A Pin in a Map

Bryony Dawson

  1. You lie on your back and look up at the bulb which hangs on a cord in the centre of the ceiling. Not directly above you but a pace forward and out to the left. The cord is thick, white. Faint memory of a kink in it. The bulb is off.

     

  2. You often imagine your room flipped: the bulb standing in the whiteness like a single tulip. There is the feeling of trying to spread your weight across the ceiling as on a frozen pond, the crushed give of thin plaster, fine dust and fingerprints.

     

  3. The bulb is the kind with three loops, three prongs. Arranged in a kind of hexagon with a narrow space in their centre, just big enough for a finger and makes me think of foxgloves. In the shadow, the prongs congeal in one clean hook joined seamlessly at the base, thin eye of light slid through a tiny gap like a needle.

     

  4. During the day, pale square of the velux window stretches a shadow from the bulb and its cord, like a sundial set on a slow twirl of its double, to smear out the hours on the skip-trowelled ceiling.

     

  5. At night, you never turn on the overheard bulb because of the unflattering glare it throws over your room, so the ceiling is lit from below by a softer lamp. This fixes the bulb’s shadow in a dark slant like the long hand of a stopped clock. You lie and stare at this stillness, which seems to contain, saturated, all the possibility of its movement, like a mirror contains its inverse - equal volume of actual and virtual, held apart by a thin membrane.

     

  6. Even in daylight, this shadow could never complete the full cycle, only what that small square of window will allow, and then what the gap(gasp) between the houses will allow, and this season sees the sun skim the corners like a loosed balloon, sucked slow into a thick white sky, you remember.

     

  7. Every room you’ve slept in, you find yourself greeting this ceiling view like a checkpoint. A bulb and its shadow, a pin in a map, the epicentre of something. You like to think you could calibrate all of these rooms across time and space, as if each is only an rearrangement of all the others, a long series of anagrams.

     

  8. Now, ashy light on a thigh, yellow cut across the bed. Same bulb, same shadow, same morning coming. Something in the slant reassures you, like a familiar face, or a collusion, tacit, the unblinking equivalent of a wink.