I totter through a city I no longer recognise: kebabs sizzle on kerbside grills,
giant fizzy drinks parade across dazzling screens, and a congregation of
youths broadcast a painfully-repetitive beat from a street corner. The pinnacle
of strangeness is a suited man wearing an ostensible black hearing aid who
paces furiously, talking to himself.
When I reach the safety of my apartment block, I escape the outside
world as quickly as my body allows. I make my way up the stairs, knees
clicking on every step. On my way past, I check the post and am not surprised
to see a solitary envelope addressed to my wife.
Once inside the flat, I head straight to the kettle. A catchy jingle washes
over me: Loneliness affects one in four/ There are some people you shouldn’t
ignore/ Visit your elderly relatives more! I don’t remember turning the radio
I crumble into my armchair and unfurl today’s newspaper. After
glancing at the front page, I skip to the puzzles, starting with the quick
crossword. I’ve never been great at these things and, sure enough, I get stuck
on the first clue. Instinctively, my eyes are drawn to the other side of the room
and I ask an empty chair for suggestions.
The kettle is whirring manically so I go and pour the water out, feeling
a pang of guilt when I realise I’ve boiled twice as much as I need.
The afternoon plods by. When darkness descends, I sit down to write
my daily letter, eager to tell her about the strange sightings on my walk. As
always, the writing comes easily: each sentence compensates the words I
wasn’t able to say.
I diligently add the final full stop then slide my work into an envelope,
tenderly licking the seal and fixing the stamp. Holding it close to my chest, I
curl up in the oversized bed. I’ll send the letter tomorrow and receive it the
(c) Daniel Clark