30th December 2020
Here is what I know about attendance. The first instance is at school, when the teacher would call our names. The first time they do this they always make some mistakes, then gloss over them as if a name is no matter. The second attendance made is at the temple, where no register is taken, but you are noted for having been there on all the important days and for each individual’s rite of passage. The third is the first funeral. I don’t remember being at the first funeral. My grandfather’s. Only at the event afterwards. Scurrying under the table to share snacks with my cousin. These are formal attendances, but the form of attendance we are dealing with here asks us to attend more deeply to the day to day, to the time you wake up, to the time you sleep, to the minutiae details in what you ate and what you did. We are also checking in more with our state of mind. Meditating more. Exercising for health and for boredom. This is what I know about attendance. To be in attendance requires boredom. The boredom of waiting in line, of standing there quietly listening as two magpies collect their twigs, or two friends socialise. And within these moments, there is a weight of melancholy. Not the tragic melancholy that dramatizes a simple event. No. The melancholy of waiting. The melancholy of knowing that this conversation however insignificant won't last longer than a few minutes. So, we talk longer, deeper, more furiously than ever. Here is what I know about attendance. Those who attend are singing on the inside. Those who attend know the tunes of sad songs that speak to many without ever knowing how. That is what I know about attendance.
24th November 2020
This is a space for you to get close to me.
23rd November 2020
Everything starts but doesn’t want to conclude.
Fumbling with these envelopes. I want them to resist becoming uniform. A desire that I appreciate is the antithesis of how I get dressed. Something in the putting on of one thing, says I must not do the same anywhere else. I arrive nowhere anymore. At my desk I toy with idea of going somewhere. These envelopes are my new suitcase. My words travel better and more than I do.
13th November 2020 12:20pm
Today’s clothes; a white t shirt, the jumper you gave me, blue jeans. I am wondering does attendance always ask for there to be a host. What if the host is just a room within a building? Someone would still have to open the door. Give the official “hello”, something that would explain the manners of the place. No elbows on the table. No trainers. No hats. No talking on phones. I think I will write an invitation that reverses these negations. Something that reads: “You are invited to attend; we await your presence.” A generous invite, don’t you think?
7th November 2020
The days feel different. Less alone. Even though I am still as alone as ever. I am still in the room of confrontations, waiting for more noise. But there seems to be no noise here. I stole your black coat. You said I should protect myself, and this seemed the best companion. If I can’t be with you, why not have a part of you here. Although I wonder if perhaps this time it is you who cannot be with me. Did I mention I have been preparing my talk on the question of attendance? To be honest, I have struggled with structure, as al-ways. It is as though I cannot persuade myself to trap this formless idea as it seeps into every thought I have. I ask myself, how is it to be there, how comes we cannot make more of our moments together? This transitioning between happening and event and back again. Like Newton’s cradle. I talk aloud to myself here. There is no one else with me. Just the small lamp we bought. Although there are many chairs, their legs chopped down. I sit on the tallest chair I could find, hoping that this will give me a better angle to see if any shadow crosses through the expanse. I whisper repeatedly the words “as long as I am speaking, as long as I am writing, my pain is less keen.” So little comes of it. It is just another justification that I am here, in the room of confrontations, which I would prefer to call the room of conditions. For I know all too well that one leads to the other, and that my talk of attendance hinges on my under-standing of the conditions that brought me here. You know all my conditions already. A lock to my uncut key. Do you believe silence is a form of attendance? Or do we need our body? And what of our ashes? What of those tiny fragments that ask for our words? I sense that my sense of duty is born from this, and that in this time of sorrow and isolation, this duty has come calling again. Although I am not sure I am ready. Do you believe I am ready? You always seem to know what’s best for me. Today I say, my question is, the question of attendance. Which is the work of the body that feels. A labour that is rarely acknowledged. A labour that calls the body to interact with objects, to touch them, to care for them, to share them, to gift them. To give them the opportunity to become a signal to all those who need to be signalled. This is an unforeseen responsibility. Is it not? The state of play feels motivated differently. As though as our bodies were asked to live in isolation, our minds deserted us. Back into the desert. To the place where words break up into letters. These letters are yours, only yours. I will confront them in the same manner I tend to them. I am here to hear all of them as they pass from your mouth into our hands, before becoming the means for making our signals stand up, alert, aware and alive to our movements. I will refuse to work from distance. I will attend to the bond between us, the way one puts their hand around the candle flame or tends to pieces of broken glass on the floor.
I must return to my talk on the question of attendance now.
4th November 2020
I wanted to send you a gift. I spent the last days searching for one that could attend for me. To find a substitute for my lack of attendance. It has become so hard to attend in these days. I don’t even know if I am here for myself anymore. The room feels too close. I keep returning to an image published in the Washington Post of a memorial with only empty chairs. It speaks to this. The emptiness of our attendance. No one person next to another, the pressure of being pressed into any situation, gone, dissipated in one swift gesture. But still I feel this desire to attend. To be there for someone, to arrive in places, to be announced, to be given the license to converse. I then realised. I cannot at-tend your birthday. Which brought me a huge feeling of loss. Last year we were able to celebrate together. At our restaurant. With our wine. How do we go about sharing space, when we are barricaded from such an act? The gift being the thing that we let go of. Much like the conversation. A confirmation of our arrival. Allowing it to stand in for my body, to work on you as a memory. As the substitute. I think perhaps I have been trying to say this all along. I am trying to attend to all that stuff that falls out, the excess, the little things that normally we only notice later on, when you are gone.
Joshua Leon © 2020