is doing its best but as the weather swings from one thing to another and in my view spring is still on a day/off a day, I thought I might look for a plant. But the bus was crammed with bodies in every variant of group, every window was closed and when I got off near the place I go to for citrus and nothing else, I took one look at people spilt all around as if from a packet, contagiously posing, and thought buy and go home and forget it, you’re no good with plants, you’ll get the wrong thing, it will die … etc. I really don’t have very green fingers. So I bought the only other thing I had to have and got the bus back. And sat down beside a young woman in a black and white checked coat with the darkest skin I can recall seeing. And I began thinking about how I could describe it.
Black as night, we say. But the night is rarely black and rarely dark, disturbed by all sorts of artificial light. An African night perhaps,
which appears suddenly on the end of sunset ? I haven’t seen that for a long time but I remember it well. Black as pitch? Possibly, don’t know a lot about pitch. Ivory black in the water colour box ? Not enough depth. Ebony ? No, all sorts of shadows and shades in the wood. I looked up black on the internet, not that I rely on that machine, I’ll tell you. And there are variants, some confusing – for example, taupe. I’d have said taupe was a completely different colour but a taupe is a mole and a black mole’s coat is a soft. shining and particular black. I don’t think charcoal is black at all, unless you lean on it.
I examined the young woman out of the corner of my eye. Her eyes were closed and you could hardly see the beautifully drawn eye line, fashionably exaggerated.
Nothing to do with bronze or copper or brown, she had equally dark hair, cropped to a wonderful head. She wore enormous faceted gilt hoop earrings, a couple of vaguely Scandinavian sculptural rings. She carried a Chanel bag, true or false, I wouldn’t know, held in hands manicured with medium length dark brown tinseled nails. There was not the slightest inclination towards me, so I left her alone.
My mind pulled up a picture from a time long predating the commercial manufacture of much makeup, when I had watched a hand strike a big old fashioned match, burn it for a minute or two over a saucer, blow it out and collect the soot, which was blended with a drop of some unguent to make an eyeline. That was the black, deep, soft, unutterable.
She moved her hands into a gesture I know entirely too well, to shadow her eyes and press against her head. She had a terrible headache.
I stayed still, it was all I could do.
Halfway to my stop, I put my hand on her arm and she looked at me. “Do you have far to go ? Will you be all right ?” She said yes. “Do you have pills at home for the headache ?” She nodded. “I can do nothing else” I said ” on a bus. I wish you better.” And when I got off the bus, she smiled – light delight and sweetness – quite wonderful in the grey London street – and waved.
Coming home up the street I found a little gathering of items outside a flat with a note “Please take me/us !” with a cyclamen in full bloom. I came back to put chocolate through the door as a thank you, realised I didn’t know which flat was involved and anyway, the occupants of both were out. There was also a small Christmas tree in a pot, now in corner of the garden.
A friend came for tea looking healthier than I have seen him and bringing the dog of the family he is staying with in between homes, so I heard the happy click of claws and had my arms briefly full of liver and white spaniel. I’d have to say – a long weekend but a good one.
Funnily enough I was at the zoo today with my grandson and the subject of black came up (something to do with the colour of a Palawan Binturong’s nose I think) and I mentioned ‘Jet Black’. A quick look at Wikipedia says it’s a type of lignite and that the adjective jet-black means as dark a black as possible.