Wednesday, May 16, 2007

the office worker.

It was the time she went away. Regularly I would come home late at night. Often I would have drunk too much and walked along empty streets, lost myself among empty office blocks, asking where she was, trying to focus on things around me and not really worried I could not. I knew the route well. From Bloomsbury, past the Royal Exchange to Liverpool Street.

When I looked up those nights the sky would seem closer and if it was a clear night I would look at the stars and feel I had always been looking at the stars and really in my life the stars had never yet revealed anything. The only thing I was sure off was once I looked at them differently, once I had felt they were telling me something. Once the endlessness and mystery of space was somehow reassuring. But then they appeared cold and static. They said nothing except it was night and it was dark, there was only space and it has always been like that. The only things moving are the satellites with their decaying paths.

When I felt empty, the fact she was not there was like a dull, heavy pain inside, a pain I could not shrug off but could only numb. It was those nights I would drink. Perhaps sitting by myself with a cold beer, lighting a cigarette and then drinking another cold beer until eventually I would reach the point where the pain subsided and I would feel better and then at least could admit to myself how much I missed her. That she was not there would become all tangled up with the alcohol, the cigarettes, the way I would have to search around in the pocket of my rain coat for a lighter or another crumpled note to pay.

Sometimes I would talk to strangers. Striking up arbitrary conversations. Mostly I only wanted to hear someone speak, to fill up the emptiness with words. The words of a stranger were like padding in my head, kept my mind from wandering back to her and the fact I did not relish the empty house, the train journey home through deserted stations. Somehow a stranger's words broke the silence around me and would follow me along the rails, under the power lines, past the empty, litter-strewn platforms.

It was those nights I would welcome the fact the light was out on the stairs. I would get into bed and lie there, my head spinning, staring into the ceiling until I would start to hurt again. Then I would turn, bury my head in the pillow and close my eyes on the world, searching out the space inside. I would feel her there but because I had been drinking I would not care I was only imagining running my hands through her hair, that I could feel her arms around me, her fingers in my back, her breath warm against my face and smell her, touch her. Then I would imagine asking where she had been, saying I missed her and did she not know I loved her, how much I loved her. But it would not matter because I would be tired and about to drift off to sleep and because in those moments before I drifted off to sleep it was as if there was only warmth and blackness ahead so I would forget there would be the dawn. I would forget how often the light would be cold and grey, would be raw and my throat would hurt from having smoked too many cigarettes and my head would ache and in my chest would be this tight feeling, this clenched-up fist where my heart was because I knew I was alone.

It was those mornings I would have to pull myself from bed, push myself toward the shower. Then I would stand trying to wake myself beneath the warm jets of water as morning light broke through the window. There would not be a sound except the turning of taps, the hum of the electric razor stubbornly missing those hairs it always missed before the splash of cold water in my face and the increasingly anxious look at my watch. The morning twist was sometimes the harshest. I would step onto the pavement and if the sun was coming up it would sting my eyes and I would feel it was mocking me.

It was the time she left. The time before I got used to it. Before I realised she may never come back and then I just felt nothing and felt nothing for a long time. For a long time I just walked about and did what I had to do, as if waiting for something to fall.

It was then I would go down to the river and stand over it and watch the water flow and wonder why it flowed so fast and get dizzy from watching it flow fast. I would feel I was falling, falling down into it.
Then I would turn and go back up the street and maybe sit in the small park with the leaves coming out for spring and the pigeons cooing under benches. They would coo and I would notice the dirt up along the sides of buildings, the streaked grey of stone walls and maybe a broken window. I would open a newspaper or fold my arms and shiver a little, my eyes following all the passing faces.

It was the time before the cherry blossoms fell and the trees were full and blowing and one day I found myself on a street corner. There was traffic racing past. The street came up from the river crossing a circus and in the distance was an overpass.

I thought this is the way it is. Things are like this. There are people and buildings and traffic and cities. And there is love. Love is something squeezed into all the corners. Squeezed between the buildings, the city, the people. Sometimes it escapes, catches you unawares and then goes right past, shoots off into the distance. Around you the noise hammers on and you become fixed, learn to keep your eyes focused on that something ahead and go on.

Copyright (C) Peter Millington.

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