and lime trees, and the tarmac looked harder than it did in the summer, like a crust you could fall on and really hurt yourself. But in my kitchen the heat rose from a radiator, up my legs and to my stomach, and the radiator too I had painted red. But really it was too late. It suddenly struck me. That it might be too late. She should have come earlier, or I should have taken the Underground to the house with the thin cardboard walls you could kick a hole in so your foot would crash into your neighbour’s living room, and I realised that she too knew it, thatit might be too late, and she knew that I knew, but as long as we didn’t talk about it and ate our Napoleon cakes, we could keep that knowledge at bay. Nor had she come to apologise, she had come because I was her son. That’s how it was. She had come because she was a mother . And yet it was too late. Something was broken, a wire had been stretched too taut and had started to fray and it snapped with a crack you could hear between the walls. And I knew she heard it as well as I did.
But the ball was in my court, and there it could not stay. So as a joke, and to inject a little humour into the shiny red kitchen, I said:
‘So did he kick you out, the foreman at Freia?’ and I smiled because I did not think such a thing could really happen.
‘No,’ she said. ‘ I kicked him.’
‘You kicked him?’
‘Yes, on the shin. Quite hard, actually, and then I left. For good.’
‘But you can’t just walk out on a job like that? There are rules, aren’t there? You must have been there ten years, you’ll lose all your rights.’
‘Frankly, I don’t give a shit about that, if you pardon a mother such an expression,’ and I guess I could excuse an expression like that, but I knew that my father would never have done such a thing, nor would I, even though I was the one who had thrown it all away and left a college where I learned the things I had always wanted to learn, and was now an industrial worker, like she was, and my father was, but they, of course, because they had to.
‘So what are you doing now? I mean, have you got yourself another job?’
‘I’m a maid at Park Hotel,’ she said harshly, and looked me in the eye with a defiant stare, as though I was someone who might be condescending about that kind of job, but I did not even know what a maid was, and said so, and then she said:
‘I hoover rooms, make beds, clean toilets and so on,’ she said, and I who had not spent a single night in a hotel in my entire life, understood that what she did at the Park Hotel was the same as she had done in the flat on Veitvet and always had done and always hated, and that is what I said, I said:
‘But Mother, you’ve always hated that kind of work,’ and she said:
‘That’s true, but now I don’t really mind. Now I’m paid for it, and that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?’ And, of course, there was a difference.
And so there we sat, she and I, on either side of the table in the kitchen with the red painted windowsills, eating Napoleon cakes, with a view of Finnmarkgata and Ola Narr and nothing more, right between the Munch Museum and Carl Berners Plass, and the room fell silent, we said nothing, nor did we look at each other, and I started to think about all the films we had seen together, on TV in black and white, or at Sinsen Kino, at Grorud Kino, at Ringen Kino, right up the street from where my flat was, and an evening ten years ago came to mind, when we had gone to the Colosseum Kino in Majorstua in Oslo, just she and I, to see the film Grand Prix with Yves Montand andJames Garner starring as the two racing drivers. We had dressed up for the occasion, she in a blue dress with yellow flowers, I in my grey Beatles jacket, without a collar, but trimmed with narrow black ribbon all the way around, and early into the film I was already a big fan of Yves Montand. He was firm and determined behind his wheel, but he had something more, something
Louis - Sackett's 19 L'amour