They were piling out of a flat just off North Road. One after another. There must’ve been five or six of them. Had there been a party or something? First they trailed off along the street that cuts onto the Prom only to turn back again and head up the hill ahead of me. Jesus Christ, one of the boys said.
I did it. I called her.
I may have said so before that I don’t find phone calls easy. I mean work ones are fine, they have an obvious purpose, and a beginning and end. It’s the other kind, the social kind where boundaries, particularly of time, are more fluid. She took ages to answer and her voice, so familiar even after all these years, was tentative, hesitant. She sounded pleased to hear from me, though she had been warned. Had she fretted about me calling? I hope not. It was well meant. There is nothing but love. Really. He doesn’t understand, not truly. But that doesn’t matter. This is about me, and her, and her. The three of us. We are a grandmother, I said and she laughed. And we are. A shared gift.
It took me back. That longing. That longing to belong. The delight I felt in her. Her wit, her generosity, her openness, her kindness, her ease. At least that is what I saw back then. She’d been wary. And rightly so. Me too, but then I opened to her, the need too great to suppress. I’ve always done it, sought mothers. Still do. Did she know this? Did they all? How many has it been now? Five or six. Not all to the same degree but mother figures certainly. Belonging and not belonging. Because you don’t, not really. There is no blood connection. However much you love, serve, yield to them you are not theirs. Does she feel the same? I shouldn’t think she thinks about it, not deeply. I hope not.
It took me back. The bustle, the chaos, the busy-ness of it. The chats, the cups of tea, the dogs, the walks and the noise. I welcomed it then, wouldn’t do now but then I suppose she wouldn’t either. A big life contained in that house. Uncarpeted floorboards, all of them crashing about in their slippered feet. Pyjamas on in front of the TV, Neighbours, Coronation Street and The Beautiful South on the stereo.
It took me back and it was nice to go there.
A testing day yesterday but we managed it. We solved it. We survived it. You shall not be overcome. How beautiful. You may be assailed, you may be diseased but you shall not be overcome. Is that a promise? Can I hold you to that?
Two girls holding hands. Where was it? Yes, on campus. And then later the next morning, two boys doing the same. In the dark. I like it. I like that fact that they feel able to do it.
I chase time. I know I am doing it. So many things to relish, to anticipate with pleasure and there is time to do it. I have so much freedom. So much.
I looked at it when I’d finished working on it and the yellow was just gorgeous. A lemon-cheese kind of yellow. Take them in, such moments, they count. They count against the doubt.
Fucking gossamer, he said waving his hand across his face as we carried the shopping from the car.
How I love him.