Image by Christine Renney
Following the separation, my very existence seemed to implode, and I had been forced to move into this tiny bed-sit and, for almost six months, I have survived its squalor. I quickly established a routine, determined that my life would at least have the veneer of normality and I hadn’t realised until now just how regimented my life has become.
At night, as I lay in my bed, I listen to the house, the walls closing in around me. I need to kick back and, when I do, discipline will be the key. I share the house with four students and when I leave for work in the mornings they are still asleep. In the evening when I return the house is heaving, a veritable hive.
After pushing through the throng to my room and as I prepare my meal I listen to their laughter, to their music. Occasionally a door is flung open and greetings ring from across the hall. The directness and the clarity always causes me to shudder. But then the door will close and I am able to breath again.
When I have eaten my meal and completed my nightly chores I watch television. I favour the American crime shows and am enthralled by the startling cityscapes and computer graphics. I am easily caught up in the analytical pursuit by the obligatory twosome and their investigative team as they trammel doggedly against the deadline in order to free the truth from the tangled web of little lives.
Summer has reared its head and the party has moved outside. I can now close the door and muffle their voices. I lay on my bed, resisting the urge to rise and glance out at the languorous scene below my window; students sprawled on blankets spread across the patchy lawn.
The air is thin, the scorching sun has drawn most of the moisture out of it and has also taken much of their laughter. To hoot and holler requires too much energy. Their conversation now is consistent, a comfortable murmur. I can tune in and listen or not.
I am reminded of home, of my old home; Clara, in the kitchen, on a Sunday morning listening to Radio 4. Slumped on the sofa with a book I would realise that I had been staring blankly at the pages, not reading but listening, caught up in the broadcast.
An enquiring female voice rises in the still and lifeless air.
‘But what does he do up there in his room for so long?’ she asks.
‘I don’t know,’ after a lengthy pause someone replies. I can hear them shuffling on the blankets, attempting to settle, to get more comfortable on the baked earth.
‘He seems okay. Maybe we should ask him down for a drink sometime, what do you think?’
I roll over and, pressing my face into the pillow, I wait. I can’t be sure if anyone bothers to respond. I try not to hear. I am not sure how long I lay like this but at last I realise the house is now deathly quiet and it has an abandoned air. I cross to the window and they are gone.
In the bathroom I turn on the taps and watch the water spool in the tub and drain away and I wait until it runs cold. In the kitchen, although it isn’t yet dark, I switch on the light. A moth flutters noisily as the fluorescent tube stutters and then bursts into life. The linoleum is split and the pattern and colours are almost worn away.