Back to back in the kitchen, where the floorspace is the width of my outspread arms. I am washing pots. He is stirring a pot of soup. Our eyes are fixed on our respective tasks. “More washing up,” I say. “It’s endless.” He sighs in agreement.
Today is a long day. Cleaning, tidying, putting away the summer things to make way for the winter ones. My clothes are old, I think, before shooing away such frivolous complaints. At some point I swear at full volume after finding yet another piece of paper brought to the flat by Ben, the man who can throw nothing away.
That was earlier in the day, while Ben and Rosie were out. I don’t think I saw him this morning. He woke without my noticing – at the last minute, as always – and left with Rosie within an hour. When they returned, I had only just sat down to do some of my own work.
While Ben eats, I cut Rosie’s hair. While she showers, I iron her school uniforms and Ben stews some beef. Eventually, we all end up in the tiny kitchen, me cooking quickly then washing up, Ben checking a large pot of guinea fowl soup he has just made. We are like a family. We are busy, domestic. We even chat occasionally.
But we avoid eye contact at all times. It’s a complex piece of contemporary dance – a feat of Cunningham or Graham technique. Although we move with all the grace of husband and wife, we cannot bring ourselves to look at one another.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: An eye can threaten like a loaded gun; or can insult like a hissing and kicking; or in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, make the heart dance with joy.
I remember all of these things. How we held the other’s gaze like a breath. How we joked wordlessly. How we read each other like soothsayers. How we conveyed our trust and later, our disappointment.
Now? There are no words of consequence nor are there glances. We had all of those things, and now the easiest thing to do is look away.