This was half an hour ago.
I thought about going out in bare feet, just so as I could have something to write. I find no comfort in routine, just distraction, but often that is enough.
Similarly, I find no real pleasure in spontaneity, just a healthy reminder.
On with the story. (There has been a little too much ‘extraction of idea’ around here lately.)
I step out of the front-door, check for keys and pull it closed behind me. Raising my head to the day (this is the first instance of me leaving the house today) I move out onto the street, the tarmac appearing as fresh as when laid two months ago and every time I almost expect it hold the same adhesive qualities that it did that first day, when falling sticks and leaves, plastic wrappers and dislodged stones became frozen as it set. Paths could be traced that day. An unfortunate neighbour had left his car outside his house on the day of the road-laying, and the workmen were forced to lay tarmac round the car leaving it stranded in its rough, stony rectangle for days. When the road set, he was able to drive it further up the street but everyone knew that he hadn’t moved the car because right outside his house was a Nissan shaped cut-away. They filled it in eventually, but it’s still a different colour to the rest of the road.
The girl walking towards me notices me, which causes a little jolt of nervousness in behind my eyes somewhere. I try to place her, her assumed projections battle me out, I withdraw.
I avoid faeces which I assume belongs to a dog, but you never know. The children round here seem so very bored.
As I walk closer to the bus-stop at the end of the street, a double-decker pulls up and opens its doors, releasing no passengers but awaiting the boarding of a young man and a young woman. The young man, clearly first in line, takes an exaggerated sideways step and drifts his hand through the air in the direction of the doors. She offers her palm, flat and held in front of her, no – it’s alright, and he bows his head in deference and sheepishly stands on the first step, as if waiting for something. She files in behind him, head down clutching her shoulder bag like a recent divorcee. As they move through the busy bus to sit down, half expecting a mechanical lurch as the bus struggles into the traffic (I will know how it feels in a moment), I notice that the boy sits down immediately without regard for seat position or who he may be sitting next to. The girl now looks up, composes herself and heads towards the empty seats at the back. There is one thing that overwhelms me at this point. She is entirely more beautiful than him.
I remember very little about the small row of shops. What can be recalled is generally found within the confines of habit and knowledge, not observation. Clough’s, the eighty-year old sweet shop (“I haven’t treated myself in a while…”), the old Maritime Aviation Bookshop (“Who goes there…?), the dodgy electronics shop, mercifully empty of police and youths, and the house-letting agency (*nothing*). A man with a hacking cough and, this becomes apparent as I look up, a facial disfigurement, strides towards me at this. I refuse to commit this to memory, but it appears to seep in.
(I’ll not tell you what happened though. This is my story now, not my memory’s and I’ll act as censor and executive.)
A few lost people outside the bank mill around, expressing dissatisfaction at its awkward opening hours (generally two an a quarter hours a day; is there a living to be earned there?). The crossroads holds four synchronised pedestrian crossings and I mechanically lurch across one of them to the cashpoint, reducing temptations to think of Sunday night when I unwittingly withdrew cash and left it in the machine. I look to the floor with a glance built on hope and vindication.
The corner shop (not on a corner) is my destination. I play the role, peruse the magazines, peer into the freezer, thoughtfully consider a purchase. I pick up the bread and milk (the only purpose to this purpose) and saunter to the counter. I don’t care. The gentleman behind the counter, raised above me by the linoleum step but definitely shorter than me, stares at the television suspended from the ceiling. It is the Butler Report and journalists are inquiring as to the ramifications of the report’s findings. I have very little idea as to what it entails.
“Is Tony Blair getting it in the neck then?” I enquire, pathetically, like a child.
“Well, I don’t really know. He’ll get away with it, as always. They always find someone else to blame.”
“Ahhh, the convenience, eh?” Pathetic.
I get the feeling that this man thinks in another language. On many occasions I have heard him talk to his colleagues and family-members with unrecognisable (for me, of course) vowel sounds and conjunctions. But this was the first time that I felt he was clearly thinking thoughts that I would never think, and he knew it.
(In fact, yesterday he was talking to an elderly regular. I could tell they were talking about two teenagers who insisted on shouting the length of the shop about the absence of a microwave. After they left he continued the conversation with the old customer. I understood not a word except for one, which became the centre of the conversation and was passed back and forth between the two, heavily accented, with increasing intonation and vitriol. The word? Generation.)
I paid for my bread and milk, thanked him with the dismissive manner one becomes accustomed to through minor commercial transactions and set back across the two crossroads, past the row of shops, to the bus stop, turn left, down the road, house on the right.
I remember very little of the walk back, as is often the case. The return journey always seems quicker.
Familiarity clearly breeds contempt.