Monday, January 26

Brothers & Sisters

‘IT’S LIKE, I DON’T want to…’
I was in Upton Park, an old social club called the Red House, and it was Sunday evening. I was in a no good mood, having been forced to dedicate some of my free time to carrying on with work; my boss, having run me through with his tongue, saying—‘On Monday, I want this…’ and this and this, and I thought that my weekend was gone. Finally on Sunday afternoon I began. I sat at my desk, pulled out my drawings and started to work. In a couple of minutes, she came up the stairs with a warm cookie and kissed me. She asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I asked her to bring me a beer. She ran her hand up my back and kissed my neck. Outside all was grey. It was one of those Sundays, those notorious days, full of inactivity and misery, from childhood and with you your whole life; one of those sad, deep days. Either way, she did not wish to join me at the social club, and, in the cold, I left alone. It was neither here nor there that she should wish to be alone than to be with me. The day before we had gone into town together, and I remarked—‘It was nice to go into town with you today. Usually I go in there on my tod.’ It was the awkward period between dusk and night when I came out of the flat, alone, and the wind blew hard.
‘Visit a theme park…’
You had to ring the bell to gain entrance, my uncle saying hello to the recently arrived son of a friend—‘We went on holiday to Spain… years ago… you were this big… eleven years old, I think.’ This handsome man, from the car, with his infant, had with him a most beautiful young lady who powdered across the road, confronting these strangers to whom her husband seemed so dissimilar. Inside, the hallway of the club was decorated with ornate and muted mosaic tiles that had been worn smooth over the years. Music came from one doorway, the smell of food from another. My parents were in the club, with everyone else, nestled in the nook of the bar, surrounded by brothers & sisters. In the corner a band played: two guitarists, a bassist –‘He just came out of the crowd!’—and a percussionist. A pint was thrust into my hand and I took it all too keenly.
‘And be terrified of this rollercoaster, or whatever…’
As I was in no state of mind to engage in much chat – after kissing my parents and everybody hello – I stood and watched the band, worried that I might be in someone’s way. They played simple and very happily. The audience was made up of families and drinkers, tapping their toes, half-empty plastic plates before them with curry leftovers, children bopping on the floor, teens texting, a call from one side to the other. Men leaned on the bar and talked loudly over the music. All was enjoyment and complete Sunday evening relaxation, forgetful of the upcoming week, soaking in the moment and music. A thin Anglo man stood up next to his wife, shaking, wobbling, clapping his hands out of time and laughing. A mother danced with her babe on the improvised dancefloor as the band played a peppy soul number. Through the window a floating cigarette end hovered, glowed, dancing against the dark.
‘And then get home and regret not going on that ride…’
Although I was happy, sinking beer after beer, forgetting about work and all of my worries, my parents seemed off with me. I could not understand it, understand them. They acted to me as though we were strangers and I was reminded, once more, that I had come from them and was moving away from them, though I may not like it. The words I spoke to them were taken by their faces as though I were a stranger! In the end, I decided that I would not speak to them, but to say how delicious the food was. What had I done to deserve such treatment? It baffled me. I had, after all, travelled only to see them before they went on holiday, and they confronted my appearance with only the coolest of welcomes – my father did not even kiss my cheek! I was heartbroken about it all, and kept drinking as if to get away from it. In the garden, two men were smoking, talking of blowing off Monday work in favour of drinking deep into the night. I wished to join them, to befriend their gang and wander off in search of other adventures; supporters of different football teams, yes, but brothers in arms against that great upset that threatened to turn us all mad! I put my cigarette in the tray and went back inside.
‘You know?’
My parents soon left and my father kissed me on the cheek. They were gone. My uncle’s girlfriend started to talk to me and, unwittingly, I let spill all of my troubles – and to this stranger! How unlike me! She could tell anyone, or she could ridicule me; she could use the information against me in a bargain or let it slip to some other member of the family, and yet there I was letting it all out. At times I had to pause so that I might collect myself, prevent myself from shedding any feeble tears in the social club as the band packed their gear away and still the delicious smell of curry spilled from the kitchen. I soon corrected myself and my thoughts and rushed to end the conversation. Quickly she turned the conversation to herself in some effort to alleviate me of this grief and I listened to her words, and nodded ‘yes’ and nodded ‘yes.’ But my parents had left, and she was at home and, without them, I suppose I don’t have a single friend to hear my problems, so I offer them up to the lovers of family members in social clubs and, all the while, I see the faint wisps of tobacco smoke balancing beyond the window frame, disappearing into the cold night, and the exhaler turning and untangled from the strands.

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