Take a spring, for example: Prussian-blue, tightly-coiled, splitting light into its seven constituents; packed with potential energy. Mary found it.
Can you see the depth of the shiny blue and the spectrum bouncing off it? Did you ever have one yourself? Is it still coiled, ready to spit its venom, or has it fulfilled the Second Law of Thermodynamics: everything has a tendency to wind down to randomness? And, having wound down, is it also fulfilling Newton's First Law of Motion: a body will remain in a uniform state of rest or motion unless outside forces act upon it? (Mary always gets to the bottom of things.)
That's another thing -- these laws: are they divine, are they existential? Or do they boast the superficiality of the human desire for certainty?
Now -- that tight, blue spring. If it released its tension and lay for decades on a shelf -- any shelf of your choosing: picture that shelf now -- would it attract so much dust that the steely blue would turn grey? Or answer me this: why did God make the universe asymmetrical? That question prompts another: why should he create symmetry? And if there's no pattern at the heart of the divine, what is there? Chaos: no wonder we're all terrified.
It all started with the colour of a spring -- Mary felt the lump. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another. The Law of Conservation of Energy: another man-made law.
These laws -- are they discoveries or are they fortunate ways of forcing order on to chaos? They sound more like post-war prefabricated buildings. What I crave are the results of archaeology. Fell the house and dig beneath the footings -- what do you find? Ah, now we're thinking to some purpose, now we're moving away from metal springs and confronting the spring of life.
This all sprang from the time Mary said:
"Your bed's lumpy."
She felt underneath the sheet, in a thorough, determined way: she likes to get to the bottom of things.
"Bloody spring's gone!" she shouted.
This was the evening of a particularly alcoholic night out. (Skinful? Psycheful. Successful.) Once indoors, we tumbled onto the -- I should explain that I live in a bed-sitting room. We'd staggered back from the pub -- it takes about ten minutes to walk from 'The Honest Trickster' -- and I'd been looking forward to toast and marmalade.
At any rate, we get in and I'm just about to light the gas under the grill, when she throws me on to the bed. So far, you may think, so good. Anyway, there we are, fooling around and her leg's tangled in my groin when we end up starkers and roll about and... Well, to cut a long one: I'm rearranging my leg when she feels the lump.
We both investigate: it's not one spring but several, and there's a hole in the mattress -- that's how I see its colour. Suffice to say, I don't get toast that evening, but I do in the morning.
Mary's studying psychology. Mm. As for me, well, I'm studying springology. Don't laugh: it's a bona fide subject. Put together psychology and springology and what do you get? Psychospringology: the science of the ups and downs of mental life. What are you laughing at? It's true: shared emotion.
Will you stay with me a little longer? It takes courage, I know. Do you want some more? It's an acquired taste, I'll agree.
Mary and I met at a pub. "You," she said, "need sorting out."
"What," I quizzed, "and you're the lassie to do it...?"
She smiled. Winningly.
I paused a little before my next question.
"Why-- " I smiled -- "why psychology...?"
"I'm interested in the way the mind works. People fascinate me."
"Ditto," I say, "but --" and here I cut the thought short. She was offering me friendship, love, possibly more; all I had to do was respond. Why question the good?
"I," said I, "only analyse the bad. Shall we chum up?"
And chum up we did. But. But she's trying to change me, mould me, normalise me. And I'm resisting. Oh, yes: always maintain your individuality, incorporate that existential spark into your socially-integrated self. Mary says I go on too much about existentialism. Old hat, she says, had its day. I said Einstein's dead but we still have the bomb. Her response? She tickled me, then used me roughly on the bed. See what I mean about seriousness? I reckon it's only my body and brain she wants me for.
But all this is prologue: I give it you as background to our relationship, and preamble to the spring dilemma.
"New bed," she asserts. "New mattress."
"Not mine, the landlord's," I say with confidence.
She screws up her face, clenches her fist. "Assert! Assert!!"
To what extent, I wonder, is she projecting herself on to me? You know what these psychology students are like, don't you? Bonkers...? No: just trying to sort themselves out.
"Do you," she gambits, "want me to phone him for you?"
We turned the mattress and, apart from the stains, it was fine. Probably needed a good airing, anyway. Like my thoughts. That's why I'm telling you. Because we all need someone to tell our intimate thoughts to. I've got two: you and her. You're a stranger: that's nature's way of ensuring a healthy gene pool. Get the gene pull right (strangers attract) and Robert's avuncular.
Now, my landlord's a love. Slow, mean, tight -- Timothy Tight Arse -- but he's a gent and I love him to death. Claims he was in the security services but Mary's pooh-poohed that. Can't say I blame her. Anyway, I don't know what techniques she employed but I had a replacement (new) bed and a brand-new mattress within a week. He said I must be giving the springs too much exercise, didn't know my own strength, then winked and said he wished he was still a young man. I don't know why because his girlfriend is half his age and a doll (who always winks seductively at me -- though Mary says I'm deluded).
Now, then: that spring, and the science of psychospringology: the study of the ups and downs of mental life. "You think too much," said Mary. Maybe. But the spring (its colour) made me think about a toy car I'd had: friction. It never went far enough, no matter how vigorously you revved it up. You could only get it to go a short distance, then it stopped. Perpetual motion: a non-starter, scientifically impossible. "A car which went for ever would be pointless," offered Mary. "You have to get out now and again to do things." Fair comment.
Which brought me round to life. "Why," I asked, "is it not perpetual?"
"Because it's not," she said.
"Sometimes it bothers me, sometimes it doesn't." I left a long pause. "Up and down, I go. Up and down."
"But always spring back," she said. "That's why I love you." She let that sink in, then: "If you ever left me--
-- here the black hole gaped and I felt myself staring into a godless void: we're all going to die; we're all alone; we're condemned to be free; there's no obvious meaning in the universe-
-- if you ever left me, you'd come bouncing back."
See what I mean? I'm a bona fide spring: and that's all the result of studying springology.
Spring equals twang equals ultimate optimism. A coiled spring, like a taut string, has twang. Get your own spring right and it will never unwind, never let you down, never fulfil the Second Law of Thermodynamics (run down to a state of chaos).
Now, there must be a conclusion to all this, but I'm blessed if I can find it. Hark! That's Mary calling, telling me I've spent too long at this keyboard and not long enough on hers. Bedtime, folks! I'll finish this in the morning, once she and I have fulfilled Newton's Third Law of Motion: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
can be contacted here
. Born Broughty Ferry (near Dundee) 1949. Trained as an actor and worked in the theatre. Has also worked in retailing and financial services. Stories and articles have appeared (or are forthcoming) in BuzzWords
, SmokeLong Quarterly
, Countryside Tales
. Lives and works in Brighton.