I’m sitting eating cornflakes at my breakfast bar in the kitchen, the radio’s on loud because my washing machine ,which has a tendency to run away with itself, is rattling loudly for attention. The door opens and my landlord walks in with another man. He seems more surprised to see me than I do him. I continue eating my cornflakes. He apologies profusely and said that he called up, I don’t mind I’m just glad I’m not sitting in my pants.
He introduces me to a man who is full of two teeth grins and enthusiasm. This is the man who’s gonna be building the flats. The new flats. My landlord says I’m sound and that two tooth man may need to build me a flat downstairs first so we can move me before they start dissecting this one. Although, there’s a possibility he may have to go to Gibraltar first for six weeks, before the works on the flat. Me and the builder look at each other in smiling agreement that this would be to both of our benefits. My landlord talks through the changes as I chew on my breakfast.
My front room will get made into the master bedroom, some talk of sealing some stuff off, keeping the kitchen where it is-knocking through into the rooms that sit behind the locked doors either side of my bed. He’s drawing invisible lines and making divisions with his hands.
The wood that he ripped out downstairs he got a bit of money for on ebay. Teak, it is. Once the wood comes down, we’ll gain five inches of space all round. Says this carpets like new, good quality 70’s original, barley been touched. I ask him if I can have some. He tells me I can have as much as I like. I tell him I can’t talk about leaving the flat and he asks if I’m welling up.
I say ‘well you know I’m going to do a project about the flat…?’
‘Are you? Will I be in it?’
I ask him about the man that used to own the building. Mr Ladds. He tells me that as a boy he used to kick around this area, went to the Grammer school that’s at the back, used to spend his lunchtime in that alley, the outside corridor to my flat, and now. Well, he owns it.
He thinks that this used to be their office space, their ‘entertaining room’, that that’s why it didn’t get much use. Everyone knew that shop, there was no curry’s, no Dixons, none of that to get a TV, he explains expansively…Everyone got their stuff from Ladds.
I’m going to go down in the week and ask him some more questions…
This little bit was written towards the end of last year at some point, I thought I’d just chuck it in…
I’m outside my flat on a Thursday Evening at 11.15pm having a celebratory cigarette for something I accomplished that day. I smoke in an outdoor corridor from the locked gate down to the lock up garage beyond.
Skeleton bushes armed in barbed wire are in front of me, my back to the flat. I am framed in a light that spills through the front door, casting shadows into the bushes. Beyond is a drive. Stacy Drive. A drive leading to some sort of residential area. Not quite a road, not a through road, not a cul-de-sac, more of a drive. Definitely a drive.
Through my kitchen window that faces out into a yard, some scrubland and to the left, over the bushes, some sort of building, half an octagonal (four sides?) conservatory, recently boarded up.
Once the winter came in and the leaves fell I can see through the bushes and beyond, there’s more light, without the curtain of foliage my outside corridor is less intimidating than in summer. I haven’t walked down Stacey Drive, haven’t adventured into my surroundings more than what I know. Where I have to go. Like the blank squares on a slow loading internet map, it is a grey area. What is next to me doesn’t exist outside my peripheral vision. I only see it’s edges. I don’t know what exists next to me, only the paths I travel in days of necessity.
Bathed in half light, framed in the doorway, blowing smoke to the wind, I see a figure walking up Stacy Drive. 11.15pm. Unusual.
His gait is focused but slow moving. Purposeful but without hurry. Concentrated. I can see his feet scrapping along the drive. My heart beats a little faster. I hold a breath full of smoke and wonder where he’s shuffling too. I’ve never seen anyone walking along Stacy Drive at this time of night.
He is outlined in the throw of light; portly, bearded, older, a long beard in the light.
I watch him trying not to watch him, not knowing if he is aware of my presence. If he is watching me. I track his shuffle until it disappears into the curve of the drive that I have never walked down, into the darkness of the trees. I breath, smile at my fear of figures in the dark. The outline of a man.
I hear a scrapping and he returns back down the drive, almost as soon as he left. I’m certain he can see me. I’m certain he is looking toward me, silhouetted in the security light.
A half imagined face and a quickening of my breath.
Scrape. Shuffle. Scrape. Shuffle.
I stand my ground in sucking on the last of the cigarette. Heart beating in my ears. I slam my door, check the lock and run up the stairs. I stand in the safety of my flat. Behind the unknowing of a closed door. Listen for sounds and hesitate to look out of the window to the street outside, where I would see the bearded man exiting Stacy Drive.
Or standing beneath a street light, bathed in orange glow, staring up at my window. In horror film flash.
I tell my beating heart that he was just walking. A wrong turn. A mistaken road. My outline probably scared him more than he scared me. Like a spider. An animal.
I peak my eyes cautiously to the road. There’s no one there.