Thursday, August 28

The Last Time I Kissed My Brothers

APART FROM THE missing light in the new bathroom, the move went off without a hitch; all it meant was that, for a couple of days, we had to shower and use the toilet in near-darkness.
Now I am here.
I am in a new location, a new room, a new desk, and a new view. The desk is the landlord’s and is situated in the middle of the mezzanine that is over our bed where, right now, she is sleeping, with shut-eyes facing the window. I can hear a helicopter flying low, chopping up the sky above our heads; a Dickensian convict is certainly on the loose, running through the streets of east London, panting heavily and disturbing the sleep of these in E3. So: this is my desk. I sit here and try to take it all in. I cannot take it all in.
My brothers came to help me with the move. I went out and met them on the street and they walked towards me. My middle brother smiled slightly and nodded at me, the youngest was smoking and sporting a new hairstyle that I didn’t like but I straight away compared him to an actor whom he hadn’t heard of. We moved my furniture from the old flat to the new.
(The helicopter dims in the distance – a few moments – it returns – circles – disappearing, its blades swamped by fog.)
The youngest held doors open while the middle brother and I carried wardrobes and shelving units and sofas. My middle brother was talking very loudly about a great many things: his latest job interviews, his girlfriend’s pregnancy, his girlfriend’s mother, our parents, work; he spoke quickly and decisively without any room for doubt, his head craning here & there to make eye contact with me. It seemed he would not stop talking any time soon and his voice boomed out at such a level that I was too embarrassed to listen but instead worried that other people were listening in. As we flexed and heaved against the wood, I saw that the veins on his arms were starting to pick up and pronounce themselves on the skin he had tanned on his building site. The blood was rushing through his veins and swimming. Often we stopped for a cigarette break and again he spoke loudly, though I was only a few feet from him. (‘Your brother talks so loudly!’ she later told me, despite her having been indoors.) It was just the three of us, brothers. It is only now that I recognise we have spent our lives together, known each other longer than we have known anyone else. We leaned against a metal railing, kicked pebbles and spat, chatting, enjoying our cigarettes in the afternoon sun. We ate lunch, moved a few more things and then they left.
I cannot remember the last time I kissed my brothers, on the cheek or as to say thank-you.
On Monday morning I went over to the flat as there were a couple of things I had forgotten to remove before I handed the keys over (the lid to a large plastic box I had used to carry stuff over with – and which my parents used to store Christmas decorations; a note she had written me in the early days of our relationship where she signed that I should, in her lighthanded scrawl, imagine her there before me). The night before, as we had left for the final – though not to be final – time, I had cast a look back and she asked me if I were okay, yet I was choking to reply. In the morning I went back. I stood up at my old spot where I would get dressed in the morning and look down at the news on the television – usually miserable – and the weather forecast – usually miserable – and, then, I was struck down by a most awful sadness. The flat was bare. Not an object of mine remained (except for a handful of dust, hair and dirt that had collected around the feet of seven bottles of unopened mineral water). The past eleven months of mine had gone and I had assisted in removing all traces of it. All that hung in the air was the inhospitable stench of bleach. Even the fridge had ceased its endless buzzing! The commuter trains rolled past and I knew that I would, for some reason, miss them; their interruptive roars and battery. One final time I walked down the steps. Maybe I will ask the new tenant if I can visit every now & then; wander around the place nostalgically commenting on everything he had changed and everything the way I had it. I said—‘Good-bye’ to the flat and closed the door, locking it twice; that familiar safety click, the smell of the corridor, the quiet.
Next the cleaners come and do a number on it, then – as per the new tenant’s request – it is being repainted. I will be reduced to nothing more than a ghost whose name appears on some out-of-date contract.
My first flat has nothing left for me. There it goes. I shall miss it, too. I will never forget it. For years I had wanted to live there, and I did. I am nothing but happy for those times.
Now I look out of the window in my new flat and what I see is completely different to that which I was familiar. My new viewpoint renders the same vista differently and I recognise it as one recognises a friend they haven’t seen in many years. I know that it is there, within my reach, but it feels so far away. I am sad, but I am hopeful, optimistic, wretched with purposeless nostalgia.
So, this is my new desk. The landlord has set down an attractive rug beneath it which my uncomfortable old chair rolls across with ease. She is stirring. The wooden floorboards creak as I creep. The helicopter is gone, has left not a trace in the twenty-five to midnight air. I suppose I shall go to bed now.

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