L’esprit de l’escalier

In English you might have heard the expression ‘staircase wit’ or ‘escalator wit’, a term used in English for the predicament of coming up with the perfect reply too late. I suffer from this predicament. Probably why I write.

But not my mother, Muv, no, she could capture someone’s essence in a minute. Always had the perfect reply. Never cruel or at someone’s expense, no need for that, her cool always kept in check – just the right reply.

But once upon a time we toured Europe together for a month after my brother died. We stayed in the same hotel room in the town of Positano for two weeks. Italy acting as a balm. And this hotel became a favorite destination in future, after I moved to Italy. It was called Villa Franca and it hung off the cliffs of the Amalfi coast overlooking the Mediterranean. Inside our room, on top of the colorful ceramic tiles sat two beds, a large balcony and beyond – the bluest sea we’d ever seen. It was magical and felt nostalgic to stay in the stay room and spend all this time with my mother. I was a kid again.

One night the sun had set but there was still so much light outside. We were getting ready for bed, in fact I was already tucked in, reading a book. But I couldn’t help watch Muv as she glided back and forth from the bathroom to the balcony. Each time she arrived at the balcony it was like the first; Positano or practically any place in Italy holds such emotional power. Anyway, she would glide by, swipe a tissue from the box, wipe the cream off her face in the bathroom and then glide back out to balcony.

I tried to read but Muv often captivated. She moved as if in slow motion whereas my foot could never find the break pedal. I caught her looking in the mirror, talking to herself, then smile as if editing a conversation – happy with the final result. At least we had that in common.

But that was long ago, Muv’s gone, in the flesh and mine’s still here. Although at 57, I’m slowing down in my own way. Still suffering from l’esprit de l’escalier. However, like Muv, I do have my moments. One time a friend said, “god, how do you do that…” I felt so proud, my imagination shared out loud, until she said, “but you do make us wait….”

And that is why I write….

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