Wednesday, September 5

The Afternoon Tea: Part II

AFTER SHE LEFT I wanted to sleep but I knew that I could not as I had things to do. I cleaned my room. I was almost without thought. All of that for just over two hours in her presence, and now it was over. It was difficult to know if we would ever see each other again and whether the visit had fulfilled my expectations, or even my fears.
Dust lay in a very thin, almost-invisible sheet across my bookshelf. It brushed off into clouds unclipped by sunlight. The weekend was almost over. The sky outside blurred the sun and came over blue, unnatural.
‘We’re going out for dinner. I’m not cooking.’
I did not want to go out for dinner. I didn’t want to go anywhere but I had to eat so I joined them. The restaurant smelled of cooked meat and cleaning detergent, as if the carpets had been freshly done. The great conservatory let in the last slivers of day; yet the lights were all turned on; it seemed only days ago when you could still see at such an hour, but now autumn was settling and was settling fast. The other people in the restaurant were old, hunched over their carvery, prying with their cutlery, eating in silence but for the clicking in their jaws. I could sense death, like it was right behind me, a disgruntled customer, forking through the dried peas left in the buffet’s metal tray. I could not wait to get out of there alive.
And then, to stare out at the night sky with the headlights bouncing on the unlevel road.
I know now that this was the beginning of something. When my friend had asked me a few days previous – ‘So, how was your birthday? Did you get depressed?’ I answered, all too soon – ‘No, I was OK this year.’
Monday was a nightmare and I have been a rock-bottom dweller since. ‘You’re not your usual funny, happy self,’ said a colleague. ‘That’s just a front,’ I snapped back because she was foolish not to see that. I avoided everyone; I walked without company at lunch to stare at the pavement; I wanted to shit just so that I could sit in the cubicle alone, but nothing would come; I gazed without a trace of joy or life in me at the traffic that passed by. Small insignificant things captured my attention for no reason whatsoever: disrupted paving slabs, the crease in the middle of a sheet of paper, tobacco flakes that lay on my desk. I wondered how other people dealt with things and if love would sort me out or if it would enter my life at all; not love for artistic expression or for a certain sad song, but love for another human being by whom I might be possessed. There was a lot I could not fathom, so on through the streets of the snotty capital I wandered, without direction or pace.
It continued today, not feeling alive but in a stale, impressionless dream. Everything was a trap. Everything trapped me. Only at night does everything uncuff me, when I have wine and nothing to prove.
Is this wedding invite a sick joke? I turn it in my hands, sniff it and examine it closely to find that, no, it isn’t. So now I must attend a wedding – ‘You can bring a guest.’ ‘I’ll hook up with some brass, then.’
I realised, having looked at my watch, that I would not make the six-forty-seven and would have to catch the seven-o-five. Just the mere hiccup of missing a train caused me distress and I had to stable myself on a chair. The walk to the station was slow. Air did not move. Dogs barked. Birds rustled in the brush. I was not even concerned that soon I would walk the route in the darkness of pre-dawn.
What bothers me more is that the fields are empty now. Left behind are the beheaded stalks of once worthy crops; beheaded, knocked into tidy rows, bundled into cubes or bales, taken away, and finally the soil is overturned. The hectares of gold that had ripened before my very eyes has dulled and then been minced into tired soil. What was rich is now barren and all else escapes me.

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