Photography by Ludovica Colacino
Short fiction, produced through a workshop on attention, scale, duration and endurance given by Brian Dillon. ‘Pipe Down’ is an account of isolation, tenderness and inhabiting living systems. Published in Attention, an anthology of critical-creative writing, produced independently by final-year MA Writing students, with the financial support of the Royal College of Art. Fiona Glen also co-copyedited the book.
Attention was launched on the 14th of January 2020, with an evening of readings at Morocco Bound, Bermondsey. Copies of the book are available here and from independent booksellers.
It’s doing it again. The boiler throbs like a lorry engine in the early morning. I ask it gently to hush, calm––nobody is demanding your response or warmth. You, big beast with your metal belly, you should be sleeping. Like a dog kicking in its dreams, I imagine it fantasises about washing a weary waker in my crack-bottomed bath, or hurrying its pipes to help with a birth, with the voices crying for hot water. Or was it towels they called for?
...the joints I find below the sink are angular: ridged metal bits screwed into one another. Leaky, these ones, I suspect they let slip the cigarette smoke from the barber’s shop below. I have crouched with the cupboard door open before, watching those gnarly metal knuckles for evidence. I have to watch for enough signs in myself as it is, the tell-tale kind. Sometimes, in those stiff moments standing up first thing, charting the trajectory of an abdominal sensation, I think of that physicist I saw in a film––the one who attended to a bore hole in the arctic tundra for decades, transfixed by the grunts and heartbeats and belches of our round-bellied planet. We live in so many places without listening to them, fumbling to manage their precious and unspeakable systems.
Again, those water-bearing colleagues are engaging in an opaque exchange behind the walls. Occasionally I hear a particularly suspect mutter-hubble, the hint of contents swapped. And I reassure myself that we want the best for one another.
Image: Ludovica Colacino