“Auntie, always old people they are strange!”
Thus had pronounced Iris on hearing about the strange and peculiar habits of her (until now, relatively unknown) grandfather, Ricardo. Ricardo was mean and aggressive; he’d probably kill, if he had to.
Iris’ statement fitted Ricardo like an overcoat. You know, one of those ones you’d had for years. So long, in fact, that it seemed to be part of you, and you’d forgotten you were still wearing it.
Sophia sat in her favourite cafe in Victoria, and pondered on the statement. Most perceptive for one so young, she thought. And yet at what point did people become old? Why did they become strange? What constituted strangeness?
She, nearly old enough to be considered by Iris to be in that category, felt even now just as she had always felt. So much so that when she looked in the mirror she was often shocked by the stranger she saw looking back at her.
That word again! Yet she wasn’t aware of any integral strangeness in herself. Perhaps it could only be detected from without?
Sophia slowly sipped her black, unadulterated, Italian coffee and observed. People of all ages could be found here although, age-wise, they tended to congregate at different times of the day. And their habits (as well as their purchases) differed, too.
Young people on their way to work called in for bacon sandwiches to sustain them during a hard morning. Older customers – the long-time employees not quite ready for retirement – did the same (even police officers, laden with guns and other technical bits of equipment, could be seen carrying out such treasures as muffins and trays of tea).
And then there were the truly strange, old people. The café acted as a sort of club, or day centre for them. They all knew each other, and collected in the “no smoking” corner, eating salads and other healthy morsels. Young people could eat dangerously if they wished. They wanted to live for ever, or as near to it as possible.
Some shuffled and shouted, greeting their friends. Well, deafness was prevalent in their society. One old chap came in with carrier bags, wearing old, dirty clothes. Yet he was not a street person when you looked closely. Like you and I might do, he insisted on drinking his tea “in”, despite what younger people were thinking.
So, what was this “strange” thing all about? She’d have to look the word up in the dictionary when she got home.
Meanwhile, several thousands of miles away Iris lounged, languidly, on the chaise longue. The one that Mario had obtained on one of his trips into an ancient world. She liked it. Not just for comfort, although it supported her tiny frame rather generously, but also because of the softness of the textile used in refurbishing it, and for its exquisite colour.
The chaise longue was a deep purple-blue, complementing her namesake – that painting by Vincent, who else? – perfectly. On a small table beside her lay an empty and crumpled packet of Marlborough Red (they always brought her mother to mind – she who could only be seen through a glass, darkly) and an ashtray full of stubs and ash. In her hand, keeping her company whilst watching daytime TV, was a frappe. Iris enjoyed frappe in the hot summer.
Iris thought. She thought about how recent, and unexpected though frequently longed for, events had impacted on her life. She was a sensitive, deeply emotional young woman and her emotions had been heightened by the visit. Iris had penned a poem for her Auntie Sophia.
“I am here without you!
I miss you and when the night comes, I miss you more.
You are my half part, and my half heart
And when I am having thoughts about you, I wish you were here with me.
The night, without you, it makes me feel lonely sometimes.
When a star falls, I am wishing to be there with you.
But you have to know that you are,
And always will be, my shining star.”
Wouldn’t you feel sad if your mother had seemingly abandoned you when you were only a baby?
© Bella Fortuna ®, 2007
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