Taken from Issue 1 of 404 Ink | Freshly awake from my daily nap (between 2pm and 4pm), and looking out the doors of Tyrellan Heights at the grey appearance of the day, no thoughts came into my mind. I had an hour to brush my teeth and make them shine, to sort my hair, and to practise my smile for the day. They would start appearing after 5pm, at first like little droplets, but slowly they would become a current. And I know every one of them.
5.01pm, Number One would appear, a tall thin slender man, with a very thin, thin face. He would have a briefcase every day of the week, and every day I would guess what was inside it. Monday, it might be forms for someone from abroad, only in the country for a day, and he was worried in case the forms weren’t translated properly. Tuesday, perhaps it was pictures that his daughter had drawn for him, because she missed him since he had moved in here. Friday, it might be forms to stop people living at Tyrellan Heights – or a note to leave behind after committing suicide. What went on behind those black eyes? I would come up with a new idea each day for him, like a present, though he never noticed. ‘Willkommen home.’ He would nod his head when I said that, but he wouldn’t look at me.
5.04pm, Number Two would return. She’s an interesting woman, always chatting. Oh, not to me, you know, oh no, no, no. But when she comes through that glass door until when the doors of the lift close, she speaks away, as if she had a friend with her. Isn’t that peculiar? She must have one of those things in her ear, or in her mouth, you know? Those strange contraptions. I never saw a smile on her face except the small smile she would give me when she is speaking. As if I were her friend, and that she knew me, and that she was sorry that whoever it was she was speaking to had prevented our own conversation.
Now, after Number Two there is a large gap – no-one appears for six minutes. I know every one of them. Not their names, yeah, I’ll admit that, but what’s the use in knowing names? It’s knowing the souls that’s more important. They don’t know my name at all, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t know me, does it? (No, it doesn’t!)
Anyway, at 5.10pm Number Three would appear. I’m not sure if he was once overly fond of the drink, or colours, or something like that, because his eyes were bare. I don’t mean that it appeared like he was always looking at something far away, I mean that there was only white in his eyes, you know, like what you see with people who are heavy on the drink. Anyway, he would look at me when I’d say ‘Willkommen home’ to him – well, I’d think he was looking at me, you know, but it’s difficult to tell since he didn’t have little black dots in his eyes. He would neither smile or look sad; he would look at me, walk past, press the button for the lift, the doors would open, and he would go out of sight.
Some people are more pleasant than others.
Going back to names, do you think they’ve given me a name, in their minds, in their heads? Do you think each of them has a different name for me? Maybe I’m the ‘Welcomer’ to Number One. Perhaps I’m the ‘House Man’ or the ‘Door Woman’ to Number Two. Or maybe I’m only thought of like this: ‘Willkommen home’.
5.13pm is the last time that someone comes in on their own – after that it’s groups of two and three and even one or two groups of four that come in. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, you people that are always in threes or fours, but I don’t feel at all as close to those people as I do to the ones that come in on their own. Maybe it’s because the groups of two and three aren’t always doing the same thing every day – at times they’ll be laughing, other times conversing, other times squabbling.
And this is true, it is, even though you wouldn’t believe it – I once saw two people and they were putting their lips together. Isn’t that strange? And their arms were over each other as well, it’s just foolish. Frequently it’s those two that come at 5.43pm, you know, Number Forty-One and Number Forty-Two. I’ll tell you this, but don’t tell a soul, I’ve started thinking of them as ‘The Two Idiots’ instead of Number Forty-One and Forty-Two! But that’s not right, not at all. They are – you know, properly – Number Forty-One and Number Forty-Two.
Number Eleven and Number Thirteen come in at different times, with different groups, but I’m certain that they have the same smell. Isn’t that peculiar as well? I’m not going to spend too much time on them though, since Numbers One to Four are so interesting. Just think what could be in Number One’s briefcase.
Anyway, at 5.13pm Number Four appears. I can never quite remember what he (she?) looks like, but when I see him or her, I remember, and how could I forget? One day, I’ll have the money to get myself a place in Tyrellan Heights. I would walk in each day at 5.07pm, so that everything would be right and proper. Someone should come in at 5.07pm, you know. They do at 5.01pm, 5.04pm [5.07pm], 5.10pm, 5.13pm, so someone should come at 5.07pm, someone returning home, someone, and why shouldn’t it be me?
And someone else would say those solid, steady words to me.
Well, anyway, I need to get back to bed. I’m not needed until 7am tomorrow morning, to sit and to watch them all leave for the day, every day, 7–9am, as is pleasant and nice. I don’t have any words in the morning though, no words are needed, I am there like musical notes that they recognise, you know. I lose my words in the morning, but they’re always waiting for me when I wake up at 4pm, like a kind and constant friend.
I think I’m afraid, but I’m not sure. If I am, it will be because I only ever need two words – ‘Willkommen’ and ‘home’. I’m afraid, if I actually am afraid, and I’m not sure I am, you know, but if I am afraid, it’s that they might find out that I have more than two words in my head, and in the evenings I’ll be just like as I am in the mornings, you know, without any words, well, without any words except two:
Those sensible, solid, steady words.
Though if I am actually afraid, it doesn’t make sense that I say the same phrase to myself each night before I get into bed: ‘Good night, my friend.’ And then, on the edge of dreaming:
- By Robbie MacLeod