“Don’t go,” he said to the dial tone.
His mind thinking about what she had said, spinning the thought around and around, his right hand placed the phone back on the hook, while his left yanked the door of the phone booth open.
It had been cold inside the booth, he had spent the call hopping from foot to foot, rubbing his arms and chest. Yet that experience had been mild compared to the blast of freezing air that struck his skin now. He stepped out of the booth and stumbled from the wind that screeched along the street. He walked carefully, step after step, until he reached the door of the Trest pub. He leant his full weight on the door, heaved it open, darted inside and heaved it closed once more.
Inside, a few of the regulars eyed him with annoyance at the heat he had let escape. He ignored them, trotted to the bar and sat down, shoulders slumped forward.
“Not good, huh?” said Jurinov, the barman. “She dumped ya.”
A shrug in reply. “Couldn’t really hear her voice. Line was real bad. Maybe she dumped me, maybe she wants me back.” He turned to the bulky television set hung precariously from a bracket on the back wall, cables snaking down the wallpaper. On the flickering screen, a newscaster was being assaulted by messy blocks of jagged stripes, coruscating lines and electronic snow. The sound gurgled and popped, letting through only the odd few words.
“You’ll be stuck here,” said Jurinov, watching his guest with an entertained expression. “Roads are closed by the storm. Think she’ll find someone else before you get to her?”
“I always convinced her just in time, before,” he replied. “Stupid. Should let her go find what she really wants, what she needs.”
“Maybe you don’t know what you want yourself,” said Jurinov. “Something tells me that the whisky ain’t going to be it.”
“So what do I do?”
“I reckon you’ve two days before they clear the roads and you can leave town,” said Jurinov. “There’s no library here, no church, no theatre or picturehouse. Not much in the way of eligible women, neither. You are in a prison, in purgatory or limbo, an interval in your life without stimulation or signal. So that grants you the greatest gifts bestowed upon our human existence.”
That statement caused a raised eyebrow. “What gifts?”
“Time and space” said Jurinov. “Nothing to do but contemplate inwards.” Jurinov turned the television off, and gestured to a back corner of the pub.
It held only a lone chair. The chair faced a blank wall.
Trudging over, sitting down, staring, waiting, staring, nothing, nothing, nothing.
Then, for the first time, in that quiet corner of the Trest pub, David began to listen to himself.