Sunday, 9 May 2010

Voyage VIII – Listening skills

I have to say, I’ve noticed there are an awful lot of good-looking women on this boat – more than you’d expect (but then, I suppose they’re all looking their best here aren’t they). There’s one in particular I keep seeing around who’s really gorgeous. I don’t seem to be able to stop looking at her and a couple of times she’s caught me and she’s given me that haughty sort of sideways smile, like she thinks she’s so much better than me. I’m used to this sort of reaction but it still bugs me. It’s not like I would do anything embarrassing. I’m only looking. Anyway, she’s way out of my league, that’s for sure.
Sometimes I slip into the kind of thoughts I used to have at home – worrying mostly – Am I going to be a complete looser forever? Am I going to be alone forever? And then it hits me – I’m dead – all that’s in the past. I don’t have to worry about all that any more. And then I actually feel better than I ever did when I was alive.
Mostly people here seem to be keeping themselves to themselves (apart from Ray and the others, and Lucy and her group of course). A few friendships seem to have started. The women seem to pair off more easily – find someone so they’re not just sitting there talking to themselves. The men don’t seem to be able to do it so easily though. It’s sad. They try but no one knows what to say. It’s like they don’t trust each other. Then they try to talk to the women but they don’t really know how to. No one really knows how to behave. No one knows what’s going to happen next.

I do sometimes wish I had someone to talk to other than Ray and the others. I know there’s Joe and I don’t want to seem ungrateful because I know he doesn’t have to be here, but it is a bit like a job for him. It can’t be easy. I saw him up on deck with his morning coffee the other day, watching the water (there’s a lot of really big fish here suddenly I’ve noticed) and I stood there casually and asked how things were going and he said ‘fine’ but didn’t elaborate, so I mentioned what Liz had told me (not naming her of course) and asked if there was any way she could find out what happened to her grandchildren. He looked like he was thinking about it but had other things on his mind. I said I was quite worried about her. He suggested I get her to come and see him. I said I would try although I was not hopeful, but I could tell the conversation was over.

Ray and the others just seem to want to spend their time complaining about things. Brenda especially just seems permanently pissed off with the service – not because it’s bad, which it isn’t – everyone’s very helpful here, but more I think because the staff aren’t servile enough. They’re not our inferiors. Like Joe they’ve chosen to stay behind to help out. Recently Brenda wanted to have a go at one of them about something – having to wait a while for her coffee I think it was, and she really flew off the handle at one of the girls from the kitchen. Ray wanted to call the manager but the girl just looked at them with this quizzical little smile on her face. ‘Well, there isn’t a manager, per se’ she said. Harry commented on her use of ‘per se’ but she just carried on calmly, speaking quietly, explaining where the facilities were where we could make our own coffees, should we so wish, and then with a bright smile she turned and went about her business.
‘Well...’ huffed Brenda, obviously very put out. But there was nothing she could do, except make her own coffee presumably, and she wouldn’t stoop to that, so that was it. She had to wait.

In some ways this is a lot like my old existence – going off to write or draw or to think, or just to look at the scenery, except no one’s having a go at me here.
I actually did get talking to someone new recently – a skinny little bloke with a pencil moustache. He looked about twenty-six but talked like my granddad - really nasal London accent. He had been a mechanic in Croydon apparently. I was being polite, passing the time, he was talking about his business – I wasn’t really listening properly – I’ve never been much interested in cars. Actually I was thinking about how much I wanted to get away to work on this painting I’d started. But I wasn’t exactly short of time, and I had wanted to talk to someone new. Why was I so keen to get away from him? I forced myself to listen.

I suppose some people just love talking don’t they. I don’t. Well, I say what I want to say, if I’ve got something to say. I get it over with, but some people just go on and on. They don’t just say ‘I went to the shop and got whatever it was half price’. They tell you the whole conversation – and he said and she said and then I said... Maybe that’s why I don’t have a lot of friends. You need a certain quantity of talk to fill the time to maintain a social life, and unless you’re a comic genius most of it’s not going to be that interesting is it? Or you could be lucky enough to have a friendship with ‘comfortable silences’, but that’s quite rare I think.
So I try to listen and it feels like a real effort to nod in the right places and smile and say ‘really?’ I feel like I want to go get a hammock but that’d be rude. I shift from foot to foot and try not to yawn.
‘I’m sorry’ he says sadly ‘I know I go on. I just miss her so much. I’m sorry. You go’ and I feel like a complete shit. I don’t even know who he’s been talking about.
‘No, it’s okay’ I say brightly, but I do have to sit down. ‘Do you fancy a coffee?’ I say, indicating the stairs down.
‘Nah, s’alright’ he says, and goes back to looking out to sea.
I want to ask him about ‘her’. I hope he didn’t notice I wasn’t really listening. Maybe he was just talking for himself, not really caring if anyone was listening. I hope so.
I couldn’t do Joe’s job. But then, maybe he’s not really listening either.
To continue reading either go to Lulu to buy or download the book, or let me know when you want to read the next bit and I'll post it on the blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.