It was around 12.30 on Friday afternoon when Michael Bolton’s How Am I Supposed To Live Without You was playing for the second time in as many hours that I was beginning to question if I was really making the most of my day off work. I had been able to prise myself out of bed at a respectable hour in the morning and had great intentions for all the things I wanted to achieve with my free day. After eating a banana, I swept the oak flooring throughout my flat, something I had been wanting to do since I spotted some dust and debris as I was leaving on Tuesday morning for my trip to Edinburgh. I couldn’t help but wonder if the troubles I had been feeling were in part attributed to the nagging thought of those crumbs sitting unchallenged on the wooden surface. How different my week could have been, I was thinking to myself as I ran a sweeping brush over the floor.
Once satisfied that my residence had been restored to some kind of order, and with the baggage I had been carrying over the preceding few days carefully packed away, I decided that I would go for the haircut that the unruly hairs on the back of my head had been demanding for weeks. A meteorological phenomenon was gusting along the coast at the exact moment I stepped outside, and by the time I had made the short walk to the barber shop, I was drenched. My misfortune was all the opportunity the barber needed to indulge in one of his favourite points of discussion, and as the hairs were beginning to tickle around my neck he was speaking heartily of the weather forecast.
Since I became the single occupant of a town centre flat I have grown accustomed to the convenience of many of the local amenities. Even on a rainy day, my favourite barber is only a few minutes walk from my home, my favourite bar is equally as close and the supermarkets are but a stone’s throw away for someone who has a decent arm. It had recently occurred to me that another service which is close to me, but which I had never made use of, is the local library. I hadn’t been a member of the library since my days in school, when the book borrowing building also happened to be located across the road from the house I grew up in. With the threat of an afternoon of little else but eighties power ballads in front of me, I decided to make my first visit to the new library building.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting as I approached the blue and white signage which, either ironically or ingeniously resembling the logo of the social media conglomerate Facebook, marks the front of the library. Unlike when I see a girl I have long admired in a bar, this was a relatively spur of the moment decision which I hadn’t spent months contemplating and reciting lines in my internal monologue in preparation for. I walked through the entrance and into a bright, large open plan space, where a bespectacled woman greeted me from behind the desk. I finished drying off the droplets of rain which had fallen onto my glasses and grandly announced that “I am here because I want to register to join the library.” Factually, it was undoubtedly one of the most accurate statements I have ever made, though like when I finally talk to a girl in the bar it seemed to take her by surprise, as if she hadn’t heard those words in a while.
The librarian composed herself and reached for a pristine white clipboard which held in place several sheets of untroubled paper. Like a competent plasterer, I filled in the spaces, and soon I had become a member of the Argyll & Bute library. I began to browse the fiction titles, eager to make immediate use of the laminated card I had been presented with, the way a newly qualified driver wants to go out in their car after being awarded their licence, or a 35-year-old man goes to the library after having his hair cut. My initial walkaround brought me to find a book by the British author Alan Bennett, which I had been considering buying when I saw it the previous day in Edinburgh. I picked it up and took it back to the counter to be stamped, the feeling of making my first borrowing being every bit as strong as one might imagine.
In celebration of my successfully saving £8 by loaning a book I had almost bought twenty-four hours earlier, I continued walking to Lidl, where I went grocery shopping. To my dismay when I strode purposefully into the store, I discovered that the chain has disposed of the small shopping baskets which were suitable for a single man who shops for the goods he needs on a daily basis and were instead only offering the much larger baskets which many customers lazily lug around behind them, in a manner which gives me the sort of unreasonable fear I ordinarily have of umbrellas. I had no alternative but to resign myself to their wishes and awkwardly carry a much larger than necessary basket around the store, giving myself a much smaller appearance than those past occasions where I would storm through the aisles like a powerful giant. In the end, I bought a box of ten large eggs and carried them to the self-service checkout where I had to stretch to reach them from the bottom of the basket.
On Saturday night I took my new haircut to the Oban Inn, where I excitedly spotted a man who bore a striking resemblance to the character of Niles Crane from the television series Frasier. It is very rare that I am able to place a lookalike, and I was feeling pleased when I pointed this out to my brother and he agreed that the man did look a lot like Niles. It was barely possible to stop myself from glancing over my shoulder at the short, blonde-haired man, and I cursed my fortune that this event should not have occurred on a Friday, when I would have been wearing a pocket square in my pocket which I could have used to ask the lookalike to dust his seat in the way the germophobe Niles would on the show.
Instead, I had made the unusual decision to wear a jumper to the bar, having been sporting the knitwear earlier in the day to provide warmth against the wild wind which was still sweeping the area. Although the jumper was producing a genteel and elderly contrast to the hint of youthfulness which came with my new haircut, I was feeling comfortable wearing it in public. It was only when we entered the busy hive of the Oban Inn that I was beginning to sense that I had made a tremendous blunder. Drinkers were swarming around the bar, and I was feeling warmer than I had in a long time. I found myself in conversation with a Lush Puppy, and as I was telling her about my idea to read from my notebook at a future Let’s Make A Scene event, I was wondering if my jumper was acting as an extractor fan to the rest of the room.
Through the night I had heard stories of some people in town who had been attending a performance by a hypnotist. The thought of such a thing momentarily raised my spirits when I was considering the possibility that the stage performer might have hypnotised some unsuspecting member of the audience into believing that it would be a good idea to date a man who was wearing a khaki jumper, the way that some people are convinced to cluck like a chicken. I soon came to realise that even if this had happened, and there was a woman somewhere in town who was carrying a subconscious desire to become romantically involved with a warmly dressed man, I didn’t know what the trigger phrase was. It proved that I was incapable of getting a woman to fall into a trance, let alone break out into a dance.
After the bars closed the rain was beginning to fall again. On the cold walk home I was once more listening to How Am I Supposed To Live Without You by Michael Bolton. When I arrived back to my flat, all of the warmth offered by the jumper had disappeared. I turned on my bedside lamp and climbed into bed, another night where the only Smut was on the bedside table rather than in my bed.