Saturday, November 13, 2010

run away

The yellow flowers poked out among the brambles, miles of them, the sun outside slanting on them already, the window-glass smoked. Soporific smell of the carriage. I watched my beaker of tea, shy of prising off the lid to unhook the tea-bag. A jolt of the carriage during this operation would make me spill it. He went on fingering his left arm, examining an insignificant cut or bruise. Sometimes we talked about cricket, but not today.

"Grumpy as ever, my dad. The heat gets to him now. Expensive day at Lingfield. Had a rant about his firm, too. Have I told you he has a firm?"

"No, I don't think so. What kind of firm?"

"They lease delivery vans. To foodie places in general. He doesn't need to be involved so much, my mum says. "

"You become accustomed to the life."

"That's how it is. He's meant to take it easy. He had some trouble a couple of years ago: prostate. Give up smoking, so he says. It must have been serious."

"This was while you were in Jamaica?"

"Yeh. It was a shock to see him when I came home. He lost so much weight. He was a big guy before. He got upset because he couldn't find my birthday present. The worst thing was when he tried to laugh about it. My mum's eyes said everything. She's a sweet lady, my mum."

I couldn't wait any longer, looking at the tea. I got the lid off all right, but when I opened the milk it spat over my shirt and tie. I poured in the rest of it and mopped up with a tissue. I had the instant thought, I'm already at work.

"Does your mother know about - your friend. I'm sorry, I forgot her name. Leah?"

"Leiah. They did meet her once, around about Christmas time. We went to a bashment on the Isle of Wight, so we stayed a night in Portsmouth. They'd remember her all right, because she got sick in the shed as soon as we arrived. Before I knocked on the door. I was going to clean it up the next day but I slept in and my mum went and found it. So it's clear they would remember her, but they've seen other girls since. They think she's history."

"You couldn't bear to tell them."

"I wanted to. I did. I told Irwin, my brother. They would be sick. But that wasn't the reason. The mistake I made was, I needed to come straight out with it. Though I thought of nothing else on the way down, when the moment came I scuffed it. You drop into patterns. It's always the same when I come home; dinner's on the table, how's work, a toast to my successes. Dad lightens up, gives me the benefit of his advice. He loves that. Mum sits there and glows with pride, runs her hand through my hair, has to have another picture of me for the album. Then father and son. Finally me with Mum, she always makes a protest, says she looks a sight. Giggles. It's what they live for."

"I know what you mean. You had to go in with a serious face if you were going to do it."

"How do you think you would be - if your own son...?"

"I'd be excited. I believe. Yes, I'd be content about it. Other thoughts should come later, but this would be the main thing."

"You are different from my father. They are not well, you can feel the strain for them of just holding it together. And can be..."

He looked out of the window. Units passed by, a flyover with traffic queued all along it. We arrowed between, soporific, to run away with the yellow flowers to the broad sea - well no, only to work again, only to work...

"You mean, if it isn't decided? I thought she told you she made up her mind."

"That's what she said. But she was not in a good state. She was in a rage, she wanted to shit me up. Maybe it depends on me, how I react. I've been seeing someone else and - she's got to go through this too, I mean she's got to tell people. I thought we were finished. It feels very weird, her and me. "

"You need to have a proper talk with her. At once in my opinion."

"I know it man. I will, but she's been away. I'll call her."

I didn't know him. It was ridiculous to have an opinion, but I wanted to say something more; about my other son, the one I never saw who spoke a different language. But why would I have held it in, and then if I told him... The train had stopped. A hundred people surged towards the doors; they'd all have to stand. Those autumn faces like leaves on graves.

I went to work, I went to work, I went to work again. He was not there now, but I thought of him and of this conversation. I understood that there was a part of it that did not "ring true"; it was about my friend's achievements. It was his steady brother, the younger one, that they lived for. His father had an idea of the way a man should behave. I saw that he could tell them about what happened. But he could not tell them and then have it seen, if so it turned out, that he a man could not have control over Leiah if she had an abortion.

I began to understand that they must not know for this reason.

I felt even my own responsible word to be deflected and only to confirm his anger towards Leiah and I regretted speaking it, and I made protestation of my intention but I felt hollow and perhaps it is so when men talk that we must always shake our heads over a woman.

[from the littlest feeling, a book of sixty stories]



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