Crackpot. Crack. Pot.
Yes indeed, the secret is in knowing that the world is built upon one big skewed smile running through the belly of an earthenware jar. It's like seeing that slip of a thing sprawled across a billboard, a perfectly cut danger waiting to spring out and sell you something. Or like the confusion in your body when you haven’t seen your lover for weeks, until the sleek shock of penetration sends the silent language scrolling again through your limbs.
I know them when I see them. The old men who venture out in order to be just that - out. The one today carried a Somerfield bag but the bag was clear and I could see that he had gone all the way to the shop to pick up a flyer. Plucked from a litter of thousands it lay cradled against the weak plastic walls. The man’s wild white hair crested from one temple around the back of his head to the next, the top of his skull gleaming as he lumbered under the street lights.
It’s not the oversized coats that gives the story away, although I suppose it could be, because when they are that large they have been bought from a charity shop when there was nothing else going. But no - it’s the shoes. Giant black loafers with wide soles and rounded toes. And with each step a flash of bare ankle beneath too-short trousers. The rest of his life can be imagined. You don’t even have to get up close to let the smell fill in the clichés. Maybe it’s twenty minutes on the bus to the grocery store in another part of the city, to pick up a single packet of digestives biscuits that he could have bought a block away. Or a visit to the coffee shop where they haven’t washed the floor in what could be years, but it’s warm and the girl behind the counter lets him chat to her while he nurses a single cup of tea for two hours. He keeps talking, even when she barely murmurs in recognition before turning back to text her friends with news completely unrelated to the presence of an old man whose name she does not know. When one day he finally stops coming in, she will not even notice.
I like to think there is one great pleasure in his life, something other than the arrival of the weekly free paper that flexes him out of his routine. I like to think that he meets up with a friend each week, perhaps in the park or a suitably dismal café, and that they spend some time talking and arguing and maybe even laughing once or twice. I like to think he watches the quiz shows on television and yells out the answers, huffing to himself in pride whenever he knows something the contestant does not. Finally I like to think that sometimes the tunnel of his vision, worn smooth with time, opens up like the roof of a giant stadium on a spring day. And that into his mind pours light, wonder, and the welcome weight of contentment.
A Day Out.
11 hours ago