I went to get some documents notarised this afternoon. I had arranged date and time last week with the posh, disembodied voice at the end of the phone.
I slipped out of baggy jeans and a t-shirt into something a little less comfortable, to fit the poshness of the voice. For once I tried to be organised and ensure I had the correct documents with me, in order, as well as cheque book, proof of my address, address of the solicitor.
It was a strangely blustery afternoon, the kind that blows your hair all over the place, ensuring you will look completely dishevelled by the time you arrive at your destination, coupled with dust being blown into your eyes, so that you start wandering across the road without looking as you rub your eye, being narrowly missed by a car. This happened on several occasions. I was also doing the classical UK thing of staring at my phone while walking….I was actually trying to follow directions on this occasion. The law firm seem to follow the rules of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and was impossible to find. Eventually I came across the imposing door, nestled between two big buildings on either side, and facing the main road through town centre. I stepped inside.
The outside hustle and bustle instantly faded into the background the further I moved into the hushed interior. A big wooden door to my right said ‘Reception’ on a small brass plaque. Leather chairs, high ceiling, a fire place (no fire), wrought iron chandelier overhead, lots of wood panelling, and in a corner, a wooden counter behind which I made out the head of the receptionist. Softly spoken, she gave me a form to fill out and photocopied my passport and proof of address. My nose was starting to run, as it does when I get anxious or when I am in new…environments and situations. It is a dead giveaway. I sniffed surreptitiously, and it seemed very loud in the hushed room. She asked me to take a seat. I perched on the edge of one. There were pamphlets on the coffee table in front of me. My eye was drawn to the one in pastel green stating ‘Making a will shouldn’t kill you’. I felt a strange urge to laugh. Not because it was funny, but just to inject some emotion in the vacuum of this room, this set of offices, where the material result of a life ended has been debated, marriages had finished and the next chapters had begun. If I died, what would I leave behind? Beyond the thoughts in my head, which are of value to me, and maybe, Cobain-style, of value to others when I am gone, I have a large CD collection. It seemed a bit trivial to put that in a will. I have a few savings accounts and I’d be happy with that going to next of kin. The vandals can have my car and scratch it to their hearts’ content. If my running shoes fit, feel free to do some miles in them. In fact, I encourage this and it would make me happy. Everything else is just…stuff.
The solicitor called me into his office. He was reed thin and looked a little bit like Mr Burns from ‘The Simpsons’. Suit, softly spoken, formal. And his name, very aptly, was Homer. No handshaking, which I was pleased about because I don’t like to touch people unnecessarily. Clearly neither did he. He got to the point. I presented my documents: copy of my passport, copy of my residence permit which confirms that I am allowed to be here, my letter from work saying I am in full time employment and that it is my intention to return there after my trip…that I am not going to do a runner and go underground while I am away, in search of a better life, as immigrants are wont to do…
He busied himself putting elaborate seals and stamps on each copy, followed by an elaborate signature. I signed my cheque, trying to make it equally elaborate, but the end result was not as aesthetically pleasing. I looked around. Ceiling to floor bookcases, filled with old dusty volumes of legal encyclopaedias. His? I wondered. Or were these the kind of soft furnishings one picked up when decorating your legal firm. One must look the part, after all. I wondered about this Homer. Who was he? Does he have hobbies. On my way out I glimpsed a family photograph but didn’t have enough time to linger and take in the detail.
Crossing the threshold, I was back on the busy street, everything suddenly much louder. A jazz band on the street corner was playing ‘Strangers in the night’. The echoes followed me all the way home.
Back in jeans and a t-shirt, I wonder if Homer knows I am about to give him a new identity, create a life for him he never knew he had?