Thursday, August 28

No One Can Tolerate Sunday Afternoons

THE COURTYARD IS a vessel for people going here and there, few linger for very long other than to say hello, ask for the time or let their dog shit. It is circular and in the centre is a water fountain that, between the hours of nine and seven, pushes water eight feet into the sky. It operates between these hours because of the noise which might disturb those that live in the flats that surround it, rising up in different bricks with different shaped windows all blue-green reflectance, muddling up the surrounding scenery in a drugged television broadcast. Discounting any that were lain during repair works, the bricks of the buildings are either red (paprika but cold) or yellow (cumin seeds). Trees are dotted around, too, and in the wind that is blowing they shake and rattle enough for the leaves to whip against each other. The water fountain and the trees are competing for white noise of the century.
It is Sunday and the weather abides so little to the day’s namesake.
Grey clouds smother the earth.
It is cold.
Beside the water fountain is a large puddle running away from its dripping border; a minute-hand extending from the clock. The wind casts its direction accurately in the water that is blown from the fountain’s ascent across the courtyard’s cobbles. The water rises up straight enough, only for a gust to knock away its bearings, sending a litre or two out into the air as a thick mist.
A lady arrives pushing a pram. The pram is navy and its open eye faces away from her; let the baby take in the blurry view. Her hair is blowing in the wind like a folk song. Her body is still recovering, still sucking in the paunch. She is dressed lightly in an expensive tracksuit. She is in a daze, humming a two-year-old pop song. The lady pushes the pram onwards. Around the fountain she and the baby carousel. There is no expression on her face but silence as she push push pushes the pram on and on. Maybe she has been hypnotised. She is young but not too young to have lines around her mouth, just young enough to have morning freshness about her skin before the cleanliness of a shower; there is an age for that and she holds it well, but her eyes are glazed and downcast so that none can see her or bid a good-day.
There is no one around to ask the baby’s name.
Sometimes the baby’s arms come up above the lid of the pram, beating lashes. The white blankets ruffle.
She pushes her infant around the water fountain into the arm of the falling, wind-torn fountain. Narrowly the water misses them both. Round and around they go. The baby waves its arms. Her white trainers are wet now, but she pushes on. The wind grabs the water by its grey hair and hurls it on to the lady on to the pram on to the cobbles.
Her path is set. She does not stray from it nor does she slow down.
Round and around she walks, pushing, always pushing. No one else sets foot in the courtyard for the weather is too unkind. It is Sunday. She is taking the baby for a walk and when she put the baby in the pram all it did was look up at her and pout its wet mouth, blink its wet eyes and she took the baby out into the courtyard.
She pauses.
The water splashes the cobblestones and that is what her downcast eyes are staring at.

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