Clara wants a cigarette so sets off away from the shops, wants to scratch the fronts of her legs, so walks fast to burn out the itching, tugs at the stupid lace collar of the shirt she put on to meet the Osmans, wants to pull the thin tight belt of her skirt, sees the headline, SENILE EX-SPY NAKED IN ST JOHNS and she realises that is where her feet are going of their own accord, to the leafy almost collegiate part of town she has come to love, find calm in, to think that if she ever moved she would … Clara cuts the thought dead. She soon will be.
Most days she laughs as she passes, today the brown words turn the cake she ate to a sick ball.
She addresses the sign, ‘I did what I did, alright?’
Imagines the headline, CRAZED OLDIE CHATS TO BRICKS, moves on, wants a whisky, there are no pubs this end of town, no shops, just students, cars going elsewhere, a young girl with a single crutch, someone upstairs playing fluent piano, Clara notices a buzzer marked Maxim, wonders who Maxim is, thinks Maxim, Oleg, Goleniewski, echoes, before her time, the old building, thinks Muxsin, the little boy Muxsin, Muxsin, Jamaal and the girl, Xoriyo, their beautiful doctor parents, her office in the new building, Mr Osman the spit of a man she once …
Stamps, ‘You stupid, stupid woman.’
Clara wants to find Mr Osman who can’t help reminding her of someone else, to find his beautiful wife who can’t help being married to a man who reminds her of somebody else, she wants to find them, hold them in her arms and apologise. Apologise for everything, for the cock ups, for the beheadings, for the men she saw being carried in hoods and chains and orange jump suits, whose faces and voices she knew even though they had never seen or heard her, a Registry of Deeds, all your deeds, every single one.
The thought that brings a laugh today, not a laugh, more like a small wheezy cough, is how the playing of the piano that floats in the autumn sunshine from some gorgeous young person’s practice, is also called a rendition.