An obligatory story at an art show

By | 15 September 2022

It was raining, dark, and the end
of summer.
I was telling the story
when I sat by the back window.
you were there, I was maybe nine.
voice and raindrops rose
and fell like tiny
little wet slaps.
A wake-up call,
some may say.
“Tell us your story,” and
we’d go around the group.
“I was nine,” I would say,
but maybe I was ten.
A hush fell in cocooned
and there I was, looking out again.
Far away dream voices nagged
at me.
They were coming from up the
stairs, from behind,
my nose pressed up against
the cool glass
(it was summer)
as if waiting for an event
in the garden.
Then it all gained this
electric momentum,
accelerated voices a tousle of
limbs, my ten (or was I nine)
year old nose flush
up to the glass.
Never had I seen
a grown man cry and so
I stood there, the voices
propelling behind me with
diesel force, waiting,
as I said,
for the garden event.
The tree stood there totally
unashamed, perhaps unaware
of the role it would later play.
A fruitful tree, too rough
to climb, whose branches we’d
strip of apricots at the close of
every summer.
It was nearly time, maybe I was nine.
She was leaving him, the dream voice
said. She’d had enough. The
low branch readied itself, my wet
nose cool on glass, the heavy, angry
pitter patter of feet scampering
down stairs.
The slap –
backdoor released from its hinge.
A jingle bells of car keys hiding in
her bag.
“And where were you? They asked.
Under the awning, rain wetting
our feet, hair attaching
to foreheads with damp insistence.
“I think I was nine,” I said. “Or
maybe ten. He was there,” and
I pointed somewhere. Wet rain
wet my feet and hands, wet nose,
dog-like, again pressed against
the glass,
hot breath
making little foggy circle,
enveloping my view.
She had walked straight under the
branch of the apricot tree and was
halfway opening the car when
it hit him.
Maybe I’d never seen a fall
like that, maybe I’d never
seen him fall.
His back flush against pavement,
my nose, wet, flush against
the glass. When he
touched his forehead
blood appeared, a deep
red smear on
fingertips. No blood
I’d seen before. No
laceration, no wound.
The one with keys, her
dream voice rose and her palms
opened up and she rushed
to him.
Rain fell.
“And what next?” they said,
“and were you nine or ten?”
“I’m sure,” I said, rain
somehow seeping through the
awning. We were at
the art show and everything
smelled like cigarettes.
A girl squeezed past
whose white dress was
stained with chilled red
wine, like diluted blood,
like blood washed out
but still a fixture
of the fibres.
Nothing happened.
We went on like this for
some while, the
apricots stewing beautifully,
a lovely treat
for autumn, everyone moved
around, courteously,
enjoying the art, pretending
that it made them feel something.

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