The owner comes in to take measurements of the sofa bed that’s broken, apologises, says he assumed we’d be out at the museums on a day like this or seeing the town but we’re not; we’ve come all this way from America to play Legos and read. Charlotte is sweet in a way onions are sometimes described which takes more imagination to detect but deep-down it’s there, just less obvious. We watch fire trucks below and other people on the street watching them too, the sound of the waste collectors and at half past one, drowning out the drunks with Bach, lutes and flutes. A window cleaner at the fish and chips take away, trucks with their four-ways rolling in fresh kegs, rolling out empties, tail lights twisting up the road past the traffic lights red, green and white — and though the sun comes up you wouldn’t know it for the grey but it does make for a mood, the owner says, and I remark how the houses are jammed together and jagged, how it’s good for the imagination, more spirals than squares.
How I feel at odds sitting inside the apartment in late November with the rain coming on, but just want to listen to it pelt the glass, gusts shaking the frames, to make tea and dream: how it feels a waste to stay inside but altogether perfect this time of year. I realise it’s a strange time to visit I say to the owner so he knows I’m not an idiot (or knows that I know I am at least, which is a different kind of idiot, a self-actualised one) and there really is a mood that’s hard to put to words but you can tell he’s trying to by how his face changes as he measures the broken bed, thanks me, says goodbye.
And still, for this moment on the carpet with Charlotte and the Lego set it’s hard for me to be 100% here, wherever that is, as I’m distracted by how I’ll write about it, how I can pantomime real life — someone with a camera somewhere it doesn’t belong.
She can mouth the lyrics to some of the songs on Abbey Road now, pairs the words with melody, words like negotiation, investigation (and oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go…).
And all this time together the two of us are blooming in different ways, her mind and mine, as I flip over on my side and say my back hurts, and want her to remember me this way, writing. I go to a bar and take crude notes about the barmaid who’s Australian, looks at me as she’s hand-drying the spoons, wiping the stems, says “mate” like she’s slapping pancake batter on a plate.
Charlotte finished making an ice cream store out of the Legos (I made the bathroom) and hummed a tune to announce the grand opening, with thumb-size figures bouncing through the door and sitting down. Nostalgia can be sweet when it’s done right or sickeningly so when not.
And though the moon goes down and gets swallowed whole by the clouds, carved to the wick, pock marked, it always comes back and fills out, sometimes smiles, shines a light for the poets or lovers to have something to dream on or look at when they’re feeling lost or lonely. It’s what draws us to the window when we can’t sleep and don’t know why, the same reason we take pictures or home videos, to pretend we can go back when we know we can’t, it’s unnatural, it makes us gods for a moment, and though we know it’s untrue, it’s still fun to pretend. Best not to assume it will ever be better.