'Hawks and Hacksaws' by Anna Cullum


Please don’t keep looking at me like that. There is nothing wrong with me. My mind is as sharp as it’s ever been. Test me if you like.

I could give you the Latin name for each one of those flowers you are clutching. Dianthus, Gerbera Jamesonii,Tropaeolum Majus. See. Yes, they will do nicely on the side there, thank you. Someone will sort them out for me later.

I can tell you the precise workings of the lacrimal system which you seem to be demonstrating very effectively right now. I can name the complex mix of lysozyme, lipocalin and lactoferrin, enzymes, lipids, metabolites and electrolytes that make up those little pearls that are threatening the edges of your eyelids. Bet you can’t do that.

I could recite you whole passages from the Iliad, every soliloquy from Hamlet. I know a hawk from a hacksaw.  I can tell you every move of Kasparov’s finals. 1982. Black Queen to H3 clinches it for Korchnoi. I could stand in for any part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, should there be an outbreak of food poisoning at the Opera House.

Oh, for a day in London. I’d go to the National Gallery to see my Titian, then walk to the British Museum, like we used to. Up Monmouth Street, through Seven Dials, cut through Muse Street. And dinner in that little Italian restaurant, with Henry looking dapper in his suit. Oh, the times we had.

That’s better. You look nice when you smile. You remind me of my Henry. So we’re agreed, there is nothing to worry about.  

There is still one thing that bothers me, though. I wish I knew who you were. I don’t know why you come here every day. And I don’t know why you keep crying.

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