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  • Writer's picturematilde tomat

on not showing up

A week before my birthday, I organised a meal / drinks in a little restaurant in the city centre. Now, this sentence in itself needs to be unpacked. When I write "a week before my birthday" I mean that week in October 2001. And I don't even remember what year specifically, but it must have been around that time. In the end, what difference does it make to you? When I wrote "meal / drinks" I really read "slash" in my mind and maybe this is the whole point of it. It would have been lovely if it were for a whole meal, but if he wanted to come just for drinks, it was fine... (it wasn't). And, finally, when I write "city centre" I mean Udine, in the North East of Italy.

I don't remember much about that evening. Which restaurant was it? Why am I picturing that old raised car park in front of the Hotel Astoria? I know I wasn't driving, then, so someone must have brought me there and then back home to a husband who was oblivious to everything.

There is something else I do remember and I am not sure why I clung to those for so long. I remember buying a new skirt, a top (both of a delicate champagne colour, silk and lace) and a woollen long black cardigan. I never wore the skirt and top, ever, again. It has been folded in light rice paper as a memento of an elegant evening which would have never happened again and stored away somewhere where only I could find and cry over it. As per the woollen black cardigan, that has been worn and worn and worn again, repeatedly. At times because it looked elegant, others because it reminded me of the perfect funeral attire to celebrate the death of something which was never born. Lately, it has been worn because it is comfortable.

What hit me today, for some reason, is that when I moved here I brought them with me. I had the choice of one single suitcase, to be packed quickly with only the essentials and still, I brought them and a ginger grater in thin pale white ceramic with me. Why, o why?

It has been 14 years now, since that quick suitcase, and I still have those mementoes with me, a skirt and a shirt which I could not wear even if I wanted to because of pork pies, sausages and crisps and double chocolate slabs padding my thighs (thank you, menopause). Plus, that delicate champaign colour would not fit on my excruciatingly pale new persona. And I don't think I ever wore anything so ephemeral and elegant in years. I wouldn't know where to go.

Still, they are with me. I wear the black cardigan to sit at my desk and write, most of the time. Its original softness has been replaced by a hardness I recognise in my put-downs and eye-rolling. Its black has turned into a dark gun-powder anthracite grey which is neither here nor there. The cats love it, though. So, if I am not wearing it, someone is sleeping on it.

At times, still, I would look outside of the window, in the direction of the train station, wondering if ever... you know... if one day, ever, just by chance and some 2,000 km away and some 20-something years later, he would just show up. For dinner.

(c) 2022 mtomat

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