WRIT LARGE: Ch 6, Part 1
Air that Fills the Void
Previously: in Chapter 5, at Universal Studios, Lucas meets Olivia, Bernard’s British PA and they talk about Bernard’s biography. After going on several rides with her and the boys, Lucas realises that the park has been booked for Bernard’s sole use, and that the other ‘guests’ are extras. They ride the Jurassic Park ride and become drenched on the last corner. Lucas meets Cathie Wood, CEO of Ark Invest when she rudely takes Olivia’s place on one of the rides and tells him she wants him to write her biography. She invites him to Brunch at 11 am the next day. In retaliation, Olivia swaps places with Cathie in line for the roller coaster, and Cathie takes the extreme ride by accident.
In this part, Lucas takes a break in the steam room at the Barracks Hotel and reflects on his experiences with Olivia and Cathie Wood at Universal Studios the night before.
Thanks for reading Writ Large on Conked.io! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
I am enjoying the steam room in the Barracks Hotel far more than I expected to. I find I must build up to these things, the instinctive disapproval of any situation that leaves me slick with sweat overcome, before I can relax sufficiently to reap the benefits. But this morning I woke early and came before I talked myself out of it. It is peaceful. Already the release of endorphins is working its magic, and I close my eyes and focus on the moment. I practiced mindfulness for a while following my heart surgery and it taught me a valuable lesson: All we have is this moment. But, like most people caught up in yesterday’s problems and tomorrow’s plans, I often miss it.
I use the relaxation technique we learned, concentrating on the various parts of my body, beginning with my feet, feeling the warmth of the floor beneath my soles, the way my toes are spread, the big toes slightly touching each other, the way my ankles turn outwards.
All we have is this moment. But, like most people caught up in yesterday’s problems and tomorrow’s plans, I often miss it.
Head back against the wall, deep breaths, in through my nose, out through my mouth, and I can feel my heartbeat tapping its regular tune inside my rib cage. I picture it as a bird, a robin, pecking gently to remind me it is still there, still happy. It is how I’ve imagined it since the operation. And not only my heart, but my entire body has become something to be revered, something precious to be appreciated face-on rather than glimpsed occasionally as if through a grimy window. I still have the occasional tipple – nothing to be achieved by abandoning all of life’s pleasures – but I have learned to avoid stress, to detour around life’s complications. The book launch could not be avoided, and I overcome any anxieties I might have when addressing an audience, by becoming a comedian. It gets me through. But only last week I declined an interview with a local TV station because the interviewer was known for their acerbic comments on social media regarding a certain author’s mental health. Those kinds of personal attacks I can do without. Vulnerability was not something I ever considered until I had major surgery.
My entire body has become something to be revered, something precious to be appreciated face-on rather than glimpsed occasionally as if through a grimy window.
I think back to last night at Universal Studios, to the adrenaline rush of the world’s tallest duelling rollercoaster, to Cathie Wood’s silence and the boys’ excited screams. Given the option to ride alone, I probably would have declined. It was the macho attitude taking over: the boys showed no fear, so how could I? Even Cathie Wood’s fear wasn’t of the ride itself but of the discomfort she would feel as someone who lived with motion sickness. I can’t imagine that. I’d been ill once after a fishing trip that strayed into the tail-end of a violent storm, but I wasn’t the only one who suffered, and I hadn’t dwelled on it. I guess last night was partly a test, proving to myself that a little excitement can’t hurt.
I drag my thoughts back to my ankles. It’s okay for your mind to wander so long as you consciously return to the moment. My knees are relaxed. I can feel the stone bench beneath my thighs. Focus.
I chuckle to myself as I recall Olivia’s manipulation of Cathie Wood. It was subtle – no one would ever know that Bernard Arnault’s PA had instigated the last-minute swap from regular rollercoaster to one with five loops. I will have to remember the occasion for future fiction. In fact, Olivia is a likeable character, open, bold, driven, not in a way that is comparable to the CEO of Ark Invest whose bluntness could be mistaken for aggression, but simply because she enjoys what she does. And has clearly picked up some tips along the way.
I must admit, I am enjoying the unexpected change to my itinerary. My stopover in Singapore has already evolved into two nights, and I am tempted to stay a third. It has been a whirlwind visit, of exotic cocktails, fascinating people, and luxurious settings that defy description, but I find that I have not quite seen enough of this vibrant country. Intoxicating. A far more apt word. I feel drunk on my experiences here and yet I have the strangest feeling that there are more to come.
Deep breath. Focus on my tingling fingertips, my wrists which are limp by my sides, my arms which are completely relaxed.
Cathie Wood. I have no idea what to expect from our brunch meeting this morning. Already I feel like a child on a tricycle, pedalling backwards while Cathie stands at the top of a hill manoeuvring obstacles to prevent me from reaching the summit. I wonder what exactly I am basing this comparison on. Is it the way she presumed – because of her dishevelled appearance – Olivia to be an extra in the theme park, and blatantly disregarded her as a member of Bernard’s party? Or is it the candid attitude with which she informed me of her intentions to have me write her biography? Or is it simply a case of her background being so dissimilar to my own as to be unrelatable?
I am inclined to disregard the latter. My background is vastly dissimilar to that of Bernard Arnault, we might be aliens from different universes, and yet I am excited to begin his story. It isn’t in my nature to judge people based on the little I know of them – I am a writer. It is in my nature to see, to hear, and to accept. Neither am I the kind of person who quakes with fear when someone’s personality is unintentionally intimidating, even if I am in self-protect mode.
Which leaves, as I suspected, Olivia’s reaction to the woman. Her primeval instinct was to retaliate, and to ensure that her reaction succeeded. Amusing – definitely. Surprising – possibly. Incomprehensible – not in the slightest. And maybe it is because there is something genuinely likeable about Olivia that I have been persuaded by her stance, whilst reaching my own conclusions.
Would I have reacted the same way? Undoubtedly not.
It is easy to lose myself in these steam clouds, to imagine myself in another hotel, in another country, on another continent. I could be anywhere in the world and for a few moments, I allow myself to believe that I am. It almost feels as though I am floating: raise my arms and they might fly away from me, released from the constraints of a pen and paper and a laptop.