He lay in bed looking up at the ceiling. The flutter had turned into more of a scratching. The scratching turned into a scurrying sound. The annoyance that it had been a pigeon taking shelter in a nook in the eaves now turned to revulsion that it was most likely a rat that found its way into the loft overhead. It sounded busy—whatever it was doing up there. But for whatever reason, Matt could not seem to build up the wherewithal to investigate. Instead he took comfort that rats were nocturnal and it was getting light outside. If anything, he would sleep when the rat did. Until the sun rose, Matt lost himself in the events that had been scuttling through his head for hours—days—weeks. “Has it been a month?” he whispered to himself. “No. It’s been more,” replied a voice from within. But Matt wondered if it had all been a dream.
That weekend in Golders Green had been real. He knew it had been real. The surreal assent from the tube station out onto a busy street then over the road to Starbucks— the earthy, warm smell of coffee teased the air with the same gossamer flutters of her dark lashes. The flirtation that lead to that long, slow walk to the guest house played out in his head like some kind of recording stuck on repeat. He had been alive, surely. He had playfully built up the passion—conversing—laughing–smiling as they wandered up the high street to the guest house. She had giggled as she lay there, wrapped in a white sheet after hours of lovemaking.
The scratching overhead broke him from his reverie. His mind went to looking for the latter. He had used it in the summer. It was in the shed. Or did he lend it to the neighbour on his left. Then he recalled when the neighbour to his right had knocked on his door to warn him not to leave the conservatory door open—that there was a rat in the garden. Matt told him he was not worried. His Jack Russell dogs were ratters. They would make sure the rat would not get in. “But dogs cannot climb drain pipes, can they, you great pillick?” How long ago was that? He could not remember what he did yesterday. He was not sure what day it would be when the sun came up.
Matt thought about putting his dogs in the loft. Maybe they would get the beastie. Maybe the dogs would chase it—run it down—eradicate the pest in the loft. But some things were just too quick and canny to be exterminated. He thought back to her eyes as they held him in soft stupidity. They were on the tube. They stepped on together but were jostled apart—separated by a plain woman who smelled like chip fat. She stood between them, removing herself from the reality around her by plunging herself in her book. The doors opened at Camden and he broke through the crowd to swing his arm around her and guide her out and up onto the burst of movement on the pavement. She had been on a mission. She was hungry but did not know what she wanted. She laughed at how much choice she had as they walked up and down the market. He told her he loved her for the first time at the lock. She burst out crying and held him tight.
The scampering started again. It was followed by some more scratching and he could hear his dogs downstairs becoming anxious. He could hear them clawing at the kitchen door. He knew they wanted to come upstairs. They could probably hear the ruckus with their super-dog-hearing. But they would not be able to get into the front room, let alone upstairs and up the loft. Matt’s mind went back to trying to locate his latter in his mind.
He saw her walking away from him at St. Pancras pulling her suitcase behind her. The loud, rattling wheels were more than he could bear. The day had been bright and the light streamed in through the grids and windows overhead. The white noise of the train station reverberated through his head and he could make out nothing discernable but the wheels on her suitcase rolling—rolling-rolling away from him. He compartmentalised that moment. But the sequestering of those raw emotions exposed him to her derision. She looked at him—there had been a Y shaped crease between her brows. She asked the question silently but he would not answer. He waved at her—as a friend would—when she stepped through the turnstile. She had turned around to look at him one last time before she joined all the nameless and faceless people boarding the train north.
The scooting overhead startled him again. The room had lightened. It was the break of day. He heard birds chirping outside. He resolved that he would get poison in the morning—or the afternoon—or whenever he would be able to. He would buy it down at Steptoe’s down the street. Steptoe would have rat poison. There would be no need to put the dogs up in the loft. He would see if the neighbour would give him a hand getting the poison up there. He resolved to get up, take his citalopram, have a slice of toast and go to Steptoe’s then talk to next door–at some point.
He closed his eyes and promised he would not dream of her.