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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

An Autumn Reprisal

The dimming sky decks out the horizon with splotchy hues of purple, making it look like some primary school painting. The lights on the promenade have begun to blink to life.

B captures a piece of the café's chocolate cake between the steel prongs of her fork, and waves it at me, imitating the lazy swing of the yachts in the small marina.

"There's no escape," she says, smiling ominously. "I will make you tell."

I stare at her, with a half grin. "I thought you were waiting for me to be ready to talk about it?"

"I lied. Women do that, you know."

"Not just women. Not all women."

"Ah...that 'special woman'. Interesting concept...have you ever found one?"

"Plenty." I smile. "All women are special to someone."

B's lips cut out a grin, and she swallows another piece of the Boater Inn's special dessert. "Don't be so diplomatic. Reading in between the lines can be tiresome you know."

"You know I don't kiss and tell. Why do you keep on? You seem to be enjoying that - want my slice, too?"

I pass her over my share of the chocolate slice as the waiter comes over with our cappuccinos. I nod him a thank you, and turn my attention away from B and her fast disappearing chocolate cake to the cat that had been preening itself dolefully a few moments before.

"Hey cat," I call to it.

Cats are not my thing, I am a dog man myself, but for some reason I like this cat, and its rough, panther-like features. It comes strolling over to us. Bright, pockmarked green eyes, as though pools filled with flotsam and jetsam, scrutinse me haughtily. Suddenly, making its mind up about something, it jumps on to my lap. Curling up tightly into a fist of fur, it promptly falls asleep.

"Well," B snorts lightly at my bemused face, "now we know the sex of the thing."

I smile, but don't reply allowing a sudden curtain of silence to fall. After all, friendship is not just about sharing words. I look up at the blushing sky that continues to darken. In the comfortable interlude, I can feel her glancing at me now and then, trying to read my mind.

Instinctively, I sense that's my cue to break the pause. Without looking down I ask, "What is it?"

"You."

I turn away from the sky, just in time to see the final act of a silly face she makes. "I understand that. What is it exactly?"

"How long have I known you?"

"You know how bad I am with things like that. My sense of time is broken. I feel as though I met you yesterday and have known you all my life."

"Oh, that's a good one. I'd save that one for when you forget your wife's birthday or anniversary."

"Hardly the same thing, B. I don't know - it's been a good many years. At least five."

"It's been more. And in all that time, as stable a guy as you are in what you say and what you do - you still manage to surprise me. You always leave me feeling as though I don't know anything about you."

"What's brought this on - you want to play ten questions now?" I never wear a watch, but I look at my mobile phone for the time. It reads 7.00 p.m.

She thoughtfully chews her final forkful of cake. "That's not such a bad idea."

I try to get up, but quickly remember the cat on my lap. It seems I am pinned down. "But B that's so artificial, surely things like that should come in its own good time - flow of its own accord."

Completely ignoring me, she continues, "It's just talking about your blog made me think. I've discovered a lot about you from reading that, and talking to you - and still..."

"That's not anything to do with me, B. That's you generalising. Humans are complex. Who really knows anyone? For example, I may take bullshit from you, but that doesn't mean I'll take it from every one. If someone else pestered me this much - this conversation would have been over in two seconds. But you are you - the way I treat people says more about them than me. I'm an angel to you, a bastard to someone else. To each as they deserve."

"Are you trying to tell me something?"

I slowly lean forward, "I am trying to tell you that you do know me. As much as you need to, else you'd know more."

She looks at my overturned Turkish coffee cup. "I'm just trying to get you to open up."

I sigh. "You are a pest. But I'll give you the fact that you are my friend and have the right to get in my head once in a while. What do you want to know?"

"Oh, well when you put it like that..."

"Was that too direct for you? Now who wants to read between lines?"

She laughs. Pushing her empty plate away she reaches for my Turkish coffee cup. "I'll read your coffee rinds, instead. It's easier...and safer."

Trying not to rouse the sleeping cat, I hand it to her. "You know you don't have to read it out aloud. It is your curiosity you're trying to satisfy after all."

She looks at me, one eyebrow raised archly. For one moment I think she is going to scream, but says quietly, "Do you want to hear it or not?"

I stare back. "No," I say. "You go ahead, though."

In certain conversations, there comes a crossroads. You can go either one way or another. Good friends always choose the right path.

When B spoke, there was an inflection to her voice that I hadn't heard for a long time. "You have been there for me more times than I can remember Ali, and I know that when necessary you'll be there for me again. And now I want to do the same for you."

I smile. "But Honey B," I say, "then you don't need any silly coffee cup. You've just proven that you know me without me even having to say a word. To somethings in life, there is no cure. You just get on with getting on."

She looks at me for a moment, before replying. "I watched the film The Truman Show last week. So what if life is like that? Truman found his cure. Even if we're all born into this TV show with a controller that never asked us whether we wanted to particpate or not..."

I indicate the the coffee cup in her hand. "Funny. I feel a little like that at the moment." I dodge a napkin B throws at me.

Completely ignoring me, she begins to read out loud. I completely ignore me, too - and politely listen, as the dying day of a dying season gradually fades away to the tune of a purring cat on my lap.

Main Index | The First Day: Part one | End of part two

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