Every time someone refers to her as chilled out, she grins and blushes and shrugs and makes some self-deprecating comment to deflect the attention which, if it were to rest on her any longer, would surely reveal that she is not, in the truth she keeps buttoned under her pretty fitted blouse, in the least chilled-out; she is neurotic. She is so neurotic about not appearing neurotic that she is unable to fall asleep until she has figured out how to arrange the next day so that, from the outside, it appears scattered and empty and random, but from this inside place into which she will never allow anyone else, it is unarguably under control.
things smartphones make you less likely to do when alone, in a public place
Stare at every passing stranger who is a similar size/shape/ sex/style to the one you are waiting for in case they are indeed the one you are waiting for.
Stare at strangers who are a completely different size/ shape/sex/style to the one you are waiting for because you do not want to admit to yourself that the one you are waiting for is still not here. Eavesdrop.
Read all visible adverts, free newspapers, leaflets, warning signs, safety advice and strangers’ books, newspapers and diaries; because words, even boring ones, have the magical ability to transport you away from the larger boredom of standing on a cold platform, waiting for a train which a very silly, mostly hidden but nevertheless substantial part of you, hopes will never come.
Ask strangers for the time or directions to such-and-such address or to the nearest coffee shop or whether they know the area and can recommend a coffee shop, you don’t mind a walk if there is excellent coffee at the end of it, oh, and cake — cake is always good.
Pick up that novel whose characters do so many annoying things and have such annoyingly similar names that you have to keep flipping back to the introduction to remind yourself why so many people who know so much about literature think it is worth reading in the first place.
Ring your friend to find out about their exotic holiday because you are about to start planning an exotic holiday and could do with some advice (no option of scrolling through their holiday photos on Facebook).
Work out where you are by looking up, down, around and around, trying left, trying right, trying straight ahead, even though you can only hope this is the direction in which you are meant to be headed.
Having stared at all visible billboards, including one for a pantomime that finished running two weeks ago and whose overly made-up actors’ over-grins make you feel a bit sick, not to mention the diet planner of the woman standing next to you, having checked all available clocks and timetables and watches, you are forced to admit that the one you are waiting for is not going to come; not only that, but the one hasn’t even bothered to let you know that he or she is not bothering to come; formless sounds escape your mouth as you finally admit to yourself that yes, you are pissed off.
one woman’s love
She pulls out her phone whenever someone mentions love.
Do you love him? But are they still in love? They are SO in love, it’s SO cute! It’s SO annoying. I love them. I hate them. Are you going to their wedding? She would rather read a book but pulling a book out of your bag when someone says something boring or annoying isn’t socially acceptable whereas pulling out your phone is; if you hold the screen right up to your face you can maintain the fiction that you have something really important and personal to attend to, rather than just, say, the ‘live’ timetable for a journey you have already taken.
She tells her partner she loves him every day ― in the same way her mother told her she loved her every day, when she was growing. Other things she tells her partner every day are whether or not her bus to work was on time and what made her laugh on Facebook and what made her want to hit people in the office.
Despite having spent a greater proportion of her life in a relationship than not in a relationship, she feels that a greater proportion of her ‘self’ is unknown than known. She does not really believe that she loves or ever has loved or ever will love anyone or anything; people talk about love as if it is this rare and special thing and yet they talk about it so much that it becomes just another word to fling around along with, for example, cat, ball, fridge and bird. She is now 35 and if she has managed to get this far in life without anyone finding any of this out or even suspecting it, she suspects she will make it to her death in the same way. Sometimes this saddens her and other times it is a tremendous relief. But most of the time she is thinking about whether or not there is milk in the fridge and if there are any films coming out that she wants to see. Most of the time she is happy.
Clare Fisher‘s first novel, All the Good Things, was published by Viking in 2017. She now lives in Leeds, where she writes, works as a bookseller and teaches creative writing. @claresitafisher