He’d taken a number. It had been a moment before he realized he needed to in order to be in line. And as he waited for his turn, he wondered what words best describe the color of fire. Would you use yellow or red? Orange? Blue? He had clapped eyes on a postcard with a picture of a volcanic eruption on the sales stand at the door to the post office, and though it was a color photograph, he couldn’t decide what colors it showed; moreover, the eruption on the postcard brought other images of fire to mind. Or other metaphors. “Thirty-five,” called a sales clerk. “Thirty-six,” the other clerk called. But he was not number thirty-five or six. I’m thirty-five years old, he thinks, but it’s not yet my turn. “Thirty-six?” the woman called again. “No-one is number thirty-six?” A little period of silence. “Thirty-seven?” Is there no number thirty-seven? he thinks. The black woman standing behind him gives herself up. She’s wearing a crisp, white, long dress, and he can imagine it will take on a different image once she goes out in the rain later; the shape will cling to the woman, making her outline clearer. From the back, he judges she is about thirty. When she turns around and beckons with her index finger, for a moment he thinks she’s gesturing to him, but it soon becomes apparent that she’s addressing her child, a girl he guesses is six or seven. A young mother, he thinks. She will be forty years old when her daughter is fully grown. It must have significantly different effects on the personality of a child, he muses, to grow up with parents who are just under fifty when they give birth to a child compared, say, to growing up with people who are in their twenties. Worse, he expects, especially for an only child. To spend the first years of your life, and indeed all the years to date, as is his own case, in the home or, rather, the house of a man and a woman who are in no way prepared for having a child: that must mold the child in a rather decisive fashion. Not just must: does so, in reality. He is still thinking about himself. This young, dark-complexioned girl is not forced to listen to 19th century violin sonatas over breakfast, he thinks. But how has that affected him? It is the nature of progeny to disturb existing forms, assuming the parents have some form or pattern to which they are trying to hold. What’s more, in their eyes, it takes the child too long to develop into a comprehensive image with fixed form, he thinks, never mind a frame around the picture.



I think. G. thinks. The one I call G., because his name displeases him, and always has. The one who is constantly thinking about form and shape.



I’m still waiting for number 41 to be called up. I’ve finished looking at the postcards on the stand across from the white cardboard boxes on the wall shelves to the left. They are different sizes, but together they form a very beautiful whole, a family of five boxes, each placed inside the other, the smallest into the next smallest, and so on. The dark-skinned mother and daughter have completed their errand, and leave the room. I follow them with my eyes. But when I turn back towards the clerks, I notice a man I know, or rather I know who he is. He stands a little way inside the room, near the counter, somewhat obstructed by an elderly woman. Strange to see this man here, I think. But what is so strange about it? He’s my contemporary, and although he for his part has no idea who I am, or shouldn’t have, I can say that I know who he is all too well. More than once, more than twice, I’ve wished this particular individual did not exist. Or, at least, did not exist in the same space as me, at the same time, with the same people. Of course, this was very foolish thinking, and it was a while ago now. Back then, I even devised strategies to get this man out of the way, get him removed in some manner, although the implementation of my plans never got beyond the idea stage. But here he is, as I said. I have not seen him for a while. And I have also not been contemplating him for long in the post office when his phone rings. Apparently a busy man. The ring on his cell phone can hardly be called a ring; it is more like some kind of music, music with an obtrusive beat. As soon as he starts talking into the phone, he realizes it’s his turn. As he walks up to the counter, still with the phone to his ear, I’m aware again of his peculiar gait, which I’d perpetually allowed to get on my nerves, time and again, because of the decided self-confidence it implied.



Perpetually. Decided. That’s how G. phrases it. How he thinks. But it’s unthinkable that this man, who has now surfaced here, all of a sudden, in the post office, has had such words pass through his head. Decided and perpetually. How did the line in the poem go? In my distastes above all I have elegant tastes.