Story: What Would Nicolas Cage Have Done?
On Monday morning, while sitting on the overcrowded eight o’clock bus from Portishead to Bristol, I decided to skip work. Michelle and I had split up the day before and I really didn’t feel like going into the office. Instead, I got off at the top of Rownham Hill and used my mobile phone to call in sick. Then I walked over the Suspension Bridge into Clifton. It was a cold, grey day and I needed some time to myself.
I bought a newspaper and sat on a park bench in a Georgian square with black railings, thinking things over and trying to figure out where and when our relationship had gone wrong. We’d been together a year and a half but now she was seeing someone else.
We’d broken up over a bottle of wine in a crowded bar by the river.
I’d said, ‘So that’s it?’
She’d shrugged. ‘I guess so.’
She’d fiddled with the stem of her glass, looking uncomfortable and upset. It was Sunday lunchtime and the place smelled of garlic and stale beer. There was nothing more to say. We finished the wine in silence, and then went our separate ways.
Thinking about it now made me feel hollow and lonely. There was a cold wind blowing and I was glad I had a warm jacket over my shirt and tie.
Most of the houses in the square had been converted into offices and flats. Some had dream catchers and rainbow stickers in their upper windows. Finding no answers there, I got up and walked along Pembroke Road to the Roman Catholic cathedral.
I stood looking at it from the opposite side of the road. Flanked on both sides by large, conservative town houses, its modern design and jagged, arty spires seemed out of place, and its concrete steps were slick with rain.
Turning my back on it, I cut through a side street that took me to Whiteladies Road – a busy main street lined with shops, galleries, restaurants and bars – coming out by the building that used to be the old cinema.
I thought a bit of retail therapy might cheer me up, so I spent a few minutes flicking through the DVD bargain racks in Sainsbury’s, and bought a lottery ticket at the tobacco counter. Then, at around eleven o’clock, I walked out and up to the little bookshop on the hill, where I spent an hour browsing the shelves.
I loved that shop. It was small and independent, and spread over several levels. There were leaflets and flyers stuck to the walls and the solid wooden floors creaked gently as I moved. There were potted plants on the windowsills and the whole place had the relaxed atmosphere of a library.
I picked up a book I’d been meaning to read for a while. As I paid for it, the girl on the stool behind the till gave me a smile. I’d seen her in there before. She had long blonde hair, a short denim skirt, and tan cowboy boots.
‘Good choice,’ she said. She slipped the book into a paper bag and handed it to me, and I thanked her. She pushed her hair back with one hand. There were silver bangles on her wrist.