Thursday, October 17

Marbles

STILL I CANNOT QUITE convince my subconscious that this is not temporary; ‘I will not be returning home!’; but, still, it doesn’t listen. ‘Perhaps,’ it reasons—‘this is like university and I will go home at Christmas and my bedroom will still be there with my things in. Mum will be there, like always, waiting for me.’ All of the time I remember that I am alone now; this morning in the shower I remembered and felt a little blue, got to thinking about work and became even more blue. ‘Work has got me by the balls now,’ I thought. In the mornings I wake and outside, over the lines, there is thick honey fog. In the evenings I come home, the trains rattling heavy, I put on an l.p. and a pot of coffee and sit there and read, feeling the grounds of my day settle to the bottom of me. I see my records stood up and my books all organised (though some still unpacked) and my collection of wine, Rogers and Peckmezian on the wall, and the whole space mine, no-one else’s, paid for by my labours and I feel a great surge of achievement. I have survived almost a month. I pat myself on the back. Even watching the b.b.c.’s broadcast as I get changed in the morning is a source of pleasure for me, the news, current affairs, sports—this morning Brazil and a piece on mental illness (not enough beds)—and I take in the world like I am sucking milkshake through a straw.
   There are lovers here. There are lovers everywhere. All I see are lovers. Young lovers, smug and daydreaming. I cannot turn without seeing lovers. I have to lock my door at night because of the lovers. They are everywhere. No longer can I separate adjacent studio footsteps from the hippy thuds of lover fucking. I turn the t.v. up. I go a little mad. The lovers walk their dogs together. The lovers hold hands on their walk to the train station in the morning. Where is my old hometown, where the walk to the station was so dead and not a spirit moving? Now, the street surges and crossings are overstepped.
   Is it I am jealous of the lovers? I surely am. I listen to their snippets of conversation. If the girl is walking, I stare at her legs. I wonder how often people make love. I wonder if lonely hearts have trouble sleeping with another body in their bed. Mothers walk small children to school and their antics make me smile—and stronger I smile because I don’t see anyone else smile. I pray this doesn’t get old.
   Police sirens ring constantly. Now it is too cold to go outside the pub for a cigarette and be comfortable.
   Last night I ventured to the pub to watch the football, but it was closed. I pressed my nose against the window. Nothing. No lights, just the structure in a weak glow from the streets. It was no matter: I had passed the swimming pool and paused to watch a swimmer doing breast stroke, as the namesake hung firmly below in the muscular pulls of her movements, and then when she got out, clung in a bikini, I gazed and put on her my petty feckless love. I stopped off at the shop, bought a couple of cans, and watched the football in my armchair, shouting at the t.v. and laughing to myself. Recently I have made it acceptable to talk when there is no-one else in the room. I am not losing my mind, just adjusting.
   Not wanting to let the cold in, I take my cigarettes in the courtyard. I sit on the bench and overlook everything. Most interesting to me is the pond with its distorted and distorting surface, rippled by a fish every now and then.
   What could charm me more than a father and son on the tube, joining me, joining us at Mile End? The son, no more than seven, swung from the bars and sucked his thin cheeks in; the father stared with the deepest shade of love (true love) and poked his tongue out. The son, acknowledging the tongue with feigned nonchalance, sucked his cheeks in further. Then the father, noticing a mess, licked his pinkie and rubbed the mess away from the corner of his son’s indrawn lips. I stared and smiled.
   When I was in Florida in April I had a moment of worry. I was beside the pool when my mother asked me to buy her some suncream. I abandoned my beer and walked across to the other side of the pool to where a stall was set up selling suncream and sundries. As I neared it, I felt dizzy. My limbs weakened and my vision started to blur. As much as I fought, I felt myself starting to fall so I quickly sat down, hoping that none of the sunkissed ladies around the pool would notice. Patches of black, as though ink was being dropped into my eyeballs, appeared and I did not know what was going on. After a minute of two of being seated, catching my breath, I felt confident enough to stand up and fetch the suncream (at the stall were some girls being decorated in henna). I thought that was it, a freak episode, then two months ago it happened again. Now it is happening more and more. I walk down the street, a busy street no-less, and feel as though I am about to collapse. I either slow down or hurry up, eager to reach my destination, depending on my confidence and the severity of the situation. The other week I was walking to my favourite coffeeshop when a somewhat severe instance occurred: I stopped in the middle of the street and tried to regain my balance and my vision. Certain that I would not last the rest of the journey, I turned and fled, worried and with a sweating brow. It is happening more and more. I cross my fingers that it does not happen again. If that fails, I will take up religion or an exclusion diet.
   Then on my way to work I found myself behind a woman from my hometown. Of course I recognised her because she caught both my morning and my evening train and I often found myself looking up, behind her. She is a short, stumpy specimen with thick calves and a habit of wearing running trainers (ghastly) to and from the office. All my memories of home—the journeys and details—were brought back to me. I lingered then over-took, wondering if she had noticed I was no longer in her town. I hurried into a building, sparing not a look behind me.
   On Friday I am travelling to Vienna for five days. This town and these places will wait for me.

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