Monday, April 03, 2006

You, Venus, Come Home

I was the new groom in the breakfast room. And countered the backhanded insult/question of my new wife’s whereabouts from the briefly met fat guest of the previous evening – in hallway passing, drunk, congratulations – with a parry of visible hurt and wounds soliciting, as a chance by product, the sympathy of our landlady who felt keenly my pain as she replaced me with the image of her own son, Michael, who should also, she said, be just married – or if not now then very soon, as soon as he meets the right girl, that is. This landlady’s sympathy secured then translated into – towards the fat guest, male, 45 – a stern request for last week’s rent and, while he was about it, this week’s rent, plus a direction towards the terms, conditions and codes of stay that he must surely already be aware of, with special attention given to the required, and appropriate, evening conduct that expressly forbids drunkenness, noise, music and all other inappropriate – please ask for details - behaviour. A minor victory for me, for certain, but beautifully capped with true significance and gravitas from the fact, the weight, of it being my first full day as a married man.

That landlady. She would, definitely. With conflict. The conflict of herself at 55 and the thought of it being somehow equivalent to sleeping with her son, Michael.

Michael of marrying age was not, in fact, the marrying kind - as the saying then went – on account of being a homosexual. This, since you ask, many years before the acceptance of the dark arts of homosexuality. These were, after all, unenlightened times. So this Michael, as you may imagine, was appropriately tortured by his desperate life of denial. His life so far – and for a good time afterwards – so much et cetera that it wasn’t even worth mentioning. Suffice to say, he later broke his poor mother’s heart. Although, it has to be said, she had actively been waiting for the moment when he would do this. The eventual destruction of her tired old heart something she had long regarded as merely her due.

I told my new bride: I was the new groom in the breakfast room. At the same time as attempting, and failing, to carry her down the stairs in much the same way that I had, the night before, carried her up the stairs. It was funny though, and sweet, and was the correct thing to do, as I clutched my heart and feigned extreme shortness of breath, made a real act of it, to mask the genuine shortness of breath that had fully caught me by surprise. I had to ask myself if I was already the pale shadow married man that I had recently heard so much about. After just one night?

Four months later, a sea front café, September 1954, after an argument in the rain. That feigning of shortness of breath, the struggle of carrying her down the stairs, thrown back at me, translated by her as my explicit statement – subtle, yes, she gave me that – of her being overweight, too big to carry. No, I protested (enough times to give her every reason to accept my sincerity) (including my outline of the real reason for feigning extreme shortness of breath, confessing to hiding my own insecurities and masking the effects of the terrible aspect of my short married life, of what it had taken away from me). Her refusal to believe me led me to snap, as a direct response to her sheer unreasonableness, yes, yes, you were too much to carry, you were much too much for me, too much of a disappointment! Words and actions to that effect. In the sea front café where a group of dirty workers at the back, alternately amused and outraged, threatened me with violence to force me to apologise to my heartbroken wife who, casting loyalty aside, crushing it with her cigarette, joined their chorus by nodding her tearful agreement. I, of course, though married, was not yet dead, and stood up to my attackers – her and her chorus of labourers – running the very real risk of meeting with a good degree of physical pain. Averted, thankfully, by the timely arrival of a policeman. This was 1954, so such things, then, were not so implausible.

I was the new groom in the breakfast room, I said to my wife. But kept to myself the attention I’d received that morning from the young lady in the corner, behind her newspaper, holidaying with her mother this past week with another week to go. A small, shy smile to begin with.


Blogger Molly Bloom said...

This piece builds up with resentment from the new groom right to the very end with that brilliant final, subtle ending of triumph. I think A would identify with lifting the rather heavy bride up the stairs......

I also like the 'please ask for details' part. Very clever.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Molly Bloom said...

There's something about the first section as well...I like the use of a kind of enjambement in prose. Like a Stream of Consciousness, but more than that. Personal, factual enjambement. That's how I feel about it. V. clever.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Molly Bloom said...

I know that enjambement applies more to poetry, but I think I can use it here...I think....I hope.

7:50 PM  

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