Monday, May 22

Good Company

Little memories. There were small flashes of nothing-much-at-all that were quietly added up in the mind from the night before. Rolling over, desiring to open to window and let some fresh air in, if only to dry the perspiration, but a few more moments of lying there. A hangover is worse when the night before wasn’t worth it. The night before wasn’t worth it. It’s a shame, a real shame, because the night had been so promising; a leaving-do, everyone was out, a bar with good music. Only in there ten minutes before someone told me—‘You need to calm down,’ and I knew they were right and I could not calm down; something was up. So the night had not been worth it; few are. I arose at last, with some great effort, and leaned out of the window. It was a warm day without wind, so I put on some clothes I found in the bin, ran a comb through my hair and went down the shops to get some breakfast. Fifteen minutes inside the shop but I could not find what I was after. I paid and left, then halfway down the street I remembered something else and went back. The man behind the till does not like me; the other men talk to me – work, politics, weather, sport – but he will never talk to me. The wide road I walk up and down. I cooked breakfast and thought about the time that Charlotte cooked me breakfast. It had been a lovely breakfast and I put some music on so that we could pretend to be in love and it all seemed quite idyllic. I thought about her buying all the ingredients and how I gave her my keys. There was no use to thinking of such things.
I ate and felt no better for it. My parents were both on separate weekend breaks, sending me photographs, which I considered briefly before casting my eyes on the coffee-pot and longing for another human to be about. It was not that I felt particularly alone, but I craved another’s company. Sitting there by myself I became terribly anxious and unsure of my surroundings. An anonymous figure, even, to sit in the corner and tell jokes to, lay a record down in circles, to hear breathing; nothing spectacular, I wanted only their company! I was so tired of being by myself.
Hours went by.
At four o’clock I decided it was unhealthy to waste the day, so I left the flat, not without some hesitation and a lot of nerve. It felt like a big step going outside. What was I becoming? Was I really so unfit?
The lady who made my coffee regarded me more coldly than I had been regarded in the establishment before. She was very skinny and looked at me like I had fouled her in the past. I took my coffee and walked along the streets without any purpose, and so I walked slowly, quite unsteady because I was still nauseous. There were lots of couples and young families; some of them were laughing, some were not, some looked like they had tremendous sex, some looked like they had none, all of them looked like ripe fruit in the sunshine. I went to a record shop, bought a new record, then went home and listened to it. The record was brilliant so I listened to it again. In the evening I ate some Indian takeaway and watched T.V. until half-one, then went to bed.
The next day was much the same. My fear had deepened. I was terrified of something or other. At any moment I was sure there would be someone at the door. If I heard someone outside my door, the short sharp crack of the floorboards, I would freeze until I was certain the stranger had disappeared. I was on edge. If only there was someone else with me, someone to break the silence and take my mind off of things. I prayed for someone else.
There was nothing else to do and I could not stand to be inside, so I went for another walk; this time in a slightly different direction. The sun was out. I was very hot. I walked on the side of the street that the sun shone upon and felt it all over my body. Truthfully, I felt no safer on the streets, but I could not stay in my flat all day; I would surely go mad. So I walked. I walked and drank coffee and kept on walking. There was nothing in my mind, nothing to think about. It felt like weeks since I had seen or spoken to anyone. I kept on walking. There were lots of people about, enjoying the sunshine, and I thought about them as I gazed upon their relaxing and laughter. When I got home I lay down for a bit then thought I would clean my flat. I put the radio on so that everything wouldn’t be so quiet. I liked the sound of the radio. Music was no good, because I wanted to hear chatter, the sound of other human beings talking, just talking.
For dinner I would have the leftovers of my Indian takeaway. I was cleaning and listening to the radio. The cleaning went on a long time but I didn’t mind because it was nice to have something to do and the radio was good company.
I was still cleaning when, at half-eight, my mother rang. I rushed to pick up the phone.
‘Hiya, dear.’
‘Hi!’ Ah, her voice! I heard it when I was in the womb. The first voice I ever heard! I had forgotten there was anyone else out there. Of course I had thought to call her earlier but had remembered that she was on her way home, and then I got caught up with cleaning my flat. ‘How you doing?’
‘I’m going to have to go when your dad gets back but thought I’d call you before… O,… he’s just pulled up.’
‘O, okay.’ I sat down on the sofa, holding a dusty rag and a beer.
‘Yeah, he’s here. Sorry. How are you?’
‘Fine. I’m fine. How are you? How was your holiday?’
‘Yeah, it was lovely – Hiya! – Look… Sorry… I’ve got to go. I’ll call you back in a day or two.’
‘That’s fine. Okay. Take care.’
‘You too, darling. Bye.’
‘Bye-bye.’

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