A strange Meeting Essay
Although it is overcast, today is unusually bright. Perhaps through lack of stimulation, my eyes have forgotten what it feels like to be outside. This morning I was abruptly awoken by a young male prison officer whom I’d never seen before, shaking an overweight bunch of keys in the lock of my humble, if not homely cell. This pitiful assault on my temperament so early in the day was not uncommon, as the officers seem to take some joy in irritating us.
My name is Laurence Steadman, and for the first time in thirty years, I am standing outside my prison, with the innocent yet insolent general public. A taxi abandoned me outside a run-down block of flats. I could already see mine, in the bottom right-hand corner, near the no-doubt broken lifts. My new home, which the government took the liberty of renting for me until three weeks on Monday, does not look welcoming. And so, not even taking the time to go inside, I left my black plastic bag beside some overused dustbins, to go and explore this unpromising estate.
Now here I stand, outside “The Paper Shop”, a grotty looking business. The sign, which looks like at one point it may have contained neon lighting, hangs ignored and filthy above a rain streaked and muddy frosted glass door. Two windows stand either side of the entrance, attached to the inside of the windows is a metal grid, plastered to this is as many ‘lost and found’, ‘wanted’, and classified adverts as I have ever seen in one place. Below the left window is the estates most endearing feature so far, a beautiful Georgian window box, prim with a technicoloured arrangement of various small neat flowers, even though I am not a horticulturalist, I can take joy from watching them sway briskly for a good five minutes. I am hungry, so I decide to brave the newsagents in hope of finding, at the least, a packet sandwich.
The door handle is greasy, and a bell tinkles softly above my head. The view is disappointing: to my right is a refrigerator and a rack of cheap tabloids, to my left is an isle of confectionary and magazines, but no sandwich. So I proceed to take a diet Pepsi, which has a softer taste and contains less sodium than diet coke, from the noisy chilling cabinet. The girl I see when I go to pay is fascinating,
“Alrigh’ Sir” I assume that was a rhetorical question, “that’s ninety” I hand the girl the exact change, a fifty, and two twenty pence pieces, which she takes in a petite left hand. She is very pretty, around twenty years old. Coincidently she reminds me of the girl I tied up and watched bleed thirty years, five months and seven days ago. So the last two girls I have seen in a lifetime could well be related, funny that. As I watch her brush her hair from her face as she leans over the cash register, I get the same animal urges to rip her apart, but they soon subside as she smiles attentively downwards. I turn to walk away…
“Ain’t seen you before”
I look down, and my feet retrace exactly the steps I had just taken. I look her in her scarlet face, and smile suddenly. “That’s because I just moved here.” I say coyly.
“Where from?” Before I can answer she blurts “…can’t imagine where’s worse than ‘ere.”
“From where I came, this is like Mayfair.” I lie.
For some reason, she misses the tone in my voice and actually looks flattered, “Well that must be nice for you,” she is slightly simple, “Do you have any family with you?”
“No” I say plainly, and then she asks a question I hadn’t thought of.
“So-err…where did you move from?”
I look at her with a comical expression for hours, well probably only ten seconds, but to this girl it’s unimportant. ” I moved from up north, from…err…” I mumble a sound that could possibly be perceived as a secluded northern hamlet.
She nods as though she knows it well. I have always found it amusing how the simple try to pass themselves off as not, even to their own kind. Her pale right hand is tapping continually on the register with her nails, and I unintentially mimic the beat with my left foot.
This has turned out not to be so much of a conversation, more of a polite silence, “What’s your name?” I’m still hungry “I’m Lawrence” I speedily add.
“Kerry, and I don’t actually work here”
“No I’m saving up to go to college”
Why is this girl trying to impress me? “Wow,” I attempt, “That sounds impressive” In my head I can hear a sniggering. As she sways round to see a cracked clock behind her I can imagine her, pale and whimpering by my feet. I move closer to the counter. She turns and says,
“You know, this estate is on it’s way up” what a young point of view, worthless. My hands raid my pockets for sharp objects that could serve as an instrument. I settle for a glass jar on the side, full of coppers, which should knock her down at least. With a steady right hand I reach for it. Suddenly…
“You know, its people like you sir that this world needs,” I look quizzical, “I mean, you were willing to give this area a chance, no matter on first appearances”
This is absolute optimistic rubbish. However…maybe that’s exactly what this world needs now. She can live. I quickly, without looking up, retract my hand. I need to get away from this girl, so I mutter a thankyou, and hurry outside.
Nothing has changed in the last ten minutes, so head down, I follow the white lines home. Now I’m going to sit in my empty room, or possibly jump in a circle, just to pass the time