Monday, November 26

Tradition

What is there to miss? The heating wasn’t on; the carriage cold and each metal surface stung to touch. Slowly it filled up. A young man sat next to me. At first he looked at his phone, catching up on his friends & so on, then he just looked at his phone for no reason and then he fell asleep. Throughout the journey he began to sway at my direction and I hoped he would not touch me. I was reading and if I felt myself falling asleep then I shook my head and placed my face against the window and the cold kept me awake for another ten minutes or so. I was tired.
As we passed, I looked at the building where I used to live. Many of the lights were off, the flats dark. This city has so many dark flats. It was at this time of year I fell in love with that building: its windows alight, warmth, the fragrance of red brick a century old; the structure seemed to me a behemoth. That was so long ago and this life so different. The sleeping young man next to me swayed. Bodies heated up the railway car. It was bodies and silence heating up the railway car.
Was tonight the night? I checked my phone, and, yes, tonight was the night.
I was on my way to meet my mother for dinner. Tradition, yes, but the way things worked out it was not as often as either of us wished. The last time was in the summer and I remember the colours from back then, the locals who crowded our happy-hour bar, the noise, the smell of the air, and in the smoking area all those who tried to talk to me while I lied about my name – and the heat seemed to never abate. How long ago, must have been another year. We all descended the stairs. No one really cared about the other, and there was a sound to it, a wet drudge, the synchronised blinking, shuffling and daring not to catch the heel of those in front of you. Down the street, past the queues for the bus, I walked down the alleyway with its blue lights, bookies, tattoo parlours, a light in the distance that beckoned. There was a string of bus stops next to the pub too and inside, through the large sheets of glass, were old women drinking glasses of beer and cups of tea.
My mother was sat alone, waiting. I kissed her cheek. She had on a new blouse. ‘New top?’ I asked. She told me it was. I don’t recognise the clothes of my mother these days; even after all these years I guess I find it strange that her life should go on without me, such is my self-centeredness sometimes. There was terrible Italian operatic pop music playing. She tells me how hot it had been the last time we met. We talked about the last time I had visited her home, and I ordered a drink. Patiently she waited until mine arrived before we cheers’d. She told me about my nieces and my brothers. I listened. I drank. I asked that we take some time before ordering and that they delay our mains, so we would have some more time to talk. They rush you in and out of these places but judging from the couple next to us who both looked at their phones the entire time, maybe that was how people liked it. I don’t go to restaurants; it was a special occasion and I could not have asked for better company. My table manner is exceptional. At home I eat from a bowl in my lap as I sit on the sofa; but in a restaurant, all the etiquette returns to me: I keep my mouth clean with regular swipes of the napkin, I chew with my mouth closed, elbows off the table, the correct cutlery at each course and always together (never crossed) when I have finished. There was an elaborately tied bag on the table—‘What’s this?’ She had bought me a present. I opened it, untying the ribbon carefully (and then back together afterwards). Scented candles. I thanked her. She knew me. They smelled delicious, of her home during the winter, of Christmas. We talked of family and of my youngest brother, who can be a devil. I did not want the meal to end. At some point I knew that we would have to part and I’d go to my home and she to hers and it was so good to chat that even the terrible opera began to be appealing. As sad as I was to see her go, the train station platform – abandoned and cold – held a peculiar sense of calm for me. There was the taste of coffee in my mouth. At that hour so few travelled from the town into the city, how quiet was the train and all this room to spread out. My mother had been, for a couple of hours, the only family and true feeling of connection I was likely to find for a while or until I saw her again. The train gave its exclamation point.
The next night I found myself in a nightclub. For a long time I had been looking forward to it, but when it came I was too fed up and tired to enjoy it as much as the others in my group. Often I would sneak away from the group and be alone. Everyone looked so good and prim. I snuck myself away, the din of music beyond, an outskirts cigarette, the burger van humming quietly. If I stayed then maybe it would get better. ‘How was it?’ ‘Everyone else had more fun than me.’ O, to be in the restaurant with my mother again! Such a silly thing. The music was worse than the terrible Italian opera. Then there was the moment I realised I was all alone, that everyone else had gone home. A taxi would come down the road soon. It was a straight road, lined with trees and old warehouses. A taxi would come soon. My heels sounded cold on the pavement. Everything felt different. I heard my heels on the pavement and waited for an approaching taxi. It could not come soon enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blank Template By subinsb.com