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Monday, June 22, 2009

Waiting for B

"What are you thinking about?"

I ignore the voice behind me for a moment, and continue to stare out at the old man sea, watching him move like someone with a lot of time on his hands. I envy his luxury, suddenly, and try for a brief moment to pretend that I have all the time in the world, too.

I am in the Republic of Cyprus, at the divided island's most southern belly in Paphos, well over 100 km from Nicosia, its capital, and from my parents' home in the north.

"Are you okay?"

It suddenly strikes me that although the north and south of the island might be divided and racked with differences, the sea was the same sea soaking by the June sun irrelevant of borders. Like time, the sea knows no human made boundaries either; it comes and goes across lines and at a will that is not pre-set to ours.

"I said-"

"I heard what you said," I say turning around to look at Mr X's daughter. It has been nearly a year since I saw her last, and I am surprised to see that she has changed enough for me to notice. There are dark rings beneath her tired eyes. "Hello."

She laughs. "You are something, you know that? Hello, indeed."

I instinctively raise my right eyebrow in a interested arc. "I see you've finally found your voice. Marriage must bring out the best in you."

Mr X's daughter shrugs her shoulders. "I was a fool back then."

"Back then? You make it sound like ancient history."

"Maybe because it feels like it. What were you thinking about just now?"

I shrug my shoulders in an unintentional imitation of her. "Time, and the lack thereof."

She walks up and stands beside me, staring out at the large expanse of the sea. "Doing this always makes me feel giddy," she says. "I feel so small."

I nod and look out across the horizon. We stay silent for a few moments, until I break it. "I was sorry to hear about your father."

Is. Was. Out from the present tense and into the past, and as unstoppable as the sea. Mr X's daughter bows her head. "Thanks."

I say, "Even though we had our differences, I did respect him."

"He loved you like a son. He wanted you for a son."

Time for a change of subject. "How is your husband? I'm surprised he let you come out here on your own."

She gives a crooked grin. "Oh, the boyish jealousy stopped the minute he put the ring on my finger. Besides I think he feels that there's no danger of me running off with you any more."

"There never was any danger of that."

"But he didn't know that."

The silence builds up between us again, and the sea hisses in between. Is. Was. Is. Was. Is. Was.

Then I say, "I meant I'm surprised he let you cross the border on your own."

"I'm a big girl, though I never started acting like one until recently. Do you know reading myself through your blog used to make me wince? Never a name, not even a letter like B. Just Mr X's daughter." She throws out a half-hearted laugh out into the sea.

"I never thought of it like that."

"No, you wouldn't. But that's because I never registered on your Richter scale."

We dip our hands into another pocketful of silence and I wonder at that moment what it is in our conversations, in ourselves, that makes us build such unnecessary shelter from our thoughts.

Before coming here, I had read some of my letters to B in my hotel room to reminisce, and the one common thread was such silences; silences that more often than not conveyed far more correctly what we wanted to say, then when we spoke. So maybe that was it then; some things are better left unsaid.

Mr X's daughter speaks up suddenly. "I loved you. I love you."

There is no succumbing to silence this time. Years of treading softly around the issue has finally come to an end. "No you didn't - don't. You fell in love with the ideal of me. You were infatuated. I'm not an ideal. I'm just me. What did you want me to do? Take advantage of you?"

"You don't realise how your lofty ideals make it all the worse, you're so fucking blind!"

"So, I shouldn't have been honest with you?" I face her, and coming closer I place a finger under her chin. "I don't do anything other than honest."

She moves away from me. "Sometimes treating someone nice is worse than treating them like shit. Life's too short for high ideals. If we crawl, then we don't have far to fall."

"You have changed. I don't remember this bitterness. It will kill you."

"And what? If I'm not bitter will I live forever?"

"No. You'll live better."

"You can't reason this away. I won't let you."

"You don't have to. It's the truth."

She gives up with a sudden sigh. "How was your flight?"

"Tedious. As though it would never end. Up in the sky I felt the minutes like they were years, now down here I feel the years ticking away like seconds."

"Know how that feels." She pauses, and then says, "How's your parents?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen them yet."

"You came straight here? Do they know you're here?"

I nod. "B's dad told me that she's been transferred to a private clinic in Paphos, so I flew direct from London."

"Have you seen her yet?"

I shake my head. "She told me she'll text me when she's ready. Have you visited her?"

Mr X's daughter gives a quick nod. "Are you going back home tonight?"

"No. I've booked in a hotel. The one B's family are staying in."

"And so you've come to wait outside the clinic? She might not text for ages."

Better than feeling suffocated in a room with my memories bouncing off its walls.

"I had nothing better to do, but time seems to be spinning," I reply. "And I like being by the sea on a hot June day."

Now, if only it were as easy to copy the ancient patience of the sea...

"Until I showed up."

"Then you showed up." It was her usual, unexpected entrance, but this time there had been no B to comment on it.

Suddenly, as if on cue, my phone vibrates into action. It's a SMS from B.

The chocolate brownies are here. Where are you? Room 201. Second floor of this god-damn Greek hell hole.

Before I can react, like an afterthought, my phone hurriedly buzzes again. It's another SMS from B.

Don't blame me. I had to tell her you were coming. Dump her if you can, drown her if you can't.

I smile, and try hard to conjure up foolish notions about masculinity to stop my eyes lining up with tears. What's wrong with me? I never cry easy. Just when you need it... I turn to look at Mr X's daughter.

"One question. Did you drive all the way down here to see B, or have a go at me? If so, say whatever else you have to say to me now, because I won't allow any amateur dramatics in front of her."

She raises her head and a hand with a quick snap, but pulls both back. "You've changed, too," she says. "No gentle approach any more?"

"No," I agree. "There's no time for that now, not for someone who feels sorry for themselves over me. I'm not worth it."

"Well you don't have to worry then. I'm on my way home. In fact I'm on my way to somewhere a lot further. I'm moving to Sweden."

"Then I wish you well in your new life, but B is important here, not you or me."

She gives a harsh, dry laugh. At its death, it gargles in the depth of her throat. "Of course," she says. "This is a letter to B after all."

Main Index | Part one | End of part two | Part three | Part four | Part five

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