Tuesday, July 26

Orange Red

The doormat that read—‘Welcome Home’, had been facing the wrong way since they had bought and laid it down a month ago. Instead of welcoming them home as they entered their ground floor flat, it welcomed them home as they left it; unless they considered the streets of London their home more than the room they lay their head. To someone as particular as myself, this was a source of petty irritation. I would stand at my window, saying aloud—‘Just turn the fuckin’ thing around!’ but of course they did not hear me. At the weekend, returning from a trip to my parents’, I noticed, to my immense satisfaction, that the doormat had been corrected, and I could not have been more relieved.
I had not seen the boy before.
The family, being my immediate neighbours, as they live directly opposite my window, is very familiar to me; very often I will pass the time during a cigarette watching them go about their business: the hanging of washing, the boys playing, going to & from mosque, waving family good-by. In the evening, when I am quiet and reading, I hear the clatter of their front-door knocker rattling out down the road; a friend of the boys’ come to visit. I like the family, I believe. Although one of the boys I had not seen before.
Today has been better than yesterday. Yesterday I was in a terrible mood, rejecting company and barely saying a word all day. Today, although I was badly rested, found me in better spirits. I came home with some beer, ready to do nothing productive. I walked around my flat singing and feeling chirpy.
They have a son I did not know about. A year I have lived here and not known about their son. He is disabled, unable to walk. He holds himself up in a four-sided frame with wheels on each leg. The frame is a bright orange red. The wheels are neon yellow and green. The frame sparkles because it is so clean. He must be no more than ten-years-old and heaves himself around in circles in the carpark outside their house. His father stands over him, encouraging him here and there. The boy points at things and makes sounds and the father points at the things too and says the name of them; I can hear him. The son tries to say the name of them and the father gives him a high-five and smiles. In the doorway, over the ‘Welcome Home’ doormat, the rest of the family stands: two other sons, and a mother holding a babe. They are watching him shift in circles. He struggles and struggles to move but the father does not help him, just smiles and speaks to him. The father, in his always-white thobe, is a gentleman, always caressing the son to come closer and showing him the scenery of his neighbourhood as the son, with infant strength, pulls his legs along. The family does not tire of watching; they stand over the corrected ‘Welcome Home’ doormat and observe. Another high-five.
It is strange for me to watch this. I am intruding! I was not invited to spectate on this family’s occasion, yet here I am, bearing witness. The privilege I found!
Finally the son, without his frame, was helped back into the house where he collapsed in the doorway, at his mother’s feet and she called him to stand upright, although he faltered. The father went to the orange red frame and folded it up before carrying it back inside. The door was closed. I was shut out.

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