A young woman sits on a chair, in the middle of an empty, silent room. She is of slight build, very slight. She would call herself “delicate” if she spoke, but she does not speak. She would think of herself as “delicate”, but she does not think, rather she is suspended in a single, unending moment of reverie.
Everything about this room is faded and indistinct: the wallpaper, the carpet, the curtains, her dress. The room is illuminated only by a dim light through the curtained window, too dim to discern the patterns these things must once have had.
She sits quietly, her hands in her lap, her eyes half-closed, her gaze turned inward. There is a faint smile about her lips. She does not move. Even her breathing is scarcely discernable. The chair is a plain upright wooden chair, placed in the centre of the room. There is nothing else here. The door—for surely there must be a door, for it would be unusual for a room to have no door, and there can be nothing unusual to disturb her reverie—the door never opens. The window never opens. The curtains are never drawn. No-one enters this room. For this slight young woman, sitting in silent reverie, there is nothing outside this room.
There is nothing inside but the chair on which the slight young woman quietly sits, her hands in her lap and her eyes half-closed. There is no past and no future, no elsewhere. She does not think that this room must be part of some larger house, that the house was once built by bustling labourers placing brick upon brick, hoisting rafters, laying floorboards; she does not think that the wallpaper was once fresh and new from the printing press, and was pasted up on a bright, sunny, noisy day; she does not think of the view through the window, were the curtains opened. She does not think of how she comes to be here.
She thinks of none of these things. Here in this silent room, sitting quietly with her hands in her lap, her eyes half-closed, and a faint smile about her lips, there is only an unending present. Here, at last, she finds peace.
About “The Room”
A mediaeval peasant’s idea of paradise was Cockaigne, the land of plenty, with freedom from toil and masters. The Vikings’ Valhalla was a place of endless warfare and feasting, without death nor lasting injury. The desert Arabs speak of lush, cool gardens, palaces, and houris.
The ekphrasis above is inspired by what I sense to be some people’s idea of paradise, a desire to be nothing and do nothing. Perhaps when all that they do not want in their life is removed, there is nothing left, and this surcease and inanition, this hollow ataraxia, is their only possible dream.
My paradise? Look around you, everywhere and always. This is paradise, nor are we out of it.