Tuesday, November 10, 2009
There is a special smell in that house. Not an ugly smell. Not smell of old people. It’s her perfume, her hand cream and smell of clean, of scrubbed, not of new. I wonder what they are doing now. I imagine them as peeved about this unyielding rain as I am. She is in the kitchen, knocking wooden utensils about, pots clamoring for want of space. She’s wearing the plastic bonnet that hangs on her forehead, on her glasses, pressed hair sticking out of it in tufts. She pushes it back with her clean wrist. I say she looks medieval and she shoos me out of the kitchen. “You’ll catch smell of food,” she says. And then she embraces the “good” coats in the hall-stand and takes them to the other end of the house, lays them on the bed in a distant bedroom, lest they catch “food smell” too.
He’s in the living-room, sitting cross-legged on one of the two side-by-side armchairs. He holds the newspaper as you’d hold a map. Through thick brown-rimmed glasses he peruses important pieces of sport news, I am sure. No, I’m wrong. It was economics he was reading. Should it surprise me: as if he doesn’t spend every day teaching that to an amphitheater of students. If I don’t make an audible noise he doesn’t detect my presence until I’m in the middle of the room. “Whatcha doing?” he asks. “Looking for something to read,” I say inspecting the bookshelves. Then, inquiring: “Have you seen Foucault’s Pendulum?” He ignores his paper to look at me, then at the bookshelf, a considering look. I’ve already moved to the other bookshelf, too fast to follow, and in a microsecond declare with satisfaction: “Found!” “So fast, you are,” and it takes him a moment for the sudden changes of situation to register. I crash in the armchair next to him and read the preface. Curiously he peers into my book, newspaper paused. “Umberto Eco,” he enunciates, then “Ecco,” with an Italian ring. “Ecco!” he chants. I laugh. He with his newspaper, I with my Ecco.
She speeds through the living room on her way to the balcony. She is going to water the geraniums. “Why don’t you turn on the TV?” she says in passing, seeing us both sitting there in silence. Cold air is now coming through the open balcony door, numbing my toes. “Nah,” I say. Then I follow her to the balcony to see what she does.