Blackberries

The lease on this house is up tomorrow. The Duchess, with her father, leaves around eight. Most of the house is burnished, shining, ready for inspection. The kitchen and the hallways need a quick going-over; I’ll cover it tomorrow morning. I head out shortly after she leaves, for a house viewing–I need a new place to stay for next year.

Halfway down Marston Road, something pokes at eye height out of the pavement-side hedge. Out of instinct and habit, I duck, swerve my head aside to miss it, carry on. I’m nearly past the thing altogether before I realize what it is: it’s a blackberry vine. There are blackberry vines at home, in Virginia. They will be ripening in our top field now. We used to go out and pick them on stifling August days, armored in long-sleeved clothing to fend off the thorns and the iridescent, buzzing junebugs, sweating and swearing and getting pricked, sticky with blood and juice, with the brittle dry grass scraping up to our thighs.

At the same moment as I recognize the vine, the hedge breaks, there’s a field beyond it, and I can smell newly mown grass. In the field in front of some apartment buildings, a bunch of kids are playing kickaround with what I grew up calling a soccer ball. It is a football here. I turn up Jack Straw’s Lane; a new song comes through my earbuds, and suddenly my chest fills and tightens with something: longing, sadness, hope, something else I don’t know the name for.

The viewing at the potential new house is very good: the house is big, there is a garden, the people who live there are friendly and pleasant. I want them to like me. They’re interviewing ten other people, they say. I don’t want to sound desperate, but I reiterate again that their house is my first choice. I ask them to let me know when they decide. They give me a mug of tea. They assure me that they will be in touch.

My legs ache in the night air. It feels as though I have been walking for a very long time.

On the way back, I keep noticing things. The large lawn and yellow lights in the welcoming windows of number 20, Jack Straw’s Lane again. There are halos around the streetlamps, like chemical fog. The hazy moon, slipping behind a rag of cloud. A little girl in salwar kameez, skipping ahead of her mother. When she is nearly a block ahead, the mother breaks into a run, not wanting to let her get too far away.

I want to put these things together. I am a meaning-maker. I need things to be thematically coherent. There must be a reason all of these separate observations make such a difference to me tonight. There must be a thread that connects. I cannot find one.

When I get back to the house on St Clement’s, it is dark. The kitchen light is off. I turn it on. I sit at the table. The kitchen is stark, the countertops bare, the cupboards empty. The fridge and freezer, defrosting, gape hungrily at me. I take my laptop. I keep the music on. No amount of coffee, no amount of crying/No amount of whiskey, no amount of wine…Nothing else will do/I’ve gotta have you.

I write. I write this. I write until I can see clearly. I write until I can breathe easily again. I write until the taste of blackberries leaves my mouth.