Which I assumed was an excuse for them to do something else at the same time but, whatever. “We’ll need access to your homes,” they told us. Fine. I stood at the door whilst the workman fixed a new number to the wall, him telling me that everything would make more sense once it was done. “Don’t worry love.” Whatever. I didn’t question him. I assumed that his street was being renumbered as well and that when he told me that it would make more sense he was just repeating what he had been told by his seniors and so it wasn’t his fault really, unless you took the view that his unquestioning carrying out of orders and believing everything he was told was a dereliction of his civic duty.
So, from now on we were going to be living at number 47 instead of number 239. “Is this going to take long?” I asked as he came in. “Only I’ve got to be out soon.” No, it wouldn’t take long, he told me. Don’t look so worried love. He had opened some cupboard I had never noticed before and was poking around in a box that looked like the fuse box but wasn’t – I had been shown where that was, just in case. “Just got to re-calibrate the mainframe on the house’s location setting so that we don’t lose you on the council maps,” he told me cheerily. No, I don’t think he understood what was going on here either, which made the whole thing even more depressing.
“Hurry up, I’ve got to be out,” I told him, though I had no intention of going anywhere at all – that summer I had hardly left the house except to go and get essentials. Just slouching up the stairs was something I planned hours in advance. “Don’t look so worried love. I’ll be out from under your feet in a moment.” He dug around in the box some more.
“So what’s in the box – is it some kind of government surveillance thing?” “No love,” he shook his head and laughed, “it’s just something we have to update when we do these changes.” I went and stood at the front door to look outside. “It’s nothing to worry about,” he said. All up and down the street there were workmen changing numbers, re-ordering our lives just as they had been told.
He finished doing whatever it was he was doing and appeared behind me with a clipboard. “Just get you to sign this love.” I read through the docket because I knew that would annoy him – slowing him down after I had been hurrying him up. Whatever, it amused me. “I can’t sign for this,” I said, handing it back to him. “Says here that it has to be signed by the home owner and I’m not the home owner so I can’t sign. You’ll have to wait til my parents get back.” He scowled. “When’s that?” he didn’t call me love. “About two weeks.” They actually only had about a week of their holiday left but whatever.
The workman opened the box again and adjusted things again, and then he went outside and fixed the old numbers back onto the front of the house. It didn’t seem like much of a victory, all told, but I took some satisfaction in seeing the scowl on his face as he worked. “All done,” he said eventually. “Be back in a couple of weeks.” “Thanks a lot,” I told him as he left. He did not respond.
As soon as he had gone I locked all the doors and drew the curtains closed and went upstairs and got into bed without getting undressed or anything, and then I just lay there as still as I could while I thought about what I should do next. There was the question of what to do about the box at the bottom of the house and there was the question of what to do with the rest of the day, and then there was the question of what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and how to do it when all this other stuff was always going on around me.