An old photograph
The other day, as we were finishing our lunch, he looked up and asked me 'Do you remember where we were when we had our first argument?'
I was instantly transported back to a Sunday afternoon in1955 and Leicester Square, London. I felt my flesh taut on my bones, brushed my hands through my Hiltone blonded Doris Day DA and warmed to the September sun on my face. The bench is warm too where we are sitting as we wait for the afternoon showing of a film we both wanted to see and heard the voices and the light Sunday traffic as a distant hum.
We've been 'going out' for a few months; though it really added up to perhaps less than fifteen of my days off from the Hospital. By the time I had paid for essentials there was little left of my salary for trips home and I seemed to be forever trapped in debt-by the time I had repaid the Paper man for the cigarettes he 'put on tick' for me and the odd half-crown borrowed from someone to replace the holey black nylons I managed to get through as if they were made of cobwebs- I usually only had enough for one trip to Dreamland Ballroom and the first packet of cigs.
I cannot remember if we had three separate trips to London together, or if the 'argument' occurred on the same day that we had to run from Soho, all the way down Regent Street looking for a loo, with me in agony, bursting my bladder; not a romantic scenario at the time. Or was it also the day that we ate at a Chinese restaurant in Soho where I caught the Dysentery that would see me interred in a Hospital for infectious diseases for three months? [The restaurant was closed by the Health authorities shortly after our visit]
Kimo sabe, as we say in this house [this was either a phrase used by the Lone Rangers companion, or the actual name of the Lone Rangers companion] What it means chez nous is 'who can say?'
The argument began as a gentle discussion of fruit,of peaches, which were only just becoming available in Britain as our economy expanded. JP was saying how plentiful they were in the south of France. I said that I loved plums, the large dark juicy Victoria, and pointed out a couple seated next to us who were sharing a bag of them.
'Oh, you mean, Prunes!'
'No, prunes are dried plums.'
'Non, they are pruneaux '
'I think you mean prunus which is the generic term for plums, damsons, greengages etc.,'
I tend to forget that his English is pretty basic; when we first got together he had: yes and no, I'm hungry and, I love you.
'What do you call those round sweet greeny yellow fruits?' I asked.
'Well we call it a Greengage and it too is a member of the family Prunus.'
'No, a pruneau is what you call a plum and what we call a PRUNE!'
Now I'm getting a bit het up. I stand up and I'm afraid I took a stance, very Calamity Jane with hands on hips.
'Well, here in ENGLAND a prune is a dried up wrinkled PLUM.'
'And in FRANCE it is a PRUNEAU!'
I can't believe we are shouting, or why. He is standing now and facing me, mouth tight and eyes blazing. I walk away from him to the edge of the square and look back and see that he is walking in the other direction. I slow down and walk around the edge of the square tears falling as my anger dissipates. He has the train tickets and the money for the cinema. I hate him, arrogant French boy. Head down I bump into him.
'Prune,' he says.
'Plums' say I.
And he holds me and kisses me and all is well with the world.
'Oh yes,' I say. 'I remember it well. And a plum is a plum and a prune.'