Sport 40: 2012
At a certain age I began to think less about sex, and more about tableware. I thought about wide-rimmed martini glasses and bulbous brandy balloons. I thought about crockery: matching dinner plates with small side platters and round voluptuous soup bowls. I thought about the tinkle spoons make when stacked together and the subtly erotic act of sliding a perfectly sharp knife into a receptive knife block. My little lusts were mathematical, my desires were numbers that added up, that could be divided evenly.
I dreamed my dreams in a home with scragged wallpaper and peeling linoleum. At night I dreamed them in a bed that seldom stayed properly made, between pilling polyester sheets, next to a man with a balding ponytail.
Phil and I were not particularly wealthy. We partly owned a reasonable house. We had known each other for a long time, and having tangled and entwined year in year out, having created two curly haired kids who often had sand or jam on their chins, the current lack of physical passion between us did not seem like so much of a lack. It was a reality I was unconcerned by. Mine was the natural age of accumulation. My body was accumulating constantly and my kitchen cupboards were never stocked with the full complement of entertaining possibilities. My bookshelves, although groaning, spoke of need for shining covers closely pressed together, for beautiful colour editions whose prints seldom reﬂected light. The hot water cylinder whispered of linen and the pipes sang of the luxuriant free-standing bath they longed to trickle into. Evenings and weekends I wiped cupboard doors and shined faucets, I laid shoes large and small in matching pairs by the door. I arranged fruit in my pièce de résistance, the cast-glass fruit bowl—banana over orange, or orange against pear?
At work Kelly, who was my age and should have known better, fantasised about people she wanted to sleep with. ‘Last night I went page 78 into this bar and thought whoah, did I stumble in on a modelling convention?’ she blurted. ‘Every guy in the place looked positively Swedish.’
‘I looked at a Swedish chair in a design store yesterday,’ I said, but this was of no interest to her. I had looked at it, although I couldn’t afford it. It had been plastic yet natural, modern yet elegant. It was made from a single sheet, with legs that bent back in perfect submission.
‘I need a lover,’ said Kelly, putting on her lipstick, or rather smearing it in the general vicinity of her lips, using the coffee plunger as a mirror. ‘I so need a fuck.’
I have never understood people who apply makeup in company. ‘Watch out,’ I said, ‘you could end up married or something.’ I was being slightly facetious—it was perceptible that marriage and children were the things Kelly really wanted, and fast, fucks aside.
‘Not necessarily,’ she said. She primped her hair for a minute, smoothed her shirt in some kind of avian preening ritual, and went back to her computer screen. ‘It’s the twenty-ﬁrst century, and I was never particularly romantic.’
‘Phil is trying to be romantic,’ I said. I didn’t really want to discuss my own personal life, but it was expected and therefore unavoidable. Suddenly the library catalogue in front of me began to look very absorbing. Bug Week was approaching.
‘That’s nice,’ said Kelly, with the hint of a question mark, by way of a prompt.
‘He thinks we need more spontaneity in our lives,’ I said. ‘He’s trying to be unpredictable. His hair keeps getting longer and it’s driving me nuts.’
‘Oh, surprise picnics, random gift-giving. He’s unpredictable in a predictable kind of way, if you know what I mean. Breakfast in bed.’
‘I love breakfast in bed!’ Kelly shouted.
‘I can’t imagine anything worse,’ I said. Crumbs get between the sheets, coffee gets spilled on the pillows. Grease is wiped on the bedside table. People who relish such things bemuse me. How is it pleasurable to wallow in one’s own food scraps? How does a devil- may-care attitude to cleaning lead to happiness? There is nothing romantic about ﬁlth.page 79
‘What else is happening in the bedroom?’ Kelly asked.
‘The bedroom is where we sleep.’
‘Aha.’ A knowing smile. Of course she didn’t know. A welcome silence. Then: ‘Does he ever break into song?’
‘Not yet. I’m scared that one day I’ll get home and there’ll be an air ticket to Rarotonga sitting on the table, and I’ll be expected to sort out my luggage in ten minutes, and leave without doing the washing.’
‘Rarotonga!’ Kelly yelled. ‘Fucken hell, why wouldn’t you want to go there?’
‘Oh, you know. It’s not that I’d rule it out forever, but I just wouldn’t want to go at a moment’s notice.’
Kelly shook her head. I have given everyone I work with a secret hairstyle nickname. Kelly is Hedgehog. Possibly Albino hedgehog— short, blond and spiky. ‘I’ve never understood you,’ she said. I had to stop the conversation before she delved further. ‘I’m going up to the bug room,’ I said. ‘Is there anything you need taken upstairs?’
Around this time I began to notice that my colleague Don MacCreedy, the entomologist, was walking around in a state of permanent semi- sleep. His eyelids would ﬂicker like he was on drugs, he would meander through a room and not see anything in it. I didn’t know Don well but I had picked up a few things about him. He was able to focus intently, and could enter a sort of trance while peering down a binocular microscope, that could last half an hour. He rarely engaged in normal conversation. On the other hand he was always impeccably presented, with crisp shirts, clean shoes and digniﬁed colour schemes. He never wore the garish ties or revolting striped shirts that screamed for some men ‘I’m going to WORK!’ He shaved his face and kept his hair short and tidy, with no signs of a mid-life grooming crisis. People often infer that a well-presented man has a woman somewhere forcing him into it. However, from what I had deduced, Don lived alone. He was a divorcé and his mother was sufﬁciently ensconced in the Outer Hebrides to prevent her from ironing his trouser creases. Sometimes good things happen in the absence of nagging.
Don’s appearance and his behaviour were so anomalous as to be interesting. I didn’t feel particularly interested in him; he was, I told myself, a rare genus I had to identify. I doubted the inﬂuence of page 80 substance abuse in his case, but I made up my mind to keep an eye on him.
The day of my conversation with Kelly on spontaneity, I arrived home with my heart in my throat. My one superstition is that saying things aloud could bring them into being. The table top was covered in bits of paper which I screened anxiously. A picture of a giraffe by my son Nicholas. A grocery receipt, two local papers, three empty envelopes, ﬂyers for a Jamaican restaurant, a drycleaners and a weight-loss programme with a money-back guarantee. Last month’s phone bill, a piece of paper with some notes of Phil’s on it, a couple of childrens’ books from the public library and a copy of Greatest love ballads arranged for piano, with an airbrushed rose on the cover. Part of my brain fell into a sense of relief and another part quickly became absorbed in formulating the disappearance of the latter item. But the piano key was fortunately still hidden from the fourth birthday party.
‘Darling,’ came my husband’s voice from the kitchen, ‘how daring are you willing to be when it comes to pizza?’
Confrontation in a marriage is often best avoided. ‘It’s up to you, Phil,’ I said, heading up the stairs. My mind raced with imagined horrors—steamed broccoli, pineapple, tinned kidney beans, crabsticks, piled into a cheesey mountain of unnecessary chaos. ‘Fuck,’ I said to myself. I looked at the turned wooden stair rail and hated it. I thought about clean lines. I thought about ripping down the spew-patterned nineties curtains and I thought about minimalism, colours that were hardly colours. I went into the bathroom, wiped down the mirror, washed my face and thought about tiles. I thought of the tiler laying each one precisely, the years of development of the craft. Then I heard a familiar voice saying, ‘Come on, it can’t be that hard. I’ll do it myself.’
‘I just want some semblance of order in my life,’ I said to my reﬂection. She blinked the water out of her eyes. She looked sullen, mousy and dishevelled.
I was enjoying myself at work one morning, making a dichotomous key for children to identify invertebrates. I thought about how everything in nature has a place, how everything is a component of a larger thing page 81 which ﬁts into an even larger thing. I hoped the universe was like that, but inﬁnitely. I thought about the mosaic vision of insects.
‘You know what,’ said Kelly, ‘what’ll happen next.’
‘Next in what?’
‘In your relationship. If things are stagnating or if neither of you are happy, one of you will have an affair, you will or he will.’
‘I hope he does,’ I said. Someone else could be afforded the pleasures of REM renditions and jazzy shirt fabric.
‘What about you?’ she asked.
‘I don’t have time to meet anyone,’ I said. ‘Besides, I am completely unthrilled by the prospect of fornication.’
Kelly snorted some of her coffee out her nose. ‘How do you think of all these crazy things you say?’ she laughed. I pushed my glasses up my nose in a way I hoped was supercilious, and carried on with the Guide to the New Zealand Forest. Kelly was obviously reading lots of semi-teenage glossy magazines, or the type of novel that sells because it ﬁlls the large vacuole in women’s brains with a sugary sustenance.
‘Don the bug man has the hots for you,’ Kelly said.
I felt a warm shudder go through me. It felt like the ﬂu coming on.
‘Bollocks,’ I said.
‘It’s true. He totally wants to fuck you. He’s always coming in here and giving us stuff.’
‘Kelly, in case you have forgotten,’ I said, ‘next week is Bug Week. We have twenty schools booked in to learn about entomology. He is a national expert.’
‘Oh, how many beetle books do we really need?’ she said. Kelly has an arts background. I ignored her and thought about taxonomy. I thought about the beauty of phylogenetic trees. The thin calligraphic branches.
Later that day—perhaps this relates to my one superstition—a strange thing happened. Our ofﬁce is opposite the lift, and as I went to shut out the draft, the lift doors opened. Don was standing in there, holding a stack of brown parcels. I thought of the tiny glass tubes that might be in them. Then for a split second he looked up. His long eyelashes ﬂickered, the trance state wavered on the point of breaking. His eyes met mine, for a brief millisecond, and then ﬂicked down again. Janet page 82 from reception walked into the lift, the doors closed, I went back to my computer, and a voice inside me said, ‘That was the most erotic moment you have had in years.’
A song went through my body, not the kind that is sung but the kind that is felt, too low a frequency for the human ear. I wanted to explain this to someone, but didn’t dare risk it. I would have said that sometimes distance is more intense than closeness. That the knowledge that someone is thinking of looking at you, but deliberately stopping himself, can be a million times more provocative than any lover’s touch.
At home Phil said, ‘Honey, what do you think about Hawaii this winter?’ The imagined Rarotongan scenario came back to me. My blood pressure rose slightly.
‘Hawaii is a long way away,’ I said to my plate. Phil was experimenting with vegetarianism and had made soy cutlets. The children had used them as table scouring agents and most of their meals were on the ﬂoor. ‘Where would the money come from?’ I asked.
‘Well, I ﬁgure it’s such a horrible Autumn this year, six more months of this can’t be healthy. Why not have a week off in July and just let the bathroom renovations wait a couple of years.’
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘There is a mouldy smell in there. The whole thing needs gutting if you ask me.’
‘Think of the kids with fresh coconuts, drinking the milk,’ Phil said. His eyes were starting to twinkle. ‘And we could see real lava.’ The kids themselves did not look up. They were too young to have any concept of a planet, or the Paciﬁc ocean. Phil shrugged. The twinkle died down. I could sense I was hurting him but felt too stubborn to stop. ‘Just an idea,’ he said quietly. ‘Where would you like to go on holiday?’ he asked Scarlett.
‘Nana’s,’ said the little girl, adjusting her doll on her lap. ‘Me too,’ said Nick. The ﬁlial duty of the two of them impressed Phil. I didn’t want to mention the possible magnet being the bottomless jar of jubes that Nana kept in her cupboard.
On the Monday of Bug Week, Kelly came in on tip toes, bursting at the seams. She uttered a few exclamations, then said, ‘I got laid on page 83 Saturday night!’
‘Really,’ I said, no question mark.
‘Guess how old he was. You’ll never guess.’
‘Seventy-two,’ I said. She made a face. ‘Twenty-three! Can you believe it?’
‘I suppose so,’ I said. I have known twenty-three-year-olds to thrust themselves into inanimate objects while inebriated, but I thought better of mentioning this.
‘Will you see him again?’ I asked.
‘Of course not,’ she said, delightedly. Clearly she had already planned the next ﬁve years, the moonlit spa baths, the ﬁreside sex, the declarations of eternal ﬁdelity.
I knew the questions a woman was supposed to ask about such things. Was he any good? Did he have a big dick? How did it happen? Was he hot? But I couldn’t face even polite enquiries. ‘I’m going to get a cup of tea,’ I said. ‘Would you like anything?’
‘Nah, I’m all right,’ she said. ‘I’ll give you all the details when you get back.’ She had the smug look of a hedgehog that has just sucked a nestful of eggs.
I didn’t go to the kitchen. I went to the rooftop and looked out over the city. I felt high up and small and suddenly lonely. I thought about earthquakes and cloud formations. I thought of words like ‘epicentre’ and ‘cumulonimbus’.
‘I’ve never seen you up here,’ came a Scottish lilt from a few metres away. Don the bug man had crept up on me. Or he had been there all along. ‘I come up here about this time every day,’ he said. It was before nine. ‘Just to get some air.’
‘Oh,’ I said.
‘I’m a creature of habit,’ he went on. His eyes were fully open. The trance was momentarily suspended. I had the sense of a pond waking in the spring, shoots emerging from the mud. ‘I like each day to follow a pattern.’
‘Do you,’ I said. I couldn’t breathe properly.
‘Every morning I get up at seven. I have my breakfast at seven thirty. I get here at eight. I like to do my reading in the morning. I’m better at organising things after lunch. I always have about ﬁve cups of tea, at fairly regular intervals.’page 84
‘I like to eat breakfast alone,’ I said. ‘I get up early while everyone else is sleeping. I like to have all my clothes sorted out the night before, and I hang them over the end of the bed.’
‘A sensible idea,’ Don mused. ‘I put on my clothes in the dark. I can’t even see what they are.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ I said.
‘Well, all of my clothes are much the same colours. As long as it’s a shirt and pants I’ll be ﬁne.’
‘Not enough people pay attention to colour,’ I said. ‘People think they understand it, but very few actually do.’ I felt a little in danger of ranting but kept talking anyway. ‘Colour can be overdone. Perhaps one small item of bright colour is enough, such as a scarf, or shoes, but the rest should be understated. The trees in this country mostly have small white ﬂowers. If you look at the native forest, there is that lovely, soft, uniform green . . .’ I stopped because I could feel him watching me. ‘I suppose I am talking crap,’ I said. We had never had a conversation like this. I wasn’t sure if the things we were discussing were entirely normal, for acquaintances of our standing. ‘I had better go back downstairs. We have a class arriving in half an hour.’
‘Yes,’ he said. He was standing closer to me now. ‘Small white ﬂowers with a pronounced nocturnal scent. Many of them are pollinated by moths or lizards.’
I risked looking at him. I hoped I didn’t appear pensive or ﬂushed.
‘Admittedly I care about my clothes,’ he said. ‘A man who spends all his spare time scrambling up hillsides after insects shouldn’t need to, but I do. I will only wear certain fabrics, for instance.’
‘I am a stickler,’ I told him, ‘for cotton, silk and wool.’ He nodded. We both stared in front of us, quiet, unmoving. Should I stop there? Should I talk about the view or the terrible architecture before us?
‘What kind of sheets do you sleep in?’ he asked. There was a sick, plummeting feeling in my abdomen. I coughed. ‘Is that an appropriate question?’ I asked.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I just believe that a lot of inferences can be made about a person, from these small details.’
I was already walking away. ‘I would never sleep in anything but linen,’ he said. ‘Belgian linen. And it has to be white.’page 85
Children chattered around me all day, made feelers out of pipe cleaners, cellophane wings. That evening I felt disorientated. On the way to the bus stop I walked into a shop outside of my price range. The blond assistant stared at my shoe hole, my wind-styled hair. Aggravated by her apparent deduction of my ﬁnancial status, I walked out with an ostentatious paper bag containing a set of red wine glasses and a set of champagne ﬂutes. I stayed up late at night removing tissue paper and standing the glasses on the bench, twirling and admiring them. Phil wasn’t exactly furious about my purchases—fury was an emotion he never expressed—but he seemed morose. ‘I thought we agreed we’d leave these things till the kids are bigger,’ he said. ‘That there’s no point having fancy stuff with small children around.’
‘I want my surroundings to be tasteful,’ I told him.
‘I thought they were.’ I looked at his fading Monet reproduction over the ﬁreplace and was too tired to even scoff.
‘You know,’ he said, ﬁngering the end of his ponytail, ‘I think it doesn’t matter what stuff you have or what your house looks like, if there is a loving family that lives in it.’
Something caught in the back of my throat. He was sounding a call to guilt.
‘I don’t want to bring up my family in a pit of squalor,’ I said. ‘I want to live in a clean house with smooth ﬂoors and curtains that aren’t mouldy. I want a refrigerator that doesn’t leak and a washing machine that doesn’t sound like a jet plane taking off.’ My voice was starting to rise, a thing I loathed in women. I cleared my throat and continued in a deeper tone. ‘Yet you somehow insinuate that I am callous or shallow to want these things. There is nothing unreasonable about a few new glasses from time to time.’ Phil was about to reply as I exited the room. I knew he would say ‘But we have heaps of glasses already,’ and it would incense me too much to point out that not a pair of them were the same.
Don and I circled each other for the remainder of Bug Week, neither of us moving from our series of choreographed steps. I thought of the lyrebird with its tail over itself. I thought of the kakapo green in his hollow, of blue-footed boobies waving their oversized feet. I thought of stag beetles battling with their strange antlers. I pretended page 86 nothing was happening. Our conversations became shorter and more infrequent. On Friday a teacher brought in a jar containing a bright green beetle, thinking one of her students had made a rare discovery. ‘You can leave it here for our entomologist,’ I told her. ‘We’ll get back to you.’ Our entomologist replied to my email almost immediately. I was short of breath when I reached his ﬂoor, even though I had taken the lift.
Don was in a microscope daze, and didn’t look up when I walked in. ‘Show us this beetle,’ he said.
‘You don’t even know who you’re talking to,’ I told him. ‘You have an eyeful of pond life.’
‘I recognised the sound of your shoes,’ he said. The room was piled to the ceiling with ﬁling drawers, each with a little pinned death inside. Don unbent from the microscope, took the jar, and smiled. A joke I wasn’t party to.
‘People don’t know their coleoptera,’ he said. ‘Stethaspis suturalis. This one is reasonably common in pine plantations and native forest.’ I wasn’t concentrating. I touched his waist. I could feel warm ﬂesh through his thin ironed shirt. This is not what you want, I told myself. You like neatness. You like distance. I pressed him against a wall.
‘Let’s not do this in here,’ he breathed, close to my ear. ‘There are one hundred and ninety years of collecting in this little room and I don’t want to damage anything.’
‘Okay.’ I swallowed. I thought about how I could extricate myself. I thought of the ant lion in its funnel of sand.
‘Look, the mammal room,’ he whispered. There were other people in the lab next door, who may or may not have been aware of our presence. ‘No one ever goes in the mammal room.’ It was true. We never put the mammals on display because they turned people’s stomachs. Most of them had mange, some of them had missing limbs.
‘I’ll meet you in ten minutes,’ I said.
‘The beetle can wait,’ he said. ‘I can be there in ﬁve.’
In less than a minute we found ourselves in the mammalian storeroom, in the controlled coolness between the tall shelves. A few hundred small glass eyes stared down at us. The smell of death, dust and preservation was overpowering. We couldn’t touch each other.
‘This is ridiculous,’ I said, and Don agreed. ‘These things shouldn’t page 87 happen in a workplace,’ he said. ‘Come to my house tonight.’
‘I can’t.’ I had two little heads to coax onto two pillows. ‘Some other time.’
‘Will you kiss me?’ he asked. I looked up and saw the Tasmanian wolf looking back at me. Its lips were peeling. I couldn’t.
Bug Week was over. The holiday in Hawaii transmogriﬁed into a week in Thames with Phil’s parents. It worked out well for all of us. Phil enjoyed seeing his family, the children were content with the prospect of lollies, and I had a week at home by myself. It was luxurious. I cleaned and sanitised and ordered everything in my house, and then I went to Don’s house at his invitation, and helped him Dewey decimalise his extensive book collection. We had sex a few times, which he seemed to ﬁnd overwhelming. Afterwards he lay in silence with his hands folded on top of his chest, eyes unfocused. Don without his clothes was strange, pink and damp, like a peeled crustacean. I realised quickly that the desire I had initially felt had not been for him. I enjoyed his company, but it was mostly a necessary preliminary to spending time sitting on new leather couches, drinking decent wine, eating off ﬂawless plates and sleeping between the aforementioned linen sheets. The sheets were always clean—it was as if there had been nothing bodily happening in them. I liked it that way. Don also had a slipper bath that one could slide into, and remain slid. When I turned the taps with my toes to add more hot water, they made no sound. Afterwards I wrapped myself in huge thick towels the colour of stone. I saw my reﬂection in the large mirror over the basin. Her hair was damp and she looked older and less attractive than I felt. ‘What are you doing?’ she wanted to know. I couldn’t tell her.
Don’s house was sparsely decorated and completely compartment- alised. There were no hidden corners where dust could gather. There were no places to lose things and nothing ever seemed to get lost. There was nothing burned onto the ceramic stovetop. Nothing biodiverse lurked at the back of the fridge. The wooden ﬂoors shone and the ceilings were immaculate.
‘I’ve lived alone for a while,’ Don said. I didn’t ask how long. ‘A couple of years, in fact. Shirley, my ex-wife . . .’ He stopped for a moment, and looked out the window. There was a view over moving page 88 trees and distant water. ‘She was pretty unstable. When she left she trashed the entire place. Totally ruined it. That’s why everything is new. She even ripped out the fucking plumbing.’ A smile hovered on his face. Was it embarrassment or some form of humour?
‘I can’t understand how anything could prompt someone to do that,’ I said. ‘People do terrible things to each other but I can’t see the point of getting that angry about it. I can’t see how you could justify the waste involved.’ Wine was making me say more than I normally would have.
‘She was pretty angry all right.’ He put down his glass. ‘I’m going to look in my cellar, would you like another drink?’ And with that the book was shut. The story had been traced out but would not be embroidered. In some ways it was a relief.
‘Something is going on with you,’ Kelly said at work. ‘You’re even more agitated than usual.’
‘I’m not usually agitated,’ I said. ‘And I feel ﬁne. Nothing in my life is remotely different. Except I have a new dinner set.’
‘You’re a useless liar,’ she said. ‘Spill.’
‘You make it up,’ I said. ‘I did whatever you think I did.’
‘I know what you did,’ she said. I knew she didn’t, but part of me wondered if the Tasmanian wolf had been talking.
The week in Thames ended. The children came home and drew on the walls. Phil applauded their creativity and their articulation of their ambitions—Nick the future astronaut had scribbled what he described as a spaceship in the corner of the lounge. Kelly met a Spanish tourist with a beard and very little English, and came into work moaning that she was saddle sore. Don and I met occasionally for cocktails on Fridays, which could be justiﬁed as work drinks. Once or twice I let him caress my back on the rooftop. He was becoming reticent again, his eyelashes were beginning to droop. Soon he would either tell me we should cool it or he would tell me he loved me. I was afraid of both of these things.
One day I came home anticipating an evening alone. Phil had taken the children, along with his sister and her kids, to see some juvenile comedian. I put my bag on the hall table and walked into the kitchen.page 89
It had been a mess when I left it—but what had happened now? Every plate—not just the new ones but every single plate—was in pieces on the ﬂoor. Every glass was smashed. The fruit bowl was in shards in the sink. I was too shocked to weep over it. My chest of drawers was emptied. All my clothes were off their hangers. In the lounge the bookshelves had been disembowelled. In the bathroom all my makeup was emptied, scattered, smeared, strewn. In very small writing in dark grey eyeliner pencil the corner of the mirror read
‘There is no order in the cosmos’.
‘Who the fuck would do this?’ I said out loud. My heart was knocking around. I rang Phil on his cellphone—there was high- pitched laughter in the background. ‘Phil, our house has been broken into,’ I told him, voice cracking. He was genuinely horriﬁed at what I described. Clearly he had nothing to do with it. Don was equally taken aback when I informed him. I rang Kelly just in case and succeeded only in disentangling her from Tomas and confusing her horribly. Who could have done this to me? Could it have been the resurfacing of the misfortunate Shirley? But she had long since moved home to Minnesota. I was sick with fear not knowing who knew enough about me and my ways to have made this melodramatic point. Would I be believed if the crime were reported? A garden variety housebreaker does not normally inscribe philosophical statements. Nothing appeared to have been taken. ‘They will say I am nuts,’ I thought. ‘They will say I have done it myself.’
I sat on the bottom stair. I hated crying—I hated the trail of snot that slicked from my nose, I hated redness and swollen skin. I hated the small, timid sound of stiﬂed sobbing. I thought about holding my husband. I thought about stroking the hair of my children as they fell asleep. I would replace everything exactly. I would put every book in its rightful place. No order. I thought about the honeybee doing its round dance and its waggle dance. I thought about the ﬁsh that home to the streams their parents came from, streams they have never swum. I thought about how our galaxy to all extent and purpose is spiralling around a ﬁxed point. And then I thought of the atom and my head throbbed. The image of it whizzed before me. The electrons moved back and forth and ﬁlled up sub-shells. Their paths were impossible to follow. They were just a cloud of light.