It is a midweek evening in early 2003. I am sitting slumped in my car, disconsolate, arms folded, staring sullenly out of the side window. Rain speckles and blurs the glass. The wipers intermittently clear the screen. I can’t get the variation in the timing of the sweeps quite right and every so often the blades screech and judder their way across the glass.
I am half a mile from my house, in fact I am looking at the back of it. As the crow flies it’s only about a quarter of a mile. I have been sitting staring at the house for 20 minutes now. It is as dark inside the house as it is outside. Nobody home yet. I can see the steam rise from our central heating boiler vent. At least it isn’t a cold dark house. Just dark. I wonder why my wife Rosie isn’t home. I am in a queue for the last of the 16 roundabouts that come between my work and my house. My work is as dreary and unrewarding as the journey to it. 16 roundabouts in 17 miles and I am stuck waiting for whatever is blocking the last one. One more to go but I am trapped in my car, in the dark and the rain. I am going nowhere. I am very depressed.
The radio is no help. It broadcasts news of war in Iraq interspersed with gloomy travel reports telling of congestion and delays, cancelled trains, blocked roads and broken ferries. The news reports then return to breathlessly tell of war in Iraq. I sit in a sullen silence. I have passed the frustrated stage and now accept this as just another part of my life that is out of my control. It’s a chance for my working day to heap a little more misery upon me after it’s supposed to be over. I can see my home, my bubble of happiness and safety. I should be there, in my sanctuary, pouring a glass of wine for Rosie and opening a bottle of beer for myself. We should be sitting at the dining table with our shoes kicked off, telling each other of the annoying, the ridiculous and the pathetic things that happened at work that day. Swapping war stories from the battlefields of our banal and unfulfilling theatres of employment.
I am close to home but I may as well be miles from it. I wish I couldn’t see it because knowing that nobody is home is worrying me. I know that it isn’t just that Rosie hasn’t turned on the kitchen light. She likes all the lights to be on. I have a good idea where Rosie is and there is nothing I can do about it.
Rosie is standing on a train. It isn’t the train she was meant to be on – it was cancelled, as was the one after it. That’s why she is standing, there are many frustrated people on this train. The train goes somewhere near to where we live, not near enough but Rosie thinks it’ll be okay as I will come and get her. I always do when this happens, which is all too frequently. She has left me a message on my mobile and the answering machine at home. I should be home by now. She has had another dispiriting day at work and it will be nice to see me waiting outside the station with the door of the warm welcoming car open for her.
It’s a pity then that I have been sitting for twenty minutes in a signal blackspot. The one good thing about that is I won’t be able to get my nightly call from my mother. She will be unable to tell me how inconvenient life is without my Dad who died the year before. What she means is that she misses him and is lonely but it wasn’t that kind of marriage, no room for sentiment. Well, there is a little sentiment now but that is only self-pity from both of us. I miss my Dad too. I ponder this, a highly successful effort to depress myself further. I light a cigarette and feel guilty about smoking. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying it though.
I switch from the radio to a CD. “Who Are You?” by The Who charges out of the speakers. I sing along half-heartedly until it gets to the line “God, there’s got to be another way” and stop. “You’re so right, Pete,” I think.
Copyright Andrew Woodhouse 2014
That was the prologue to the book I am writing at the moment. It will tell that we decide that there is another way and what way we decide on…