“It's the first of November. I don't know if I told you, she's pregnant. I gave her a baby. Oh and Ricky's living in Montreal now... Yeah, Ricky's cool.”
“What do they call a Big Mac in Shanghai?”
I couldn’t quite hear but I gathered that her friend she was talking about was in China, building a replica of the White House in a forest somewhere. Apparently, some Swedish billionaire wants to live in it and the Chinese government thinks it's a good idea. God only knows why. Anyway, he's been spending a lot of time in Washington. He even went on a tour of the White House. Although apparently it's just the outside they're replicating. The inside will be totally different.
“The Elephant Man's Revenge (or Too Many Roses for Friday)”
The man wanted money. I'd seen him around with his crutches and hair, black and oily. And dark skin, like a Mexican bad-guy. I'd seen him around, with a sad story or a temper, muttering and swearing. He'd been thrown out of a shop. Today he was at the fence, talking about whatever-hardships. The bald guy he was begging to was waiting for his boyfriend to come back. A bottle of white wine was chilling on his table. The bald guy said “Sorry, I'm sorry. Sorry, no sorry. I'm sorry.” Eventually, the beggar pushed off. The man's friend came back and asked him what had happened. Then he ordered a double espresso. Later they paid the bill and the bald man’s boyfriend said “Can we put forty pounds on each please? Yes, with service. Thank you.”
“Maria, when are you coming home?”
He kissed her and held her face, all very tender. And she smiled and kissed him back and let her face be touched and her back be held and to be pulled close. And he kissed her neck and she smiled and lent into his kiss. He put his hands under her shirt and she shyly pulled them away. He smiled, understanding but not really, and put his hands under her shirt again. She pulled away and he said “What's wrong?” And she said “Nothing but we're outside and you are just someone I know from a party.” He said “Don't you want to know me better?” She said, “Yes, but not now in this place, right now.” “Then you're immature and I'm not looking for someone immature.”
And he left. And she rubbed the place where his hand had been under her shirt and thought about her brother and her friends in Verona. She thought about a man she had met in Montreal who had drunk beer at six in the morning, but was never drunk and used to be a brain surgeon. She thought about a woman who she had read about who lived in a park in London even though she had a fancy house just nearby.
“It’s funny… Sometimes it’s the things you don’t see.”
Then the bald guy did an imitation of someone who spoke in a faux posh, old-man's voice and him and his boyfriend laughed quietly to themselves, smiling and chuckling into their
chins and down their chests. And they said things quietly like “oh my” and “oh dear” and “ah” while at the table behind them, an Irishman and his daughter sat down and ordered lunch.
“You can’t argue with bread”
The Irishman spoke in a soft, sing-song voice, raising pitch at the end of his sentences whether he asked a question or not. She talked about someone called Kevin who she said was wonderful and might not even finish studying. This surprised him and his voice became lower and didn't go up at the end. And he said things in a monotone that I couldn't distinguish. She spoke again, maybe she was talking back. They didn't reach a common ground on the subject so far as I could tell.
She said, “I would love to do something, you know?” And he probably didn't know. But he said “Ya, ya.” And she continued talking. What could he know? This happily disgruntled Irishman in his swag of flesh and rosy skin. Understanding nothing but what was essential to survive in the physical world. He focused his deep-seated eyes and looked at her; the problems of the day could be solved. All others, of what consequence where they now? Right now?
“So here’s the news…”
She was telling her friends about her date, who was so nervous he was shaking when he arrived. And when she told him that there was no need to be nervous because they were just, you know, talking, it got worse, and he became more nervous. He struggled to get an architecture job and had worked in a hotel, because he didn't speak any English when he arrived from Spain. He had worked in the hotel for the last two years. And now he needed to find a job. But he just wasn't going to fit in at the office where she worked... It wasn't a date, she was telling about, I now realised. It was a job interview she was conducting at the architecture firm where she worked. “And could you imagine him standing up to Michelle?” she said. His name was Ben, the Spanish guy. And according to her, he was adorable, and she felt very sorry for him. “What he needs is a small firm that will look after him.”
And doesn't it seem, on some Saturday or Sunday mornings, that everyone is a philosopher and a purveyor of wisdom, full of humanity?