I love him: Dr Mermon. Belly round and tight in his shirt. Black hair brushed sidewards, goatee staining the bottom of his chin. Gappy teeth and freckled skin. An aristocratic voice with carefully rounded vowel sounds.
We’re supposed to be talking about my psyche but we’ve shifted onto energy issues.
De Mermon leans forward.
‘We should never have touched fossil fuels,’ he says. ‘These are ancient layers of the earth that need to remain at rest. We ought not to have brought petrol, which is a dark, heavy, underground substance, into the light. And now, having brought it into the light we have perverted a cycle. We are generating waste and endless destruction in the process.’
‘It’s rather like the unearthing of mummies,’ he continues, ‘we have no right to disturb the dead, but archeologists storm in, desecrating tombs. How would you like it if, a couple of centuries from now your body was exhumed and displayed in the British Museum?’
I shake my head, alarmed.
‘I believe mummies really did carry a curse with them. And rightly so. We are unearthing all that should be left in peace.’
He shakes my hands firmly when I leave. Once he stroked my cheek on the threshold of the door as I said goodbye and I froze in alarm. For when I say I love Dr Mermon I in no way mean carnally.
I unearth my own past with care now, heeding the doctor’s warning. I wear gloves when I examine the photographs of long-buried relatives. I ask the dead if I may inquire and I proceed with ballerina steps when they nod their heads and sigh.
Underground, you see, lies a long network of tunnels and the dead – my dead – sit there in vigil, still as old candles, and wait. They want me to come riding atop my yellow digger, slowing teething away the seams of earth that are keeping them stopped in. They’re waiting for me to peel off the final layer so that they can rise up, each and every one of them, and view this new and strange earth.
But Dr Mermon places his sturdy body in front of the turning wheels and shakes his head. Dr Mermon signals that I should turn the key and silence the engine once and for all.