House commission - close-up

We talked about the wedding. I ought to have had a perm, she said. There isn’t time now. Then about the Assembly elections. I tell herĀ I do mine by post. She says she’d like to too but her daughter says its an opportunity for her to get out. House-bound, home-bound. I remember the first time I called her she had an anxiety attack, bringing the phone-call, ever so politely, to an abrupt end. She chatters away now. I like to hear her use my name. It’s a precious thing this reaching out to strangers. I will never know her, not properly, not physically, but we have this weekly talk and it means the world. To me.

Walking home in the early hours there is a young man, a boy really, leaning against the window of The Salvation Army shop eating pizza from a large carton. There is a lit cigarette in his hand. As I approach him, he pushes himself off the window and begins to walk ahead of me. I watch him from behind. Small bum, long slung jeans, tight on the leg. I can smell the acridness of the cigarette smoke. He walks slowly still eating from the pizza box. He is so slow I soon catch him up. He begins to talk to me. I can’t hear you very well, I say, I’ve got my headphones on. I think he says it’s cold. And then that he has to walk all the way to Llanbadarn and that it’s a long way. I say something about walking fast. Perhaps he misinterprets me. Good night, he says. Good night, I reply and walk on. I am touched by his desire to make contact. I generally feel quite separate from the kids I encounter in the mornings. Often drunk or stoned, they are in another sphere of experience from me. I’ve slept after all. It is rare that one chooses to engage with me. I hope he got home safe. Will they sleep all day now?