Richard Pierce

Life, Sport

Day 164

It’s late afternoon, I’ve got Test Match Special on, listening to the fourth day of the test match of England against New Zealand. I have to admit that I had been denying myself the pleasure of listening to the cricket, partly because of superstition (England always seem to do badly when I listen, and they’re not doing great right now) and partly because I didn’t want to re-ignite my passion for playing. I watched the highlights yesterday night, to see what was widely reported as a superb innings by Joe Root, and it was. The only problem with seeing a world class player on the top of their game is that they make batting look easy, so easy that we who watch can kid ourselves that we could play that well at our own level. It’s not true, and I have spent this morning reminding myself of that, reminding myself of the mental torture I’d be subjecting myself to again if I did start playing, and reminding myself that I can’t afford any type of injury a week before I go away on holiday. So I’m contenting myself, and not actually feeling impatient or rueful because of that content, with being an enthusiastic and grounded listener and watcher of test cricket. Let’s see what the end of June and the whole of July bring mentally and physically. It’s important for me to be contained and focused. And for me to go on holiday relaxed and level-headed, and excited for two weeks of free time out of my usual surroundings.

Just took a break an ordered a wireless mini-keyboard for my mobile phone so I can write my blogs easily while on hols. I can’t give up writing every day. That would be cheating. I’m not promising extensive blogs, nor a revelation of my whereabouts, but I will be aiming to keep Aggie going at a minimum 500 words a day.

Most of the day, I’ve been thinking about how we miss people when we’re away from them (or they away from us). Covid-19, of course, exaggerated this feeling, because even the possibility of being with people we love disappeared (for most of us). What I always say to those I love is that even when we’re apart we’re together, that there are invisible no-physical bonds that hold us together and bind us to each other, and that those are bonds which can never be broken by anybody or anything, not even death. This is what I believe, not because I have to believe it or need to believe it, but just because I believe it. And I need no empirical scientific proof to underpin this belief. The proof is in my blood and in my mind. That’s it. We are a part of each other.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 118

Martin shrugs, gets in the car.

Aggie puts her massive paw on top of Lilibet’s head gently as she opens the door. ‘Slip over to the other side,’ she whispers. ‘And stay low. I don’t want to risk anything.’ She follows her in, makes sure the woman is crouched down, pulls the door closed as quietly as possibly.

‘You’re over-reacting a little, aren’t you?’ Martin says as he reverses out and looks down at the two women, heads below the bottom of the windows.

‘I don’t think so,’ Aggie says, feels Lilibet trembling next to her. ‘Better safe than sorry.’

Martin says nothing, throws the car into forward gear and pulls away.

Aggie doesn’t look back.

They drive in the dark in silence. The only thing that illuminates the inside of the car are the streetlights. Dark, orange, dark, orange. The lights are slits in the blackness, quivering and slanting across the women’s faces, immersing Martin’s hard face and stubble in occasional light and sharp dark, sometimes speeding, up, sometimes slowing down. The engine is almost inaudible, the sounds muffled by the luxury of the interior. They become less frequent as they leave the city, the car swinging this way and that way, indecipherable patterns of direction, unknown vectors of travel, although Aggie senses they’re heading east. And then the lights stop entirely, and the only light of any kind inside the quiet car is the dimmed glare of the dials on the dashboard and their numbers. Aggie doesn’t want to talk, lets just her eyes wander, first over Lilibet’s taut and frightened face, then over the colourless seat they’re sharing, then through the gap in the seats up to Martin’s face. He is motionless, his eyes fixed on the road. The car lights up now and again as its headlights crash against hedgerows and walls, trees and bushes. Nothing else. Her eyes keep moving, her ears keep straining to hear anything above the sound of the silence. Nothing. And her internal sensor doesn’t indicate anything following her.

Martin’s mouth is a straight tight line set onto his face carelessly by some partially-sighted artist, lop-sided and edges blurring. How many times has he done this? Run late night missions across dangerous territory, for his chosen country, or the country he appears to have chosen, how many times has he ridden shotgun on some mad dash across borders and behind front lines, how many times been stopped and searched, and escaped with his life barely intact? Aggie can’t imagine having lived a life always defined by a lie, to go from day to day harbouring a secret only one other person knows, inventing a new existence so far from the old one that it no longer bears any resemblance to the person from the past life. How many times has he lied and killed, lied and dissembled, pretended not to know or understand? Hoe many times has his courage been tested and either overcome those tests or been found wanting? Aggie left hand involuntarily creeps down to her calf, reassures her that her stiletto is still there, that she has a last line of defence should she need it.

Lilibet has stopped shaking now, is breathing deeply, lying so far down on the seat that her face is almost touching Aggie’s Her breath is hot and sour, although Aggie detects some sweetness in there, something that hints back at some previous happinesses, something that speaks of happiness and freedom and carefree days and love and affection, something that doesn’t seem to have a place here, now, not anymore. Something that is now only a memory and can’t be real, should never have been real. Aggie turns her face away, tilts herself so that she can see Martin’s face again. It’s grimmer than ever, as if it will never move or smile again.

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