Sunday, 16 September 2012

This miserable city sits several miles north and several miles south of several cities worse.

She is Joan, widowed, 53, already and recently, 5.30am because she couldn't sleep again, opens her Hunslet door to her Hunslet wind, places her milkless bottles on her repetative step, steps from her Garfield slipper onto her council drive, evaporating, the bite doesn't hurt any more, blind, numb, deaf, dumb. "Good morning!" he says, she hears, he is too nice or he is too thick to be ironic, she waves, and, for the first time since, she smiles.

He is Gary, call centre advisor, 39, moves from the vandalised bus-stop to the petrified bus, squashed, sodden, smiling because his neighbour smiled. Seven til five for seven years for seventeen grand, senseless, sensible, suited, if shirt, tie, trousers and walking boots is a suit, smart. Good, the girl is here again, good. Last time he said next time he will ask, now this time is next time and she is here, she is beautiful, he is smart, suited, scented, smiling, handsome in his heyday, yesterday, yesteryear, "yes" she says. But only in his head.

She is Alice, 26, hot in her heels and running, to work, not away from him, but that's an added bonus, why does that man stare her way every day, smiles stupidly, old, ugly, odourless, harmless, hopefully. Don't trip, don't trip, don't trip, inevitable, agony, wait, painless, alone, embarassed, agony, the masses pass, ignore, she has become an obstacle, objectionable, a man stops, he smiles, not stupidly, he holds her hand, he helps her stand, she thanks the man and runs off on her heels, in love.

He is John, shop-floor stander but little do they know, in retail, stylishly-suited, seemingly effortless, 30, too old for this, trying too hard. That stupid woman was bound to fall for heels for ice for him, for he has seen this all before, force-fed-fucking, fucking animal, vegetable, mineral water is too much for this wage, council pop, counting seconds, to see her, to sleep with her, not any more, yesterday he would be hot on her heels, not any more; to be with her.

She is Sam, formidable for so young, 30, sits at her sanitised city desk, stares from her high head to her low applicant. Is this me or is this my act? Poised, preened, power. Pathetic. Concentrate, focus, tonight is handsome but today is now. She knows he wants to marry her but he's a shop-floor stander, she knows she wants to marry him but a Hyde Park house is not a home... concentrate. When she is with him her hair falls.

She is Patricia, wound tight but is it any wonder? Half her age, half frowning, half a world away. Her hair was too tight and her highness said no. She doesn't even want this job but that doesn't matter. A milkman can't keep a family and 26 is too old to still be at home anyway. Shaking but she'll be alright. A free five o'clock bus is no way to leave an interview.  She composes, a nice man smiles and lets her sit down, she compliments his shoes for such weather. She should set her daughter up with this one instead of her friends son.

He is Richard, nervous and arrogant, a strange combination. 28 and past it, except he hasn't got started, a catch, so why does he need mums to set up a date? Accidently celibate, over-compensating, underwhelming. Rings on the comedy doorbell on the Morley door and rubs his deceptively weak hands. The wind is too strong for a pound umbrella and the rain beats his pointlessly prepared hair. "Good evening" says her dad. He hopes so.

He is Pat, 60 and sound, thirty years in a dying trade, alive. 5am is an early start when you haven't slept. Because he can tell she's in love with someone else again because he's in love with someone else. At least it's not the limp-handshaker. The Hunslet wind bites, fresh, beautiful. Whistling, he removes the milkless bottles from the repetative step. Smiling, he places full, perfect bottles on the repetative step. Everything is correct.

And so it goes, day by day, inside and out, together, happy, safe in the knowledge that this miserable city sits several miles north and several miles south of several cities worse.

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