Heaving streets, bulging with holiday shoppers. Shop windows in garish colours blink their version of hell. As soon as I get the present I came for, I head for home.
Running for the bus, I bump into someone, or he bumps into me. The double-decker reeks of wet clothes. A young woman, clutching her baby close to her chest, is arguing with the bus driver who refuses to let her on without a ticket.
We stay put for a good thirty minutes, until a passenger, with a shaking hand, taps his debit card on the card reader and pays the fare for her.
the baby babbles . . . raindrops on the bus window
and without props
It hasn’t rained for weeks. The two workmen in my back garden, digging the foundations for a cat enclosure, sound industrious. There is a young apple tree standing right in the middle of it, and I have instructed them to shorten its branches so that it can be contained within the structure. I imagine my two cats spending happy hours climbing it, perching on its branches. But when I look outside, I see the tree is missing. I am told it was taking too much space and they decided to remove it for me, at no extra cost.
short shrift the town crier’s hoarse voice
I own five hot water bottles. As you might have guessed, I feel the cold more than others. When I place these hot, felt-wrapped receptacles on my coldest parts, I experience the bliss others must take for granted.
clang of a spade I imagine the workmen striking gold
The shelves in the beauty aisle are piled high with hand creams. Tubes, jars, bottles, tins of brands I never knew existed. So many! I stand here for a while, wondering whether this abundance could be attributed to the forthcoming Brexit. After all, all sorts of strange events in the last couple of years have been attributed to it. I imagine that both remainers and leavers would need a cream to soothe their hands after clapping for one or the other speaker; after rubbing their eyes in disbelief on reading the daily news or covering their ears for hours in the gesture perfectly captured by Munch’s “The Scream.” Could this be it?
The ossuary, a white-washed, rectangular building, is dark and cool. A musty smell envelops me as I enter. I am searching for the metal box containing my mother’s bones.
I’ve been told she is confined to one on the shelves that run the length of the room. I start searching methodically. Each box has a small hand-written label with the deceased’s name on its front. Several labels are blank. One has a dried daisy flower stuck on it with Sellotape; another, a star in cross stitch; yet another, a tiny motorcycle sticker. Photographs of the dead looking youthful are taped to several boxes, or placed next to them, complicating identification of the containers’ occupants.
Disheartened, I leave the grim building to walk in the dappled shade of the graveyard. The hum of the city mixes with birdsong. So many years since I was in Athens. I stop to read the names of the deceased on headstones, marvel at the stone angels, at the oil lamps. Soon my head is swimming. A woman burning sweet-smelling incense over a grave turns to look at me. I quickly look away, but then, returning her gaze, I nod and she smiles.