There are certain borrowers that make the librarian’s task hellish. The delusional are bad. Mr Singh is convinced he is an ex-Gurkha, dines with Kate Moss at The Ivy and is kept on a monthly retainer by the Sultan of Brunei. While on active service in the ‘Nam he killed 4 Viet Kong with his bare arse.
A quick glimpse of his borrower records indicates he lives in a hostel on the Cromwell Road and never left the UK. Nothing wrong with an active fantasy life but he insists on you believing him. That’s what we all want, someone to believe in us. I am guilty too. I wanted Amanda Wang to believe I was writing a libretto. She waltzed in with her Madame Pompadour hairstyle and thigh length suede boots and gave me the usual ‘darling boy’ nonsense and I knew with her interest in the theatrical arts I had to detain her. So when she asked me what I was working on, ‘I can’t believe with all those ideas buzzing around your pretty little head you’re just simply shelving,’ I came up with Unleash The Lobster!
My opera is based on Gerard de Nerval’s crack up when he was spotted walking his pet lobster on a blue leash in the Tuileries Garden, ‘Madam, I have a deep affinity for sea creatures. Silence is so much more preferable than the yap of your miniature griffon…’ Yes, I had it all planned out. A hallucinatory chorus of man-sized crayfish and North Atlantic prawns would pop up by the flowerbeds clacking their pincers like castanets. They would explain the symbolic power of sea creatures and how we are all linked to madness and the phases of the moon and the listener would understand how pragmatic madness is and that curious displacement would have occurred: dream would have replaced reality and my job in the library with its stinging unsatisfied lusts would be my weekly bad dream.
Sadly, there is no libretto and now I am embarrassed by Amanda Wang asking if she can see a draft. I glance across to the newspaper section where Mr Singh is frightening young mothers with his gallant soldier schtick, opening doors, standing ramrod straight and unnecessarily manhandling pushchairs up flights of stairs they have no intention of climbing and realise we’re not dissimilar. Play actors spinning fantastic threads that are almost as threadbare as his trousers. I might even move into the hostel — it seems quite cheap for central London.