Like

I pass by a girl and boy talking outside The Angel. Well, he is talking, she is lighting a cigarette. It’s like, like…,he is saying, it’s like if you’re gunna like….She smiles, leaning her head to one side as she listens. At the other end of the walk street another girl is sitting on the pavement, leaning against the door of Ahmed’s Barber Shop. A tall, rake-like figure of man is leaning over her, cradling her face in his hands. I love you to bits, right? he says, with a trace of menace in his voice. Or am I reading that into it? Yeh, I know, she replies, her eyes still downcast. I carry on down the hill hoping that I wil get a lift from the smell of baking bread from Slater’s Bakery. But no, there is nothing. There rarely is these days. Perhaps they’ve had air-conditioning put in and no longer need to open the door. Outside the mini Tesco a lad stands uncertainly, his body keeling slightly as in in a strong wind, watching a lorry driver beginning to unload. They drink so much. I tell him of it when he wakes. Perhaps it’s not just drink, he says. An owl whoo-whoos in the distance, over head. It’s the eeriest noise. No oystercatchers this morning, just a few seagulls screeching, and one that I watched soaring about the students’ hall along the prom, a white glider, elegant, sublime. They’d promised rain but it stayed dry.

My neighbour was up when I returned home, though his bedroom light was switched off as I opened our shared hall door. A thin slither of light could be seen through his front door. Then it opened. He was there pulling a suitcase. Are you going away? I asked. Yes, he said, to Vietnam. His father had been a missionary and I think he was actually born in China. His siblings live all over the world. He is going to see one of his brothers in Vietnam. How long for? I ask. Three weeks, he said, look after my mother for me. Of course. Of course we will. Will she ask for help if she needs it? I hope so. Though at ninety-nine she is amazingly fit and fiercely independent.

A bitty day today. I need to have an eye test. Well, I don’t need one, it is due that’s all. It breaks up my working time, but heigh ho.

We talked of the massacre of the Palestinians last night before I went to sleep. He sat on the edge of my bed. Shove yer feet up, he said. It’s nice to hear his voice, it calms me. What do you do with such information? I ask him. Where do you put it? What can you do to be at peace with it? Well, he says, I read about it, I find out about it and then I try to put it away. I can’t do anything about it, after all. No, I said, you can’t. But aren’t we meant to feel for them, ache for them, stand alongside them? Yes.

Don’t give up your light, he told me, years ago, the man with no teeth. Don’t. After all there is as much good, as much love as there is not. I am sorry. Sorry for your pain, all of you. And my concerns are but specks in comparison. Rest in peace. You are so brave.