It was a yuppie anonymous kind of town. Not much character. Often the case with a capital. Or is it just that I bear grudges? We were in a bar. Up the side on a raised bit at a table in the dim lighting that didn’t make it cosy. Banquette seating. No margarita. Go for something they can handle here. They´re only going to wet the bottom of the glass anyway. G and T. Husband Alan with a whisky. Happy birthday. Oh, and Happy Honeymoon as well. After almost a decade and a half of living together the first husband stopped living, and we could get married. At last. These sort of legal complications arise when you up sticks and settle in an “emerging economy”.
I remember when I broke up with Philip. Kept seeing him everywhere. Someone would walk by with his kind of stride and posture and my heart would leap. Where I worked there was a life sized photo of some bloke advertising paint. Happened to look just like Philip out the corner of my eye. Stopped my heart umpteen times a day. The back of someone´s head. The red anorak. The world was full of people that reminded me of him. That looked like him and brought him to mind when I was doing my damndest to push him out my life. Never happened with Kenneth. Even when we were happy I never did see anyone I even fleetingly mistook for him. When we were recently apart he would pop up in my dreams, dreams in which everything had gone back to normal and we were still together and he was my Kenny again. And in the morning when I woke up I would have to go through the whole bereavement all over again. The marriage was over. But never in the flesh. I never, ever saw anyone that made me do a double take, except when it WAS him (that time in the supermarket when I was there with two full trolleys buying the kids´ things for the school year. I thought, “He sees my filling up two trolleys and he´s going to think he´s giving us too much alimony.” And he did. He ended up giving a token amount. Fine by me. Didn´t want to depend on him. Wanted to move on, put him behind me. He sure as hell put me behind him, long time passing.)
I saw my father in a dream or two as well. In that horrible old blue “carcoat” he liked so much. What made it a carcoat and not an anorak I’m none too sure. Do they still have carcoats? I suppose not, now that car heating systems actually work. So there we were, talking about nothing in particular wandering around some rocky bit of the coast. Elie? I think it was volcanic rock, but that was just the stage scenery. It was a dream after all. And then I realised that he had died. Wasn´t there any more. But there he was, in my dream. I decided to make the most of it and carry on the dream but I looked closely at him now I could: how he held himself; his hair (rather more abundant than when he died); his face. I looked right into his eyes. They had that senile arc, that light and dark banding round the iris that aging gives us. I took my time. I knew it was a precious opportunity seldom given.
It´s not just the dead. It´s the living too, but in stages of their lives that are past.
I dreamt I was changing my daughter´s nappy. She was gurgling and cooing and I was tickling her tummy. She always had a strange consistency. You know when you lift a cat up off the floor and its paws keep in contact with the floor and the cat just gets longer? It felt like that when you lifted my daughter up. Never felt another baby like her. Blubbery? Well, we called her Blubberball. Changing her nappy I felt that wee body again, that unique feel of her tummy under my fingers and that lovely gurgling chuckle. Then I remembered. She hasn´t been Blubberball for years. She´s grown up now. I´m dreaming. It´s not real. And she doesn’t feel like that either any more. She has a woman´s body now. Someone, me, from just behind my right shoulder said, “Och, go on. Just one more time”. And I did. I carried on enjoying my wee baby although she was seventeen by that time. Your brain gives you these wonderful presents every now and then.
The way we were sitting Alan couldn´t see him and seemed oblivious to the turmoil I was in. He was facing the wall behind me and through the window to the streets. I was facing inwards. I could see the glittering gleaming bar all lights and mirrors, shiny bottles and gleaming surfaces and the yuppies gathered around it in their sharp clothing. Couldn´t really see his face, just a hint of it, but his stance was unmistakeable. Kenneth was always the person your eye was drawn to in a crowd. You know the type? They´re not always good-looking or interesting but they have a way of arresting your attention and somehow you feel that if the building were to go on fire they´d be the one organising everyone down the fire escape. He was engaged in a lively conversation and I got to see his whole social repertoire of movements and gestures. Kenneth. Back from the dead. Birthday present? Two fingered salute to my honeymoon? I tried to get interested in the conversation with Alan, tried to keep looking at his face, going over what had turned out to be a rather lacklustre day, but I kept being drawn back to the other face, the other stance, the other husband. I thought to myself, “Okay. You can shatter this. You have the control. Just say you´re going to the toilet and walk down by the bar and take a clear look at him. Kenneth will disappear in an instant. You can make this go away. Or you can leave. Go somewhere else. This ain´t no great bar anyway. Do it.” But, of course, I didn´t. I stayed in the exquisite torture till the evening was done. How could I spoil my one and only chance of ever seeing him again?