Learning to Read (3) (close-up) 2014

It was just under three hundred miles there and back. I saw six badgers in all. All dead, on the side of the road. Great, leaden bodies, perfect, noble even, in death. The writer said that often the dead badgers we see on motorways and A roads haven’t been killed by traffic but have been dumped there by badger baiters. Poor brocks.

She’d wanted to continue her education but her father wouldn’t let her. What would you have liked to have done? I asked her. I wanted to be a children’s nurse, she said, but I was scared of injections. Would she mind that I talk about her like this? I protect her name. It is just I want to both share and remember. All of this is really about memory. Remembering what people say. It is important to me. A record. An archive of this life.

Do you live in Uni accommodation? a student asked me as I headed home down Great Darkgate Street. It was 4.30 am. He was coatless, swaying a little and holding a KFC carton in one hand. No, I replied, are you lost? No, he said, I just need a taxi. Town was full of them, carousing. A dry night, not too cold and Reading Week next week, all perfect for revelling. I look in windows as I pass. Bald overhead bulbs shine on clusters of bodies around tables. Heads are hidden under hoods, long legs sprawl, table tops are covered in bottles. There is a low thrumming of music. A glut of figures gather outside the Fried Chicken shop and another outside The Angel, their instruments and DJ’s turntable lying at their feet. I am always taken aback when someone talks to me. It breaks my reverie, my internal musings. What do they see? I am cocooned in a big coat, waterproof trousers, hat, gloves and scarf whilst they are dressed for the club, the women barelegged and tripping and the boys t-shirted and reeling. I walk through the miasma of stale beer and cigarettes towards peace.

Windless today.

I’d forgotten her name. I’d warmed to her. She’d asked me questions. The only one to do so. But that wasn’t the only thing. It was her underlying melancholy that attracted me. She was fiery, opinionated but good. The goodness shone through. All alone in that big, monster of a house. All alone except for the old dog that lived with her. They’d bought the house together. Their dream. And then he died. She is managing. She always will. An iron will. But underneath a raging sadness. I think. What do I know? I know I liked her. I like her. So I asked her to remind me of her name. And she did. Thank you. I won’t forget now. Sounds like worry. Sounds like Florrie.

You’ll always be a worrier, she said. Casting it in stone. So be it.