Wednesday, February 17

Flowery Plea

ST. VALENTINE’S DAY is a day I do not remember well, so seldom is there any particular reason to celebrate, aside from it being my mother’s birthday. I was lying on my sofa, chain-smoking and drinking a pot of coffee when my friend called—‘Wanna watch the football?’ At first I missed the road, because it was not so much a road but a gap between buildings, beside which a homeless couple chatted in the afternoon sun, the woman hovering over a dog, and sores bleeding down her face. The ground floor was a tiny Spanish restaurant, but down a narrow and steep set of stairs was an Irish bar. Three of us drank and watched the football. An American had joined our party, unwelcomed. He was the most American man I have ever met, both repulsive and pitiful at once. I bought him a drink. In the corner was a group of young people, not watching the football but interested in one another. They wore synthetic furs and grand hats; they had colourful hair; they kissed because it was St. Valentine’s Day. ‘They’re all actors,’ said the barman; he poured us a shot. I could not think of a better Sunday than getting drunk in front of the football with friends. I had spent the previous day wandering the city. I had sat in front of a café, subject to the howling wind & rain that chased everyone else away. How fine it was to be undisturbed and alone outside of the café. In the evening a friend told me about her broken heart. It was quite the broken heart. I listened hoping to remember broken hearts, as though they were old films or ancient civilisations built on sand and stalks of corn.
A trip. He fell down the escalator, the evil mechanical monstrosities of the London underground, serrated and silver in the grime they catch. He tumbled, tripped, caught one foot on another in his Sunday drunkenness and fell forward; his head smacking the edge of the escalator step and splattering. The blood ran. People forget that blood does not bleed, but escapes. Blood escapes from the body to be free, to be as red as it can. His blood ran between the grooves of the escalator steps. A crowd gathered. A lady with large hands wiped his wounds and informed him that his modeling career was over. He swiped them away and went home.
In my grandmother’s garden the fox climbs clumsily over the fence, through the hedge. My grandmother hides a bouquet of flowers in the study, separating it into smaller bunches. They perfume the air. I poke my head in and inhale—‘What’s the point of keeping them in there?’ ‘It’s too warm in here. They’ll die.’ ‘So? At least you’ll get to see them. If you keep them in the study all you get to do is smell them!’ ‘They smell so strongly!’ ‘They do.’ We sit in front of the TV. She is not drinking so I have the bottle of wine I bought us to myself. She is not talking; wants the company without too much chatter. I am not for the TV and wish to chat. It is clear she just wants me on the sofa next to her, which I am not entirely against. There are so many patterns in the room – her pinny, the carpet, the curtains, the wallpaper, the photographs, the paintings, the ornaments, the marble-effect table, the lampshade, the synthetic flowers – that I am dizzy. The TV programme is ridiculous so that we laugh about it, although she is entertained. ‘She’s pregnant. She keeps the baby,’ says my grandmother, having seen this episode before. It is late and I have to go. ‘Do you want a Warburtons?’ ‘No thanks, Nan.’ I ride back to the inner city with nothing on my mind, reading the sports pages and chuckling to myself. Everything seems so different and so strange, so fun and at once so distant. I do not know what is happening to me these days. At times I am so full of love and at others so devoid. I get off at my old tube station and change trains, looking out of the window at the stops I went through before, trying to imagine it as morning and I on my way to work. That is the problem: I have no imagination these days.

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