Signs of life


I am watching a particularly bleak episode of Wallander when the book pops its head round the door. It stands there for a moment, filling the doorway and grimacing.

‘Why do you watch this stuff?’ it says. ‘It’s spring. You could be out there.’

‘I need to switch off sometimes,’ I say. ‘And anyway, I like it. Leave me alone.’

‘Suit yourself,’ says the book. ‘I’m popping out for a bit into town. Let me know if you need anything.’

The book is right of course. I have no idea why I watch this stuff, beautifully acted and shot though it is. I scroll down my Twitter page on my phone absent-mindedly. I make three retweets I know nothing about before I realise I have missed five minutes of subtitled dialogue.

‘Last orders.’ The book is at the door again. ‘I’m off. Need anything?’

I say to the book no, thank you, and reassure it that I will be fine.

With what feels like a monumental physical effort I press the off switch on the remote and sit in silence for a while.

Sounds from outside begin to percolate my day. A robin. The song of what I think is a great tit (I will have to look it up later.) A car door then a man talking to another man, their sudden laughter.

By now Wallander is probably sitting in a car outside the flat of a suspect, moodily planning his next move, and watching for signs of life. Or sitting in his car at the beach watching his daughter wind sailing. How proud he looks. And how sad.

It occurs to me I have run out of paper. I reach for my phone but think better of it: the book never answers it anyway. ‘So I guess it’s just the silence, then,’ I say in the empty room. And I continue to sit there on my own, not moving, until it gets dark on this early spring day.

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