Eight In All

Although it was only three floors, he and I got in the lift together; such was his preference to the stairs—despite not long earlier becoming trapped in that exact car—but he was generally a carefree sort. A lady, foreign and small, got in also, making herself smaller still in the corner as he and I spoke and stunk of freshly burned tobacco. He was Greek Orthodox and telling me that it was his name day and that he was excited and in good spirits and it was a fine day for him. At the second floor, the small lady stepped halfway out the lift, turned and said something to him in Greek, smiled warmly, and walked off as he smiled warmly in return, thanking her, also in Greek. I was, admittedly, a little jealous that he had another day to celebrate, one more than me. It meant a lot to him. It was a date, only a date, but it rhymed with his heart, and he bought doughnuts for everyone in the office so that they might celebrate with him.
    An engineer by trade, numbers are important to me. Dates as numbers, too—eight, all—become important. Phone numbers, yes. Memorising the telephone number of my childhood home, grey plastic all smoothly curved like a swish in mourning was an event indeed; the number—ten digits long back then—was the colour yellow for the lamp above it, for the pages beneath it. The buttons dark grey; hash and star were orange. That much can be remembered.
    An equinox, such as today, is remarkable because our solar equation is perfectly balanced, as though all the revolutions and turbulence were temporarily slowed so that one might appreciate the view. The writer is weak at algebra, is weak at a great many things, but an indescribable glee is felt when both sides of an equation are at peace. This equinox was insignificant. Headlines on the toilet before a walk around the flat at dawn to an uncurtained sunrise of the colours our eyes evolved to see. The cat is in a good mood, she darts about the flat as though she had just shat, daring me to chase her. I twist my hips and she runs a mile. On the roofs is last night’s rain. The towel from after a shower before bed is still not dried. A thin draft like icing sugar penetrates these rooms.
    Dates are a coordinate in time from which we chart the most delicate of emotion and occasion, a lifelong map of the moments that chiselled away at our soft mind! And how feebly those numbers—eight in all—dilute into the swill of history once we are no longer around to dwell upon them! I have dates like I have champagne corks or travel receipts. I keep all of my dates together in a neat row, dressed in their Sunday best: nineteenth of January, fourteenth of February, fourteenth of March, first of August, twenty-fifth of August, sixteenth of September, twenty-first of September, fourteenth of October, twenty-fifth of October, fifth of December; shall we begin again? What a pleasure it would be to remember the date of my own death! To hold—and cherish—that most untimely of full-stops. My death, my death! That could have been a number—eight in all—a date, just a date I would remember more than any, a date to extinguish all others. Yes, after that date I would forget my dues, as every notable historian and scribe shrugged their shoulders at the first of August or the nineteenth of January.
    Ten years ago, I moved out. A few days previous I was on site with a colleague, senior, and I asked for a reference, and he obliged, although my employer was a little slow, but things were a bit easier back then: only six weeks’ deposit. It seemed such a walk from the white van to my new flat, back & forth, encumbered then otherwise. There was a smell, a smell that in any other situation been wholly unpleasant but was, right then and forthwith, special. The odour and I made friends. Even until one Saturday morning a bailiff knocked and I, in underwear and abashed, explained that, by all accounts, the former tenant had packed her bags and returned to north America. He apologised for disturbing me. There was, I recall, a dribble of coffee remaining in my pot that I threw into my mug. What would I do that day? I did not know, I do not remember. Goodness, I felt so wonderful! Back then I took my cigarettes outside. This is my world now, I thought to myself, studying the dew collected on broad leaves by the steps. How I missed my parents! that hometown and all, but yet! how life felt like something to thrive amongst, and not just buy school uniform for every year.
    Autumn seemed to come on especially strong that year, as though we were long lost lovers reunited after nine months. It was only coincidence that reunited us against ship’s steel, down by the docks, humid from Argentina. It was a morning so fresh and I held the date in marrow. I put my nose into her neck, out of politeness at first, and then concentrated joy.
    Now Autumn is back. We broke up years ago but still have love for each other; it means the same thing but in a different language, our tongues grant intonations elsewhere, they stutter when they once flowed. Such things are not tempered by time, not ten years. It is silly, yes, but I wanted to be home this evening, writing about it, a date that means nothing to anyone but me.