Wednesday, 28 January 2009
How strange this day today, that has everyone running for the train. I pass a lady in red. Red dress, red hair, red cheeks. In between short bursts of running she stops to look at her watch. I do not need to hear her to know her language is also red. Should I stop the car and offer her a lift? I decide not to at the last minute imagining an awkward journey of small talk, over sleep? Gosh isn't it hot? Anyway, I am not the driver of this vehicle. Beside me at the wheel sits my dear Mother. Two and a half decades of her chauffeur services spill out behind us as we speed on down the hill. I look at her and wonder where the women who has woken me since childhood has gone. Beauty Queen has become Drag Queen. Twenty-five summers ago, with an unexpected beach birth, we met for the first time. First love?
I have heard the story a thousand times before of course. The whole family on holiday at the beach. A low tide and three children demanding to see the sea. A hard working father desperate to please them, a heavily pregnant Mother wanting only to appease them. I'll wait here on the dunes, you all go but don't be long. So she watches them go, her family four. She touches her stomach, her family five. Six, if she counts herself but since when did she count? It must be this heat that makes her so full of self pity. But really, what sort of husband makes his wife go on holiday when eight months pregnant? A husband who works seven days a week perhaps?
Him: You'll be alright. The sea air will do you good. We won't be able to afford another holiday after he's born.
Her: How do you know it's going to be a 'he'.
Him: Figure of speech. Everything is a 'he'.
Her: And me?
Him: You're my wife. Hee, hee, hee!
So she went. A women who was deserted by her father, bought up by her mother and aunts, had now surrounded herself with men. Or at least males. And her husband who on running straight from the parental home and into the marital home, had now found himself a surrogate mother. Or at least pacifier.
She swallows her rage and waves to them as they shrink into the heat. Don't go far, don't be long. A vandalised sign, now pointing in the wrong direction out to sea, reads: SHELLFISH>
It doesn't even feel ironic that the letter 'H' has all but worn away.
Hot and thirsty, she reaches for a drink. They've taken the bag with the drinks in. What heat is the hottest, that on the outside or that on the inside? Her inner voice asks, Is this fair? Inside, her child kicks. This voice within her voice says, Do something about it.
Voice: I can't
Voice Within Voice: You can
Voice: I can't
Voice Within Voice: Why?
Voice: Because I want everyone to be happy
Voice Within Voice: I want you to be happy
Voice: I am happy
Voice Within Voice:
Voice: I am!
Voice Within Voice: ?
Voice: I am!!
Voice Within Voice: !
Upset now, she calls to her family four to return. The wind blows her words right back in her mouth. Beyond her prison, just within vision, four little men dance. A trick of the heat of course. Laying at this angel, looking down the beach to where water melts into sky, she can see them through the thermals. Something like hot wet rage runs down her legs and her heat meets a sudden cold panic. Pushing herself up onto two legs (why does it suddenly feel so unnatural to be bipedal?) she screams and waves for help.
Ankle deep in cool water her youngest son watches as his mummy wiggles. She looks so funny that he giggles. His father turns around to see what he is laughing at, then tells his other sons to also wave back at her. Hello! Hello! Oh.
We pull into the station. Men with wet hair and ties hanging loose around their necks jump from cars driven by their wives. What is it with today? The whole world is late. I calmly get out the car and say goodbye to my Mother. I decide that the train is probably late too. It is. I walk to the back carriage where it is less crowded then find a seat with a window view. Staring out the window at tress heavy with leaf I watch them as the train pulls out of the station. I watch the trees grow big, then small, big then small. I feel someone sit beside me and turn to see a women all dressed in red. Gosh, it's hot! gasps she.
This story was originally written on the 21st August 1997