With a half-bemused, half-resigned smile, he exhales through his nose as he comes out of the poem.
M: Do you think it’s fair to take him there? He doesn’t seem to mind. I think he looks forward to our walks and is happy to bide his time. Within reason. You know what he is like when he’s tilled for something to happen.
The rumble starts up again and the desk light flickers. As before, when the rumble begins to die down, he reaches out and dampens the tray’s rattle.
M: Did you hear that one? I’m sure they’re getting worse. I should have a word. Once I’ve worked out which one that should be. [Laughs] Maybe, that’s what they want. It’s a beckoning.
He moves the top sheet to the bottom of the pile and takes off his headphones, keeping them in his hands.
M:After we got back, I made him some tea and was finally able to get round to the stuff Morven left me. Not Morven, [Laughs] Morna. If only I could’ve got my hands on some of old Morven’s treasures. Can you imagine? No, they snaffled the whole lot, didn’t they? Right down to the rusty bucket they kicked from under her. Morna on the other hand, well, I could’ve taken my pick. If I was that way inclined. But, yet again, I deferred. I already knew what it would be. Just my mother’s letters. She’d told me she had kept them. She knew I had no call for them beyond my obligations. And that those obligations would eventually halt my retreat. Strange things they are. All hum drum and ritual and her light fingered stubbornness. Not that anyone else would notice. A real testament to her trick of dismissing any suggested straying from the path as another bit of bad advice. And I’m sure Morna bought it every time.
Another rumble starts up. He flings down the headphones and jumps to his feet, pushing the chair away and stamping on the floor.
M: [Shouting, half-joking, rushed] Now you’re just taking the piss. Once or twice a day, you said. Not every five bloody minutes. Gets inside your head. Like paying witness to the aftershocks of your own impending demise.
He steadies himself and sits back down.
M: The mild mannered poet upstairs and his strange little son. They won’t mind will they? [Shouting at the floor] Yes they bloody will.
He stops, takes another sip of water and bows his head. After a moment, he lifts it up again and talks into the microphone.
M: Sorry. Sorry. You know how it is.
Another sip of water and then a long sigh.
M: She kept all the photos as well. With the letters. In the envelopes they came in. My shyness on display, at first, at least. I don’t seem reluctant. The smiles never seem easy, but, apart for the odd clutch or frown, I seem fine with the attention. You don’t know how long that attention will last when you’re that age. By the time I’m about eleven or twelve the penny seems to have dropped. Sometimes, I’m still there as a raised hand or a departing step; or as a turned head bleached by the sunlight. But increasingly, I am missing until it gets to the point where I only feature as an absence. And then the strangest thing. Hang on, I’ve got it here somewhere. Bear with me. Down the bottom of the box, as I shuffled through the envelopes. Now, where have I put it?
He looks around the table, picking up the notebooks, paper and laptop to see if there is anything underneath. He looks through the bag and the pockets of the blazer. He doesn’t find what he is looking for.
M: Oh well, no matter. Yes, the strangest thing, down the bottom of the box, there I am, beaming out from beneath all the envelopes. A photo of me, crumpled and then uncrumpled, just me, a happy little hostage. I’m at least five years older than before, my eyes fixed on the camera, no pretense or feign or unease. Oh how ready I look. Well, there’s a first time for everything. [As if quoting] The first and forgotten filed side by side. [Long pause] You understand why I did it don’t you? Although, all eloquence gone. I hope you understand. We need to be outside. Me and him…
He tails off into another long pause, drifting off into thought until that thought is gone and it appears his mind is empty. He picks up the top sheet of paper, looks at it briefly and puts it back. He puts the headphones back on and begins to read.