Roscoe tells me he thinks I’m getting better. I don’t know why he brings it up like that, from nowhere. It starts me thinking. I don’t feel much better. I haven’t been comfortable going out after dark for months. I count back. Three months? Four?
‘It’s all ended well,’ he says.
‘It’s ending well, then. At least, not badly.’ He sits back, and appraises me.
‘I can’t see it,’ I tell him.
‘Well you’re still with us, for one thing. Aren’t you?’
‘Barely,’ I want to say, but I’m not quite sure how it’d be interpreted, and I don’t trust my voice. These days, I’m shy of shadows in the corners of the flat, I jump when the fridge rumbles into life, and sleep with a small lamp lit in the corner of the bedroom. On quiet streets, even in the daytime, I assess my means of escape, perform a visual sweep of the houses, seeking the reassurance of pretty gardens, un-curtained windows, and open gates. Commercial areas, I avoid completely.
I wish he’d turn away. I look around at the prints on the walls of the cafe. The waitress catches my eye and smiles. She starts to come over. Her uniform is as tight as a hotel bed. I shake my head at her. She walks back to the counter, singing the chorus of ‘This is the House’. She doesn’t know all the words. I wonder if the hole at the knee of her tights is deliberate. She takes up her position, behind the counter, and carries on reading the paperback she’s got splayed by the register. She catches me looking again, and there’s that smile—practised and ever-ready, but somehow bright and new each time she does it. She’s not jumpy about anything.
Perhaps it will end well. He’s right. It’ll get better.
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.