8 Feb

Listen. Don’t go just yet. I need to tell you a story.

You don’t know this, but I hate my job. I get paid not enough to spend my days arguing with customers and sitting in a room with people I don’t like and who in all probability don’t like me.

And I come home and I know I’m boring myself so I must be boring the love of my life, but I’m too tired, too far away from myself to work out how to solve it.

And this goes on. And on. I play on my phone and I punch in numbers, I stare at screens and life passes, but I hardly raise my head to watch it go by.

And then one day I notice this bloke. Or at least I notice that I keep seeing him. Through the window of a sandwich shop, walking across a square, queuing in the post office, drinking coffee in a cafe.

And I notice that I notice him, and I like his face. He looks like he could be a friend, he’s got a nice face. There’s something comfortingly familiar about it.

And then I notice that I keep seeing him, more and more. Every day. Which is weird. I mean, there are people you notice, but it’s odd to see someone every day in the city. Sometimes, more than once.

And one day I notice him in the lift at work. I didn’t know he worked in my building. And a couple of days later I see him on the tube. He even gets off at my stop. It’s like our lives are somehow loosely stitched together, but the thread is being drawn in.

We never talk, he never looks at me, we have no contact, yet somehow he’s there. More and more.

I slip out of the flat one evening after one of our rows. It’s the one where we decide we need to get away for a weekend. Try to find some sort of spark.

I drift down to the corner shop to get some fags. He’s there, just across the road, looking in the window of the estate agents.

The next day I seem him on the stairs at work, in a cafe across the road, buying a Big Issue on the way to the station. That evening I look out of the window of the flat. He’s outside, crossing the road, getting into a car.

What’s going on? This is not normal. I start to wonder, is he following me for some reason? He never seems to notice me, but in itself this is weird. I keep seeing him all the time, he must have noticed me.

I start to think up different scenarios about what’s going on. I go so far as to buy a small note book, note the times I see him, looking for patterns, notice his clothes. I start quietly digging around at work, seeing if I can see where he goes, where he works, if anyone knows him. Nothing. He is illusive – yet somehow always there.

And then the weekend comes and we leave, go up to the lakes. We’ve got things to sort out. I am filled with a sense of dread. I feel like I will have to admit it, I’ve run out of ideas. I want to be better for you, but …

In truth I am distracted by him. I should be focussing on us, but when I get a chance I slip the notebook out of my pocket, jot down notes, conjure up elaborate explanations for what’s going on. Nothing seems to make sense.

Finally it gets too much. Everything blows up. I can’t bear to think of the words we said. But I know I have to get out. I know that when I come back you will have packed. You may have left. It depends whether you feel there is anything more to say. I’m empty.

I wander down to the waters edge, past the jetty to the shingle beach. There’s a figure there, skimming stones on the still water. It’s him.

I walk up to him. He picks up another stone, looks up briefly and says “Hi”.

I know him, suddenly. It’s PT.

PT. My childhood friend. The friend who dragged me away from the TV, out into the garden, over the wall, up the trees and into the clouds. The boy who ran by my side as we outsmarted the wolves, flicking fire from his finger tips. PT, who built with me the machines that took us to the earth’s core and sung to me at night.

PT, I said. What are you doing here?

What am I doing here? He asked, and smiled. Exactly. What am I doing here?

You forgot to imagine, my friend.

He skimmed a last stone. We watched it skip across the surface and ripples slowly die away. When I turned he was gone. I raced back to the hotel, rushed up the stairs. There you are, in your coat, waiting for me. You look up, immediately your expression changed, curiosity in your eyes.

I stand panting in the doorway, gathering my breath, strangely full of hope, suddenly. I come towards you, grab your hands.

Listen. Don’t go just yet. I need to tell you a story.


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