When I shut my eyes I have noticed within the red fuzz of my afterimages a particularly delicate shape – a tear shape filled in fawn, the point of the droplet fringed subtly with striations of pink, beige and grey. I pay it no attention, seeing it as simply another swirl in the cloud of flotsam that blows between my cerebellum and my optic nerve, evanescent and unknowable.
H comes to see me and suggests that I might like to have an MRI scan – he’s bought a scanner with a legacy left him by a wealthy distant cousin, and likes to play with it, the way that other newly rich people play with yachts, sports cars, racehorses – those sorts of things. The MRI scanner squats in the front room of H’s garden flat; chairs and a coffee table, all piled with paperback books and dead potted cactuses, are pushed to one side by the alien bulk of the machine. I don’t find it anything but comforting to lie down on the gurney and be conveyed into the banging core of the machine; nor does it bother me that magnetic fields are being used to plot the activity of my brain. When the imaging is completed, H offers me a cup of herbal tea and we examine the VDU screen together; the scan has picked up and replicated my tear-shaped afterimage, and by enlarging this, and unfolding the delicate ruches of the neural activity, H is able to show me that I have been thinking of the marbled boards of a 19th century book. More deft keyboard work allows H to recover the end papers, and then title page: “The Sermons of the Reverend Simon Le Coeur DD”. We read one or three together – Paley’s Argument from Design, the age of the earth according to Bishop Usher, the defection to Rome of Newman; Le Coeur’s preoccupations, while philosophic, are nonetheless predictable for a clergyman of his era. I leave H’s flat soon afterwards, and deciding to take the bus home sit waiting for it in the shelter, on the tilted plastic slab seat, eating the three Lincoln biscuits he gave me.