Firstly, I want to direct your attention to a great post, Masculine Diffidence, written by my blogosphere friend, Wrothful. It makes a point from a perspective that we often don’t get to hear, so I urge you to have a look.
This second line of thinking might take me a few goes to get it out of my head. I went out yesterday afternoon for a coffee (my fiance, who from henceforth will be known as CJ, decided that despite my cold I needed sunlight) and while I was waiting for CJ to order the coffees I was engrossed in watching a very old woman eating a piece of cake. Sounds banal, but as a tiny voyeuristic moment in my day, it stuck in my noggin’ and refused to budge. Last night I dreamt about her, but the dream came to me as a short story. I don’t know how else to explain that other than I saw the words, literally, as the story formed. It was quite strange. Unfortunately, I can’t really remember it! I know it was short. Anyway, here goes!
She looked at me, I thought. I thought. But it was the unfocused gaze of boredom that happened to sweep across me as it made its way to nowhere. Boredom? Frustration? Peace? Wisdom? I don’t know. Don’t know. The lines on her face were deep. Deep like they’d cut their way into her skin by mistake one day and never quite figured out how to leave again. It was a party. A celebration of youth, and she, cut-lined, was sat at the head of the long table like a piece of performance art, a demonstration of what is to come. At the head of the table she was cut off. No-one at her elbows. No-one face to face. Was she deaf? No matter.
She has cake. It’s white. She brings a forkful to her mouth and it looks stark against the tan of her skin. Tan-hands. Pan-hands. Damn-hands damned. They shake as they get higher. As if the further they are from her lap the more unsure they become. The shake gets shakier and the white cake tumbles down. It falls in slow motion from her lips to her bosom. There it bounces up and off like a child skipping with a white balloon and falls to the ground right beside her chair. She looks up and out at the faces extending in two long rows in front of her. But no-one is looking at the crumbs on her lips, the fork empty, but also the mouth. No-one sees the cakey white smudge on the ground near her chair. Second try. Fork-filled-white and up it comes, slower this time, pensive almost, as if it too doesn’t want to be eaten. She pauses here, in line with her breast. To steel herself for the final lift? I don’t know. Don’t know. Up it comes and white sprinkles jump to the red tablecloth as the damned-hands shake and dance. To her chin this time before disaster. She looks down to the ground and bends her short arm to retrieve, tidy, hide, annul. An ample breast wedges under the armrest and for a moment she is stuck. Can’t reach. No mind. She straightens slowly.
An Aunt – Aunt? I don’t know. Don’t know – Is looking at her. Small smile fades. Cake-fake. She, the Aunt I mean, brushes the white sprinkles from the ample bosom and pushes the plate closer to her as if this action will still the shaking. Last go. I presume. Slow like the tide this time. Everything stills. Even the sun as it falls through the umbrellas casts its shadows in slow motion. And then the answer. Two hands. Two hands embrace the fork and work together unhurried, like lovers who know every nuance, every sigh of the other. The lovers set down their fare and the mouth curves in gratitude, sighs in pleasure. She leans back, looks around, chewing. No-one looks at her and yet she is all pervasive. She is the future and the past. She is the was and the what will be. To that end she is the comfort and the terror both. She turns her head and looks around languidly. Her gaze sweeps across me and to the hills beyond. I wonder where she is. I wonder.