Saturday, 12 September 2009
I smell something and stop. Hang around the fruit and veg stall. Finger the yellow courgettes. The tiny plum tomatoes. So red. There is an abundance. A man with tatoos on the hanging flesh of his arms, with his shirt sleeves rolled up past the elbows sits beside the stall. The leg ends just before the fold of the knee so that infact there is no fold. Rather this parcellng off of the limb with the skin scrunched together like the twisted top of a well filled paper bag. It is honestly done. His muscles are firm above the knee. He is checking responses all the time, his face twitching , criss-crossing the flow of people that need to walk around veering out into the road because his wheelchair though well-back against the outside white wall of the building, faces another man at eye-level, also in a wheelchair. Sunlight glints off the highly polished metal surfaces of both sets of chairs which are now angled directly in the line of that sun. A woman stands behind the back of this man where she would need to be to push the chair. Seeing that this is not going to happen because the two men are deeply engaged now in conversation, she heads into the flower shop next door. All this I see from across the road as I wait propped up in the shelter on one of those red plastic ledge runners that are never too large to accomodate you for long. Across that road as the people begin to gather and spill on to either side of the glass panelled bus shelter, I can still smell distinctly that smell. I am led with my eyes to the back end of a lorry where the pull-down syncopated door has been run up as far as it will go. A man in blue overalls stands in the road and reaches into a box by the side of the open ended lorry and pulls out, handfulls at a time, tufts of fresh mint which he bunches tightly in the hollow of one hand gripping together his fingers around the stuff so that even from here, his white nuckles show, then trimming the endings which potrude out from the bottom of his hand before rapidly twisting and winding a length of dark string around that bundle, brushing over with the flat of his hand the top leaves as if to shake free any detritus and spread out more fully the leaves selected then placing the new bunch in a seperate box beside the one where the loose foliage is being drawn. Down on the tarmac of the road under and around his heavy dark shoes there are filaments of leaf, odd twiggy remains; a heap of stuff of no more use to him. The two men in wheelchairs continue to talk, the one with his back to the wall scanning still the passing crowds as he sits with his tatoos in the autummn sun. I am scanning too from over the other side of the road and at one point our eyes match, pause in that way, and then continue. I glance up. There is a man with thick grey hair sitting at a table on a chair beside a window which has no glass in it. In the next room men are moving around. That window in the next room is also just a hole in the wall. The walls are not white. They are peach coloured; the colour of wet plaster. The woman from behind the wheelchair who went into the flower shop comes out with what looks like a card in a brown paper envelope. She hands it to the man in the chair whose back is to the road. The bus comes. I get on and find a seat by the window. I will be going backwards. I smell engine oil. Further along I see an old woman with her head out of a top floor window eating a piece of fruit, letting the juice fall directly onto the pavement below. In Trafalgar square there are many people having their photos taken around the fountains. Whole families who each take turns to exit the portrait and take a photo of the remaining group who rearange and subtly adjust expressions each time. A large woman with a small sleeping baby passes the baby to her husband who props it up on the end of the runner to the side of the steps leading up from the main square. Enfolding himself around the stationery figure of the sleeping baby he smiles.