0036 | first rites

The white Vauxhall Astra van would pull up outside our house once, maybe twice a week. Jeff delighted in sounding the horn loudly, every bit as much as he enjoyed the noise of wheel-spinning away from the house minutes later. Pete and I would wince and laugh in the same instant, but mostly wince. We took it in turns to ride in the front passenger seat. The other would climb into the boot, into the space alongside or behind tool bags and boxes and the detritus of Jeff’s day job. I watched the setting of many a sun looking out of that back windscreen, laid out on an off-cut of dust-ridden carpet, amidst ceramic tile cutters, tubs of grout and tubes…

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0035 | the mitten

Each day, there is the death of something once treasured. Each day, a life or function expires; a value or attachment is lost. Each day continues the constant unveiling and passing of all number of ephemeral pleasures. There are things which we hold onto with no idea of how tightly we should be grasping, which only once they’re gone and against the scale of the mourning that ensues do we come to realise how special they were. There are words which are read, and words which are spoken; things which are heard, and things which are seen: and all of these can one moment shock with their efficacy, but can then never repeat that same sensual assault. They can only be…

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0034 | grammars of a conversation

‘Just hold on a minute, Matthew.’ It’s a brusque non sequitur that establishes many of our conversations on the phone. A grammatical anomaly; words that don’t naturally follow as a response to the answer and enquiring inflection of ‘Hello?’ The prolonged double-syllable form of my name has sounded strange to me for all of my adult life, but, as my mother, I understand why she should wish to preserve it. Pete is Peter. Dave is still David. We have each become so many things that she couldn’t have foreseen – that she might not have chosen for us – but by continuing with the names she christened us with, we remain first and foremost her children. I like that she retains that particular privilege. There…

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0033 | stolen words

It’s the opening stark sentence of Camus’ The Outsider that comes to mind when I hear or speak the word ‘mother’. It was the most powerful opening sentence of any book I had read. ‘Mother died today.’ So cold and formal, as were the sentences of detached narration which followed. Authors can take such firm command of words and language. If it is true that a photo can tell a thousand words, then it is also true that a word or sentence can conjure a thousand more words and an uncountable number of associated thoughts and images. Words can be taken hostage by those places and forms where we first came to feel their real potency. They can be stolen…

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0032 | echoes

(Tuesday) Awake at the second attempt, no less drowsy than the first time, but the room much brighter for the extra hour that must have elapsed. Earlier, everything remained dressed in the heavy charcoal tones of night. Only a few tall, thin gaps of colour leaked into the room. That breakthrough orange was the hue of lamplight – not sunrise. It barely defined the edge of the chair, nor the near upright of the wardrobe. Now, the chair and all the other elements of the room are going through that gradual transformation of dawn: the chair turning cerise from the dirty purple of an hour or so ago; the warm tones of the wood of the wardrobe seeping through; the white…

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0031 | embers

The red diode at the front of the television and the orange one on the satellite box next to it: the last two embers of the day. The last two lights. My eyes are tired. The red spot flares and doubles momentarily; the other light burns and softening rings of orange recede from the centre and out into the black. Across the room, on the bookshelf, the glowing green circles of the baby monitor unit arc and multiply as the machine conducts its static hum. On the undertow of that electric drone is the whistle of my daughter’s nose. Each whistle, four seconds apart, produces an extra green circle on the monitor’s display that disappears a second later. The last sounds…

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0030 | a drop of rain

It’s a single drop of rain that lands on my lower lip: a cold smack that wakes me from reverie and from the crowd that spills from the train. I dip the edge of my tongue out and draw the water droplet inside. In the same movement, teeth scrape flesh and my mouth is dry again. I shuffle forward, inching along the platform, deferring and conceding ground to those more keen, less passive, than me. I find a rhythm at the steps from the platform. At the foot of those steps, my stride lengthens as I pass under the subway and out to the front of the station. I overtake a dozen or more people, side-step wheeled suitcases, dodge shoulder…

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0029 | chalks

Memory cruelly flashes the very distant past back at me. Moments and scenes from then resonate with meaning so loudly just now. I hardly had an idea of how beautiful that life was. I fret that I chose just to exist in too much of it; and to live, truly, in too little. I can’t decide whether these current glimpses haunt because of this. I can’t decide if I’m remembering or romanticizing or retouching. Maybe it’s the poverty that was there, in each day, that warps my thinking; that continues to transport things which were felt so keenly back then forever onwards to the present day. The present commiserating the past. Maybe it’s the loss of a simplicity that haunts…

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