Saturday, 23 June 2012

In Cassidy's Care: 8: Last Wednesday (continued)

He missed the last tube but that was no biggie, it had stopped raining and the evening was now calm and balmy. As he strolled towards the nearest bus stop Cassidy thought about the ugliness at the football match. He really had to put a check on his… utterances. They were going to land him in trouble. But then some things needed to be articulated. Maybe he had a ‘special need’ but surely there were other folk who felt the same way, acted the same way. There was a term for the perennial weepers of the world: ‘for crying out loud’, so why not one for overactive thinkers. ‘For thinking out loud’ didn’t sound quite right but…. it wasn’t as if he had Tourettes for Christ’s sake, it was just that sometimes he needed to hear his thoughts, needed to give them substance. The same reasoning caused him to catch his reflection; in shop windows; strangers’ spectacles; the back of spoons; in the windows of this red double decker as it pulled up in front of him. No vanity, just the need to check that he was still there.
Cassidy sat on the top deck in a front seat from where he could monitor his journey home. The bus was empty except for a couple to his left in the adjacent front seat, nursing a baby. Cassidy watched them in the reflection of the bus window; she a pretty sparrow, hand in next-door’s pocket, a stranger looking bird. They wore matching black quilted anoraks, she clutching the little bundle to her breast, his hood was up, arms folded tightly across his chest. He wore thick-rimmed spectacles that magnified his eyes. He blinked erratically and seemed agitated; kept tapping at his mouth with his fingers. The girl took his arm. “I love you with all my heart sweetheart, love you like my baby.” She nuzzled the infant’s brow. “You’re my first and second accidents you are” she chuckled, “I’m still waiting for the third. Good things come in threes”, she added absently, leaning her head against the man’s shoulder. He chewed his cheek and whispered something about Alaska. Cassidy narrowed his eyes and leant towards their reflection.
“I need the coast, the taste of the ocean”, the man continued. “In Alaska you can sit and count your emotions, get to understand your emotional… geometry. It’s wild and cruel, but a wonderful place…” he looked towards Cassidy and lowered his voice “Of course you need to be prepared; need to take care. You can never really trust nature, but it’ll never let you down.” The man put a clenched fist into his open mouth and ground his shaking knuckles into his teeth, a peculiar tic. Cassidy could see that, although he spoke like a sage, he was really no more than a boy, nineteen or twenty. The girl seemed older, maybe in her late twenties. She pulled his twitching hand towards her chest to calm his agitation; placing it tenderly on the back of the baby’s hooded head. She cooed and gently rocked, holding them both close, smelling their skin. She smiled towards Cassidy’s frozen reflection and he noticed that she had a hair lip.
“Investment is for fools”, continued the boy “and praying is for martyrs. And money… money is for spending. I say leave nothing behind.” The boy’s speech seemed archaic, tautly rehearsed, reminding Cassidy of an old time preacher. He sat upright abruptly, pushed the hood back off his head and ruffled his thick greasy hair with both hands. “You’ve got to live your dreams or you watch them die. You bend or you break with that simple truth.” He leant towards the baby, whispering now. “You know I didn’t want this. It was a shock to me, seeing how careful we were with contraception and all but…” he put his fist to his mouth again, and, again, the girl soothed him.
“I‘m glad that we didn’t get rid… that salt and water method your mother swore by.” His trembling voice was almost inaudible now. “I watch her when she sleeps. I do. I breathe for her, listen to her little heart beat.” Cassidy could feel his own heart beating as he watched this strange little unit fussing over their child. Was it time for changing? Was it time to feed? This little bundle was probably all that they could ever hope for; maybe all they’d ever need. They fell into seeming sleep and there was silence, an almost biblical quality to the scene, until the boy broke the spell with another one of those odd convulsions.
“This is us sweetheart”, the girl sang out moments later, and they rose to leave. She stooped to pick up her bag, leaning so close to Cassidy that he could smell talcum powder.
He looked into her cradling arms.
Nylon hair, perfect plastic toes.
The couple shuffled past him apologetically.
Cassidy could barely breathe.

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