This is something I wrote for my writing group on Tuesday. Our challenge was to be inspired by a proverb. I confess I was pretty stuck for inspiration, but I came across a couple of lines which triggered some thoughts, although not exactly proverbial!
Another Turned Page
Another fall, another turned page… it wasn’t a proverb but it should have been, if I was American and if I called autumn the fall and the phrase hadn’t been written by Wallace Earle Stegner.
I sauntered along, thinking gloomy thoughts, wallowing as young people do in my misery. I can say that, as I’m no longer young and any gloomy thoughts are different from a twenty year old’s maudlin ponderings. It was autumn, a dank, damp miserable evening and perfect for my feeling of sadness and… and loneliness. A combination of rejection by someone I’d made tentative advances to, and Dr Chivers scrawled note in the margin of my essay – ‘journalistic bombast!!! – with the three exclamation marks, had been the latest blows added to my sense of isolation.
The uneven paving stones were wet and shiny, the fallen leaves claggy clumps and all lit by the nasty yellow glow of the street lamps. I was off the main drag and there was no-one about although it wasn’t late. I hadn’t really made any friends, although when I wrote home I suggested that I had, and these empty streets just added to my sense of isolation – yes
I didn’t fit, my southern accent was mocked as being posh – actually, not mocked, I was teased. Someone had said ‘I’m only joshing!’ when my face had obviously given away my feelings, and I didn’t know what they meant, and felt foolish.I realised later that I’d embarrassed them as I’d embarrassed myself.
November, the depths of autumn and five whole weeks until the end of term. I plodded on, thinking about the line from the Stegner novel that we’d been ploughing through in American Lit.. Another fall, another turned page…
Autumn was never a good time for me, I’d had jaundice when I’d just started at a new school and missed six weeks and never quite caught up with subjects or friends, my dad had left us on Guy Fawkes Night, I’d been dumped one Halloween… I cast around to think of other autumnal miseries which had changed my life, another turned page.
I went round a corner and realised I really had no idea where I was. There was a pub just across the road. I had been in a few pubs with people who I was trying to connect with, and ad got pissed on the cheap mild, but not this pub, The Strone Pluck, a curious name.
I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it was that the pub door swung open and light and a couple of rowdy people staggered out. Maybe I was just fed up with feeling sorry for myself. Maybe I was thirsty. Maybe a page turned.
I crossed the road and went in quickly before I could think about it too much. Nobody paid me any attention as I pushed through the crowd of rowdy folk. There were people I recognised as students, older people who were obviously locals, the juke box was phenomenally loud, the air was blue with smoke. There was a crush at the bar and I was squashed at one end, the barmaids at the other.
Maybe I would just stand here and not even get a drink, just stand among loud, jolly people, and at least not be on my own.
“Excuse me,” someone was actually speaking to me I realised. Standing slightly behind my shoulder so I couldn’t really get a look at their face, young, glasses, not a local accent. “Excuse me, can I buy you a drink,” a polite, nervous voice.
“No, it’s ok,.” but as I spoke there was a roar of laughter and my voice was drowned.
“… you a drink?”
Just turn the bloody page!
“Yes, yes, thank you, that’s very kind, a pint of mild, please.”
Somehow drinks were ordered and bought and we struggled away from the crush and found a table beneath a picture of a greyhound race.
“Have you been here before?”
“Me neither,” and we exchanged cautious smiles and clinked glasses.