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 on.
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 day after.
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