• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 08

Midas’s Lover

Tourists are gathered around her, squawking in a Babel multitude of languages, ogling her face and art and, above all else, her stillness. Passive, docile – is this what all men long for? – nothing twitches. Only the eagle-eyed spot a slightly pursed lip, the subtlety of a puff of air trying to dislodge a stubborn strand of hair. She is dripping with it, Midas’s lover, and the humidity and sweat coax molten rivulets down her back. There is something exotic in this image, the suggestion of halcyon summers and warmth and light, a woman bathed in gold and lustre. Against the concrete backdrop, 70s grey and gum-glued pavements, this mirage is almost corrupted, better suited to palm trees and sand and flat blue skies. Still, she doesn’t move, the drawing-out of time stretches, elastically, and soon the tourists are beginning to bore. Who wants to watch a painted woman, still and silent, and pay for it? In spite of what she represents – a glittering idol – the box at her feet is testament to society’s expectation of getting more and paying less. It would have been more appropriate if she had painted herself in copper, lowered the expectations or the tone. The spectators who have ambled off (apologetic and appreciative smiles do not pay the bills) are not replaced, and now the atmosphere is Weymouth-out-of-season. Clouds dampen her image, darken reflections on her curves and angles, and when the first splashes fall she knows that her working day is over.

It begins to pelt down, and she casts caution aside, streaking through the streets as her illusion begins to dissolve. A man from an upstairs window – a pub, drinking with his mates – yells at her. But his cat-calling is lost in the flow of gold from her hair, shoulders, chest, and her retort like the rest of her body, feet pounding pavement, is unapologetic.