There was a big patch of dirt where grass used to grow but at least the Tower was still there. We had been sitting here, all five us, before we got old and boring and started turning into responsible adults until we finally stopped talking all together. The weather hadn’t been like anything it was today. It had been sunny and even a little bit warm for the time of the year, so we took our coats off and lay in the grass with little regard for passersby as we were having a heated debate about a painting we had seen earlier that day. After being abroad again for two months I found myself to be a bit homesick and subconsciounsely retracing my steps, only visiting places that I had visited with them. We were sitting on the exact same steps as I was sitting on today, but the view had been different and so had my mindset. I was on my own now, the sky was grey and the Thames kept spitting at the tourists that made their way through the city like rats, wet hair, umbrellas and scarfs wrapped around their heads in a desperate attempt to stay warm. I pulled my cardigan from my pack when I finally realized I didn’t have to look good in a city where I didn’t really know any one anyway. It was cold, the wind was tearing the capital apart. I was in quite the state; my hands were freezing and my lips were dry, I was hungry, thirsty and I just wanted to go home. As I lighted my cigarette I started noticing the way people touched each other. Every one seemed to be touching someone. The only people that were on their own were the mad ones; the ones with long beards or soaked tracksuits. I tried to avoid my reflection in windows or cars, my hair sticking against my skin and the black pools under my eyes, but when I finally bumped into myself at the corner of a glass building, I wondered where my beard was and whether I lost my tracksuit.
They buried you today, together with the letter that I wrote you. I will never forget the day I left. The way your skinny hand reached down in the pocket of your cardigan. Bony fingers around a little piece of paper that you handed to me. “I will never forget you,” you said, your glasses on the tip of your nose. “I will never forget you either,” I replied and it wasn’t just something I said to be polite, it was the godhonest truth. I came to visit you once after that, when I had found what I was looking for and finally got tired of travelling because I missed my friends. They told me you had stopped eating. I was afraid you wouldn’t recognise me and that it would break my heart. It was still dark inside your living room and I found you in the bedroom where M was helping you on the commode; your pads somewhere halfway down your ankles. “We have to stop meeting like this,” I smiled while I touched your shoulder. You had lost so much weight that I was afraid I would break you. Your turned around and looked at me with a big smile on your face. We hugged and a month later you died. They told me that even when you lost the ability to speak your eyes still lighted up when they mentioned our adventures together. And this is why I put on my uniform every day when it’s still dark outside, and this is what I think about whenever I get spat on, whenever I get beaten and yelled at and it makes it all worth it.
"I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with me," I say, tying my hair back while I kiss him on the forehead. He cups my face while a tear makes its way down my cheek and onto my neck. "You love me," he answers, "that’s what’s wrong with you." "I have always loved you." The lump in my throat swells. I get up, gather my belongings and get the hell out of there.
When she does remember
She calls me her little angel
And she knows where she is
And everything is all right
For a second or a minute
And then we cry
She for the life that she lost
I for the woman I only know about through the stories of her children
Het is nat, zoals dat hoort op dit eiland. De kerstlichtjes weerspiegelen in het zwart van de donkere straten, een bus vol verlichte hoofden raast voorbij. Er loopt een man richting de kerk terwijl de wind de panden van zijn beige jas optilt. “Hoe veel chocolaatjes heb je vandaag gegeten?”
Het winkelcentrum is dicht dus alleen de gekken zijn op straat. Een man springt in een plas regen terwijl een ander bij hem vandaan zwalkt. De mannen drinken achter glas terwijl hun vrouwen in de kerk zitten.
Drie jongetjes in trainingspak staan op de hoek van de straat. Het miezert. Één jongetje houdt de fietsen vast terwijl het andere zijn vest vastmaakt. Ik weet niet waarom ik het huis uitliep in de regen. Ik denk dat ik me weer even normaal wilde voelen. Weg van het incontinentie materiaal en de scheldpartijen, weg van de theelepeltjes die op z’n kop in de thee staan, weg van overbezorgde dochters, weg van alles oud, net doen of ik een bestemming heb in het centrum van de stad waar ik niemand ken.
De wereld is er nog, ik ben er nog, en ergens aan de andere kant van het kanaal ben jij.
“We’re lost aren’t we,” she said, the wind sweeping her hat right off her tiny frozen head. She looks at me with her glasses on the tip of her nose, she scares me when she has her glasses on the tip of her nose. “You have no idea where we are.” The tone in her voice prepares me for what is coming as I watch her clasp her walking stick in the angry manner I’ve become used to over the last couple of weeks. The blood disappears from her hand when she tightens her grip, it pours right out of her hand and into her mad face. I try to hold on to the image of her black and white smile in the album back home, the smile directed at her first born, at her husband, at the friends back home in Ireland. This angry lady was a happy lady once, with a life very similar to my own. She had crossed borders, she had fallen in love, she had dreams and goals and losing half of her mind before she turned seventy was not one of them. They say that in the end only the strong emotions remain; love for the faces she recognized, even if she no longer could connect any names to them; hate for the stranger that dragged her across the street in the cold. Except I wasn’t a stranger, but just impossible to remember.
I am watching people pass by on the interstate. Thousands of destinations, the sun lighting their faces. A woman in a black Dodge is drinking orange juice with a straw. A redhead in a white BMW is texting while she passes us by. A curly head grandma sips from a can of Mountain dew in a Honda Civic that once was white. When I was a kid I didn’t really believe in the existence of a world outside of my own. Life was like a computer game. The streets, the people, the buildings, they would all pop up when I entered the space they inhabited like slowly generating pixels just outside my view. A million destinations, a million beating hearts.