Half-Pedestrian, Half-Bicycle

Already I miss the sound. Or is it the noise? The sonic landscape of a family home. As it existed then, so it exists right now, miles away, without my detection. I am not there. I am somewhere else. I am here. I think I am happy.

My brain is not yet caught up. My body is so weary from it all that it too is confused. I thought that upon completion, upon moving in with all my possessions, I would regain the ability to sleep. This morning I awoke early on my new mattress, in my new sheets and duvet, upon my new pillows. There are no curtains yet and beyond the window, four floors up, I could see the darkness of night slowly become colour, turning through the tense phase of dawn’s indecision, where one cannot tell whether it will be sunny or miserable, clear or rainy. Awash with clouds that slowly form from nothing to one, an expansive burden. There was a gull gliding across. I was warm. Lying there for an hour, I turned and smiled. These walls, I thought, are mine. It was really something to look at the walls around me and realise they are mine. I could drive a nail into them if I so wished, I could cover them in paint or dress them in paper. There would be no deduction or letter from the landlord, no making good before I left. I could not believe it. For a time, I lied there and regarded the walls until the white began to shift and swirl. If I wanted – and I did – I could get a cat. And I will! And in mornings to come the cat will join me in bed, will perch itself upon my chest and purr as I stroke its ears; and there will be no landlord to say otherwise!

From my head on the pillow, I could see the banks on which the trains ran. My first flat was next to a trainline, and so I have returned to them. I am not so much an Englishman until I come to look upon the railways, and I am besotted! They are not so close, much quieter, but they are there. Their sound – or is it noise? – is a lullaby to me. Their massive vibrations are tiny by the time they reach me. I watch them go by and count the cars. It is a pleasure and a pastime. I have to do this, I thought, I have to do that. I must find this or locate those or rummage through that box. There is much to do. But my new bed is so comfortable, so warm, and the duvet weighs upon me so divine!

I lied there for long enough that I lost track of the time; an hour-and-a-half had passed and only felt like ten minutes of daydreaming. I remembered what it was to arise and be the only person in the house. All was still. I went to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of cold water from the fridge, then went to the window and watched the binmen emptying cardboard & paper into the sweeping rear of their lorry. They did not know that I watched them, and so I watched. It was silly, I thought, to watch them emptying bin after bin, but there I was, fixated, placid, quite entertained.

A pot of coffee perfumed my flat.

My parents called me. The sound of the family home returned through copper wires. I pictured them drinking their coffee on the sofa, the mobile on speaker, both huddled around, my mother squinting to hear. The scene was very familiar after twenty months. It was a good conversation. All three of us sounded happy, and thirteen hours previous we had said—‘I love you.’ It was one of those happy good-byes. When we were sober, my father hugged me, perhaps the strongest he had done so in his life, in my life, and we kissed the other’s cheek—‘I couldn’t have done it without you,’ I told him. He is smaller than me but I disappeared into his embrace.

We’re sorry we missed you.’ The shower poured over the doorbell. The stranger would call again.

Town was busy because of the sales. It was windy and rainy – betraying the sunrise – and wholly unpleasant to be in. Yet still, I was in fine spirits. I wandered around, then had my lunch in a café, watching those around me. It was only a short walk back to my flat, along the river, half-pedestrian, half-bicycle, children stood waiting outside the ice rink. At certain points on my way, I could look up and see my living room windows in the distance. A cold wind ran over the road and the hiss of wet tyres passed me by.