‘Ooh, wow. That is cold’ I said, stepping in through the door to the getaway flat. Except this time, it is a stay. I look around at me at the absolute tip of a hallway. I kick the post like fallen autumn leaves and I slip on a leaflet for pizzas. I put a hand on the wall to stop me from falling.
I gaze at the wall, spreading out my hand and I arch my fingertips, feeling the bumps of the paper that I had plastered up to cover the cracks. I remove my hand and wipe it on my right thigh, feel the sleepy twitch of my cock. I drop my suitcase and I push open the door into the main room. The dining table lies on its side like an overturned umbrella in the wind. I reach for the box to turn on the heater but it has been scratched, beaten.
I stretch a jumper, another one, over me. It’s the cold that can thin you out but right now I don’t want to be cold, I want to be able to feel my toes. In one movement in bringing my cigarettes from my pocket, I knock coins and filters and letters and my card out of its pouch. I only bother to pick up the card. My social worker is here tomorrow. I should clean up and show myself to be coping well. I look in the cupboard. There are cobwebs and a broken broom head. I thump on the door of my neighbour to ask to use the phone.
‘Telephone, if I can?’ I ask, offering the woman a cigarette.
‘Oh no’ She replied. ‘Come in Archie. If there’s anything, I’m always here’
I nod ‘Um’ What should I say? ‘Thank you’ I say. Dialling the number. ‘Hi Sue’ I speak into the holes and plastic. ‘It’s Archie Leach, about tomorrow-‘
‘Is there a problem with the time?’
‘Yeah, well, you know, been catching up with mates and that’ I look up and the neighbour is there, listening. I smile. ‘And tomorrow’ I go on. ‘I am going to be seeing my parents’ That word is poison in my mouth. ‘I really have missed them and I know you need to do your job and check that I am, I’m OK and I will be. I’ll be with them and I can phone you, I swear’
Sue chuckles. ‘That’s alright Archie. This time was meant for you to see your family, I think that’s great you are’
‘I will see you soon then’
I put down the phone and I imagine Sue picking up her diary from inside of her handbag. With a list in the back of it, names of patients written on it and mine now being crossed off. I bet she’s thinking that’s an extra ten minutes in bed and she can have breakfast, not just a coffee and that makes me pleased for her. You should eat breakfast, it’s important. I wonder what she eats. I like toast. I like it dry. Butter is a bad food. I sniff. I am suddenly aware of my neighbour at my elbow and I flinch. ‘Sorry’ I say. ‘I didn’t mean-‘
‘Shall I put on the kettle, would you like a drink?’ she asks and I cannot decide. The get away flat is cold and it is empty, but it’s my home.
‘Sit down’ She tells me.
I sit and accept the warm drink. I sip it and it jogs, splashing my jumper.
‘Sugar’ I mutter. ‘I should watch what I am doing’
‘You can take that off’
‘I’m freezing’ I say, although I can feel the heat rushing through me. ‘Forgive me but could you, what’s your name? I have forgot’
She laughs. ‘It’s Grace’ she said.
‘Of course, I’m sorry’
‘Not to worry. I forget names’
‘But you couldn’t forget mine’
‘No, well you aren’t there now. You can enjoy the freedom’
‘It doesn’t feel free. I feel, it scares me’
I walk back to the flat, sitting on a stinking sofa. It has bugs running along it and I smoke a cigarette. Then I remember and drag my suitcase in from the hallway. Resting inside the jumpers and jeans is a six pack of beer and I pop one open. Guzzling it, I flick a bug off of my knee. I squash a bug that has crawled under where I place my elbow on the rest. As the ash falls, I stub the cigarette on my knuckle. I get to my feet and face the room. I scatter the magazines on the coffee table and I disturb spiders. There’s an ashtray with a yellow liquid in it and also there is an ashtray from Blackpool. I notice the TV and stereo are gone. The square left by the stereo has been filled in by the tapes that had been stacked around it.
I rub my forehead, noticing the kitchen door is shut and my heart begins to hammer. I crawl to it. I try the handle and I have to boost it using my shoulder. There is a tramp laying with his feet in the sink and face on a tin.
I close the door and I burst into tears. I crumple the beer can and the sharp creases dig into the folds of my palm. I squeeze it and again I stub the cigarette, screwing it against my knuckle. I know I need to eat. I’ll need to go outside. It might be packed and there will be people. I let go of the beer can and I slip my hand, my sore knuckles chafe on the fabric, into my pocket and feel the roll of notes. I buy cigarettes, booze and food.
I have to go into the kitchen. I need a knife to cut the cake. It is fruitcake. Fruitcake is at least healthier. Though I would like to be assured chocolate still tastes the same. Chocolate is a bad food. I nudge the tramp. ‘Excuse me’ I said. Would you mind, how about a beer?’ I ask.
‘How about a ciggie?’
I proffer to him the packet and he shakes his head. ‘I like to roll mine’ he says.
‘Oh, hold on then’
‘Can I have the beer while I do?’
I throw him a beer and I search my suitcase for my tobacco. The papers are in my glasses case and the filters, where had I put those?
I hand him the equipment and the tramp thanks me.
‘That’s OK’ I said. I wait and then remember my cake. I search the drawers. ‘What’s it you want to find?’ The tramp asks.
‘Knife’ I answer.
‘I took them’
‘Market’ He holds out something and I hesitate. ‘Take it’ He says, waving the object in my face.
It’s a penknife. Knives are bad.
‘Do you want a slice?’ I grip the knife.
‘Sure do, I haven’t eaten in days’
‘You haven’t had breakfast?’