THE ROAD RUNS PARALLEL

It is Monday morning and I am sitting in the café. I spend about half an hour in here on workdays which are most days excluding Sundays.

To get to the café I have to make my way down a steep grass bank and along a beaten track which joins the pavement. It is situated at the edge of a shopping precinct, alongside an underpass. There are houses above and the road runs parallel with the parade.

It is enclosed down here and dark. Inside it is even gloomier and cavernous. Our voices echo. There are no secrets here. It is be heard or keep quiet which suits me just fine.

The café is littered with debris from its failed attempts at reinvention as a swanky coffee bar and a Mediterranean style restaurant. There is a fishing net and an old poster advertising the Norfolk coast; a set of bongo drums and an acoustic guitar alongside black and white photographs of New York.

The old man is a regular. I suspect he visits throughout the day and that this is his stamping ground. He is sitting with a young woman. He hands her a twenty pound note and sends her off to buy scratch cards. I watch her make her way across the parade, past the bookies and toward the newsagents.

‘She’s a good kid’, the old man announces.

I look at him and smile but say nothing.

‘She’s lucky’, he continues, ‘a lucky kid’.

‘Lady Luck’, somebody shouts from down by the window.

‘Yeah’, the old man laughs, ‘a lucky kid’.

She returns clutching the bounty. They are fanned in her hand like playing cards.

‘Come on’, he says, ‘we’ll take it in turns’.

He pushes his dirty plate to one side and they set to work scratching, first her then the old man and so forth. He hasn’t stopped talking but his voice drops a little and his tone alters.

I try not to listen, I don’t want to be here for this. I don’t want to know how it ends.

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