I heard it said twice. Twice within a hour. Words said on the radio. Words relayed through the radio. Liminal. I forget the context. One was in a poem, I think. The other from a programme about snow. I like words that I do not completely understand. Words where the meaning is elusive. You can make them your own, fashion them as you will. Upend them. Mould them. Liminal. Between worlds. Between words.
They look out for him. They seek him out. He has to keep moving on just to get a couple of hours of peace, of quietness within which to read his papers. At the moment it is Jack. Jack is a widower. He’s lonely, he says. That’s all. He just wants company. They check the time with him. When will you be in? Seven? And the baristas are the same. Haven’t seen you in a while. Yesterday the man he calls Mr Baldy stopped him in the supermarket asking where he’d been. He fudged a reply. Didn’t want to say that he been going somewhere else. That he preferred it. The coffee, the people. No not prefer, just liked the comparative quiet. Did she get the job? he asked him. Yes. See you soon, he said. Sure. Mustn’t disappoint.
The night before New Year’s Eve. Neither of us wanted to go. Too cold, too dark, too expensive. Too expensive for what it is. So much rather be at home. But we mustn’t disappoint. I want to be truthful but he will not have it. It was an awkward evening. Something was not right. I feel his edginess, his wariness. He squeezes my thigh. Conspiratorial. We’re in this together, held by our mutual desire to be at home. It is nice to see them. His friends. Old men. Food down their jumpers. A little distrait. One wears the new jacket the other brought back from the Middle East for him. Lovely, we say. It’s very warm, he replies, proud. Happy for the gift. He has one for him too but had to leave it in Dubai. No room in my suitcase. It’s his birthday the following day. Seventy-two. Doesn’t look it. Still the rogue. Still the maverick with a small m. The other friend always orders fish. He eats fasts, snapping at the food like a reptile. So fast that a bit of salmon has fallen on his lap. He glances down briefly and continues to eat. His fork is a shovel. He doesn’t talk as he eats. His concentration is entirely on the plate. The flakes of salmon must’ve gone down his sleeve. I watch as he opens up his cuff and shakes him arm over his plate. The other man eats slowly, less interested in the contents of his plate than in a girl on a long table opposite. A family gathering, a party. All ages. I’d noticed her before him. A dark-haired, heavily made-up girl who looked cross, peevish even. She’d stood up to reach over for something on the table. Brooding, aware of her striking-ness, her not-to-be-forgotten face. She looks like a young what’s-her-name, you know married to Michael Douglas, he says, encouraging his two friends to turn round and stare at her. Catherine Zeta-Jones, I say. He doesn’t reply. She can’t be more than eighteen.
Whistling. Out at sea through the dark. A kind of whistling. Is it a bird? The wind? And now our fridge is doing it. Is it something to do with the suction? Every time I close it it starts. A high-pitched kind of wailing. Is it dangerous? he asks.
Resolutions. I have hardly thought of them. The day almost passed by. No champagne this year. Didn’t want it. Slept through it to the new. The New Year. Let it be. A motto rather than a resolution. No make it a resolve. To let be. It is bigger than it first seems. Let it be. The good and the bad, so much so that they are no longer distinguishable. They just are. Let it be. Be at peace. Peacefully letting it be. Begin today. A day with no pushing. No forcing. Just letting it be. A slow detaching. A gentle detachment. Cutting those golden threads. One by one.