Tuesday, September 11

A Series of Numbers

During holidays, I will admit that I consciously recognise the midpoint of the trip and, registering it, become slightly sad. The second half will fly by. During the first half of a holiday, one is becoming accustomed to the environment, the smell of the hotel or the transport network or various busy points in town, but familiarity causes the latter half to pass with such speed that it leaves you in a spin, until you are sat back on the plane and readjusting your wristwatch.
For a while now I have begun to imagine that there is a midpoint to my life. Of course there is a midpoint, you say, because life is finite and every measurement has a fraction. Little imagination is required. And so I am walking down the road and minding no one’s business but my own, dodging the business people of the city, and all of my life to this point is the number thirty-three and doubled only sixty-six; both grandfathers died younger than that. Can you imagine? I imagined. Neither grandfather saw sixty-four.
Will this second half fly by?
A string of petty sums may be carried out when confronted with someone my age dressed in, among other things, a wedding ring.
The calculations I carry out against my age are lengthy and superfluous. I met a girl in a bar who wore silk underwear and travelled Japan alone and who told me that life happens to you in seven-year phases. She remarked (nursing a cocktail that smelled of Skittles, and such pleasant company making Saturday night swoon) that seven, fourteen, twenty-one and twenty-eight had all been separated quite distinctly by a shift in her attitude, maturity and experience. I think of that a lot. Where am I? I am twenty-three months from my next phase, caught up in the wilderness of thirty-something. Or should I break my life equally into eleven-year periods: eleven (my grandfather died, my general outlook irreparably altered), twenty-two (a full-time job, failed pursuit as a writer) and thirty-three (now, insert description here but do not save your adjectives)? What event will propel me into the next phase?
At lunch I cut a course that I have taken many times before but neglected the past few years ago. The trousers I wore were tattered and had holes in. I would buy a new pair – no, I would instead walk without purpose! If I’m going to pretend to be a writer, then I must take long aimless walks. It used to be that I would walk that particular route to overcome heartbreak, but now I just walked it for something to do, sensing that heartbreak is a terribly dramatic word, and the liver is the more precious organ. The liver generates heat, and breaks down old blood. The liver teaches your blood how to clot. The liver is a shark’s largest organ, affording them buoyancy. Buoyancy is a good word.
I walked the route again and nostalgia flicked my ear. I was almost buoyant (good word) with the country’s descent (bad word) into autumn. Feeling the sweat gathered on my back, I approached a patch of grass that in summer is full of picnicking office workers and dozing labourers who nap with their heads on folded clothes. Picture my surprise when I find it abandoned but smelling sweetly.
‘You’ve got a keen sense of smell, haven’t you?’
‘For a smoker.’
The cut grass smelled of autumn. I inhaled deeply. That bastard grass was beheaded and it bled, the grass liver stopped it from bleeding too much, but the blood that had fallen smelled strong enough for a dumb mammal like me to get high off. I smelled the cut grass and I smelled autumn. Eventually there is a point when you cut the grass for the last time and the grass knows it is autumn. Soon I would approach my brother’s building site. I hoped he would not be outside smoking because I was not in the mood to talk to him, or anyone for that matter. I was thinking about autumn and thirty-three. Happiness was an abstract idea, but I kept walking, smelling the cut grass and hoping I wouldn’t bump into my brother.

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