You Need To Call Mum Mate

 The most sentimental of my senses is smell. It is Saturday evening and I am sitting here trying to think of happy things. All I can think of is that my sense of smell is the most sentimental, and then, as my mind develops the thought, I contemplate, without relying on a dictionary, the difference between sentimental and nostalgic; the latter is a Greek portmanteau, if I recall correctly, something along the lines of sweet pain, and the former—I have no idea!—maybe Latin with the centi and the mental. A hundred nutters. My nose is one-hundred nutters and every one of them, out of nowhere, side-eyes me, brows raised, smiling with repugnant smugness—‘You remember that, eh? Eh?!’ And there is a hell of a lot of nowhere to be stared at by one-hundred nutters. On cue, my brain, in cahoots, recovers a vivid memory. Furniture of the mind with dust upon it to run my fingers along.
    There was a missed call off my mother. Quite unusual for her to ring me from Porto at half-one on a Saturday. Not in the mood to speak to anyone, I told the cat I would be back shortly, blinked at her and walked out of the flat. It was hot down on the street but there was, at that time and angle between those buildings, a cool breeze coursing through my white cotton shirt and about my doughy white skin. The antibiotics told me to avoid the sun; would I burn or tan? would I pass out? A row of automobiles and their open windows baking in the traffic-jammed sun, paintwork shining in white lines bold against the worn road, dimpled and matte, aggregate coming loose, traffic lights taking turns like hopscotch. Slate tiles had fallen from the roof—might they strike me?—and cracked brittle beneath my trainers.
    Passing by a house open against the midday heat, I smelled my childhood friend’s home: the furniture and upholstery, the dinners they made, tomboy Rhiannon and her sister, all of us catching bugs and muddy knees. The smell of their house always poured out when you went to knock for them, circling on bicycles patiently and then rushing off. Another friend I had lost during the adolescent absence of secondary school.
    Have we skipped spring altogether? Might we dream of having more than just winter and summer? Through rubber soles, I felt the temperature of the earth in heat. I crave cold mornings and warm days. I crave crisp blue. I enjoy that the definition of my existence sprouts in spring, in the tenderstem softness of earth’s revolution! Elsewhere, it is only in autumn, when all is dying, that I feel any fondness for this island. The cars stopped & stuttered. My music ceased—my mother again—I ignored it—my middle-brother messaged me—You need to call mum mate I just spoke to her. Brushing the perspiration off my brow, I called her back in Porto, quite surprised when I got the domestic ringtone—‘Is it an emergency?’ She assured me it was not, but I how could I hang up on such little information? They were anti-clockwise on the M25, prematurely, in a state of worry: my youngest brother’s girlfriend of three-and-a-half years had broken up with him. I sighed, not saying anything. There was a lot of information coming through at once and I listened carefully, drifting away from the pavement, narrowly missing traffic. I crossed the road and tried to not get struck. I needed a haircut; my hair was so thick that all the perspiration gathered on the edge of my fringe before falling like a raincloud down my brow. He was, understandably, devastated. They had come back with worry. He was out there, doing whatever he was doing. At times, it sounded as though my mother was holding back tears. There are few worse places to cry than on the M25.
    Outside of the prison, a man and I passed each other underneath the boughs of an overhanging Prunus cerasifera Nigra, purple-leaved and sweet-smelling. He was perspiring in his clothes from the gym and he smelled of a friend from sixth form who got expelled and joined the army. Exactly the same bacteria expelling the same gases and his armpit hair the same and washing detergent and same diet. I had not seen him in a decade.
    It was a family holiday just over nine years ago when I was recently single. Those months can only be understood as a period of time, like cretaceous or medieval. We had just returned from dinner and were playing cards while drinking in the hotel lobby. He said something I shall never forget. I felt my eyes start to dew and an immense pain in my cheeks; every muscle so taught that it hurt. My mother said to leave it. I arose and walked to my room. There was never an apology, only a memory.
    ‘She called me on Thursday. We’re going for lunch this week. She wants to talk to me. I feel guilty.’ My parents loved her. ‘She’s just about to turn thirty, you know. She’s thinking about things… kids and that.’ A brief pause—‘She told me he has an “active drinking problem”.’
    Eventually my mother hung up—on speakerphone (‘We’re heading into a tunnel’)—as I got to the crossroads by the pet store on the edge of town. An old woman leaned over and pressed a button I had already pressed. The traffic would flow regardless. She stood there unsteady, looking both ways. The sun hammered down hotly.
    She was good company. We used to play chess together when we were drunk.
    My mother called me many hours later, while I was taking photographs of my cat as she lay on the top of our armchair. It would have been wonderful to say the cat did not mind, but as soon as I answered the phone, she leapt up excited, darting over the furniture and trying to climb our houseplants, screaming and running riot. ‘Fuckin cat,’ I said, halfway through picking up. We talked. I actually laughed; there were ten seconds or so when I laughed so heartily I wondered whether I might moderate it to convey my actual state of mind, but, laughing so much like a toddler or a child, to reign it in would surely be a sin.
    Although it is Saturday, it is difficult to think of happy things. A gnat glitches above the rim of my wine glass. The cat lounges neatly next to me on the armchair headrest. I am drunk and sad and it is a strange sadness. My mother messages me—I love you darling xx. It is late. She is rarely up this late.