The inescapable truth

In the dim light, the curve of the pillow was soft and undulating. It gave way to shadow, which doused the recessed wall next to the fireplace. He took in these gentle textures for as long as possible, their contours like a final vestige of the dreamscape.

Then, sure enough, his alarm broke the silence and he rose from the sofa. He passed down the corridor from the living room, stopping to lean into Edith’s room, as he always did. In the thick dark he picked up soft breaths. They were both soothing yet telling of the great responsibilities that lay upon him. Some mornings he would pass by, determined not to be tied to this ritual, but he would always hurry back, irrationality telling him that this might be the one time he needed to check, the one time the breath was not there.

He splashed his face with cold water and then gathered his belongings from the hallway table. The door to the second bedroom was slightly ajar. No need to enter. For inside lay aggravation that was too complex and jarring to resolve with a few whisperings, but would need dealing with, nevertheless.

Outside, porch lights twinkled on wet car rooftops. He slid into the seat and started the engine. The dashboard lit up and he switched on the radio, quickly shifting from the news to classical music. News was never a good thing at any time of the day.

As he joined the A-road and picked up speed, a meditative state washed over him, which often seemed to occur at around 50mph. He concentrated on the tailights ahead of him as they drifted round the long curves. By the time he reached the bridge, glimmers of blue were spreading across the sky and a thousand other cars twinkled under the floodlights of the port below.

He arrived at the park and ride with five minutes to spare. The engine was already running as he sat down and the driver was busy chatting with another from the 6.45 behind. Then they were off down the dual carriageway towards the city centre, the sky a little bluer now, belying the ragged outline of the limestone gorge that towered above.

For now, he could lose himself in the juddering motion and the river as it flurried passed the trees before the weight of work and its drudgery became an inescapable reality.

On the way home

Boys in navy blue blazers jostle each other outside the Marriott hotel, looks of uncertainty over what to do with so much privilege.

Metres away, skaters slam their boards into the paving slabs on College Green, while pedestrians march through the middle, determined to exert their right of way.

A small group gather on the grass, watching intently as a man gives a lesson on how to repair a bicycle puncture.

Further on, four men loungeĀ in the shade of the cathedral, waiting for something. Close by is a tent pitched beneath a tree; the council turning a blind eye or quietly piecing together the paperwork to shift it?