That night I didn’t want to be alone. Too many conflicting and unhelpful thoughts. I got into bed with the intention of watching a documentary on something soporific. It didn’t work. There was a time – a lot of times – where I’d have laid and battled the demons but times are a-changing and help is something it’s ok to get. And, after all, I’m learning that hating yourself is not any way to live; nobody lives for long like that, eventually. So I walked.
Eleven thirty in the evening and the village was quiet. No vast jumbled crowds exiting the pubs, no streetlights on, the smell of summer coolness on the air. Down the hill and into the small marketplace where the Industrial Revolution was cradled and perfected into a monster which changed the world forever. Turning left at the traffic lights and following the dark banks of the River Derwent. Taxi’s sloped by on the main road from Derby. I walked past the black river, noisier and crashing as I got nearer to the large weir by the cotton mill. The tall brick chimney loomed up towards the stars and a sign proudly proclaimed that two cooking wankers from the telly had been to watch something there on motorbikes.
Matlock Bath by midnight. Tramping down the small incline past the huge white empty hotel on the hillside and into the neon gaudy lights of an inland seaside. Shouts from the outside of the pub opposite the thermal spring. ‘I’ll fucking smash any man’.
I half thought about taking him up on the offer. But the old days of the school on the Island were long gone. And all I had learned was that you still hurt even when the bruises have gone. Nothing filled that void. Not pain, not hate. I left the small crowd outside the pub and carried on along the wide path and out of the other end of the village. A police van passed, turned, and came back slowly, eyeballing me.
The road turned dark again a few hundred meters out from the fish and chip shops and arcades. In a row of bed and breakfasts a light shone out from an upstairs window through blinds that hadn’t been closed. A woman on all fours was being humped half-heartedly on a bed by a guy from behind. He gripped her hips as he admired the view below him. If there had been a mirror in front of them he would have been able to see the bored look on her face. His pot belly flapped onto her buttocks. She’d tied her hair up ready. They’d made an effort before, yeah?
I used to fuck someone and it felt like the pinnacle of human existence. Her and me would screw til the angels sang and the bed was wet through. Time lets you forget about how good things were, despite them being gone.
Past Artists Corner, and a small collection of men hanging around by the public toilets opposite the small row of Georgian houses. Interior lights on in their cars, signalling for the moths of sexual frustration and hoping for an unreachable fantasy to come true, just once. There was hope. Even in a toilet. Even in middle age.
I crossed the footbridge before entering Matlock to avoid the kick-out from the small number of bars gathered on the approach road. The path ran alongside the shallow river, and darkness gathered in the water as it hissed over the stones. I stopped for a while after the small tunnel to listen at the owls in the trees on the cliff screaming for their mates.
A fox appeared in front and glanced briefly before it hopped over a low stone wall and melted into the next opportunity in the night. The low hum of the storm pump station drowning out any exit through the bracken before the last tiny bridge over a beck before the tiny boating lake.
The park was empty, even though I’d expected the local street drinkers would be partying hard. A young woman weaved her way through a private drunken maze along the path towards me and deemed me sufficient threat to turn on the light on her mobile phone. I gave plenty of room to pass and decided to not even acknowledge her; a misconstrued smile wasn’t needed here. Fear is fear in the pitch black.
Finally up the hill and onto the crunchy dirt of the small road where my partner lives. This was a safe place that the demons could never find. Where I was loved. I unlocked the door and quietly took off my shoes. She’d left a light on for me. She’s like that.