by Mimi Kunz
‹Don’t forget to buy flowers,› Martha says, and pours herself a cup of coffee.
‹Flowers?› Clyde raises his eyebrows, looking at her with the same expression he wore twenty years ago. Back then they had spent the night in his car in the rain and Martha had told him she loved him, just like that. He had looked at her then and asked ‹Forever?›
She had pulled down the window, laughing – ‹Yes!› – and let her hand dance in the rain.
Clyde watches her add milk to her coffee. When she puts the carton back into the fridge he pulls the shopping list from its door. He takes the last sip of his coffee, lowers the cup into the sink and whistles like he always does while putting on his coat and getting ready to leave. They have lived in this house in Clydebank for almost ten years now – ever since he got the post at Glasgow University. Martha had fallen in love with the name of the town and not rested until she had found a job here. She walks to work in the mornings – leaving Clyde the car to drive into Glasgow. On the way to the parking he unfolds the shopping list
Times Lit Supp
Flour, not flowers. Smiling, he pushes the paper back into his pocket. He knows she has been waiting for this day.
On a September day like this, 21 years ago, they had met. Both of them were students – dancing and drunk at a party in Glasgow. She had looked, and sounded like, a Londoner.
‹So you’re English?› he had asked, trying to hide his excitement in a smooth voice.
‹For now …› She had smiled. Her parents were from Lublin/Poland and she was born in London. She wanted to become Scottish as soon as the country got independent. ‹Their national animal is a unicorn.› she had said, and it had sounded like an explanation, an answer to everything, the Amen in church. He had leaned over to kiss her. He couldn’t help it. ‹Would you sleep with an Irishman?›
She had fallen pregnant that night. It had been an accident, a complete surprise, and yet she had dealt with it as if it was all part of a plan. ‹If it’s a boy he’ll be called Finn. And if it’s a girl … how about Rhona?› she had asked while cutting open her shirts to make room for her growing belly. She had never asked ‹Will we marry or not?› ‹Will you stay with me?› She had worn his jumpers, and he carried her belongings into his flat. It did not seem to matter what could or would happen – he wanted to be with her, to learn everything about her.
Rhona was born on the 12th of June in 1994 – on the day of the European Elections when Labour won six out of Scotland’s eight seats in Parliament. She is twenty years old now and has moved out to study in Dundee. Like all of them she has given her vote in the referendum yesterday, answering the question ‹Should Scotland be an Independent country? Yes or No.›
Clyde takes the A 82, and switches on the radio. In Dundee as well as in Glasgow they have won. In most regions though, the ‹No›-votes outnumber the ‹Yes›-votes, if only by inches ; the unionists have succeeded.
After work Clyde drives to a Coop. He buys flowers, too – despite everything or maybe because of it. While he drops the shopping in the trunk and gets into his car it starts to rain. Phil Collins, he thinks, and scrambles through the glove compartment in search of the CD. Yes, definitively. Clyde hums uh yeah, I wish it would rain, rain down on me, glancing at the cover. But the engine is dead. Clyde leans back, stretching his arms out in front of him. Four petrol stations are near – each of them two kilometres from here. Grinning at the absurd symmetry of his location he contemplates the thundering sky through his windshield.
A woman gets into the car next to his. ‹After you!› she mimes. When he lifts his hands and, grimacing, shakes his head, she opens her window. She is leaving for New York in the evening. His address is on the way to the airport. With the shopping bag on his lap Clyde sinks into the passenger seat.
Martha does not try to finish her tasks fast. Disappointment slows her down. All the excitement she felt during the past few days is replaced by tiredness. It is Friday, and the whole weeks work has been put off and aside. Today ought to have been the birthday of a new country, and she, a Scotto-be, would have been fueled with energy. The happy prospect of soon living in a missile-free and EU-friendly NATO-nation had made her believe she could finish any load of work this week. If Scotland had become Labourland, preserving peace and the environment, offering education to the young and care for the elderly … A sigh escapes her. It did not happen and she cannot concentrate any longer. Martha collects her papers. She might look them through tonight, after dinner. Or maybe she’ll call it a day, prepare her cake this evening and get a few hours of work in tomorrow morning. Never mind week-ends – she wants a free evening. She could help Clyde with dinner; open a bottle of wine, put on some music …
… is playing as Martha enters the house. She steps through the corridor and into the kitchen, humming. A full shopping bag sits on the table, a bunch of lilies on top. Martha smiles, puts the flowers into water and slips out of her shoes. Maybe Clyde is taking a bath. She goes up the stairs, opening her blouse and pulling the ribbon out of her hair. On the top-most step she stops. The bathroom is empty. The door to Rhona’s old room is open, too – they have transformed it into a library/office now – and Clyde isn’t in there either. Martha pictures herself spreading her work over the bigdesk – but no, not now. Later. The bedroom door is shut. Clyde is taking a nap. Martha turns around. She will wake him up once she has washed the salad. With the thought of pouring herself a drink she makes her way down the stairs. Her left foot is in the air when she hears him and the voice answering his moans. Martha pulls her foot back onto the step. The sounds dance around her. They enter her, coming again and again, slow and menacing, like thunder after lightening. Martha retraces her steps down the staircase, towards the music that comes from the living room, through the kitchen and into the hall. She opens the bottom drawer of the wardrobe and pulls out a box, careful not to make a sound. There are batteries, an alarm clock, candles and countless little things that were never needed or thrown. Martha fishes the bedroom key out of a flower pot, replaces the box in the wardrobe, and tiptoes back upstairs.
Clyde gets up, brushing his hair and face with his fingers. He looks at the driver who turns towards him, sitting up. ‹When’s your wife back?› she asks and licks his penis as if to savour the last drops of sperm.
‹At eight,› he says, listening for a sound from the street. He frowns, feels himself growing hard again and, for a moment, tries to fight off the erection. She is very wet, sitting on top of him; her heavy breasts caress his skin.
Martha covers her mouth with her hand as if to hide a scream. She is in the corridor, thinking. When she steps into the kitchen to get her bag she spots another handbag lying on the sofa in the living room. Next to it, as if dropped in a hurry, are car keys … They went upstairs straight away. Without offering drinks he had led her to bed. They had kissed and she had touched him, for the first time. He had entered her and she had moaned with pleasure, her hands in his hair …
Martha leaves the house, closing the door gently. She walks along the street, directing the keys at every car on the way, until, finally, a mustard colored Ford Focus blinks. This is it. Martha places her handbag on the passenger seat, starts the engine, and switches on the headlights.
It is getting dark outside. Clyde pulls himself off the driver after having come a second time.
‹You’d better …› he says.
‹Yeah,› she sighs. ‹Where’s the bathroom?›
‹First one on the left.›
She gets up, glistening with sweat, and approaches the door. ‹You’re protective!› ‹What?›
‹Where’s the key?›
‹I don’t know. We never lock the doors.›
‹But it is locked,› She turns and pushes back her hair. ‹That’s not funny, you know? I’ve got to be on this plane tonight!›
Clyde shakes his head. He shakes his head without seeing the woman or the room they are in. Slowly he gets up, opens the window and stares into the night. He almost cried.
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