Roy burrowed randomly among the archive boxes, hoping for sensational finds. None emerged. Dust hung in the living room air. Roy made a sandwich, switched on the Tour and vegetated as the riders strove: a dozen raced ahead, attacks on Wiggo were predicted, his team led the peloton, the action seeped into Roy’s senses like muzak; extreme exertion as wallpaper.
Roy found a photograph: Don, Gwen, Kristie’s parents Daphne and Azim, and the manager of an Indian restaurant in Marylebone. The restaurant was Don and Gwen’s regular haunt, the place they retired to after a day’s shopping in the West End. Don was shaking the manager’s hand, wearing a big grin. Everyone was grinning, including the manager. Don always called the manager Abdul, even though Abdul wasn’t the manager’s name. This fact had never registered with Don, and the manager had never seemed to mind.
Roy remembered the occasion. He had been behind the camera, Kristie at his side, an engagement ring glistening on the third finger of her left hand. It was the first time their respective parents had met. The location had been Don’s idea, believing that Azim would feel at home among the tastes of Bombay despite never having been there and growing up a whole ocean away. Roy had been present when Gwen had pointed out that, in that case, Daphne, who came from Leeds, might prefer English food, but Don had seemed not to hear.
The evening had gone well, with Don telling Azim about being posted to Burma during the war (something he’d never mentioned before) and Azim firmly agreeing with him that without a system of government based on Britain’s Malaysia would be a complete mess. Azim had outlined his plan to extend his mini-supermarket empire from two outlets to four (late opening was the key).
When the bill arrived they’d tussled with amiable loudness over which of them should pay. Gwen and Daphne spent much of the evening fondly agreeing about how boring and foolish their husbands were. Roy and Kristie had held hands under the table, offering in the odd opinion about crockery (Kristie) and golf (Roy), exchanging knowing glances now and then.
These memories transported Roy into a melancholy place where happiness had somehow fallen into shadows of regret for things he couldn’t put his finger on. On the wide, wide Panasonic cyclists raced down from the mountain and Roy found himself unable to think or move until Wiggo had crossed the line, yellow jersey guaranteed for the next day. There was comfort in this, a vicarious satisfaction in someone else’s job well done, which allowed Roy to cook a three-egg cheese omelette accompanied by baked beans and oven chips and eat at the garden table as dark clouds scudded overhead.
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