The clock hands scraped towards 4:45.
It is almost as if
they dont have a care in the world, 4:45 means nothing to them.
To me 4:45 signals the beginning of my day. Its when the
suffocating hell that the computer screen grips me to is gone. For sixteen
hours my time is mine, no-one elses. If you have ever worked in a
call-centre you will know exactly what I mean, if not, every day is a living
yet frozen moment in hell.
Imagine a job that scratches at your soul,
scarring for life.
A job that pays the bills but takes its own all-too
devastating payment back. Any joy of life is ground down in such an
environment. To my credit, this is not a debilitating problem for me. I can
somehow continue to work here year after year. It breaks some people, but I
have an inner strength that allows me to continue. But still, it hurts daily.
No job satisfaction, no level or feeling of success; just an endless stream of
faceless people on the other end of the telephone line.
Finally the clock struck 4:45. I grabbed my work-sheets, put
them in the appropriate pigeonhole (I have no idea what happens to them after
that; they might burn them I suppose) and marched out of the incongruous office
It was Friday and for an entire weekend I was free and I had
My new friend was waiting for me at home. His name is Richard. I
dont find myself attracted to him per say but we are very close. We
bonded very quickly. He listens to me and does not interrupt my conversation. I
suppose you would class him as a good listener but he is more than that. He
does not judge me, doesnt condescend; he seems comfortable in my
This might not seem remarkable to the average person but to me
this is indeed a remarkable thing! Richard has not discarded me as others have
done in the past. He listens to my problems and my woes. Some might look upon
him as painfully quiet, others might say mute, but he is perfect for me. He is
a proper listener.
No more. I need no more.
Ill briefly explain
how we met.
I have never been blessed with the gift of the gab.
People are not my forte. I struggle to not come across as a prick. For as long
as I can remember, I have been a bit of an outcast. Folk just dont seem
to take to me.
Dont get the wrong idea, this is not going to be a sob
story. All Im trying to say is that I find it hard to relate to humans in
a meaningful way, always have done.
Richard however is different.
We met about a week ago in a pub in the Tottenham Court Road. I
had gone there for a few post-work drinks. I was at a loss as to what to do
with myself really. I was finishing my third Guinness, lost in thought, when I
heard a voice to my left ask, Excuse me. Is anyone sitting there? I
looked up to see a quite thin man with dark brown hair hanging loosely around
his ears and eyes of a strange blue-grey colour. I was immediately taken by
him. He was gesturing towards the perennially empty seat next to me. I tried
not to sound too excited as I spluttered a quick Negative. He
exhaled loudly as he reclined on the sofa next to me. I didnt take too
much notice of him at first. I drifted off into a different world and he sat in
silence. I think we sat like this for about ten minutes before he shattered my
inner silence with a Have you got a light mate? I didnt take
any notice at first, not suspecting for a second that he was talking to me.
Just not used to it you see. It took a second, louder request for me to look up
and see Richard with a fag hanging out of his mouth looking at me mimicking the
action of striking a lighter. Aye, shit of course. Sorry. I lit his
cigarette with a shaky hand. Thankfully, he didnt seem to notice.
With fag lit, he looked at me for a second as if sizing me up. I had seen
this look many times before but for the first time it was followed by
interaction. What do you think our chances are then? For about 30
seconds I had no idea what he was talking about but as I glanced up at the
plasma screen in the corner, I realised that England were playing a game of
football. Football is not really my thing but I had heard enough idle chat to
know what to say. Well, if we play to our strengths and take our chances,
we should see it through. I had heard this line so many times as I sat in
featureless, senseless pubs but it seemed to do the trick with Richard. He
prattled on about the game for a bit and I threw in the odd cliché just
to make up the conversation. As the night wore on, so did the game but I paid
little attention to it, absorbed in this human in front of me. We moved onto
other topics. You know the usual, setting the worlds wrongs to rights. It
was great! We bought each other drinks and everything. Richard did not seem at
all bored, in fact he even appeared to enjoy my company and, Im not shy
to admit, I enjoyed his immensely. I had not detected any awkwardness in
Richard. He seemed completely at ease in my company and once I had got over the
initial shock of this, I too was able to relax. I couldnt believe it. I
had been locked in conversation with this man for several hours and I felt no
hint of anxiety or any sense that he was forcing himself to spend time with me.
No sign of pity. What a delight! And so it continued until the fat wench behind
the bar shouted, Time at the bar, thats time!
Well Im for the off, said Richard as he rose
Where are you headed? I asked/begged.
Im headed to Muswell Hill if you fancy getting a
carryout back at mine, I almost pleaded. I really, really, really
didnt want this night to end. It had been a miraculous evening for me
full of pleasure, and more importantly, hope. I could not let it end
now. What if I never saw him again? He had been the first fruitful human
connection I had made for many years, long after I had given up hope for good.
I wasnt going to let it end because some fat, soulless bitch had decided
that it was time to go home! I was so utterly grateful when I heard Richard
agree to accompany me home although I was a bit affronted when he asked me if
this was all above board. I think he was implying that I might try
it on with him but I assured him that all I wanted was company. That simple.
Human contact. After all these years all I wanted was a friend that would stay
with me. Richard appeared to me through the haze of Guinness to be the perfect
candidate for this role. A friend who would stay with me. Too many had left
before I had been emotionally fulfilled. Some left awkwardly before closing
time, others not until the early hours back at my flat. But Richard would stay.
I was sure of that now. We got some cheap rum and some cola and headed back to
mine. I remember the feeling of sheer happiness I had on that journey home. I
knew inside that I was letting myself get carried away but I just couldnt
help it, I felt great. I felt like I belonged at last. I could relate to others
after all; it turns out the cold fish has feelings. I made a conscious effort
to try and remember everything about the night, so I could play it back again
in my head at a more convenient, solitary moment.
Ironically and frustratingly, I dont remember too much
after we got back to mine. What I do know is that I woke up with a vague sense
that everything had not really gone according to plan. I remember Richard
heading to the door at one point. I could still fell the pain in my gut when I
got flashbacks of that scene. I went through to the living room to find Richard
on the floor dead to the world. Late for work, I put him in my bed, tucked him
in, washed, dressed and flew out the door. He has stayed ever since. He even
has his own place to sleep in the flat now. Which brings us back to the
I couldnt wait to get home. The horror of the tube journey
went over my head. It meant nothing to me. My only thoughts were of Richard. I
couldnt wait to see him, talk to him, feed him, care for him. My
friend awaits, I thought to myself, completely unaware of the clump of
hair that was being pushed into my face as the train hurtled through
Londons subterranean bloodlines.
As I eased my way through the front door, one of my neighbours
in the house passed through the hallway. Her eyes followed me as I hauled
myself up the stairs to my top-floor room.
Have you noticed the smell? she rasped.
Yeah, not too pleasant eh? Probably just some dead pigeons
in the loft. I mused.
Well need to get the council onto it. She said
before slipping through the doorway to her part of the house. I knew she would
as well. Oh well, worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. That had been a favourite
saying of my fathers until he had died penniless. I finally reached my
loft section of the house and made my way inside. When I looked around there
was no sign of Richard. He must still be in bed! I called out to him but
received no response. Whispering profanely, I went through to the bedroom,
stripped to my underwear, drew the curtains closed and prepared to rouse
I prised up the loose floorboards in my room with ease. I could
see Richard outlined in the darkness. Putting down my cup of tea, I took a hold
of his ankles and dragged him up into the light. It wasnt easy I can tell
you, but I was used to it by now. As he lay on the bedroom rug, I noticed that
he still had my tie knotted tightly at the side of his neck. I suppose if he
liked it that bad he could keep it, I wasnt going to get in the way. In
fact I thought he looked quite charming. He was very pale and cold to the touch
but I knew that he would warm up nicely when I bathed him. I took him through
to the bathroom and put him in the empty bath. I turned the taps on and let the
hot water wash over him, cleansing him. After his bath, I dressed him carefully
in clean underwear straight from the packet and sat him down in front of the TV
next to me as I ate my dinner. I made him dinner too but he just let it sit in
front of him, untouched. I discussed the evening news with him without hearing
a single response. What a delight! Someone to listen to me at last! We sat this
way for a few hours oblivious to the world that was swirling around us outside.
There was even a knock at the door but I ignored it. I was not going to waste
any more of the precious time I had with Richard than was strictly necessary.
Occasionally Richard slumped down in his chair with a loud sigh but he was
easily pulled back up again. Looking at him on one of these occasions, I
noticed that his mouth hung slightly ajar and a thick black-blue fluid was
creeping down his chin. I tutted loudly and used his napkin to clean the mess
off his face. Honestly, sometimes I dont think he gives a shit about how
he looks. Hes lucky that hes got me to look after him. As I cleaned
his face, I looked at it closely. I started to cry silently. I could see by the
discolouration and the looseness of the skin that I would not be able to keep
him for much longer. It was the height of summer. All things are subject to
natural cycles, even Richard. In Richard I not only saw my present but much of
my future too. Just now, he was everything. He was maintaining the mirage.
Overcome with emotion, I leapt on to his lap and hugged him tightly, so tightly
that he let out a huge sigh.
It might not be right, but it feels right to me. I
whispered in his ear sealing my words with a gentle kiss on his forehead. I
held his head close to my chest, rocking gently back and forth in the
unnatural, flickering light of the TV. Accepting his smell as just another
quirky part of my dearest friend, I thought how lucky I was to have found a
friend like Richard.