I carry a notepad.
Is that too pretentious?
I carry a notepad. I have lots of them. So many that notes get lost. Sometimes I even carry a pen too. My notepads are legion. there are ratty old spiral-bound ones, measurements, stains, sketches, lists, recipes, stories. Most of my stories never make it out to paper, most never make it out to anywhere, they stay in my head, crumble, decay, and are gone, overwritten, forgotten, fragments of sentences, sometimes whole words and letters, or maybe just a crushed ampersand in the dust. Were it ever to happen that a pathologist scooped out my brain, I'm sure beneath it would be all the leaked words, stories, dreams.
Today, this morning, I had to go out to the phone shop, yet again. That's a saga in itself.
Afterward I found a cafe, sat on a leatherette bench, looking out at the world and at the other customers. Across the cafe, in another bench/table/bench booth, was a young woman with her two small children. She had a laptop open, and was obviously trying to concentrate, as her children swarmed over her.
I was fascinated. They weren't loud raucous kids, they were inquisitive, experimentative, I can't guess the age, maybe two or three, maybe twins? One slightly bigger than the other, girl and boy, the girl slightly bigger. Clean, neat, moderately affluent, the thing that struck me was that there were no boundaries between them, like puppies in a heap, they squeezed into the space between her and the wall, tried to climb over her back behind her neck, and she grabbed the clamberer, hushed and repositioned it, without taking her right hand from the keyboard, nor her eyes from the screen. They clambered over her thighs, played with her hair, tipped over a sippy-cup, tried to poke a straw in her mouth.
At all this, she seemed unperturbed, quietly coping, looking around a curly head as it blew bubbles against her neck.
Nothing they did seemed to faze her. I'm, of course, sitting there with my coffee, yes, coffee, not tea, though tea is my default beverage, and scribbling, drawing, trying to write something completely else, trying to concentrate on a zillion things I need to get done, but which slip through my fingers like greased piglets, not that I've ever actually encountered a greased piglet.
I'm trying to look as though I'm the sort of person who sits in coffee emporia and knows what all the things listed on the menu board are. I'm always totally humiliated when I try to order. Still, unlike the 'barista', a sternly goateed young man, who's probably studying Nietsche, I do know who Starbuck was.
Here's an interesting digression. I always digress, y'know, I'm doing it right now, digressing from my digression. And that's why I'll never ever complete my novel, (apart from the fact that I never started writing it). Where was I?. Oh yes digressing, Starbuck, oh.
The first Hawaiian royalty to visit London. King Kamehameha and Queen Kamamalu. They travelled to London on a whaling ship, captained by Valentine Starbuck.
I don't recall where or when I learned all this stuff, but the sad gist of Kamehameha
's story was that, just like Pocahontas, he died.
The Hawaiians had no defence against measles, and that once-common childhood disease killed their king and queen.
Anyway, Starbuck. I'm not sure if he was the one who Melville based the first mate of the 'Pequod' upon.
Something I didn't know, and just learned, whilst looking up Kamehameha's name's proper spelling, is that the captain of the royal naval vessel tasked to return the bodies of the king and queen to Hawaii, had consulted with Captain Starbuck upon sailing directions, and Starbuck had mentioned an uncharted island and plotted its position. The captain, George Anson Byron, charted the island, in the Kiribati group, and named it "Starbuck Island"
Meanwhile, the small girl makes a grab at mummy's top, pulling at her shirt, and as she grabs, a breast pops out. Pale and rounded, ripe fruit, with dark areola and upright nipple. Mother calmly scoops it back into the briefly revealed pink bra, does that settling jiggle, and... I'm busted. She looks up, catches my eye. I pretend I didn't notice but I'm blushing. More embarassed than she is.
I'm thinking though, of the way the children see no boundary whatsoever between themselves and her, I'm musing on motherhood, and how my own lady's kids are, though much older, forever as much a part of her. How its understood without words that the bond is absolute. They're growing up, starting to fly free, but where it matters, there's no distance between them. You can disagree with them, get mad at them, but they know, when it comes to it, there's always forgiveness, always love, always closeness.
I think of children, how they start, completely part of their mother, how they take over her body and mind as they gestate, how totally reliant they are when born, how that bond is created. They've been part of her body on the inside, then they cling to it to suckle and sleep, how fearful they are when she passes out of sight, how her reappearance is what they need. I'm a man, I have no children, I've no claim to any of this, I'm an observer from the outside.
The woman in the coffee shop.
Maybe she thinks I was ogling her and staring at her boobs.
I was envying her.