If I may so express it, I was steeped in Dora. I was not merely over head and ears in love with her, but I was saturated through and through. Enough love might have been wrung out of me, metaphorically speaking, to drown anybody in; and yet there would have remained enough within me, and all over me, to pervade my entire existence.
The ship rolls and her timbers creak like a barn in a gale.
‘Have you considered turning apothecary ashore, Mr Nash?’
‘Not I, sir.’ Nash does not smile at the pleasantry.
‘I can see Nash’s Patented Elixir arrayed in a row of china bottles.’
‘Men of commerce, sir…’ Nash counts out laudanum drops into the pewter beaker ‘… for the most part, had their consciences cut out at birth. Better an honest drowning than slow death by hypocrisy, law or debt.’
Act, implores the Ghost of Future Regret. I shan’t give you another chance.
Jacob hurries past the tomatoes and catches her up near the gate.
‘Miss Abigawa? Miss Aibagawa. I must ask you to forgive me.’
She has turned around and has one hand on the gate. ‘Why forgive?’
‘For what I now say.’ The marigolds are molten. ‘You are beautiful.’
She understands. Her mouth opens and closes. She takes a step back…
… into the wicket gate. Still shut, it rattles. The guard swings it open.
Damn fool, groans the Demon of Present Regret. What have you done?
Crumpling, burning and freezing, Jacob retreats, but the garden has quadrupled in length, and it may take a Wandering Jew’s eternity before he reaches the cucumbers, where he kneels behind a screen of dock leaves; where the snail on the pail flexes its stumpy horns; where ants carry patches of rhubarb leaf along the shaft of the how; and he wishes the Earth might spin backwards to a time she appeared, asking for rosemary, and he would do it all again, and he would do it all differently.
The embassy’s door was of bulletproof steel lined with a veneer of English oak. You attained it by touching a button in a silent lift. The royal crest, in this air-conditioned stillness, suggested silicone and funeral parlours. The windows, like the doors, had been toughened to frustrate the Irish and tinted to frustrate the sun. Not a whisper of the real world penetrated. The silent traffic, cranes, shipping, old town and new town, the brigade of women in orange tunics gathering leaves along the central reservation of the Avenida Balboa, were mere specimens in Her Majesty’s inspection chamber. From the moment you set foot in British extraterritorial airspace, you were looking in, not out.
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes.