We’re in the living room. Laptopping.
K is browsing fashion sites and I am doing an obsessive compulsive circuit of my usual haunts; making sure things are alright on the social networks, repeatedly. If you add enough of them to your armoury then by the time you’ve checked them all it can seem worth popping back to the first, in case anything has happened there in the meantime. And then the second…
I emit the odd snort if, for example, something I have done or said or said that I’ve done, and which I consider to be perfectly likeable, has not been liked. Or re-liked. Or sub-twitted. That kind of thing. K says something but I fail to take it in as I search for human interaction on the little screen in front of me.
Not a tweet. I have no private or direct messages. No hopeful, blinking icons, flashing notifications.
I peel my eyes painfully from the web and look up. The long white curtains are billowing – we’ve had a temperature drop and the air is genuinely fresh and a little cool. I’m sitting here in a woolly jumper! Good Irish weather, I told my students today, and they laughed. I’m certainly overdoing it with the jumper, but still.
“Birds. Do they or don’t they?”
“I’m sorry. Do birds what?”
Her exasperation is such that she takes her eyes off overpricedhandbag.com and looks at me.
“You weren’t even listening were you?”
I look right back at her.
“No. I wasn’t.”
Her eyes roll and she takes a breath.
“Do birds have tongues?”
A quiet pause. I take a good long look at her before answering the question.
“Oh”. Her screen pulls her eyes back. For a moment it looks as if she will continue her internet rummage. “How do you know?”
“How do I…how could you not know? Of course they have tongues!”
“Really? I’ve never made a point of looking. Come to think of it, when did you ever look into a bird’s mouth?”
I shift uncomfortably in my seat. I am suddenly, and acutely, aware of my engagement to this person.
“Beak. A bird’s beak. And I’m sure I have. You know, like when people have pet birds and they bite the cage bars and stuff – you can see their little tongues.” I shake my head in disbelief at what I’m saying. “Look, birds have tongues. We’ve settled it. We can move on now.”
“Fair enough. What will we talk about then?”
These words are my warning to step away from the internet. I put the laptop back on the table.
“Ok, what will I post about this week? I’ve got nothing. Except that massive flock of birds that we saw. That was amazing!”
“Oh God no. You know my answer to that question is always going to be me.” She puts her net book down. “Me, and how beautiful I am.”
“I did that. And I do loads about you on an ongoing basis. I can’t do another story about you.”
“You do not do loads about me! You do plenty about all this other rubbish…”
“Oh come on, there was a post all about you and you’re mentioned in nearly every…hang on a second. Rubbish?”
“I see. Maybe we should get out for a while. We’re still in time to get some breakfast and pick some things up in the market.”
Every Saturday morning we go down to Tarifa’s covered market for fish, cold cuts and cheese and then on to the herboristeria for our fruit and veg. It’s a very nice way to shop because it means we’re seeing and chatting to the same faces each week. The veg is all organic and what have you and is absolutely delicious. Sometimes we get to buy a fish that still has a pulse.
The slight increase in cost compared with a trip to the supermarket has further encouraged our efforts to be conscious about how we shop – we try to plan every meal and take great satisfaction in having a more or less empty fridge every Saturday morning. When we take our numbered ticket and wait in line at the cheese shop the conversation tends to revolve around this meal-planning.
“Jesus wept”, yawns K. “Another tortilla. Maybe we could have something else this week honey. What will we have with the fish? We still have that cauliflower and I liked your cauliflower cheese suggestion the other day.”
“Too late. It’s a disconcerting shade of grey. I’ll dump it. Everything you’ve suggested so far today, incidentally, involves raising my cholesterol. Are you trying to kill me? We could have some nice peas and spuds with the fish.”
She pouts and stomps her foot. I’m not kidding.
“Fine! Let’s not have cauliflower cheese and be happy. Let’s have plain peas and potatoes and be sad!”
On this occasion I am victorious although I expect to find myself cooking some cauliflower cheese sometime soon. At home in the afternoon I’m back at the laptop. K is pottering.
“What you up to?” she asks, sitting down across from me. I’m googling the term ‘bird tongues’ but I don’t tell her that.
“So what will your story be about? Me?”
“No, I couldn’t…”
“Nonsense. Have you told them what excellent soup I make?”
The question, as so many of K’s questions do, stuns me. I put a pen to a lip thoughtfully.
“I must admit, you do provide an awful lot of material but, and this is just to be clear, not necessarily in a good way.”
“I know I do” she says, ignoring my clarification, “and you could actually use some of it” she continues, clicking away at unattainablyexpensiveshoes.com, “if you had a memory.”
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