She works at an Our Price record shop. She wears a white shirt with a little rectangle badge on the breast that reads V. Ward. Of course, I recognise her long before I am close enough to read the badge. We hug.
“I thought you were a teacher.”
“Oh, not yet,” she says. “Not yet.”
Her colleagues gather around us. They clutch vinyls.
“Are you going to see No Blood?” she asks.
“I didn’t know they were playing.”
“I have tickets for the Scandinavian tour. I bought you some, too.”
A stranger is in the bed that CP made up in the room that leads out onto the back garden. It was once a study, but, years ago, when her mum became ill, CP moved the bed downstairs thinking that the garden would be a more pleasant view and allow easier access to the garden. But the stranger isn’t her mum. Her mum died nearly 25 years ago and the garden of that old and imagined house went to shit.
CP is in another bed. This one is in the living room. The furniture is sheeted. I climb in next to her. She is warm and sleepy. We kiss and caress.
I hear the garden door slide open and the once-study fills with people. They crowd the stranger and a dreadful sort of exorcism begins. I am whispering into CP’s ear, “get up, get up. We have to go.” But she cannot hear. Her eyes glaze and her body becomes rigid. I can hear that the ritual in the next room has become a celebratory drinks party. Glass and laughter. I want to be gone, but I cannot move.
The far side of the room brightens for an instance and I glimpse the Guided By Voices poster that adorns my bedroom wall at home. I rise slowly up from the bed into the air – the sheet draping me – my mind turns these images over and over and I rise higher (almost to the ceiling – I can see cobwebs on the inside of the light shade). I begin to realise that the GBV poster means that I am dreaming.
I’m leaving – forever. Everything is packed in a plastic bag that I hold in my hand. I am waiting at the terminal for my coach and I’m reading a handwritten card that a wreck of a man is holding. He is asking for money to get to Coventry – ‘I need to get home to the city I grew up in. I’ve been trapped in Leicester far too long. Anything helps‘ – So I buy him a return ticket to Coventry and he says, “I only need a single.”
“But what if you don’t like it there now?” I say.
He considers this.