In the pub

‘The pub’s empty apart from a young couple at one end. They’re looking down at their phones. She sits back and plays with her hair. He sips from his drink. I sit against the opposite wall and sip from my tepid ale. The publican stands behind the bar staring into space. A stupor settles on us all, uniting and dividing us. Don’t talk, let the silence spread like frost. The publican looks bored, he’s on the verge of talking. People should have the decency not to talk. Find another space, think of something else. No, don’t think, drink, take out the notepad and wait for the words. They come, the words, and I shape and lose them in the same breath. Swallow the dregs, order another. Stay calm. If I don’t talk they won’t. If they talk I won’t. I’ll listen only for the words that come to me, that appear in this grey space, that rise and disappear like smoke, if they don’t talk, if he doesn’t turn on the radio, in this space where I think and am thought, where I write and am written, where I can neither think nor write. Scribble, it doesn’t matter what anymore. Drink, it doesn’t matter what anymore. Now maybe I can talk, now that I’ve drunk and talked myself into this space where anything and nothing is possible. But no one talks, silence spreads like frost. The couple fiddle with their phones, the publican wipes the counter. I’ve made it clear perhaps that I’m not a talker, and isn’t that what I wanted…? Where was I? In the pub, where the publican was wiping the counter. The young couple are gone, only the publican remains and he’s fading too, out and away, along with the pub, into the pale orange sky, leaden now, grey now, nothing now, and I’m sitting in a chair in this nothing, in this grey space which is my room passing back into being around me, scribbling.’

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