In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
Woodward. He’s just there—but not like a piece of furniture—more like a pet—but one that no one particularly wanted in the first place– a stray, taken in on the short term—and no one has had the heart to chuck him out.
He wakes up cocooned in duvet warmth on a fold-away bed across from the double bed he once slept in before Macaulay came home from university. That was seven months ago and Woodward has not made any effort to find new digs. He sleeps in until well after noon—groggily coming to—laying in vacuous thought in the cot over his worldly possessions—fantasy books, scraggy clothes, a bong and porn. His long, blond hair and Jesus-like countenance makes him look docile as he rises from the cot, stretches and glides into the hall before quietly closing himself in the loo.
Downstairs, Macaulay’s girlfriend startles as she realises they are not alone in the house. Her uneasiness makes her oddly self-conscious. Macaulay reads this and reassures her that they will not be disturbed.
“He was late coming home last night. Coked out of his mind. He might just stay up there,” he said and kisses her. She tenses and shakes her head.
“He should get a job. Why is he still allowed to live here if he can’t pay rent? Isn’t that what a lodger is supposed to do?”
“He said he thinks he is ready to start looking for a job now. So that is good, right?” Macaulay smiled, kissed her again. Upstairs, they heard the toilet flush and the wispy-whisking-whisk sound of baggy trousers moving down the stairs. The couple’s eyes opened as they were still locked in their kiss. Diffidently, they pulled apart from each other and forced some distance between them.
Woodward appeared in the doorway, asked if the kettle had just boiled and if there was any milk. Macaulay and the lodger lapsed into a conversation that must have been started at some other time because to the girlfriend it made no sense. The lodger moved from the doorway and back into the kitchen and Macaulay got up from the couch and followed him. The girlfriend checked her outfit and began looking around for her bag and coat.
Macaulay reappeared to find his girlfriend getting ready to leave. She made her apologies to Macaulay, passed the lodger in the front hall and caught a whiff of marijuana entwined with tea — “Sorry, I’ve got to go. See you, babe– Bye Woodward.”—The lodger turned around and sat in the front room with Macaulay—he put his mug of tea on the table and picked up the Nintendo controller and settled in to play until someone moved him out of the front room or until he got an invitation to go out of the house.