If we were having coffee, we’d be hiding in the kitchen while Isla counts the balls in her ball pit and Neil plays the shit out of Isla’s toy guitar.
You’d be convincing me that I can write a mystery on a wharf including a dog collar for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge. While I do feel better about this assignment than the Short Story Challenge, it would seem that the only story elements I can work with these days are:
Isla just wandered into the kitchen, opened the fridge and took out a yogurt. She grows a year older every night. Today, she is a teenager shuffling around the house and raiding the kitchen.
Pass me the tissues.
So, the TV is on in the backgroud. Neil has traded the guitar for turning on the washing machine.
Yes, I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky my husband does things around the house, I’m lucky my child does her own thing, even if that thing changes every five minutes. And the things don’t stop until she zonks out at 8.30pm.
I’m lucky we live in the country. With the peace and quiet. And the sheep.
I’m lucky to have people come into my house every day to help me wrangle my very active child. I’m lucky she goes for walks and brings me back flowers. I’m really lucky if she gives me a kiss with those flowers.
I live for those kisses.
But I’m lucky Isla isn’t clingy. I’m lucky she likes people who aren’t me. I’m lucky I’m the one who cries when she leaves the house. I’m lucky I’m the one who needs hugs. I’m lucky she likes to read. To herself.
I’m lucky we have all these friends to visit in other places. I’m lucky shopping and coffee and looking at those friends has become a treat. Because y’know, seeing your friends all the time can be really fucking boring.
I’m lucky that Neil is taking Isla out for awhile, so ‘Mummy can write.’
Before they left, Isla brought me some paper. Apparently, she’ll kiss me if there’s words on it when they get back.
If we were having coffee, I’d say that houses are bigger when they are empty. Furniture is annoying. Unless we’re talking bookcases or my giant bed.
And we’re not talking about my bed. This is a family blog. Apparently.
Anyway. Coffee. My favourite coffee is medium. In strength and temperature. And if I leave it hanging around a few hours, DO NOT MOVE IT. I’m not finished. I’ve just been distracted by my kid or a book.
Or I just might be taking a break to dance in my seat, belt out a song lyric or yell, ‘Fuck! There’s too much furniture in this house.’
But I’m done now. Back to coffee. It’s hazelnut. Or mint. But the mint depends on when I brush my teeth.
If we were having coffee, I’d say I owe you a letter. How about L? Ls are nice.
If we were having coffee, in this house, right now.
You’d see Isla running around. She does that now. My feelings on this are so big and mixed that perhaps we should discuss them over a drink that isn’t coffee.
You’d see I’m surrounded by books. Still and always. There’s also box that once contained a box of pumpkin poptart-type things. Thanks, Emily. I owe you a letter.
Anyway. These poptart-type-things are delicious, and I’ve already hidden them from my aforementioned kid. Because mothers should keep something for themselves. Apparently.
Well. I was thinking more along the lines of a new laptop. But breakfast food will do. For now. Because bacon. Or something.
If we were having coffee I’d say I miss you, and I have read that book, and I still miss you.
If we were having coffee, you’d know that Neil just set off the fire alarm frying that aforementioned bacon.
If we were having coffee, I’d say I wanted to start a games night, and a cards night and a book group.
I’d say we should open that bookshop/coffeeshop/artsy place. Or perhaps hang two shingles in the same place.
If we were having coffee I’d say,’ But enough about me, what about you?’
On Monday, Sarge and I went to Newcastle (ish) to visit a friend of mine from University (the first one). She was the friend from this post and featured in the beginning of this one. Through no fault of our own we’d seen each other all of twice in five years. Before Monday, Em hadn’t met Sarge, and we are going on three.
Because I don’t have a job, and Sarge had a week off from his, we boarded a South-bound train after packing George and the robot and bumping into some coffee on the way.
Now. Another little known fact about me is that I can actually make myself sick with excitement. Really. Being happy/nervous/excited about anything makes me throw up. Or dry-heave. When I was a kid and the carnival moved in next door, I had to breathe into a paper bag before we left the house. One fateful night, I got to the top of the ferris wheel and threw up. I was up there with a friend who was a boy who decided then we should see other people. The whole experience left me with a phobia of vomiting.
These days, Sarge knows to either hold my hair back or get out of the way. And I do my part by skipping breakfast on what I call ‘high excitement’ days. And so, I didn’t have breakfast or lunch on the train.
When we got to the station, I got a text: I’ve had to stop the car and throw up. Be there soon. Xxx
Snap, I thought.
‘See’, I said to Sarge. ‘It isnae just me.’
So we went to the station pub. Sat for awhile, getting updates from Em. ‘I’m in the bathroom, waiting on Mum to drive us back now.’
‘This reunion is like ripping a Band-Aid off.’ I said, deciding to have a beer.
Her Mum found us first, recognising me by my hair. It’s still big.
After staring at each other for a while we got in the car. I was in the back. Now. Maybe because of my aforementioned phobia, I’ve only been carsick once. On my thirteenth birthday. On the way to the zoo. Very exciting. We never made it to the zoo. Still, it was one of the best days of my life.
The point is, sitting back there on Monday, I didn’t think I’d get sick. Until I did.
We got to Em’s house. And her stairs were too narrow for me to walk up, so I went up on my butt. Another throwback from childhood.
As I actually dragged ass over the threshold, I said, ‘We’re staying awhile.’
We had curry and chocolate and Em told Sarge the unabridged versions of some rather legendary stories.
The next day, Em had stuff to do, so Sarge and I went exploring. We ended up in a book shop, of course. Sifting through the second-hand ones, Sarge found me a Hemingway. ‘For you,’ he said.
We left the shop after they checked and double-checked Sarge’s Scottish money. ‘This IS a different country.’ I said.
We went to Em’s Mum’s house for a roast dinner. ‘We’ll have to move the trampoline so Lorna can get through the garden.’ That’s not a sentence you hear every day.
That night Sarge was schooled in how to julienne carrots. I didn’t help because the last time I touched a carrot I julienned my fingers. Em’s Grandma and Aunt arrived and it was lovely and weird to sit in on someone else’s family.
I dragged ass back up the stairs and fell asleep before more embarrassing stories could be told.
The next day I made a great discovery. Nutella and banana pancakes. Any extra calories were burned on the way down the stars.
Em took us around more quaint little shops. Everything I saw made me want to trade in our Ikea furniture for more grown up pieces.
We found a pub where I had a sneaky slice of cheesecake and then went home to make a dent in the bottle of rum we brought as a housewarming gift.
The next day, before tackling the stairs for the last time, Em and I might have made Sarge watch Practical Magic.
‘You’re Aidan Quinn,’ I said to Sarge.
Before we headed to the station we took a picture of The Oma on Hadrian’s Wall.
It was raining when we got home to Edinburgh. Not very exciting. I didn’t even throw up.
‘Is the chair coming off?’ the bus-driver asked Sarge.
‘No,’ I said ‘I thought I’d leave the chair here and walk off myself. Have a nice day.’ And I went down the ramp.
Two more ramps and I was on a train to Glasgow. As I dug my book out of my backpack, I realised this was the first time I’d done such a trip without Sarge. And I began to miss him, because I am sap.
I had plans to meet friends and camp out in the pub before spending the night at my Dad’s. Another ramp and I was at the bar.
Perhaps because I am a word-nerd and a beer-snob, I might have laughed.
‘Um. Raspberry.’ And then I read a sign that said the pub would be closing at the exact time I was meeting my friends. Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed.
I drank my raspberry beer, and I waited. Nobody else was in a hurry to leave. I may have actually looked up at the sky through the trees and said ‘I’m home.’ My friends arrived, and then another one. Then we got the chair and ourselves into a rather small car and went somewhere else. I told the story of how last year four people and the chair jig-sawed into a Fiat. And off we went. Good times.
The next place wasn’t closing, so we got dinner. I kept noticing things on the menu that Sarge liked.
‘I miss him. Is that weird?’
‘Yes. But no. But yes. More drink?’
We ate, and drank. And I swear peanut-butter cheesecake was cosmically placed on the menu just for me. Because my cheese-phobic boyfriend wasn’t there. Of course I ordered it, but I couldn’t finish it. I might have shed a tear.
At one point, my best friend knocked over my drink in a frenzy when her boyfriend walked through the door. Now. I cannot truthfully say that I don’t spill, drop or otherwise despatch my unfinished drinks sometimes, Sarge or no Sarge. But as I laughed and dabbed my vodka-soaked thigh, I asked my friends, ‘Are we that bad?’ I knew they’d speak the truth.
‘Worse. You guys are worse. But we love you.’
And that’s the truth.
We decided to do shots. For purely practical reasons. There is less for me to spill. I’m not co-ordinated enough to do tequila justice. There are too many steps. I do the salt and the licking in the wrong order. It makes me nervous. So I was on the B52s, which has only one step.
Sarge texted that he was bored and working late. He wanted vicarious excitement. I texted back: Doing shots and discussing rules of grammar. Does that work?
My friends are cool.
After arguing semi-colons; I asked if anybody wanted to come back to my Dad’s; so I could beat them at Poker. It was easier to get the chair in the car the second time round. The designated driver drove his sister and me to my Dad’s house. We talked about ethics and equality and the merits of good tequila until early in the morning.
My Dad’s cool, too.
Later that day, I went up another ramp into the taxi to the train station.
‘Where do you come from?’
‘Here,’ I said.
‘Where you going?’
This seemed to confuse the driver, who changed the subject to the weather.
I was browsing the books at Waverly, when Sarge says, ‘I thought I’d find you with the books.’
I was home again.
Home isn’t just one place, because some people have lots of places. Home is the people waiting for you when you get there.
I recently finished Warm Bodies, a post-apocalypse love story in which one of the couple happens to be a zombie with other zombie friends. I was going to say it’s not my usual, but I’ve decided I don’t have a go-to genre anymore. I’ll read anything. If it’s good. But of course I won’t know if it’s good until I read it. I can’t say no to anything, really. Especially a book I can read in one night while Sarge is out watching zombie films. And so, last week was quite serendipitous. I also have a thing for first books/debut novels. And this one was good. Delicious in fact.
Went to the library last week, and came out with it. I was quite excited to actually find a book in the library I’d wanted to read, instead of coming home with random finds, that become not-so random. I believe, like people, certain books find you. You meet them when you’re supposed to meet them. While these chance meetings of book-in-hand do nothing for your existing to-read pile, your read/experience pile grows. And on any random Wednesday you just may meet the person who becomes your new best friend or a book you can add to your favourites list.
Another not-so random book meeting is my current read, Aloft. It’s always a strange/different experience for me to read a book set on Long Island. The landmarks are the landmarks of my childhood. It’s like going back.
The day after I finished Warm Bodies, I started Aloft. That night I swear I had dreams about zombies wandering a strip-mall on Long Island. This may or may not have had anything to do with my reading.
Up next: I’m impatiently waiting for the postman to deliver The Help and The Poisonwood Bible.
Try This: Go to the library and check out a book you wouldn’t normally read, and then go for a coffee and talk to the person at the next table, or anywhere. You may find your two new favourite things.