Friday, December 30

You Want Excitement?

In passing, I will mention that I once entered a lift and pressed the button for the wrong floor; choosing third instead of fifth, because my old office had been on the third floor. Back then I did not take the lift but climbed the stairs. It surprised me to have pressed the button for the third floor, and I quickly apologised to the stranger in the car with me. The stranger shrugged it off; a matter of no importance; a simple slip of the index finger.
My childhood cornershop has undergone numerous changes of management during the time I’ve been a patron. To avoid keeping up with the resultant name-changes, my family have baptised it in colourful accordance with the tabloid endorsements sandwiching its actual name above the door, naming it The Red & White Shop, although I am uncertain if capitals are required. This early afternoon I was in the red & white shop. Ever since Raj recognised me a year or so ago and greeted me happily, having not seen me since I had moved, I’ve been nervous every time I enter. However I hasten to add that if I am not recognised, then I am as equally disappointed as I would have been embarrassed. The lady behind the till (elevated, fortunately, for she was quite small) was a stranger to me and I to her. I changed brands of tobacco eighteen months ago, but I became momentarily confused and asked for my old brand. My mind put me back in 2011. I snapped out of it, apologised, shook my head and corrected myself, but the damage was done, the embarrassment caused and I stammered my words, eyeing the sign regarding underage identification and scratching my beard in subtle reassurance that there was no trouble here, despite my nervousness. All caused by a slip of the tongue, or perhaps a slip of the mind; sometimes even I cannot be sure of my own yearning for time travel.
I left the shop and put a card into the postbox; next pick-up was at 17:30, which would be acceptable.
The roads were busy. Why were the roads so busy? I stood there for some time, ready to cross, but chased back to the kerb by a bumper, again and again.
It was the penultimate day of the year. I don’t like it. It has been written about some place or other that the penultimate is the most eventful; a chaotic shamble of disaster and epiphany so that everything can be tied up neatly in the finale. As it was, I elected to visit a nearby art shop.
There was fog. Often the fog clears by midday or lingers only amongst the trees, but today the fog would not clear. It hung around. It was a whole world of fog. I was not bothered by the fog too much; tiny droplets formed on my coat and on my headphone wire. I rubbed the fog off my headphone wire and then I rubbed my fingers together to properly feel the fog water. The fog made my hands very cold. I walked beside the road and the numerous cars went past me and I asked myself again—Why are the roads so busy? There was nobody queuing at the burger van; just the two cooks staring out grimly at the shivering traffic hissing up & down. In the art store (it was much more than an art store, it sold a great many things — 65,000 products it boasted — but quite helpfully all the art supplies were in one corner, allowing me to imagine it sold nothing but) I held my basket and perused the paints. There were some beautiful pigments. Admittedly I am quite spontaneous and childlike when looking at paints in the art shop; if a colour should appeal to me then I will put it in my basket without a second thought. I chose three: mars black, emerald green, and lemon yellow. Then I bought a large canvas, and some matte varnish. The queue for the till was long and sluggish. After ten minutes of waiting — an infant grabbing my leg and basket — another till was opened. A mother with twin girls hurried to it, carrying two bags of high quality rabbit feed. The man at the till was very friendly to me, but I had made a foolish error not checking the price of the paints in detail and taking a big breath when he said the total. I checked the receipt in the carpark; it was correct, yes, but the mother with the twins almost ran me over.
The walk seemed long but I was glad to get out. The foggy air rushing into my lungs, the lot of it cold and rich, felt like it was doing me a great deal of good. My knuckles had turned red. The canvas in a carrier bag was banging into my knee. I let it. I let the canvas in a carrier bag bang into my knee.

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