The old lady tugged at the locked gate. She knew she couldn’t get through it but her dumb stubbornness kept her trying.

Inside the house, barely seven feet away, I sat at my desk next to the open back door. The afternoon sunlight was coming in to the dark house through the doorway and the small window nearest the shaking gate.

“Ben…… BEN….are you in.”

I was in alright. I’d been in for a week or more. Hadn’t left the place for a second except to post a card. The CPN had been round that morning. She talked sense, but those types of conversations make me tired and confused. Sometimes they leave me feeling sad. The old lady knew none of this.

[cough]….[pause]…..”BEN……are you in?”

I sat there motionless. I could see through the window to the seven foot tall gate and the trellis at the top of the fence next to it. The old lady was looking at me from the gaps in the trellis. For a moment there was a confused look on her face. She tried again “BEN.”

I was an hour into a diazepam haze. I sat vegetating in front of my laptop watching shark attacks, old World War One footage, and Donald Trump, breaking off in small doses to work on the book. It was a smorgasbord best left undigested while sober. I was trying to concentrate on terror – someone else’s for a change. My central nervous system appreciates being depressed from time to time and given another intense focus. Valium creates a buffer for long enough to cope with emotional pain – anybody’s. And if you want to see terror and emotional pain in the eyes of another, watch Donald Trump rallies. You can spot the eyes in the crowd every time. Least I can. Like lighthouse beacons being switched on on a clear night. Forty miles of ever-widening beams from awakening racists, realising for the first time the boat is in the wrong place and heading for the rocks. Unmistakable.

Horror after horror out there in the world. Inside the house in the comforting arms of medication there was more of a fighting chance against it all. Just me and the deadening thoughts of an overactive mind. Close to flat-line: the only place to be in confused times. And these are confusing times, make no mistake. We live in an era where everyone is the enemy and the only survivors will be the people who can’t fit in. The old lady was an enemy just a surely as anyone with their finger near a trigger.

I looked up at the window again. The old lady had gone. On my gate she’d hung a white plastic bag. Beans from her garden.

She was eighty four. Lonely. She was simply saying thank you for the birthday card I’d put through her door in my childish writing. There was no way she could have known the war that was being fought in increasingly shallow breaths at my desk. She was just collateral damage.

When I woke it was dark.

The gate was still locked. It’s best that way.




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