High Five

Timepiece, 2010 - detail

He used to pet him whenever we saw him on the Prom. He was a puppy then, full of the joy of being alive. Ouch, he’d say. Yes, his owners would say, he does nip doesn’t he. Stop it, Sam, they’d chime, naughty dog. They don’t bring him anymore. He doesn’t like the heat, they say, as we pass them sitting on a bench along South Marine Terrace. But it’s not hot, I whisper, as we walk on. No, he says, it isn’t. She has a large mouth which smiles enigmatically. Sometimes we see her in Morrisons. She works in the bakery there. You’re missing him, aren’t yer? she calls out, when we pass them again. Not missing being nipped, he says, and we all laugh. See you, I call out. They’re not happy, he says, and where’s Sam? Perhaps they’ve let him go, I reply. Perhaps.

We make stories of other people’s lives.

The sun comes out in the afternoon, a hot, burning sun. Gorgeous. We sit on our seat in the wall. I strip to my underwear.

By The Hut a man takes off his cloth cap, puts it on the bench and sits on it.

At 5.00 am the morning dark is warm. A fine rain falls. A couple sit on the window ledge of The Angel. She is clutching the neck of a half-empty bottle of wine. Their voices are low, intimate. Outside the Pier Pressure nightclub four lads are negotiating fares with two taxi drivers. The car engines purr. A smell of stale alcohol lingers warmly in the doorway. Two girls, panda-eyed and coatless, sit in the next doorway, staring vacantly as I go past. A jacketless man walks towards me his hand raised in the air, palm open. I smile warily. He comes closer and we pass each other. High five, he calls out, high five.

 

I want to write about voices. The voices of actors on the radio that pepper my day. Some I keen toward, others not. Some are so solid, so calming, so comforting, such as Alex Jennings, currently reading Somerset Maugham’s, Ashenden, the Gentleman Spy. Or there is Anton Lesser, reading Falco. And there are women’s voices too. Anna Massey always settled me. A rich, deeply rounded old-fashioned voice with that trace of melancholy. There are more.

How hard it is to describe a voice. That is, without lapsing into cliché. There is so much I want to talk of, to capture, share about my day. The richness that goes on inside. I look empty. At least I believe I do and yet, there is so much inside. A continual bursting of thoughts, of ideas. Is the bursting enough, even if it does not come to anything?

I fantasise about his death. Not to bring it on, no, oh no, but to show myself that I will survive it, that there is a plan. It’s magic, he always says, when he anticipates the worst, it stops it happening. It’s magic. And yet, we all know it’s going to happen. To all of us. Look at all these people, he says to me, what do they all have in common? No? he asks. They are all going to die. Yes.

It is mainly my belongings I worry about. My pictures and all the things. The things that I have. When he goes. When he finally leaves me I will have to retrench, cut back. Live small again. Live simply. I fantasise then. I will have an open weekend. I will invite my family, my friends, my patrons. Come, I shall say, bring your cars, I will provide refreshments. Come and choose. Take whatever you like. I want my pictures, my things to go to good homes. And then the flat will be empty. Cleaned-out. I will just have my small suitcase. And then? Then I will travel. Live in hotels. Watching life. Waiting till my time is up. It will do. It will be enough to be light again.

 

The storms didn’t come last night. I shut the windows just in case, but there was no need. No need.