I had one of the lunches with my mother and step-sister yesterday. I always have mixed feelings before I go as I know I'll end up on the outside looking in, with that sensation of being on the wrong train and not realising until I trundle past the right one, still parked by the platform.
It's like that when we're all together. I am there, on one side, and somehow my mother and step-sister are on the other. Their conversations swirl and eddy and I sit, wondering if I should participate or just let them get on with it (as usual).
It's strange how this feeling of isolation can happen so frequently when you're with your nearest and dearest, surrounded by people who would literally drop everything to rush to your side if you needed them. It's kind of like a stupid joke where the reality is they are faithful, loyal family but the everyday logic tells you they are also separate.
I listened to the conversation, waiting for cues to join in and trying to keep my face animated for when their gazes scanned across the table to include me. This didn't last long as I happened to notice a strange shade in my step-sister's hair colour and spent most of my time trying to figure out if it was a bad dye job or she had started to go grey.
My eye could not leave that patch of colour alone. Every chance I got I was staring at it, then tracing it back to her parting to see if it joined up with any grey there. And, like the eye of Sauron, her gaze swiveled round just as I was getting a good look and I'd have to flinch away and find a fascinating point behind her. No wonder people avoid me.
I was then left with staring out of the window or at the old woman at the other table. Luckily, the old woman wasn't as observant as my step-sister but she wasn't as interesting either. Finally, as a desperate attempt to distract myself I offered my own piece of conversation.
You know, it wasn't a dull piece either. I regaled them with my Thursday schedule (it was more exciting than it sounds), adding the funny parts where I'll be falling asleep by the end of the day. I swear, readers, I swear I got the Polite Moment of Listening before they turned back to the turgid tale that had hogged lunch for most of our visit.
I sighed, had one last look at my step-sister's hair and then took out my phone and went onto Facebook. I know it's rude to go online while you're meant to be socialising and even worse to message people in the middle of lunch with your relatives. I considered this rudeness almost as briefly as they had given me the Polite Moment of Listening, then I put it aside.
There comes a time in life when you don't feel compelled to sit and suffer like before. The advent of mobile tech at least means we have an escape from these times and it really does save you from making your own entertainment by staring at things you shouldn't or derailing the conversation just because you're bored.
It wasn't long before I had to go and we all parted amicably. I came away with a smile on my face as I'd enjoyed those ten minutes on the phone. I'll go again, of course, and it will most likely end up on here for whatever reason. But the next time I'll take the phone out sooner and save us all the embarrassment of me staring at the ceiling, right quick, as if I wasn't looking at anything else at all.
And I'm pretty certain it was a bad dye job after all.
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