Sunday, September 14, 2003

Zenella's yoghurt

Someone stood on Zenella’s yoghurt. Crossing Wimbledon Broadway in a hurry, a girl – a woman, but young enough… well, sue me for the term but girl fits – did not break stride and stood on Zenella’s bag that she had dropped.
It’s some sort of hurry that won’t stop for a dropped bag. It was a Safeway carrier bag, not a special bag, not a handbag or anything, but it was quite clear it wasn’t empty.
Maybe the girl was afraid. Maybe she felt that if she paused and went round, the lights would change and she would be caught on the crossing. Maybe she feared the blare of the horn.
I hate it when I judge a person. I don’t mean the kind of judging you do when you play in a newsgroup, where you’re not engaged. I mean when I judge someone in the day-to-day, when I look at another person and think “X” about them.
The other night I saw a fat woman eating a sandwich on the platform at Moorgate. I thought, shit, that woman just couldn’t wait to get home before eating. Because I wouldn’t eat on the tube, not on the platform and not in the train. It seems ill-mannered to me. But what I mean by that, of course, is that it seems like it would be ill-mannered of me to do it. I can hardly expect that the fat woman on the platform is following the same rules as I am. We have become well enough acquainted with the fractured nature of the societies we live in, I hope, to understand that the idea we all work with a shared sense of values, morals, what have you, is just a little ridiculous. We accept that we are diverse in so many other ways, we would have to expect that we are diverse in what we think is right.
When I talk to people about the world, I like to try to let them define the code we will talk in. I admit that I try to find the flaws and fissures in that code, but I like to play on their pitch, as it were.
Why? I’m interested in how people work. Finding out their limits and pushing them a little shine a light on the machinery.
Jeez, I’ll never make a postmodernist! Always wanting there to be something beneath. As if it would be realler, somehow.
But what it is, I think, is that I want to be able still to love the girl on Wimbledon Broadway. I want her to have different motivation to me, for me to be unable to feel that she did something wrong.
Zenella was over it five minutes later. Something else caught her attention. Wimbledon’s a busy place on a Saturday afternoon – a visual feast, I suppose, if that’s what you like to look at.

I have mixed feelings about Zenella. My love for her is uncomplicated and strong – fierce and proud – about the most concrete thing in my life, a thing that never ceases to be true, which I believe will never cease to be true. I believe, truly I believe, I will love her when I am whispering out my last breath, regardless of what passes in the years between now and then. But she infringes my freedom in a big way. I cannot make any decision about my life that isn’t a decision about her life. I cannot ever run – I must always walk so that she can keep up. I know, I know, it’s true for any parent – but it’s just another of those things they don’t tell you in antenatal class. You know you will have to surrender some of your life. But you don’t understand the leap that you will be needing to take.
I know some don’t – their lives continue much the same and their children follow in their slipstream – but they are not me.
How quickly my thinking becomes fractured and unstable! I was ready to talk about how I feel about my child, but quickly I realised my feelings are formless, inchoate, mad. And man, do I love having this thing I can’t analyse.


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