Circumnavigation

Friday June 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

The boy totters, fumbles and sings his way around the shuttered yard. One side is bathed in sharply angled sunlight, the other densely shadowed under the sloping porch roof. So sheltered, that the plastic garden furniture – jade, and room only for a table and two narrow chairs – is cold against his skin, sitting here in his shirtsleeves. Cilla brings out their drinks on a tray, dragging closed the curtained patio door behind her.
     – It would be better really if there were grass for him to run about on, she says. She sits diffidently, knees together, hands flat against her thighs as she does through all of their encounters.
     – Yes, he says. Leaving unsaid that their marital home had a thick lawn, and all the room to run into he could wish for. He stoops to pick up a rubber ball that has run against his foot, handing it back to the child.
     – And how have you been? he says.
     
On the drive back into the city he takes the old airport road. Under the terms of the ceasefire, and the subsequent settlement, the airport was closed indefinitely. The only flights in or out of this capital city were the pale United Nations transports which landed at a smaller strip, beyond the city limits. But he liked to drive past its vacant spaces, its redundant presence. 
     Today the airport was washed out in the thick spring sunshine, its squat terminals, and abandoned hangars blanched and from this distance, bleeding into the watery sky. What disturbed the landscape was its vast quietness. At his closest, he feels he could wind down window and trail his fingers along the chain-link fencing that hooks around its perimeter, beyond it the empty runways, baking in the sun today.
     He slows the car down to a crawl. In the rough, before the fence, the tall grass furrows on the wind that is sweeping over the opened spaces, and there is the smell of bright tarmac.
    
Later, the city grows around him suddenly, narrowing and tightening as he approaches the centre. Joining lane and after lane of dense traffic he thinks of Cilla making this journey, driving their son into the town. When he left this morning the boy was inside, drawing with his crayons in front of the TV.  Theirs is the basement flat, below street level, and the room was dark, the flat light from the silent set flickering along the walls.
     He leaves through the back gate that opens out onto the street from the yard – a narrow back-road between the houses, lined by gutters on either side. Above them while they talk, a tangle of satellite dishes and aerials, like stick insects clinging to the side of the tall buildings, and an insistent buzzing sound, like static, that isn’t entirely like the sound of the heat cooling in the brick work.
     He thinks of her leading the boy out of the same gate, across the narrow lane, to the small car he pays half the insurance on, parked nearby. By a stop sign, in the doorway of a disused shop, two soldiers stand blankly to attention, momentarily shadowed as a cloud passes over and the street sinks into darkness and back again.

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