Sunday, March 12, 2006
She stirred and turned to him, smiling through sleep, her breathing soft and soothing and contagious. The patter of rain on the window became more intense and he imagined another window in some other place, a window without the rain and with curtains shielding them both from magnified sun. He pictured a huge luxurious bed in an air conditioned palace, softly draped french windows beyond which a high secret patio beckoned them to breakfast above a screaming city.
It could have been anywhere: Athens or Rome, Paris or Geneva, Budapest, Cairo... anywhere but Stepney; anywhere but the Whitechapel Road.
In centuries past watchmen heralded the day with "GOD GIVE YE GOOD MORROW, MY MASTERS, PAST FIVE O'CLOCK AND A FAIR MORNING" but today there was only the drone of humans waking, becoming louder, everywhere escaping, through the windows and doors of their dwellings, all over the city. A cough, a shout, heavy feet clumping across poorly carpeted floorboards, the drone increasing in menace until it threatened to explode like scandal down the stairwells, into the courtyards and away through the side streets to the junctions and the intersections to live and die in the traffic.
The bed disappeared and became a table separating them. Sergio was busy at the counter. They were no longer lovers.
She shook her head slowly, her eyes full of suppressed tears like a river trapped, suspended in the tarns of her irises. Her face was pale with the fatigue of years but still attactive; her hair had retained its glisten. He saw the film holding back her tears rupture slightly at one corner and a single droplet welling out and nestling in the curvature at the bridge of her nose for a moment before continuing on its path across her cheek.
They were close to the edge, he could feel that; only had to falter slightly in their step and they would fall. Any loss of concentration, a sneeze, a too vivid memory, some element or aspect of consciousness against their will to the greater good and the years would peel away and she would be his again and he hers. And so eventually they would fall.
He lit a cigarette and offered her the pack. She refused.
"You're absolutely sure?" he asked, his smoke drifting towards her. She nodded:
"He's changed, it's true, and at first by his features alone I could not have been sure, but then.... There is no doubt, I am certain it is him."