Friday, 29 January 2010

Statutory Statuary #fridayflash

"Bye. Thanks for having us".

"Our pleasure. It was so wonderful to see you all again".

"You must come over to us".

"Love to".

"We mustn't leave it so long next time".

"Absolutely".

By now their family foursome had all booted up their footwear and bedraggled themselves out our front door. Like a whippet with its tail on fire, my eldest slipped behind me and shot up the stairs. He'd been kept apart from solo devotionals at his console for two hours or so and doubtless there were sanguinary pixel expiations to be made. My wife ducked under my balancing arm into the kitchen, to launch into washing up the tea things. Even the six year old had wearied of playing with the door chain and had mooched off somewhere into the belly of the house. So appears that I'm charged with overseeing the farewell. Adieu rather than valediction.

I myself had errands I could be sinking my teeth into, (or more accurately a televised match I could be sinking my posterior into a cushion in front of), but I couldn't just shut the door before they had even pointed the remote to unlock their car. Could I? No, goodbye and good riddance could be the only possible punctuation offered by the sound of the door being heaved shut on their retreating backs. The air had a definite late afternoon nip in it and my unshod feet felt particularly exposed. Hooking them the leeward side of the door, I inserted half of my torso against the lintel and brought the leading edge to rest against my other side. I must have resembled one of those frieze statues that prop up cornices. I found my hand wobbling ridiculously at the end of my wrist, like a Ronald McDonald cardboard cut out greeter. Albeit without the make up, though I sported the same caked on smile.

How long was long enough to be stationed here? What constituted a decent interval? Did I have to wait until they drove off and disappeared from the vista of our driveway in a plume of disenchanted gravel? No, maybe I could get away with beating my retreat once the ignition was engaged. Not any time soon to judge by the dilatory nature of their self-shovelling into the car. One of the kids had burrowed himself half across the back seat, splayed legs dangling out. Presumably he was searching for something in the footwell to ease the pain of the journey home. A tad young for it to be alcohol, so more likely to be the sensory deprivation of an I-Pod.

In years gone by, it was always the Mother bent double between the interior and the exterior. Fussing with strapping the kids into their safety seats. And I might have walked out to the car with them and hovered around her, counterfeiting a genial host's seeking to preserve the convivial contact. When all I wanted to do was linger in her scent. My hand might well also have playfully hung parallel to her behind, suggesting chivalrous assistance in a most seemly fashion. But now she is firmly ensconced in the passenger seat. She was staring straight out in front of her, but the tinted strip of anti-glare glass meant I couldn't deduce the depth to which her gaze was focussed. The years of extended views of her unimpeachably wiggling posterior were palpably long over. I couldn't feign helping her with anything.

There had been that moment during the afternoon where mine and her glances had locked on to one another. At the time he had imagined it to be less a knowing scrutiny, merely an accidental convergence of rolling eyes. As if, like me, she had caught herself wondering what the hell she was doing sat there in a social situation that was devoid of either affinity or meaning. Four grown ups, stripped of the prompt of babies sat on their laps for driving cooing warmth, seeing as now the kids were re-enacting a bowling lane in the halls of Valhalla to judge by the detonations above our heads. Thereby forced to confront our fulsome lack of any connectivity across the entire quadrilateral armchair topography. Including that between spouses as well. The desultory intercourse of one of the quartet fitfully launching a topic, only to be met with dead air and the sinking despair that we were conducting the obsequy for our moribund friendship. And a wake for unrealised feelings? I still couldn't determine where her gaze was directed. And she could only possibly see half my body at best. The half that had turned to fat.

The engine started up with a growl and with a final cheerless wave, I brought the door to kiss snugly against its frame. "See you soon" I said to the inside plane of its wood and turned to go back inside the lounge.

22 comments:

mazzz in Leeds said...

Very good.

I always used to intend to stay friends with exes. I have come to realise there really isn't much point. A couple of half-hearted what-ifs, and a lack of anything meaningful to talk about due to prolonged separation and loss of _that_ connection

Was unsure about the use of bedraggled in the first paragraph

Amy J Taylor said...

Oh dear! What a miserable afternoon! A very good job of getting across the despair and boredom here. Perhaps the two 'friends' wll actually have their daydreamed exchange now, and liven things up a bit!

Linda said...

How things change with time... sigh. There's always that secret yearning/curiosity for the other's partners. Lots of great turns of phrase here, but my favorite was "The half that had turned to fat." Well played. Peace, Linda

Deanna Schrayer said...

Very vivid narrative of his emotions here Marc. It's easy to feel empathy for him. The only "nit" I have is that there may be a bit too many "big" words, drawing attention away from the well-written description, (hope that makes sense). I like the use of 'bedraggled' though.

Sulci Collective said...

Ha Deanna! The funny thing is this is really reined in by my normal standards!

Thanks for stopping by

peggy said...

A fun journey inside a bored man's head.

Marisa Birns said...

I must say you HAVE reined in the usual copious sprinklings of monumental words in this piece. :)

The language you do use does not detract from this excellent piece of storytelling. It enhances the dirge of an encounter among people whose connection has dessicated over time and no longer lives.

Skycycler said...

Marc this is positively restrained! Almost a haiku. And it worked for me - caused more than a wry smile of recognition. I love the challenge of this fiction, and the laughing at ourselves, especially that the fattening man still entertains hopes tempered by the sag of reality.

"...unimpeachably wiggling posterior" - that *is* wonderful and decadent!

shannon said...

"I found my hand wobbling ridiculously at the end of my wrist"
This seriously made me laugh out loud. Such a vivid image. The humor in this character (tad young for it to be alcohol) & the self effacement (the parts that turned to fat) made him so real and endearing. This is actually a very sad piece for me and now I think I shall go stick my head in the oven. :-) Just kidding. But really, it does highlight the fact that we expect things stay the same, people, bodies, relationships...and they just don't. Everything moves and shifts. Time for them to get some new, more dynamic friendships I think! Nice one. Made me think, as you can tell.

livloveslit said...

I was hooked into this piece from your twitter about it. There's something fascinating and sad about dying of relationships regardless of their nature. And it is so hard to let go of a relationship after it's run its course.

There are so many spot on insights here: the family scattering to different corners of the house, the man's secret yearning for the friend's wife. And you write them so concisely. I love the variety in your language from "across the entire quadrilateral armchair topography" to "her unimpeachably wiggling posterior." It's poetry! ~ Olivia

Laura Eno said...

I've been here. The friendships you hold onto way past their expiration date. The hand wobbling at the end of his wrist and displaying the fat half of his body were hilarious moments inside of the sad reality.

CJ Hodges MacFarlane said...

Heh.. this describes accurately how I feel and how my family disappears when saying good-byes. Love the words, love the idea - have to, I live it.

Melissa said...

I love how you set it all up with the farewell and the social niceties expected at/with it. (How long to stand at the door, who has to be there and stand, etc...) Those very conventions were once more like transparent glue, seamlessly holding things together. Now the seams and their arbitrariness are exposed and there is...emptiness. Okay, maybe this is my way overanalyzed, personal read of the story...but I do want to say: lovely writing, lovely job.

Lou said...

This is one big, long, fantastic sigh.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Haiku? Well, not quite, but you did reign it in. There is still many "big" words to chew on and I like it.

I have someone in mind when I read this, ewww, it is just so uncomfortable to keep up obligations from the past when the connection just isn't there. You captured the feelings very vividly.

And, I just laughed out loud when I read, "He'd been kept apart from solo devotionals at his console for two hours or so and doubtless there were sanguinary pixel expiations to be made." So true of the younger generation, but not for those of us on Twitter, hehe.

Emma Newman said...

You captured the absolute essence of those empty things we say when parting from people who have bored us to tears. I liked the "Half that had turned to fat" comment. Such a tired, flat voice - I mean that as a compliment by the way - you capture that awful feeling of times and relationships long gone, but still suffered.

Mel Morton said...

I loved the sense of awkwardness you created, which makes the reader cringe a little. The awful dilemma of standing outside waiting for someone to leave and wondering when we can head back in doors. The boredom of stale friendships!

Really enjoyed this.

Mel Morton

G.P. Ching said...

"Like a whippet with it's tail on fire" I love that one! Wish I had thought of it! Forced relationships are never a good idea. I like how you chose to approach this piece and I think you captured it perfectly. well done.

Heather Lloyd said...

An enjoyable read, I love the innovative and sometimes challenging way that you use language which elevates everyday situations to something far more. I particularly enjoyed the line about quadrilateral armchair topography - what a great image!

Virginia Moffatt said...

Interesting read. Took me a while to get into it, but I liked the premise, and the sense of people trying to keep things going when there's really nothing left between them. I think that rings true particularly for those of us who've met other couples through baby groups. As the kids grow what is there to say?

I also liked that rather ambiguous look between narrator and the other wife...Will that lead to anything or has that ship sailed?

Laurita said...

Well, that was awkward... *long pause*

Seriously, I felt every second of your story, right down to the half-hiding behind the door and the cold feet. The part about the kid looking for an iPod instead of alcohol made me lol.

Mark Kerstetter said...

I liked the fat sentence too, and part of the reason it works so well is because of the way you used 'big words' earlier.