Here in the House which was the Site of Our Budding Love


I suddenly feel weary with the anticipation of a Saturday. Here I am at my desk, which is not a proper desk but a slab of coarse wood, which used to be the kitchen table, staring out at the garden behind the house thinking thoughts of Springtime, Springtime which is still just beyond our reach. There are yellow flowers and a few misty buds, but the trees are still blank, the grass still pale, the dead leaves of last year still plastered to the frosty pathway.

We're in the time-between-seasons; you wake up one morning and here it is, Spring, and you put on a light coat, you dispense of your winter boots, but by mid-afternoon it's Winter again and shivering you cycle home against a fierce wind that belongs to January, not March.


I need a chair big enough to swallow me. I don't want to sit at my desk with my legs crossed neatly, dangling toward the ground, I want to fold them beneath myself, I want them to have freedom and space. The thing is of course that none of this furniture is ours, but now that we've lived here--how long? nearly two years?--it fits us. It owns us if we don't own it.

I think about this sometimes (I've probably written about it before, too). What anchors us to this house is not possession. All that we own, between us, is a bed. You could say that's too symbolic to be true, but it is true, and the only reason we even own the bed is because some friends were getting rid of it and thought that maybe we would want to graduate from a folding futon to a proper mattress-and-headboard bed.

So we have a bed and our books. We sound portable. But I don't think we are as portable as all that. Here is the site of our budding love. How do you take that with you when you go?--say, the memory of sitting on the kitchen floor, midnight, two weeks in, picking apart a chicken carcass from the fridge, sipping a gin and tonic; the memory of the first walk to the bus stop, the smell of early summertime and the sunlight and the way he puts his sunglasses over your eyes because it's early and you need a shield, and a piece of insurance, something to tie you together.

Because the thing is that while we're here, they aren't just memories; I can actually see a two-years-younger version of ourselves sitting in the garden watching the nine o'clock sunlight fade behind the East Oxford terraced houses. I haven't actually converted these things into memory yet. I know I need to start doing it, like a computer caches old emails (if that's what they do), or my mind will start to feel cloudy and crowded, but. But.


(A little truth about myself: sometimes I mix up Walt Whitman and William Wordsworth. And Henry David Thoreau, because of Walden Pond. All those Ws. Even though I've been to Walden Pond. One sticky Boston summer. I ate potato chips on the way there, bikini beneath black dress, and it was clear as anything but when we drove up to the pond the world suddenly clouded over and a few drops of rain hit our heads and then a crack of thunder, a fissure of lightening across the sky. So we didn't swim in Walden Pond after all.)


I'd like to wear a summer dress, today; or a pair of cutoff denim shorts, like I am seven again, and a fluttery blouse that lifts in the gentle wind. I'd like to see all of our clothes--his shirts, my knickers--our sheets--hanging on the line in the garden. That's the nicest thing, here, in summer. Looking over the fences and seeing that everybody on the street has hung their washing outside.

And the days of the barbecues. Walk outside in the early Sunday afternoon, smell the char and the smoke from next door, or from your own garden. One day we spend hours outside, into the night, lying on a blanket. The boys burn old pieces of wood in the barbecue just for fun. We leave all the plates and bowls outside until the next morning.


So it's funny to think that for all that, it isn't ours (ownership being a thing about money, not memory). Still, here we are on a Saturday, doing our laundry, our dishes, he bringing me tea while I work, Billie Holiday drowned out by the sound of the washing machine shuddering its way through another load, passing through this in-between season and into another.