Sunday, July 22

One of Two

A strange bicycle passed by, one those bicycles where the rider is lying down almost horizontal and peddling in front of them. A child burst into laughter. The child was holding hands with an old man. The old man joined in the joke, pointing at the bicycle and exclaiming and the young child laughed. The young child doubled over in laughter and their high laughter pierced the city street like lime juice. There was no-one else with them, just the old man and the young child and the old man holding the young child’s hand in one and a small scooter in the other. How wonderful to be a grandfather! I thought – as I walked for something to eat on my lunch break – that I would quite like to be a grandfather but not a father. I suppose you cannot really have one without the other
My mother asked my father if he would attend his granddaughter’s first sports day—‘No,’ he said—‘I never attended the boys’.’ My mother reiterated that it was his granddaughter’s first sports day. Then she told him they would go for lunch afterwards. ‘Where?’ my father asked. When my mother told him, he agreed to go to his granddaughter’s first sports day.
I would quite like to be a grandfather.
It is the season of grandparents and grandchildren roaming about this city on a weekday, walking pleasantly along the pavement, oblivious and absorbed by the city-workers, homeless and taxi-cabs. I see them on my cigarette break and remember my own grandfather, dead at sixty-three, aging only in the recesses of my nostalgia. He never took me around the streets of London.
It would be heavenly to own a vineyard and have my child and their family come visit me. I would live amongst French hills and drink my own wine, not wine on my own. They would visit me and I would be associated with sweet sunshine and warm rain. There would be three scoops of ice cream in the bowls I bring my grandchildren. My wife would say—‘You gonna refill their glasses?’ and we would all laugh and there would be ice cream running down my fingers. The sun would set in the west and my vineyard on the hill would have an outstanding view of the west, where the sun set, and we would brush gnats from our skin and in the evening our beds would be fluorescent with love while my grandchildren slept smiling and making memories. I would eat breakfast with my grandchildren and we would all be barefooted.
‘Statistically,’ the contractor in the factory said—‘Two people will die on our site.’
I thought of the many people who would pass through the building site and how two of them might lose their life there.
We spoke some of death.
‘Speaking of death,’ he said—‘You heard C— T— died?’
‘What?!’ my friend said.
‘What?!’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ the contractor said. ‘He was only thirty-four.’
C— T— worked with us briefly – a few months. I heard from his employers that he was often off with illness. His employer’s let him go because he was often off with illness, and then he died from the illness at only thirty-four, without grandchildren or anything like that.
I wondered if he counted as one of the two.
My friend and I caught the train up to the factory. We sat in a quiet carriage (out of London quiet, into London busy) and I drank coffee and we spoke just like we’ve been working together over a decade. My boss called me and I argued with him as he told me that I needed to get into the real world. It was amusing to my friend that I was told to live in the real world. We got off the train and walked in the strong ten o’clock sun. There was no wind but for the cars and trucks that brushed our shoulder along the narrow road. We did not stop talking. For all the hell I’ve been feeling lately in the lonely nights of my flat, I quite enjoyed it – and he will never know. Forgive me if I find such a joy in walking with company.
It is too much for one to walk down the street, amongst the couples holding hands, and ask, with absolute reason—‘Why not me?’ In the shutter of a blink, one is inclined to ask themselves—Why not me? What do they have that I do not? Ah, the human mind is a selfish thing. My Friday evening legs, all tired and frayed, make their way home and I see couples and the man is subject to my most cruel reviews: how boring and how dull, how like moss, how pale in the eyes that he does not wonder, surely you cannot imagine him fucking, or standing at the foot of pregnancy’s bed! And still, for all my own shortcomings, I linger behind, slowing my pace, to study and inspect this most undeserving of lovers! He – he is undeserving! And yet he is happy… smug… I watch him pass down the road and I hover about his heels. He is in love. Maybe if I linger in his presence long enough I will learn his secret, and I too will be bland and in love.

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