I found this scrawled into my copy of Joyce’s Dubliners (one of the books I’d liberated from storage last weekend). I was immediately intrigued, because I couldn’t remember writing it. It’s not so much a story as a vignette, and I’m afraid it’s not quite up there with Joyce in terms of literary merit. Still I found it interesting because it captured how I was feeling at a particular moment in my life, at 21. I’ll include the little preamble (in italics), because that provides some insight into my mindset at the time:
What do I write, then? Simply pain, loss and abandonment – the struggle to fight perpetuating a more prolonged and chronic pain? A sorry tale that would be!
No, I’ll write about the light in certain people’s eyes, delight in certain people’s turn of phrase, and most of all I’ll write in order to overcome myself, to love the world with all its vices and vicissitudes. I’ll start with:
Today, I bumped into Mr Cakans on my way to the station. He came over to England from Latvia after the War, settled here, married and had two sons. His wife died some ten years ago, and now he lives alone.
Whenever I see him, he is carrying at least one Tesco bag. Today’s bag had contained the groceries he had just delivered to a neighbour:
‘He wanted me to fetch him some sausage and black pudding; he lost his leg – the toes turned black and they had to cut it off at the knee.’
I don’t even know who the neighbour is, but Mr Cakans helped him. He has a way of making suffering part of everyday conversation (Damberauskis’ triple bypass was mentioned in another such quick chat). Death and disease is just another part of life to him; he’s seen it all, and never given up.
Blast from the Past
Have you ever come face to face with an earlier version of yourself, unexpectedly? How did it make you feel? If you could travel back in time and meet that person now, what advice would you give her or him? Feel free to share your thoughts below.