Friday, 10 October 2014

A Day In My City

I tried to be anonymous today. I made my way into the 'city' and tried to be young and free like I used to be, in this same city. I failed to exchange both boys new jeans as they didn't have their sizes in stock and so I ordered some and decided to reward my efforts with 'proper grown up coffee' in the city. By the way, I don't even like coffee so much but I really like the ritual of it all. I get that from my hubby. I love his processes, his love of it. So I borrow this from him, plus, I like the shakiness of my hands that comes after I have indulged. I feel a little giddy afterwards, like the feeling you get when you take a long drag on a cigarette when you haven't smoked for a long time. I don't smoke, so I get my shaky buzz this way, today on a slightly chilled friday morning in my city. It may not be New York but it is my home, my city.

My youngest one has got me thinking about home and what is to belong and what is to treasure. Yesterday, I flippantly told him to keep the house tidy because I was expecting someone from the agency that we rent our house from, to come to do the routine inspection. This second child of mine is not typically a worrier, I love him so for his opposite inclination. And yet yesterday, when he was asking how my day was, he suddenly asked 'and how was the inspection?'. I casually replied 'oh fine' to which he responded 'so ... we can stay?'. 'Of course we can my love, you weren't worried about it were you?' I said and he said 'yeah I was, I thought we were gonna get chucked out!
Always one to immediately see the funny side of any drama, we laughed together and I grabbed him for a cuddle. Then, this morning when he came into bed with me for his 'good morning cuddle', he said 'I love this house. I'll miss it if I have to leave'. Of course, his words left me feeling a little sad but then I remembered that a few days earlier I'd explained that a school friend of his would be moving house and saying goodbye to his old house. My youngest boy, I realise now, has returned to that conversation a number of times with slightly troubled concern at this idea of bidding special places farewell. It is quite some concept to process, especially when you are six. He has talked too of the things that his cousins might be missing, they recently moved to Madagascar. He speaks in his own way, with his own wonderful topsy turvy language and with such deep empathic understanding, of what is to yearn for the familiar at the same time as feeling the excitement of something new and unknown. What a great teacher this little one of mine is. Like his father, he has that ability to withdraw, to stand back. It's as if they are standing on top of a mountain looking down at the view, seeing the big picture and making sense of it all.

So I sit here in this coffee shop in the city and I'm starting to feel a little buzz in my finger tips and I'm listening to a song playing that makes me embarrassingly melancholic, one with achingly beautiful harmonies that makes my eyes glassy with tears that I manage to control from falling. My coffee cup is empty and my book unopened and even though I bumped into someone from my neighbourhood in this coffee shop in the city, I feel anonymous. I like the noise of various conversations happening in every direction around me. I like that the the song that makes me embarrassingly melancholic has made me want to sing and make music again, even though I know it will take plenty more than this alone to motivate me to make either of these happen. It was good to get out early today. It was so good. I could end there, on that positive note but that doesn't feel very 'me'. So instead my head is suddenly filled with the cringy thought of how I freaked my eldest boy out last night. I do this. It seems to subconsciously happen on the occasions that my hubby is away or home late, these seem to be the occasions that I picture a wonderful mother/son moment (which I have been known to pull off at times by the way) that somehow spirals into chaos. I'll explain. 

A few days ago, I went into the loft and closed my eyes and put my hand into each of the four large black bin liners that contain my VHS collection, the collection I can't quite part with that takes up a huge amount of space. One of the films I plucked from my lucky dip bags was Big Fish. I'd stacked it in my VHS pile in my room ready for my cosy autumn nights in. So last night I thought it would be perfect to watch it with my eldest boy. I generally find that it's a mistake to watch a film that you've not watched for a while with one of your children because inevitably, there's swearing that you don't remember or sexual innuendo or indeed a creepy bit with a witch that lifts her eye patch up, to reveal to children, the exact scenario in which they will die in their future. I could hear myself saying 'It's just storytelling, imagination, you know ... stuff from imagination. You know ... erm Saruman? Saruman doesn't really exist and there's no ring in real life but the ring has power in that story?'.
I left the dinosaur light on all night long in the boys room and when my hubby came home very late, I was awake. I'd stayed up. I wanted to be the first one to tell him that I'd broken our son, again. Anyway, there were no nightmares, my prayers worked. The funny thing is, I'll probably do it again. It's ok though, that eldest boy of mine said he loved the giant in the story. He thought that was magical!

After my coffee, I took a walk. I smiled internally as I walked past the Starbucks where nearly ten years ago I told my dear friend Sarah that I was pregnant.  I made eye contact with a middle aged man in a suit. We smiled. I wondered what his day would look like, and then carried on walking. Walking past my old place of work, I looked up to my old office, in that museum that I worked at for a time. As I continued, I walked past some shops and could see my reflection and I caught myself imitating again. I do this. My hubby has grown a huge beard that he constantly handles with his right hand, smoothing down moustache, bringing his fingertips together till he creates a point at the space under his chin. Then I see myself, I'm doing it too. I'm such a copycat! Well apart from the beard and moustache, if I do have them, I haven't purposefully grown them! I used to steal laughs and before that I would steal stories. I'm such a thief. No, those words are too strong. I'll call myself a collector, a storer of sounds and scenes, of things. 

I watch the chef in his whites standing outside goods in rolling his cigarette, so smart from waist up and shabby from waist down. I guess from this that when he's inside the building, it is only his top half that is visible to customers. I wish there and then that the customers could see what looks like his favourite battered pair of vans, the really comfy ones that probably make his feet smell a little. Sat on some steps outside the library, I saw a young woman with a small suitcase smoking a cigarette with style of someone that could only be from Italy or Spain or France. I could have watched her for a long time but I greedily walk on looking for other people. I am good at this, this people watching. The sun shines and the sky is blue and I feel happy, carefree even. I mean it, I feel carefree for the first time in a long time. I think about taking a selfie to capture the moment but decide against it, you can't capture these moments in that way. I hear the distant strumming of a busker playing his acoustic guitar. It's all about acoustic guitar today. I see a Zoe Kravitz lookalike in urban outfitters. She is wearing flared trousers made from what looks like one of those fancy Moroccan rugs. She is pulling it off and looks so pretty my eyes start to bleed and I realise there is nothing in the store for me because I am officially 139 years old - an extra hundred years passed me by without me knowing.

I see more buskers. So many that I wonder if there's some busker event or if it's simply just freshers from the local universities avoiding lectures. I spot a couple busking, they look barely eighteen. He's playing guitar and she's singing and I watch her watching him and I remember when I too secretly had a crush on the guitarist in my band. I thought I was really good at keeping it a secret, this jumbled up, no clue kind of  crush that I was feeling. If the girl I was watching is anything to go by, I too did not do a good job of keeping my secret, secret. They are so powerful, those flashbacks when they come. Suddenly I remember every accidental brush of fingers, every clumsy brush of lips when we would greet each other. How funny. It was a lucky escape, he was a strange boy really and it's mean to say but he wrote lousy lyrics but he did make a couple of my summers lots of angsty fun! 

Over lunch, in a different cafe, I mull over the interesting conversation that I had with the nice guy at the gallery I visited. We talked about the exhibition, about our frustrations with the limitation of an elitist sub culture, about our interests, about how much fun it is to grow up with siblings and how dedicated you can be to the practice of finding new ways to annoy them. I liked his description of balancing on the stairs bannister when he was young, so that he could peer through the glass window just above his younger sisters door, where he would watch her talking to her toys as she pretended to be the headmistress of a school. I thought about some words expressed by Lee Bul, the showing artist at the gallery I visited today. She had this to say:  

I start to sketch or just write about my ideas and put them up all over my wall in my studio, and every day I watch this grow into a map of ideas until one day I think 'maybe I can make this more concrete and specific'. Lee Bul 

These words felt very comfortable, very soothing. I like process, I like this process. In fact I think these words are exactly what I do here, right here on this blog. I like to think that one day, I might just gather enough ideas to make it all more concrete and specific. 

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