Get Your Laughing Tackle Around this
On the main road heading north out of Norwich was a newly built block of flats. They were close to shops and a stone’s throw from the local pub. Being just ten minutes from where I worked, I decided to pay the deposit and move in.
It was all a bit of a shock and everything was being done in a hurry. My marriage was ending, and although it had been coming for some time it was still a jarring collision. Now everything felt strange as I unpacked familiar bed linen, towels, and pots and pans in an unfamiliar setting.
I walked the three steps to the kitchen, then the two steps to the living room. I felt as if I was living someone else’s life as I turned on the television. Gone was the house and family, the noise and activity, Hollie and Robyn running from the garden through the kitchen to the living room, always forgetting to take off their shoes at the door.
I needed noise, and whatever was on the television was reassuring in a world where I felt unsure of everything. I hung a clock on the kitchen wall, the same clock that now hangs on my kitchen wall in Middle River.
As I listened to the comforting background noise, I set up a studio space in the living room and looked out at the road and the constant streams of traffic. My wife had met someone on the internet and was planning to move to Florida with my daughters to be with him. It was happening, and I was a bystander, watching my life run through all these changes and uncertainties.
Later that evening I put my supper plate in the sink and turned off the light. I stood in the dark and listened as someone came up the stairs. They put a key into the lock of their door and went inside. The door slammed, someone on the street shouted, and a car horn sounded. A siren wailed. I got into bed listening to the unfamiliar sounds of the city and the dark solitude of that first night alone.
The next day was Saturday and my two daughters were coming to stay for the weekend. They arrived midmorning. Hollie had her pet rat with her in its wire cage. “Will you look after him for me dad?” I could not refuse, even though the flat did not permit pets. She had brought its food and a bag of toys. She didn’t understand that the toys she brought were meant for a cat.they seemed reluctant to take off their coats, so I suggested a walk, some shopping, and a place to eat.
After lunch we shopped for supper and then bought sweets. As they accumulated a small pile of sugary treats, I hesitated in saying, “That’s enough”. They were looking at me as they reached for just one more. They, like me, no doubt realized the awkwardness of the situation. I was torn between a fatherly instinct to curtail the stocking up on sweets, knowing that they had supper to eat and I needed them to sleep later that evening, and the knowledge that this could possibly be the last time I would see them for a long while.
They did eat supper, and later I pulled the sofa out into a bed and put two very sleepy girls under the covers and kissed them good night.
The next morning we decided that the kitchen was the best place to keep the rat since the floor was linoleum and therefore easy to sweep up. The morning went too quickly, and the knock on the door signaled the end of their time with me. After many hugs and many tears they were gone. I went back into the living room and pushed the sofa bed back up against the wall. I sat on the chair and looked at the floor. Where the sofa had been was a pile of empty sweet wrappers.