Another afternoon and I walked to Blackheath to kill the remaining day. I saw no dogs.
I couldn’t abide spending unnecessary time in the flat. The ceiling descended an inch every day. The place stank of sleep. The carpet was littered with newspapers. The TV spewed forth soporific shizzle. If I didn’t have such a high regard for life, jumping into the
Thames might have held some poisonous attraction.
The Dog Day had depressed. I returned home a little after four in the afternoon. I smoked a half-joint that a friend had dropped at a flat-party six months ago. It tasted like burnt hair. I didn’t feel high. No pleasure was forthcoming. I felt only headached and tired.
And so I determined to leave the flat. It took forty minutes to reach Blackheath. I walked as slowly as I could up hill, imagining myself as an elderly gentleman. I bent my back and moved from right side of pavement to left. I even mimed doffing my cap to a few teenage girls. Their shouts of ‘pervert’ were unsurprising, but undeserved.
I sat alone in Blackheath Starbucks. On my small, silver and circular table, an Americano steamed. Its mug was huge and almost pint-worthy. Next to it sat a battered copy of Catcher in the Rye. I found the novel in a bush in
three years ago. It remained half-read. Holden seems an interesting sort, mind. Weymouth
‘Phoney’ he says. ‘Phoney’.
Alongside these items lay a digital Dictaphone, in case of sudden literary/life inspiration. Much of the conversation that follows is taken directly from this recording. I inadvertently turned it on when removing it from the confines of my pocket. I omit the ‘umms’ and ‘agghs’ that depressingly punctuate my parley.
Starbucks contained its usual mix of yummy mummy Blackheatheans and precocious private school girls talking loudly about ‘mummy’ and their horse and kissing boys. I remember a wave of nausea falling upon me with first tentative sip of coffee. I regretted not bringing the iPod to drown out the teenage rumble.
Waiting for time to pass (I’d set myself forty minutes to waste in this coffee shop, before moving on to Café Nero), I became conscious of company. I looked up and flinched, irrationally expecting a punching fist. No – there were no knuckles. Only a lady called Janice. She wore a beret at angle.
“Kay!” she exclaimed.
I rose to my feet and kissed her left cheek. She moved as if I should kiss her right side too. Hesitantly, I did so. She joined me at the table.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
Excuses for a prompt departure wheeled through my head. I wasn’t in the mood for talking, but the full mug of coffee worked against me. If it had been empty, or only half-empty, I could have claimed a pressing engagement with a surgeon or something and left. But no …
She nodded as she considered my question. Janice was a pretty thing, tight blonde bob, twinkling blue eyes. Her chin was slightly too big to rightly label her beautiful. She was married to some “actor” called Jon with whom I had done some school-based work years past. Rumour on the showbusiness grapevine had it that Janice was pregnant.
“It’s going really well,” she said, placing stress on the word ‘really’.
“Good,” I replied. “You’ve put on weight. Have you been eating more or…?”
“Jon told me of your success in Macbeth.”
Jon spoke too much.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Tell all, then.”
I gulped down some coffee. It was hot and burnt the roof of my mouth.
“I’ve been sacked actually.” I paused. “Macbeth was jealous of me.”
“Pardon?” said Janice.
I spoke louder.
“I’ve been sacked.”
“Oh God,” said Janice. “I thought that’s what you said. Sorry.”
“Yeah,” I responded. “So am I. Macbeth thought I was going to steal away Lady Macbeth.”
“Did you?” she asked.
An awkward silence.
“What are you working on now?”
“Nothing.” Janice’s smile dropped. She looked genuinely upset. “Absolutely bugger all. I did some audition for a TV job the other day. I buggered that up.”
A few schoolgirls turned as I swore. I shrugged.
Janice stared at me without speaking. I guessed that she was focusing upon a forehead spot.
“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” she asked.
I removed them, revealing purple damage.
“Oh God,” she whimpered.
I returned the glasses to my face.
Another uncomfortable pause loomed.
“I know a man,” she began, minutes later.
“Good,” I said.
“He runs an Agency in town.” My ears pricked up. “An Estate Agency. Selling houses.” My ears pricked down. “He’s always after new blood. He’s always asking Jon to join him. He says that actors are perfect for his work. Make sure they’re young, confident and sexy, he says. That’s you, Kay. You’re all three.”
“That’s true,” I said. “But Estate Agents are pricks.”
“They also earn wheelbarrows of money. And get their own car.”
“I can’t drive. They remain pricks.”
Janice stared out of window onto
“You’d be perfect Kay. Absolutely perfect. Let me give the man a ring. He’s called Colin. He’s a good friend of ours, Jon and me.”
I told her that she shouldn’t ring Colin … now. She took my telephone number and promised that someone, probably Colin, would contact me in time. I should have told her to drop it, that I wasn’t interested, but I didn’t. I couldn’t afford any Chocolate Fudge Cake, you see. That held my revulsion of Estate Agents in check.
Janice left and I was alone with memories (and a recording) of the conversation and a vagueness of reaction. My telephone began to ring almost as soon as Janice had exited the cafe. It wasn’t Colin. It was Mother. I didn’t answer. My frail emotions couldn’t withstand a barrage of abuse.
A telephone message was left to remind me of her birthday in a week’s time.
I placed Janice’s conversation in the same mental compartment that I stored my financial worries and memory of Rosalind – a folder marked ‘do not think about’.
*Note for my American readers - Estate Agent = Realtor