Hot Pink

The tap ran cold and cold and cold, ran warm, ran hot. The skin that had dried into cracks & chaps, went from white to pink as the water trickled over at first then into it. The copper pipes run all over the house, unseen, and they meet the winter and become cold. Veins are the only colour. Cold water always feels cleaner, but hot water reddens the knuckles, permits the skin to stretch and flex, rather than fold. I typed my old address out half-a-dozen times. I typed my new address out half-a-dozen times. There was a checklist on the desk listing account numbers for internet, gas, electricity, council tax, and water. There was an old e-mail from 2015 with my old-old address. What happened there? I paused. When things were settled, I calculated how much I had spent on my flat without living there, causing me to be a little short of breath! I went for a smoke and thought things over beneath a storm cloud, it was all tremendously metaphorical and atmospheric! What a protagonist I would be in this uninteresting story!
    I made myself another coffee and sat down, listening to music. The rain rattled angrily against the windows. It was all still very metaphorical and atmospheric, although now that the rain had broken, the sense of anticipation had lessened considerably. My brother and father were shifting the tree from the living room, the huge puffed-up prickle of dark green, undressed and underside pale, dragged, clawing to every doorway, crying needles until it was tossed into the front garden. My mother was packing away the decorations, and although I was daydreaming and not paying any attention to what was going on, I guessed that was the task from which she withdrew her attention to call our own for an announcement, removing my headphones—‘Boys…! boys! you remember Terry and Helen… Terry died on New Year’s Day… from covid. You remember Terry and Helen? He died. Just went into the hospital and that was it.’ They were friends of my parents that I recalled from childhood and then, loosely, from any of the dinner parties or gatherings my parents had thrown since. There were photographs of Terry and Helen about the house if one knew where to look. ‘Ah, fuck!’ I said, putting my headphones back on. Beyond the music, I could hear my parents talking. I turned the music off and stared at the wall, not at the rain. My parents were right behind me. My father was having trouble talking through it all, kept choking and stammering a trifle, as he asked my mother to spell-check a message he was sending the widow. I heard my mother say—‘This is what happens to people our age.’ My father began to protest, still cracking, but she interrupted once more—‘No, this is what happens to people our age, they start to die!’ My lower-left wisdom teeth have been aggravated recently – I do not know why – and I take painkillers so that I might ignore them; however, in the mornings I wake with them aching and surmise that I have been grinding my teeth perhaps, or sleeping on my left side. I have striven to not chew on that side of my mouth or to grind my teeth, but at my mother’s declaration to her husband, within minutes of him finding out his friend had died, I could not help but grind my teeth! I leapt up in a rage and went for a shower, where I hummed a tune with my face underneath the hose, to take my mind off things and calm down! but I could not! Aha! I thought, this moral bankruptcy I have accused them of all along and now it should be so evident! I must call her out! Alas, it is none of my business! Yet it is! I thought. She is the woman, the mother, the matriarch! Should emotion be so alien to her? Should be disregard the feelings and the sorrow and hurt of the men in her family?! But her upbringing…! I told myself, and I argued with myself, and went in circles and I watched the soap suds run down the inside of my legs. As soon as I was out of the shower, before my hair had dried, I went out into the windy cold and did not look back.

    How stifling, I thought, as I walked down towards the front. Someone was throwing old bread to the gulls. The flock tore through the wind where I walked, very atmospheric. I called a friend. She told me how sunny it was there, and we wondered how long it would take my storm cloud to get to her. By the time we were finished, I felt better. Because of the rain, my paths were quiet, only a few joggers and people huddled in the sea-viewing shelters with polystyrene cups of coffee from the local pub. On the beach there were fishermen, their rods slicing the gusts, small blue tents facing west. Along the promenade there are benches, each one holding a small plaque dedicated to someone dead. At this time of year, their friends & relatives come to arrange flowers and brush down the wood. Why, only yesterday I stood and watched an old couple putting flowers in a bottle of mineral water, and tying it to the armrest, then say a little prayer before walking away in the wind. My favourite is a young fifteen-year-old boy and his bench is always decorated in pink, be it tinsel or flowers or cards or ribbons, always pink, and the most beautiful hot pink that stands out against the drab grey of a winter’s day. I pause and look at his bench: fifteen-years-old. His name was Johnathan and he had the most beautiful surname so that it sparkles even on the little rainwet plaque.
    My parents were drinking champagne when I got back, with music playing and Christmas decorations half-packed away, their boxes and sparkle still lying around. I tidied my room, did ironing (quite enjoyed, strangely, bedsheets, large plains of crease no-crease, the scent of washing detergent, do not know why but comforting, the perfume of home and comfort), but by then my parents were quite drunk, and I walked into a debate that was playing out—‘No, do not put makeup on!’ says my father. My mother asked me a question as I was rolling a fag with my back to her—‘What do you think?... I want to send a picture to Helen of me and dad cheers’ing with a glass of champagne.’ I finished the cigarette, tapped it thrice on my wristwatch and turned around—‘I think that would be massively inappropriate.’ She started to defend her proposal as I opened the door and went outside. With my headphones on, I sat down and played chess with a pot of coffee. The pot of coffee defeated me in the first game, as I made a series of miscalculations, but in the second game I was much sharper and played with perfection, destroying the drained inanimate object before me! I cheered myself. An excellent game, one for the ages, will surely be studied for centuries. Between black cups, I retired for a cigarette and could hear them talking loudly. My mother was so drunk by then that she was sobbing, but I did not know why. I could hear my father consoling her, reassuring, through the window, but I paid no mind. My brother came out for a smoke, emerging from the side of the house—‘Best go back in through the toilet. Mum is getting very emotional.’ Fuck that, I thought, and went back in, walking past them to renew my game of chess with the pot of coffee. The pot of coffee put up a good fight, but I was too strong; by the time it resigned, my mother, father and brother were all very drunk and loud. It was unbearable. They were all shouting over each other, repeating the same thing over and over. It was neither metaphorical nor atmospheric.
    Once fed, the pair of them retreated to bed, so I was free to clean up and watch a film they would not enjoy. It was a miserable film. A hundred minutes in, the telephone started to ring. Looking at the time – 21:00 – I knew that it was my grandmother. It rang six times until her compressed southern Irish accent curled all over the voicemail. She asked whether everything is okay, she hoped that everyone was all right, and she hoped the weather was nice, and she said god bless.