We sit in Christ Church meadows by the daffodils, watching a stream of toddlers drawn as if by magnetism to the mound of dirt beside the pathway. One rolls repeatedly down the mound until his father tells him they’re moving on.
“I don’t want to go,” says the boy.
“Well, we’re going, anyhow,” says the father, and scoops up his other son, dissapears behind some trees. Dirtboy takes one last lackluster plunge through the mess, then sprints after his family.
After sandwiches which are too big for our mouths, we share a banana. I practise pouting my lips, the Facebook face, the look that other girls take on when posing for profile photos. I can’t plump them up enough without looking demented, descending into giggles. I give up and we watch more children, attracted by the mound of dirt. We watch the toddlers who have just learnt to walk careening down the path, thrilled by their own movements, unsteady but unwavering in gusto and intent. The Man says maybe I’m a little like that, too.
“I get the impression,” he says, “that at the age of about four, you decided you’d mastered all the basics, and from then on out you were just going to read.”
It’s more or less true, I say back. (Later, walking down the flat surface of the High street, I trip spontaneously. More true than less true, I think).
At the kissing gate by Merton college he traps me, kisses me sweetly.
“Is that because no one can see us?” I say.
“It’s because it’s a kissing gate, you moron,” he says. Kisses me again.
After we circle the city with our footsteps we come to settle at a bar on the High street where we sit close to the window, watching pink blossoms shuddering in wind. He reads the paper while I attack Essays in Love. There’s the strange sadness of a Sunday as the afternoon wilts into evening, as we move away from weekend papers, ipmromptu picnics in the garden, towards alarm clocks, early morning stresses, hours spent at work.
I look up every so often to make a different point about de Botton’s book. At the reference to Aristophanes, I balk.
“I find the idea that we’re all looking for someone who was once a part of ourselves really lonely,” I say. “Like, I want the person I love to be different. I want company.”
“I’m not sure that’s what that means,” he says. Whether he’s right or not I don’t know, but it highlights how differently we can read things. “It’s just about completion.”
A huge clock hangs from the cieling of the bar. It makes me feel both unwelcome and excessively desirous of staying all at the same time. The same way that being in a train station makes me feel. I know I’m in transition, but I could stay for hours, I think, watching everyone else, going somewhere else. Rhythms marked by a minute hand (is it coincidence, then, that the Man tells me this bar used to be a music store?).
Later, I finish Essays in Love in bed. I have read the entire book in a day and feel heavy with de Botton’s relationship woes. Sleep comes easy, and when it comes, it is quiet.