Glancing out of the rain splattered window, I see the darkened afternoon sky threatening more rain. I drop my eyes and look at the seemly empty terrace houses opposite. I wonder if any life can be found behind their doors. The street seems still and it reminds me of the saying about being calm before a storm.
A slight movement causes me to look right. The door of seventy-two opens. A man in a rain coat steps out his face obscured by a hood. A small dog on a lead follows him. The man closes the door and walks the dog into the street. The man glances up and hurriedly moves on with the dog running to keep up.
In the window next door, a young boy is playing with the blinds. I see flashes of a TV screen behind him. A figure steps over and snatches the cord from his hands. He looks shocked and is dragged away. The blinds fall back in place, protecting the occupants.
With a sigh, I turn away, but not before I spot old man Jim walking towards his house. He’s wearing an old brown coat and a flat cap. Looking every bit the farmer and not minding the rain as he heads for his door. He fumbles for his keys then lets himself in. He closes the door and a light comes on.
The rain begins as if signaled. I watched the drops fall and push back a strand of my blond hair. I open the window and the warm smell of cooked leaks and cheese drifts in. My nose and stomach become tantalized with its heavy aroma. I breathe it in deeply and remember that I’ve not eat yet. My thoughts turn to tonight’s ready meal of hotpot. Not want I want, but what I must eat.
A tall dark man walks down the street. He’s just out of view, so I have to wait until he walks opposite me. He’s bald, wrapped in a bright orange coat and carrying a blue clipboard. He goes up to one of the terrace houses and I see that he’s carrying a large laptop bag. He knocks on the door, but there’s no answer. He moves on to the next and knocks. The door opens, light pooling out around a woman. He’s quickly turned away. I watch him walk on. The rain dripping down his collar has he knocks on another door. He is turned away again and so he goes to the next. He lasts longer there as he talks and shows the clip board. However he is rejected. He walks on and disappears from my sight.
I move from the window at last, pulling it closed as I do so. I go into the kitchen, turning on the lights and the oven. As I prepare my food, I wonder about the man. He must be a salesman, but what does he sell and does he really know about it? Is knocking on doors in this weather the job he wanted?
I put my food into the fiery heat of the oven and set the timer. I head into the living room to spend half an hour watching trashy TV before eating. I sit in the dark and let the TV cast its glowing colors across the bare walls. I watch the news, but nothing going on in the world is of interested to me. There is little I can do for countries at war or those hit by flooding.
My thoughts turn back to the salesman. I picture him standing on the doorstep, the rain dripping down his back and splattering across his paper work. He’ll brightly apologies for interrupting my evening, but still announce what he’s offering the home owner. He’ll speak in a loud tone, friendly and unnaturally fast as he pours over his worn out speech. I’ll stand there nodding and smiling, feeling the heat from the house leaking out and wondering if it will take me with it. Image, if I dissolved right in front of his eyes! Just disappeared and changed into heat molecules to be carried off by the night air.
The timer goes off and I hurry to save my food from the oven. I eat on my lap, watching a family movie, but not really watching it as my thoughts are far from the bright happiness on the screen. When I’ve finished, I clean up, switch off the TV and drift back to the window. I can’t see anyone on the street, though most of its cast into darkness now. I decided to have a bath and typically, the doorbell rings.
I go into the hallway and turn on the outdoor light, before unlocking the door. The salesman stands there in his orange coat with his blue clipboard and laptop. Rain falls off his board shoulders, but seems not to affect him. I clock the fixed smile on his face and the way the large pink lips are peeled back to reveal white teeth.
‘Hello, I’m from Save Gas,’ he says, flashing up a card ID around his neck.
I nod my head and smile.
‘I’m just wondering which gas company you are with?’
‘No idea,’ I reply, ‘It’s not my house.’
‘Oh? Well, is the home owner in?’ he asks, his face falling slightly.
‘But still go on,’ I add, smiling wider.
He grins and brings the clipboard down from his chest. He holds a pen in the other hand and positions it to take notes.
‘So, I’m trying to cut the cost of your gas….’
I nod and notice the rain water dripping off the door frame and on to the wooden boards.
‘It’ll be easier if I know who you are with and how much you’re paying.’
‘I don’t own the house,’ I state again.
‘I see…well, could I leave them a leaflet?’
‘If you want….But, why don’t you come in and talk to me about…gas and savings?’
He pauses as I pull the door and invite him inside.
‘I do own a house,’ I say gently, ‘It’s not so far from here….’
‘I see. Right then. Thanks,’ he replies and steps in.
‘The living room is this way.’
I led him there and turn on the light, ‘Please sit down. Would you like a drink?’
‘No, no thanks,’ he says and sits gently on the blue sofa.
I take the empty space beside him, sitting just on the edge, my knees together facing him and my hands in my lap.
‘So which gas company are you with?’
I tell him and soon he’s got the laptop out and firing the machine up. He fills the silence of waiting by asking me questions about the weather and what I’m doing in this house. I speak softly, but give nothing anyway. Once the laptop is ready, he begins again, but I become distracted by the heavy rain. The screen of the laptop flashes under my eyes and his voice, thick with an African accent, but still forming English words perfectly, is low in my ear. I glance at him suddenly and find him staring at me, waiting for me to reply.
‘Sorry. Won’t you take some tea before you go?’ I say quickly and finishing on a smile.
‘No, I can’t. Don’t worry about me,’ he replies.
He starts shutting the laptop down and putting away some papers he had dug out. I watch him, wondering what I could say.
‘Do you have a dream?’ I blurt out.
‘Yes, something you want to do with your life, a goal, an achievement you want to reach.’
‘Well…I do have one dream about living on a yacht…’
‘There you go!’ I burst out, wilder then I mean too.
He stares at me and packs away faster.
‘Why are you not living your dream?’ I press.
‘Money,’ he replies, ‘and other things…..’
‘So? Grab your savings, take a loan out….go for your dream!’
He closes the laptop and slips it back into the bag, ‘thanks for your time,’ he says getting up. He holds his hand out, I take it pulling myself up and then shaking it.
‘Thank you,’ I reply and led him to the door, ‘I think you should go for your dream though.’
He laughs, ‘And live the high life broke?’
‘It’s not all about money you know.’
He steps down onto the doorstep and turns to me, ‘So they say! I’ll keep that in mind though,’ he replies and turns to go.
I feel the heat from the house drifting around my legs and then taking off into the night. I go to close the door, but he turns suddenly and catches my eye.
‘Are you….living your dream?’ he asks.
‘No,’ I answer, ‘But truly who is?’