine idea," you're too tired to exclaim.
The waiter seems to surpress blinking his eyes for some reason.
"Please follow me to the kitchen to receive chef's recommendations.The chef's recommendations are given in the kitchen."

No one looks up as you follow the waiter through an orange door into an unlit tiled space open to the night sky. There is a sound as of gas escaping. From unseen lines hang tattered black sheets flapping with a slow, heavy sound in a breeze that smells faintly of the sea. The waiter has moved onward meanwhile and you hurry to catch up with him in an area where the sheets are hung increasingly closer together, forming hallways and corridors. Where the breeze lifts up a sheet, you briefly catch sight of half-demolished offices; a sagging desk; a hand in a waste-paper basket; a screensaver displaying a purple dolphin.
The waiter unlocks a door in a wooden fence and leaves you in the narrow alley behind it. There, everything is laid out for the ceremony, on a low table before which you must kneel to be able to commence. Slowly, meticulously you begin devouring the scraps of paper on which are written significant combinations of letters: NH, WRO, Q.
The ritual completed, you shuffle contentedly to the end of the alley, from where you observe the morning commuters in the pale watery dawn light.
One wonders what lives they lead, what kind of life had led them here.
4 Thanks From:
miguel1984 (4 Weeks Ago), Mr. Veech (4 Weeks Ago), Nemonymous (4 Weeks Ago), Robert Adam Gilmour (2 Weeks Ago)
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