On being hit in the head (for David Lang)


…‘heh…hello…hello heyloo-oo-oo…Mr Lang, can you hear me?’

‘Just nod…that’s it. I thought you’d want to know where you stand.’

‘You’re on the ground, your eyelids are fluttering and your breathing is shallow.

‘There’s some twitching in your extremities, some jiggling…’


… was getting ready for the concert, tying my tie, when I was struck (that’s twice this week). While I was attending to which tab goes under which, someone (it was him, there’s no doubt) crept up and struck a blow on the side of my head…


…began two days ago. It was late and I was walking through the park. How late? Well nine-ish but the park was pitch black, only a dim globe at the end.

So I’m walking. Nothing to look at, nothing to see, one step then another, left right, one two. Next thing there’s a step behind me, then again. The hairs on the back of my neck are going crazy with primitive alarm. I try once more — one two and there’s three four. I knew it was a mistake to stay at rehearsal but Marginson insisted on one more run through (Marginson!) and now. Again—one two, Three Four. All right think. Think quick: it’s dark, there’s a path and a dim far away globe a tiny island of light somewhere (one two—THREEFOUR THREEFOUR THREEFOUR). I am fucked well and truly. What to do? Stay calm? Should I run? Like a rabbit and there’d be pounding behind me and he’d bowl me over and…


…who’s that? Up ahead? There’s a figure a form a man a guy a guy with a briefcase, in a suit—hey. Hey! (It’s someone all right) slow down, walk me to the end of the park, no more. What’s your hurry? Stop, can’t you? Let me catch you up, but… Wait. Where is he? He’s gone. Turned a corner. And now there’s just me in the darkness walking towards a pathetic orange globe…


… falling towards the floor and the floor rushing to embrace me and in that long slooowww w w   w hyper-extended moment I thought about being unconscious: I’d never been unconscious before. At least I was well dressed. I hope I hadn’t wet my pants. I hope I wasn’t drooling or frothing. And of course, I thought about how it all started…


… car park. It all started in the car park.

No. It wasn’t the car park; it began in the hotel reception.

No. It was the Chinese restaurant.

I’m sorry I’m a bit muddled; it’s probably the blow to my head.

Let’s back up a bit.

…he’d been there all morning. Every time I stepped out or turned around there he was pretending he wasn’t watching. Fixated on a shop window or feeling up some cheap threads outside the tailors or conversing with the idlers in the square: he was following me all right.

Lunchtime came so I crossed a street, ducked up an alley, ran through an arcade and stepped into the Lucky Dragon.

I sat down, reached for the menu and there he was!

There already.

At the booth across the aisle, wiping soy from his chin.

It was too much.

I’d had enough.

It was time to turn the tables.

See how he liked it:

to be surveilled,

to have my eyes relentlessly observing him,

to have my breath on the back of his neck.

But let him turn around suddenly—I’m gone, I’m invisible…


… after lunch. He gets up, pays his bill and he’s out into the street.

I do the same but the waiter mucks up the bill, some confusion about card authorisations, and by the time I’m out of there I catch sight of him stepping into The Plaza.

I give him a moment and then follow,

through revolving doors,

as I step into the lobby,

I glimpse the back of his head,

disappearing down the stairs to the car park.

I ask the concierge: ‘Who was that?’

Hotels don’t usually give out this kind of information but whether it was my fierce determination or the twenty bucks I’m waving in his face he says, ‘Why, that was Mr Lang.’

‘No,’ I say, ‘I’m Mr Lang.’

He looks again and says: ‘I’m sorry, that was Mr de Lang.’

I pay the monkey and head for the stairs…

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