Robert couldn’t wait to get off the streets and back into his own flat. Pokey it might be, but it was his and he could close the bloody door and keep all this false jollity at bay. The holidays at the end of the year had been the bane of his adult life bringing, as they did, all the false hail-marys out onto the street, wishing him a merry this and a happy that. Robert had long contended that his best company was his own, a view that hardened as he aged. Not that he had tickets on himself, or thought himself better than other folk.
Well, he did think he was smarter. And that was the thought that had long caused trouble for Robert. Certainly until he learned to keep his mouth shut, but even then, his brain churned it over, and the result was laid bare for all to read upon his face.
‘She goes to church on Christmas Eve because singing carols makes her feel good,’ he mutters as he shuffles down the steps into his courtyard, ensuring that he does not trip over the cat as it mewls around his trowsered legs, ‘What must her brain be thinking, or not. Just as well she has a phobia about keeping her body trim.’
Being a nerd, this sets Robert upon a course of endeavouring to determine the corollary of the expression ‘one doesn’t look at the mantelpiece when stoking the fire’. Whilst admitting to its coarseness, Robert allows that the expression served a purpose in his life at one stage. No longer is it their body that he wishes to engage with, just their brain, if they have one. There must be women out there who read the opinion pages and something other than ‘The Womens’ Weekly’, he cogitates as he fumbles the key into the lock.
Otherwise preoccupied, he throws a handful of dried food into the bowl, as he reaches for the bottle of Johnny Walker Black stored on the top shelf of his overflowing book shelf. Out of harm’s way he likes to think. He splashes a goodly quantity into the heavy frosted glass, and eagerly gulps a mouthful, standing stock-still as it warms from the inside.
‘Better than carols in an empty cold church,’ he muses wryly.
He reaches for the crossword on the top of his pile and desultorily worries 18-down for a moment or two: ‘Camels befuddled by liquor (6)’. He pauses as Gould brings Bach’s first prelude to a conclusion yet again, then pencils c-a-m-e-l-s into a random circle on his pad. Pre-occupied, he shuffles over to the oven, checking his apple-turnover contribution for lunch the next day at his sister’s terrace three blocks away, across the escarpment.
He listens to the siren progress along Oxford Street, then ambles back to his crossword and pencils ‘mescal’ into 18-down, swilling another mouthful as he lowers himself into the armchair. He scratches the tabby behind its ears.