I just called my wife to say that I’ll be home soon, which is quite possibly just the news she wanted to hear. She’s been home all day, is feeling neglected. Can’t tear herself away from devices. I need her to know that I miss her too, that we can calm each other, but it’s going to be an hour before I can reach there and the thoughts rushing around in our minds mean that we have a tense evening ahead of us if either of us says the wrong thing.
So I can’t just stand here, typing this. I’m too full of the absence of her, my heart feels like a weight in my chest, like a bird dead in the bottom of the cage. I move myself on, walk a few more steps until I reach the edge of the pavement and then stand, waiting for the end of this sentence so that I can cross the road. It’s around five thirty; a sparse but steady stream of folk on their way home from work. There are people around my small island of concentration, part of me hears the swoosh of tyres in the road, the whirr of cycles and the rattle of a pram pushed by a mother taking advantage of the last freedom of the day, before she has to go home to be with their silent husband.
I walk across the road, cross beneath the acorn tree on the corner, feeling dried husks crunch beneath my feet. I stand for a moment before crossing another road and then glance back towards the family now walking behind. I try to speed up, but they pass me, their conversation momentarily stilled and I think of greeting them. But what would I say then? Hope you have a nice evening? Nice chatting? Their eyes are on me but I don’t think they are seeing a new friend.
I carry in towards the willow tree, and without really thinking about it duck my head beneath the swaying fronds. I’m about halfway under when a sudden breeze whips one of them across my face, and it’s awful; it’s like being punished, I feel it as a visceral reaction close to my lizard-brain; stirring up my resentment. I look down and notice something on the pavement, a pound coin. Dropped by someone fumbling for an object in their pocket probably, and something about it delights me. I reach down for it, wanting it for my pocket money-pebble: Gilbert. I smile as I slip it into my pocket and quicken my pace towards home.
In our drive, I stop to type this last paragraph. I can smell delicious food and can hear familiar noises from within. I smile and push the door open.
“Hello, Sugarplum, I’m home!”