Wednesday, July 29

Cousin

WOULDN’T I LIKE TO know why that moment – two seconds – of that song – Forty-Six & 2 - roused me from nowhere to remember, with such clarity, a time between my cousin and I? Slouched in my chair, zoned out, making keen progress upon my overburdened workload, I was struck by a rush and transported back to at least one moment in my youth, although many were like it. The clouds moved almost unnoticeably across the window in front of me, but I had started to pay attention, to pick out shapes in them—
‘Let’s play that game… When you see shapes in the clouds?’
‘Okay,’ said the man next to me.
I saw nothing.
‘There’s a prawn.’
‘… Like fuck that’s a prawn,’ I said.
‘Not no more it ain’t, but it was!’
‘… That cloud looks just like an aeroplane bound for Heathrow.’
‘And that one looks like a seagull.’
As children, my brothers & I would visit my cousin, though as we grew up only I would visit; this was due to he & I having the most in common, and that my aunt, without admitting it to me, could not handle the three of us at once, such nuisances we were, fighting & arguing all the time. His house, my aunt’s house, her body always floating around it, was clean, spotless, without a speck of dust resting for a second on the laminate flooring, which burst this incessant smell of polish everywhere. They had moved by then, to this new home, stripped of my childhood dreamings. O, their old house rocked in me such nostalgia that I was fit to tell them every time I visited, but their new home stirred nothing; the smell of Coco Pops in their bowl, semi-skimmed milk (my mother always bought whole, for the cream) swimming in the morning of our worktop conversations, as, again, his mother floated around, doting on us and purring over words whenever she was in a good mood.
In the later summers, older & teenage, Romford centre, car trips, excursions to the ice cream parlour only to walk, licking, over the bridge, In the afternoons, when entertainment was our only pursuit, we would sit on his bed, within his small bedroom, and play guitar. We strummed, we chatted and laughed and showed-off to each other.
His sheets smelled of something, too: a piece of childhood pinned to the washing-line. When you sat on his sheets the smell rose up in prawn-shaped clouds and gripped your nose. Whether it was the detergent or his own body’s smell, I could not escape and sweetly it smelled of him, his entire life, and thus it rang out with nostalgia. With a guitar each, we played. The summer sun came in through his western window, heating our backs. It was a very happy time for me, so much did I enjoy those visits, staying with his family.
The two of us were very dear friends, but nowadays we don’t talk. Of course, through one’s life you will fall in & out of love with friends, but seldom do you see the friend often enough for it to hurt you in the gut. So it is with he & I. I do not even have his mobile number. When I see him these days he appears to me to pretentious and overwhelmingly so. I turn my cheek. During our adolescence, though, we were such dear friends, playing guitar at his parents’ during the summer. Those days are over, as all days become over, yet today at work, for no reason at all, I was called back to them. I did not push them away, but instead I reached out for them, held tighter. I felt his mother, my aunt, driving us away from the ice cream parlour, over the bridge, and back to his where we would play guitar until dinner was ready, laughing and joking and singing and everything good.

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