It gives me comfort as I walk through the yet dark streets of this town to see some lit windows. They are mostly bedroom windows. Or perhaps the occasional bathroom one. What has woken them? Or are they insomniacs? There is one that it often lit up on St David’s Road, though today it was another house, and the kitchen. It’s yellow overhead light was stark against the blackness. The downstairs front room of the wet-house on Queens Road was also full on, as it was the other day when I walked past. Though this morning there was no one sitting at the desk. For it has been made into some kind of office. And today I could see a monitor with a split screen clearly transmitting the visual data from a series of CCTV cameras in the house. Does that mean they have cameras in all the bedrooms? Is that allowed? Apparently the ‘house’ is notorious in this town. A wet-house for addicts and alcoholics, is it called ‘wet’ because they are allowed to continue practising their habits? It’s meant to be a halfway house, I believe, enabling them to ‘live’ within the community. Their lights were on too, the windows above the office. One had fuchsia-coloured net curtains drawn together in a bunch and tied with a ribbon.
Walking up to work in that glorious sunshine, I traipsed behind lines of students walking in twos and threes catching snippets of their conversation as they either walked ahead or passed me. ‘She limits herself’, one girl was saying as she began her descent of the hill with her friend. Their voices are always a little too loud, pretending a confidence they don’t really possess. ‘At my school they had two entrances’, a lad with a bulky midriff was telling a girl in black corduroy dungarees, his voice breathy as he climbed the steps. One for the girls and one for the boys, he continued, two doors each, and two staircases, once for girls and one for boys. Really, said the girl.
How was work? he asked when he called last night. It was OK, I said. And it was. I think it must have been the sun. And she, the big boss, was OK , business-like but OK. She wore a grey skirt of woollen material with a chain of metal rings sewn around the hem. How do you wash it? I thought as she sat for the camera. When she stood up to use the telephone I noticed that two of the rings had come loose from their stitching around the back. Distrait, a hint, just a hint of something not so together – the fraying hem, the chipped fingernail, the flapping sole. It is never far away this undoing, for any of us. You just notice it more, or it glares more in the attire of those who rule over us.
He didn’t have his operation. When he called to say goodnight he didn’t even have a bed in a ward yet. He’d been kept waiting, hanging around all day with no food or water just in case they’d do it. He found someone from here. He always does. When there was no op in sight they snuck off together to eat cake and chocolate in Costa. This sent his blood sugar sky high forcing the ‘nice’ student nurse to refuse him sponge and custard for pudding. She relented in the end. Will it be today? Meanwhile I hold close to my solitude, a novelty. The first time in this flat.
It’s OK to shut down. I need a new way of thinking about work. The quiet methodical process of sewing helps this. It closes the aperture down a little, narrows my vision to a gimlet point. Let it be. Let it fall away, I have time.