Wednesday 3 July 2013
Chasing the Velvet
Then we walked up the stairs to the Monument’s esplanade where a Book festival was taking place, there were a lot of people, but not too many that I’d feel crowded, just enough not to feel deserted. A big gaming castle was erected for children on the side and parents were busy queuing, filming and encouraging their little ones. I hung out, people watching, waiting for the festival to start. I felt good, so good, too good, I couldn’t explain it, was it the velvet concoction of wind and sun on my skin or was it something else…
I walked around the book fair, prospected the tents, each one representing a publishing house, mental notes made about which ones to contact for my book (I had a dream etc), purchased a novel and sat down on the reading area set-up, soaking up the soft rays of sunshine, reading a little, then getting distracted by this soft velvet atmosphere I feel but cannot explain, I tilt my head back and soak up more sun and breeze, this recipe that I feel I was the only one privy to, I look around to see if people feel it too, people seem to be happy, even I AM relaxed and my London pace has slowed down to a mere shuffle as if I am worried I’d finish too quickly and lose the thread of velvet.
I stayed idle a while, leafing through my book, my nephew at a table nearby going frantically with a red crayon over his colouring book with his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth.
My sister joins us, she looks stressed, Samia lives in Algiers, she’s always stressed and uses this word often, it seems Algerians finally matched the word to the feeling, she drags her daughter by the hand, she was at her ballet lesson, she walks over looking her usual flustered self, the security lady chasing her, demanding to search her bag before she could enter the book festival.
Samia joins me, breathing frantically, looking everywhere as she talks, trying to locate her son, I point at him, his head down on his book, colouring with a blue crayon now. Her shoulders slump immediately and she seems to feel what I am radiating, she tilts her head sideways as if trying to work something out, then she shakes her head as if to dismiss the feeling and picks a chair, dispatches her daughter to join her brother and sits facing me, she looks at me as if waiting for instructions, so I instruct her to relax, she fidgets a little, rummages through her bag for something she can’t find, she calls out at the kids and gives instructions to do this and not do that. She just can’t relax. I take her by the shoulders and shake her gently with a smirk, she fixes me for a few seconds then laughs, then as if making a decision, she rests her back on the chair, tilts her head back and lets her arms dangle on either side of her chair and stops moving. I say the word “velvet” because I keep feeling it and Samia says “il fait beaauuuuu”. Finally she feels it.
Back at the house, the smell of freshly brewed coffee was intoxicating, Mum made my favourite cake and set the table, we all gathered around and chatted about nothing I can remember, observations about the kids, something my mum wanted my dad to fix or buy, I find myself worried the time will ran out and I will find myself alone again, so I cling onto every moment of coffee or lunch where we’re together, I offer to wash up and to help out with lunch but I am not allowed near the stove, my culinary talents are little to be desired.
Sometimes, as discreetly as they can, my parents always with a smile, ask if I thought about coming back home, then I don’t know or remember what happens next, my mind flies back to London, to my life here, my friends and my things, so many things I attach myself to, shackle myself with to validate the decision to stay here and be alone.
Time to say goodbye, yet again, I don’t remember going to the airport, my mind was going through mental lists, lists of reasons why I would remain in London, why life would be better in London, but I am not convinced, justifying my choices through self-delusions and a false sense of achievement.
In London I don’t feel the velvet, the coffee doesn’t smell the same, the sun doesn’t feel the same, the street noise isn’t the same, and I am not the same. Living shackled by material processions, fears of missing out on something and constant worries of time elapsing, chasing the sun, the air and the velvet where it cannot be, making a lifestyle out of Nostalgia and homesickness like an orphaned child who lost his home, living in the myth of no return.
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