The Street Mime
crossed the hall and opened the door to her apartment.
Considerably successful evening
despite the rain. Yes, it was full. She took a pen from the mass of
fashion magazines and marked the completion of that day on her calendar
with a cross.
was one of those weekend evenings she had set aside for the people she
had convinced herself were her friends. Vanessa had walked with her
along the city canal as they had watched the annual festivities that
always consisted of an assortment of light displays, carnival stands,
fun-fair rides, arcades, and street performances. The streetlights had
appeared to undulate in a sky that trickled with rain. However, Vanessa
had been looking at the pavement the majority of the time, and the only
thing that had captured Emilia’s fragile interest had been a mime
artist. It had got down on all fours whenever a dog had passed it,
eliciting a bark from the creature; pretended to use a rope pulley,
drive a car, climb a wall, and so forth, when nobody had been passing
by it; but when Emilia had done, so, it had returned her stare, a glint
in its black eyes, its red and white striped jumper and dark trousers
moulded to a body that was difficult to categorise as male or female.
The face was painted and provided no further clue as to gender. The
sweeping eyelashes and firm jaw had caused Emilia to seek out a second
‘Vanessa, would you say that mime was a man or woman?’
Vanessa plunged a plastic fork into a cone of chips.
‘I think it’s a man.’
‘I don’t care for mimes, or clowns.’ Vanessa tasted
the chips. ‘I also don’t care for paying three quid for
cold slabs of grease!’ and with that threw the packet onto the
that night in the taxi, Vanessa had said, ‘Well, we should try
that again sometime. You free next weekend?’
‘I’ll have to just check my schedule,’ said Emilia,
as she had pulled out her diary. ‘Oh, no, sorry, darling, I have
to prepare a presentation that weekend, promised my boss at the
‘Yeah, OK, you’re very important. Night.’
home, Emilia, once the day had been marked as terminated, decided to
brush her teeth then sleep. She moved so as to avoid touching her white
walls. In the bathroom, she could not concentrate. She leaned her head
over the sink, feeling a clamp bite into her stomach. She looked at her
reflection, at the hair that always made a fool of her no matter how
much she tried to keep it under control. Maybe things were not as
secure as they seemed; maybe she’d been making this all up. She
reached for the medicine cabinet, but at the last moment pulled herself
away. She would sleep.
she pulled her black sweater over her head the light bulb of her
bedroom remained like a star in midnight. She lay in bed and expected
the maidservants of dreams to bring her oblivion and comfort, to wrap
her up and carry her away, but sleep did not come. A rustling
distracted her at the window. No, nobody could reach her; she was seven
stories off the ground. Sleep.
the sounds continued, so she had to get out of bed and pull the
curtains apart. Through the glass, frosted from the inside, she saw the
face of the street mime as it put both hands against both cheeks in an
expression of mock surprise, fall backwards and vanish from sight.
Simultaneously, Emilia fell back onto her wooden floor, then moved her
hands to cover her face. She worked very hard.
must have remained there for quite some time until she got into a
crouching position and looked at the window again. If the mime were
still out there, she would call the police, simple.
looked out again and saw nothing, just the mist of her recently
deceased gasp of breath. She went back to bed and decided to forget.
The next morning, Emilia
awoke with thoughts of the errands she had to run that Sunday. She
closed her dressing gown around her and made her way to the kitchen. In
the middle of the kitchen, just by the table and chairs, sat the mime.
Or, at least, its knees were bent, but there was no chair, it hovered
over emptiness as it scanned its eyes over what could have been an
imaginary or invisible newspaper. On sensing her presence, it looked
up, gave her a nod and a smile, and returned to its reading.
shuffled her slippers, cleared her throat. It looked up again.
‘Are you here to stay?’ she asked. As she enunciated each
word, the mime mouthed them back to her, raising an eyebrow. Its look
made her feel as though she was no longer welcome in her own home, and
yet that there was nowhere she could belong to more.
mime then got up out of its seat of empty air, and began to mime
shuffling food into its mouth. It went over to the kitchen sink and
started to pretend to do the washing up and clean the surfaces.
However, its hands never once touched any of the plates or cutlery left
over from the day before, never turned on the tap so that water could
come out, never touched any surface. Only its feet touched the ground,
and made no sound. It then performed the answering of an imaginary
telephone, whilst it nodded its head, raised its arm to look at its
wrist, moved a hand onto its hip, then moved its other hand forward as
if replacing the phone.
Emilia floated from the kitchen into the bathroom, showered, got dressed, then left. She would eat out.
As the working week
began, Emilia had less time to consider the mime that remained in her
home. In fact, she grew so accustomed to its housekeeping, that she did
not notice the accumulated mass of dishes by the sink, the various
chores that needed to be done, because the mime always appeared to
complete these tasks, even though it never did anything, its mark left
nowhere. Everyday, it would move the imaginary vacuum cleaner across
the living room floor then would sit and study thin papers of air.
One day, Emilia brought Vanessa back to her apartment.
‘So you see, Vanessa, it’s harmless, but I thought I should
have you look at it, you know, for a second opinion on hiring out that
Vanessa stepped along the corridor. She looked at the walls.
‘Haven’t done as much spring cleaning recently? This
isn’t how I remember this place. Then again, I haven’t seen
you for over a month. OK, where is it? But you better be
serious.’ Emilia saw the mime pass by through the open door of
‘Check in the dining room and kitchen, I just saw it.’
Vanessa came back. She had not seen the mime, but she had seen something bad.
‘Emilia, as a friend, I know we haven’t always agreed, but
I’m just thinking…err…erm, this work of yours.
Maybe you are - or were - doing too much. I think
certain…pressures have led you to become - how can I put this
delicately? - Completely insane.’ She turned her head away and
made for the door.
Emilia called after her. ‘You’re not going to help me?’
Vanessa swerved on her heel.
‘You’re twenty-eight years old, you should be able to take
care of yourself, and instead you confront me with this fucking
mess.’ And she was gone.
One day, Emilia came back to find the mime not doing its duties. The cockroaches scurried across the tiles.
‘What’s the meaning of this?’ demanded Emilia.
mime bared its teeth at her, which appeared like white chunks of
plastic in its mouth. It stormed towards her, then receded, and got
down on the floor and curled into a ball. It then began to crawl about,
a smile on its face. As it began to rise to its feet the smile faded
into a straight line. Then the line slanted down so much that the mime
had to pull down the sides of its mouth with its hands to do justice to
her likeness. It then held out its hand, threw a nothing into the air,
caught it on its tongue and downed it. Then frown was replaced with
smile, a smile that challenged the boundaries of its face. It tottered
around the room before it appeared to get tired. It then lost the smile
and dismissed its surroundings with a flail of its arm. It turned in
circles, pretended to answer the phone, pretended to write and
organise. It spun around and enacted the tearing out of its hair. It
stomped without a sound, gave her one last look in the eye, then
collapsed on the floor, its arms crossed over its chest.
She did not know what to do with the body.