19: Curtain – Rustling

It is the early summer of 1964, and I am sev­en. I am in my grandparents’ back garden very early in the morning, and the warming sun is bear­ing down on the little bit of paving that my grand­fa­ther has put down by the French doors to the living-room, joining it to the wide concrete path that leads away from the kitchen door to make a patio that extends across the entire width of the house. I am kneeling at a little table that someone has placed in the centre of the paving, upon which are scattered a variety of pens and pen­cils, together with a few sheets of paper. My grand­mother has already this year been distressed by flies and wasps coming into her kitchen, so my grandfather has fitted a cheap fly screen at the back door, the sort with multi-coloured plastic strips that extend over the full height of the door frame, and as my moth­er steps in and out of the kitchen, attending to her chores, the plastic strips, as she passes through them, make a loud and distinc­tive rustling sound.

For some months I have been enduring the most unpleasant tension headaches – a symptom of my overall existential condition that will never leave me in peace – and my mother, just a few moments ago, arrived at her diagnosis: my head­aches are caused by the weather.

Oh dear! What a calamity … caused by the weather? I took this to mean that the wonderful summer weather that was now upon us, the very weather that I loved and even craved, was the agent of my suffering. Throughout my entire life, I have hoped for and wanted, and loved and lived through wonderful, long, warm, quiet summer days that for me are the only oases I have ever known, fragile and fleeting and already full of the sadness of their ending. But now I learn that my favourite thing in all the world is causing my terri­ble headaches, and I am so upset by this news that I cannot hold back my tears. The more I enjoy the warmth of the sun on my back, the worse my head­ache will get, and I knew at that moment the true depths of despair.

Of course, what my mother had told me was ut­ter tosh, and there was no connection between my headaches and the weather. My headaches come and go according to their own agenda, even on cold days in the depths of winter, perhaps even more so at such times, when one’s jaw clenches tight against the chill, and the muscles of one’s neck and shoulders harden like setting concrete.

Some people, some cruel and heartless people lacking any sort of interior life, ridicule and con­demn nostalgia. My long gone summer days re­main the only treasure that I ever really cared about. Take from me what you please, my posses­sions, my health, my sanity, but do not take my wonderful summer days.

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