While the cat’s away

by Nathan Evans

The times when you notice that you’re lonely are the funny times, bits and pieces, the beginnings and ends of things.

Disliking your own company, you have done a good job of filling your time this week. There are people to see, dinners to have and places to go. You could almost feel like they were a succession of normal evenings and generally you do, right until the point when you get back to the flat. Normally you would say “get back home” but home doesn’t feel like the right word on nights like that, because your home is elsewhere.

Instead, you are in a flat that doesn’t look like yours, all huge rooms, long straight lines, empty glasses and cups as far as you can see. It’s as full of detritus as it is devoid of company. It looks as if you’ve had a party and not yet cleared up and that’s half right; you’ve not cleared up yet, but it’s hardly been a party.

It’s not just space that is altered but time too. Everything lasts longer; left to your own devices, the nights stretch on for ages. Bedtime has been moved to the small hours by unpopular demand, and a morning without rituals feels too much like the night before, feels too much like the morning before that.

The times that you notice that you’re lonely are when you realise that somebody pressed the mute button on your life when you weren’t looking. The morning routine is conducted in almost-silence. You can hear the thud and click of closing the bedroom window and flipping the catch, loud as a hammer. At the start of the week there is no beautiful, cautionary voice ticking you off for complaining at the radio. By midweek you don’t have the heart to complain at the radio anyway. By the end of the week the radio is not even switched on.

The blinds in the living room stay drawn for days. You are home too late and in too much of a hurry in the mornings to lift them. People walking past must think that both of you are away, on holiday perhaps. Would that it were true.

You notice you are lonely on the late trains returning from London. Still in your suit in the sweltering heat, you look like somebody with nothing much in his life to go back for, which happens to be true. But when you look round at your fellow passengers in the same boat, cruelly pinned to the tatty backs of their seats by the blades of evening sunlight, you know your solidarity is false. You aren’t like them: you’ve been parachuted into that demographic but for a limited time only. And you will be rescued, just not yet. So you start the journey lonely and end it guilty that you’ve patronised so many people who have to do this day in, day out.

When the woman opposite asks if you could wake her up when the train pulls into Swindon, you feel sad about having to tell her that you are getting off a few stops before.

You have got stupidly attached to the gigantic spider scuttling round the bathtub and you can’t bring yourself to kill it. It’s the only flatmate you have. You have a nagging suspicion that, given another week on your own, you might wind up talking to it.

In the dead of night when the final light has gone out, you sleep on her side of the bed, your glasses folded and resting on the unfinished paperback she left behind. It nearly, slightly, helps.

Nathan Evans writes about himself. Even then he feels like he’s bluffing a lot of the time.

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  1. #1 by aranell on July 8, 2011 - 11:06 am

    Beautiful, and so very true. Although as the woman left behind, the glasses and cups get washed ;)

  2. #2 by moannie on July 8, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    Nathan at his best, which is always. He says that he doesn’t ‘do’ fiction. Yes, he does, but it is wrapped up in what he knows best. His life with K, his work, what he sees and hears. He is an embroiderer of truth, an impressionist painter for whom light is the star.

  3. #3 by Linda Parkins on July 8, 2011 - 5:15 pm

    Enjoyed this. Unusual to be written in the second person but it works. If it’s really about you, you could tidy the flat!

    Good writing.

  4. #4 by Sharon Longworth on July 8, 2011 - 6:19 pm

    Lovely to read and cleverly written. The second person narrative is just perfect as it emphasises the sense of having to talk to yourself cos she’s not around.

    You should be rightly proud of this Mr Evans.

  5. #5 by lois stearns on July 8, 2011 - 9:06 pm

    Another rave review for you, Nathan, my dear. I am running out of superlatives…..I wish the keyboard had a symbol for applause.

    This piece made me shiver and sigh. Gawd, make her come home already.

  6. #6 by Whirlochre on July 9, 2011 - 9:34 am

    You’re very good at turning what a less perceptive writer would presume to be nothing into something.

  7. #7 by John Lee on July 9, 2011 - 10:24 am

    I get a junior version of this whenever the children go on school trips, holidays without us, etc – the exact time we should both being able to enjoy our freedom, we find ourselves missing the noise, hubbub. You scare me with a vision of what may happen as the children fly the nest. Nice piece, as usual, Mr Evans

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