I ought to have guessed that Jill would be a very early riser. No, no, go get your walk of shame out of the way, she shakes her head: I skip breakfast and lunch is my project manager. Not that he doesn't desperately deserve it, but he'd complain I wasn't eating him ironically enough.
The last time I saw the sun rising down the end of the high-street I was keeping watch as Jason dressed behind a bush. The city is as quiet as it ever seems to get, only an undercaffeinated motorist sloping into the shop at the petrol station behind me as I wait for the bus. I could use a coffee myself, but I don't exactly have time if I want to smarten myself up properly before I head back out.
Somebody's happy for a Monday, the bus-driver remarks of my abstracted grin.
Jason is up. Jason is in the kitchen, cheerfully belting out, And I've had so many men before -- loudly enough that he seems a bit wrongfooted to see me when I look in. But all he says is, "Sandwiches," which appears to be in reference to the meat he's slicing, and as I go to put myself more together for the day he's right back to more or less where he'd left off. I never thought I'd come to this...
(One of these days I'll have to ask why that's the only number he seems to know from that.)
The perpetually cluttered offices where I work don't appear to have made any progress whatsoever with the drifts of paperwork over my unscheduled absence. I've barely set foot into the rabbit-warren of inconveniently-shaped rooms before Colleen's pouncing: "Trevor! Thank god. You do look like shit." Several heads have come up to mark the commotion. "I mean, worse than usual. What happened, hon?"
Leave it to Jason to be too obscure when he rang to explain I wouldn't be in for a bit. Apparently the word has been that I was mugged, with speculation divided as to whether my size makes me a more tempting target than a charity-shop wardrobe would seem to warrant. (Colleen will be offering to wait with me at the L next.) To merely have got knocked down by a bloke on a bike seems to disappoint everyone in its bizarre ordinariness, even if it shares an edge of what is the world coming to these days.
They don't need to know the rest.
Colleen's herding me towards the back room where I cling possessively to a desk as far away from printers as I can get. "At least you're okay. Your grandfather even called looking for you, he was worried because you missed a lunch-date with him."
I suppose it is past time I saw to it that Jason has a way to contact Max if it comes to it. After all, it's something he might need to know for his own sake. "Reckon I'm lucky I still have a job by now," I say, and Colleen grins.
"We couldn't fire you, you're the only one who can understand a word Nigel says. Speaking of which you need to call him before it gets too late over there."
I like this job. Though the place is staffed mostly with terrifyingly young work-experience students they're for the most part historically aware enough to have at least a vague context for the occasional reference to public figures who passed from the scene when these current youths were babies, even if my taste in music draws the odd complaint about mom rock. There's enough turnover as the idealistic faces burn out from the futility of a broken world that it's seldom remarked how their apparently fresh-out-of-Uni British liaison seems to have become the office's institutional memory; a few of the true lifers will eventually notice that no one quite recalls who even took me on in the position, but they either approach me in confidence or decide to have the sort of breakdown that involves red sports-cars and warmer climates. Or both.
Colleen is in the semi-enlightened circle of my acquaintance, those who can shrug and tell themselves whatever Trevor's deal is with a clear enough conscience. She's filling me in on what I've been missing whilst she shuffles through a stack of file-folders; "Other than that it's been the usual everyone going out of here without mittens and bail money," she finally concludes, with a shake of her head that suggests I may well be all that generally stands between her and having half of the volunteers be found wandering naked through a park in the wrong city altogether. "If you think you're up to it we could use somebody else to pretend to be adult-supervision for the training this afternoon. Otherwise I'll just let you catch up with your conchies." I can see her resisting the impulse to ruffle my hair. "Look after yourself, hon. If you get any pastier Charles is going to recycle you with the paper."
She knows me well enough to sense that I've left something out of my story, and well enough to respect a need for the quiet omission now and again. But it would probably be advisable to bolt my sandwich and spend the bulk of my lunch-break considering how to address a less ordinary hunger. After all, the glossier the facade of normality, the fewer questions to duck in the first place; it may not be entirely honest of me, but sometimes it's the least undesirable path through.
I can still live with that, so far.