I once took my parents for lunch in a very expensive restaurant.
Dining at the table next to ours was Lucian Freud with a girl.
To begin with he stared at my mother who was even then
more beautiful than anyone else in the restaurant,
including the American actress at whom I made a point of not staring.

Then he turned his gaze on my father who in terms self-obsession
could have taken Lucian Freud to the cleaners, passed him over,
taken his ticket, and come back the next day to collect him
like a camel’s hair coat in cellophane. I felt for the girl
who was struggling. I could see she could see what was happening.

When our eyes met I winked and she laughed. She rolled
her eyes and I nodded. She had the kind of eyes which if eyes
were to be put into mass production would stream out of factories
in South Korea, and come in a choice of colours . . . My mother
for whom the meal was a treat was interested only in the actress.

My father was complaining as he always does about the food
to a waiter of skin and bone who may have been an artist himself,
starving for his art in a garret, only waiting to make ends meet,
the sparks to suddenly fly. I thought, Him and that girl
should get together. She’s thin like him. They’d be happy and be able

to survive like freegans on what people like my father sent back . . .
Having already scraped his vegetables carefully onto a plate
on the side, my father was picking at his fish like a surgeon
trying to cut out a cancer. I thought of what all this was costing,
how children’s eyes get everywhere dragging their minds behind them.

Meanwhile Freud had continued to stare and the novelty of someone
so famous staring at my father had worn off. It was embarrassing.
I’d a pea all ready on my fork to flick but when next I looked
their table had been cleared. The waiter was spreading a clean white cloth,
tugging it tight to the edges. With her eyes as much as anything else

my mother flashed, She’s leaving! My father wanted pudding.

From Sonofabook (Issue 1, March 2015). Reproduced with kind permission of Sonofabook.