On my occasional visits back home, I would make a point of surprising my sisters and my mother by waiting for them in their favourite café. Since this was a regular happening, we would joke about the surprise that wasn’t, really, a surprise, and then talk about things we would do together but, probably, wouldn’t. That was the game – and we played it well for over sixteen years. We would pretend, for instance, that I’d never been away, and then resume the ritual of counting the heads on the up and down escalators, a ziggurat for pilgrims much reduced by searching. On my last visit, I waited in the same spot and tried not to meet the punchdrunk gaze of a stranger quartered by competing mirrors. Soon, I said, my three sisters would be walking towards me, a little slower now, their faces flushed with age, holding on to Mum who was now very old and showing the first signs of what would turn into dementia. And they would walk towards me, their arms full of things bought in the Sale, not caring what was lost along the way or what made them repeat these meetings time and time again.
James Dowling hails from England and teaches English Language and Literature at a university in Seoul, South Korea. Some of his poems were recently published in Eunoia Review.