You left before dawn, without a goodbye.
I suppose the packed bags by the door should’ve been plenty of warning.
But waking up alone on these cold October mornings is a special kind of torture.
The apartment was barren, not even a slow dripping tap in the kitchen to keep me company.
You and the dog, gone.
Although your smell had not entirely left, and there was a strand or two of your hair still on the pillow and in the drain of the bath tub.
The coffee was nowhere to be found.
Did you take it?
We have a full can at the beach house so I don’t know why you would’ve taken it with you (if you did?).
My train is at half nine tomorrow morning, I’ll get a taxi from the station.
I should arrive just in time for us to have lunch on the terrace.
I’ll try and bring some sunshine.
Anyhow, call me when you get this message.
I love you.
There were five of us smoking cigarettes outside in the late May sun.
I’d only been working at the pub for three weeks but the punters were friendly and I was never short of company on my day off.
We were five white bellies on the park benches that dotted the beer garden.
Five white bellies plumped by too much beer and armchair sports.
I sipped at my pint and watched the planes above us, orbiting Heathrow airport.
The other guys told dirty jokes, I laughed, laughing even harder at the jokes that I didn’t like or understand.
Out of nowhere a car pulled up to a screeching halt, almost mounting the curb and clattering into us.
Behind the wheel was a woman, blonde, red lips, dark glasses….glorious.
There was a vacuum in the air above the table as we all sucked in those white bellies.
She leant heavily on the car’s horn and raised her middle finger at us.
Then she was gone.
She sped away leaving smoke hanging in the air and rubber melting on the road.
“What the fuck was her problem?” One of us asked.
“Rude bitch.” Said another.
We echoed macho abuse and all had a good chuckle.
“That was my wife.” Said the man sitting opposite me.
Nobody spoke. The smiles were all gone.
I distracted myself by reading the health warnings on my cigarette packet.
“Geez sorry mate.”
“I meant nothin by it you know.”
I too mumbled my mea culpa’s.
“S’alright lads.” He said, giving us all the finger.
“I think she meant to say ‘be home by one’.”
He would down a can of full strength cider in the phone booth outside, then stagger into the pub a few minutes after I opened up and order a beer with all the courtesy in the world.
‘A pint of your finest lager dear boy’
He slurred his speech and sometimes had to wipe the spittle away from the corner of his mouth with his shirt sleeve.
Once on my morning off, I walked up the street to buy a newspaper and saw him in the booth finishing his can.
He turned and saw me.
His expression was pitiful
A nose like Rudolph.
It was the first time that he had seen me seeing him
‘Good heavens boy, won’t you have some more decorum?!’
But I didn’t just see him. I saw him, the can and the smiling cider coloured devil
We never talked about it and I went on serving him with a smile and making small talk.
I saw too many young men lose themselves in afternoon pints that transformed so easily into large whiskies, weeknight lines and weekend grams.
Motivation lost in the pre-dawn of days beginning with paracetamol and coffee blacker than the worst of moods and blitz era London skies.
Men that prided themselves on flirtations with the law and bruised knuckles.
Men that promised the world and delivered only promises.
Men waiting, waiting, waiting. Anxious to hear the sounds of their shackles falling to the floor.
Money buying happiness in small envelopes behind the locked doors of late night toilets.
Men riding the ethereal chemical burn.
Hot blood in their veins and nostrils stuffed with four different soils of South America.
Let them ride. Let them go.
Only three cigarettes left.