A LITTLE OVER TEN YEARS AGO...
My inital thought was that Bianca – that's the name of my (as soon became apparent ex-) muse – was once again languishing in another splendid sulk somewhere. She was absolutely nowhere to be found. This wasn't necessarily unheard of – she did after all have other people to inspire, but I could usually rely on her turning up around tea time, proclaiming famine and ransacking the fridge. But as the evening hours coalesced into night, I concluded that she was gone for good. And maybe that was for the best. I did struggle to deal with her recalcitrance, and the long-suffering boredom with which she dispensed her pearls of inspiration from perfect lily-white hands into my clumsy, sweaty, grubby palms. Although I always received these offerings with a choking, tearful, runny-nosed gratitude and spent small fortunes on arts and crafts supplies to tempt her, it would seem that Bianca had had enough of me. I probably shouldn't blame her. I'm really not the easiest person to get on with. But I do need a new muse!
So, at 9.00 am yesterday morning, I went to my local Job Centre. Special requests such as muses are handled on The Off. To get there, you have to bypass the front desks and turn down a corridor with what seems like an infinite number of doors. Keep going to the end, and turn left, left again and then once more, where the corridor somehow lengthens and changes from the sterile white walls and brown laminate doors to The Off, with its scuffed green walls and shabby woodwork. Even the air smells different, not of boiled coffee and wet coats, but freshly green with a hint of lilacs.
After what seemed like forever, I reached the door I was looking for: peeling red paint and tarnished brasswork, with a plaque proclaiming 'Works Office'. Underneath was a schedule listing the opening hours, though I knew from experience that these appeared to be optional – it really was coincidental whether the office would be manned or not. But today was a lucky one – the handle turned, and I walked into the dusty room, where dust motes danced in the bright sunshine which came through tall, rather dirty windows on the left. There shouldn't really be windows there, in reality – having walked down the corridors as previously described – you should be in the middle of the building, but this is The Off, as I keep on reminding myself.
Today the office was manned by BryEnn, a skinny man of indeterminate age with lank dark hair swept back off his forehead. He was seated on a very tall stool, in front of a very tall desk on spindly legs – looking at his very tight trousers and equally tight t-shirt, I did wonder how he had managed to get up there at all. BryEnn was busy on his mobile, and held up a finger to indicate he would be only a moment, so I took a seat at one of the normal-sized chairs that were lined up at the back of the room. Only one of them had four legs, so I cautiously seated myself on this one and waited for BryEnn to finish what was clearly a very important phone call. It took a long time. Eventually he finished, and looked down his pug nose at me from above. 'So, what's up?', he said. I shuffled, somewhat embarrassed. This was not even close to being the first time I came requesting a new muse. 'Well, you see..... Bianca has left...' He waited, clearly enjoying my discomfort. I exhaled. BryEnn rolled his eyes and sighed very deeply, before lifting the lid on his desk to bring out the application forms. 'These need to be completed in tripli-, no, quintuplicate' he said, with a rather sadistic gleam to his eye. 'I'm glad to see you're expanding your vocabulary', I replied, with as much dignity as I could muster. BryEnn snorted through his pug nose, managing not to inhale any of the piercings which adorned that little protuberance. 'Yeah, whatever', he said in a bored voice, returning to his mobile and starting to furiously type something. I waited a little bit until it became at clear that this was all I was getting out of him today. Walking out the door, BryEnn called after me – 'Yeah, don't call us, we'll call you!' 'Long live bureaucracy', I muttered under my breath. A wee cup of tea and a buttered crumpet at the local cafe and I'm somewhat recovered from my ordeal.
And now it's just a question of waiting... I shall let you know as soon as I hear anything!
© charlotte kristensen 2006