Friday, 19 September 2014

Love Song with Cello

Faces in places: Marais girl, Paris
I caught a plane home the other day. Just a short, cheap flight. Which means a long wait and a long, unruly queue. As I stuffed and restuffed and pounded and squeezed my bag closed, I realised that my book (Alison MacLeod's 'Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction' which will give you a jolt and a buzz) was deep in the bottomless depths and I would just have to sit down and people-watch. Which I did.

But departures are never as dramatic as the great, stirring fanfare of lovers reunited, or families made whole; young children clinging to fathers or women wrapped in lovers' arms with shaky smitten smiles. The departure lounge is different. Emotions are low-key. People are tired and anxious to be at home. There will always be a chatty Italian who will soon have a crowd of listeners with flying hands. Or kids sticking their heads under tired Dad's T-shirt; African grandmothers who wished they hadn't even come. Or the Hell's Angel guy staring at you. Or the ancient twins from Greece with Nefertiti eyeliner. Or the young things baring just about all as though the airport were an extension of yet another beach party at the ratty end of summer..

I call myself a writer. Many of us do. And as writers supposedly we look for stories everywhere. We see an interesting face and imagine an entire life.We imagine love stories and stories of loss and gain and hope and voyage. (Do we? Hmmm. Well, I must be the laziest writer about because I rarely do this. I mean, I am looking and borrowing - even stealing - but goodness knows where my stories come from!) And then just when I had spent several hours deciding that the whole of Europe (including myself) was hooked on phone screens and iPads and there was not an interesting face or couple or family among them, what do I see?

I saw the most touching scene I think I have seen in ages, maybe years.

Sweet chords and rabbits
Two wheelchairs. Two old folk. One cello in a case. They are taken to the head of the queue by two young men with ID tags who chat above them, these guys are wearing twin navy sweaters.

The old lady's face is gentle. Her lips are full and she has a wide round face and eyes that are deep brown and placed wide apart on her head. She has rings on her fingers that dig into the flesh. A cello rests against her legs and it is clear this shape is a part of her life, her body, her sound, her dreams. It is the oldest part of her. She is still strong, she bears a flashing life force, she has shared this with others; she is generous, when she is alone she is never alone.

Next to her is the man I imagine is her partner, the man she has loved for decades. Perhaps he stood tall once, without the kink in his neck that makes his head droop low, makes his eyelids seem half-open, makes him seem beaten, overcome. He is a large stable man, though he looks around like a small boy; he has an expression of vacant happiness. His eyes are small and rubbed with emotion.

There are two things that I notice. Two things that I take home with me on that cheap flight.

1) The old man's hair has been cropped recently. There is an unwavering line of hair above his ear. He has a pretty good head of hair and somebody has made sure that line was straight. 

2) The old lady leans across her hand which is thick with rings and she grasps his yellowy, finer fingers within hers. He doesn't look at her, he is a bit doddery. But still this lady looks across at him with so much smooth and binding love that I am warmed and astounded.

Travel safe. The voyage is neverending.

* * * *
My short story 'Enfolded' is a shortlisted finalist in the Love on the Road Short Story Competition and will appear in next year's anthology, coming out with feisty independent Malinki Press of Dublin.


18 comments:

  1. Pre-breakfast coffee, and yet still I had to trot off and share this on facebook ...
    Lovely :-)

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    1. Thanks so much Di. Glad you enjoyed. Pre-breakfast coffee for me too !

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  2. Love this... like Di, I'm here on a lazy Saturday with a cup of coffee and your story. Beautifully written, Catherine. Bravissima!

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    1. Thanks Kimberly. Wish I were in Roma and not listening to the chainsaw downstairs.. but maybe there's a story in that too !

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  3. Just lovely. Like The Notebook. You write beautifully Catherine.

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  4. What a lovely tale. How nice to see this instead of just the usual people flicking at their phones.

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    1. So true. We are such a phone generation. I wonder, have we lost the ability to sit and daydream?

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  5. This is beautiful, Cat. I love these two.

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  6. wow, I was there right with you. I could actually see these two old souls. It's amazing what happens when we people watch, isn't it? My 19 year old actually complained about IPhones the other day. He shared a photo of a break during class. He said every single face was looking at their phone screen and no one was talking to each other. And even he thought it was sad.
    Your writing is impeccable as usual. I need to catch up on your life, my own has been a whirlwind of too many moving boxes and too little free time.
    xo
    Leslie

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    1. Good to start catching up on yours too Leslie. You must be up to your ears! In a way we are lucky in this house - our connection is so bad no one can find a signal let alone be pressed to their phone. Impossible to work, but great for kitchen conversation.. Xxcat

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  7. Ah jeez. You made me cry.
    You're a good woman Cat. A good woman with good clear sight.
    Yvonne x
    PS I shifted to wordpress...

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    1. Gawd Yvonne we need to talk!! How are you? Gotta dig out your email! Sending hugs Xcat

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