“I’m an idiot,” said Roy. “I’ve been an idiot.” The scale of his idiocy overwhelmed him. It rushed him from all directions, dark recollections of desperate mistakes bursting from rooms full of wounding memories. He shouldn’t have married Holly, he should have been a better husband to Kristie. He should have been a better dad. He should have been a better son. He shouldn’t have done that crazy thing on London Bridge.
Every Monday morning Roy felt sad that he no longer had a job in the Square Mile and every Monday morning he felt glad about it too. He missed the money, the belonging, the feeling of being at the heart of everything. He thought that missing these things was natural although not entirely nice, which was perhaps why he’d never acknowledged the reasons for his sadness to anybody else, not even to Kristie, especially not to Kristie, and was loath to admit them even to himself. Idiot. Idiot. Coward.
It was harder still for Roy to admit to the things about his old job he didn’t miss: the pointless pressures, the dragging commute, the office politics, the helpless subservience, the sidling gnaw of unease, the growing sense of proximity to mass stupidity that had crept up on him over the years. Roy hated himself for not missing these things. It implied willing servility, a lack of balls.
He spent the morning in bed, bent double with what could only be called grief. He recalled a conversation with Kristie.
“Why don’t you do something different now, Roy? It hasn’t been fun recently.”
“I’m not trained to do something different.”
“You can afford to try something new. We’re not hard up.”
“Kristie, I’m 52.”
“You could do better than me, you know.”
“Roy, I’m not looking for someone better!”
“You ought to be.”
He got up to watch the diving: young Tom Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield plunging in synch from a board ten metres from the surface of the pool. Roy watched their bodies, smooth and lean, their tackle vacuum-packed in their trunks. For more than four years the spotlight had been on Daley, the boy phenomenon who’d come unstuck in this event in Beijing, aged just 14. How did a child get over that?
Roy googled Daley and found that he’d been picked on at his school and moved to a different one, opened supermarkets, made pop videos, become a pin-up and that his father had died the previous year. He watched Daley with a mixture of protectiveness, jealousy and disdain: he’d suffered pain, he seemed silly, he seemed carefree. It was a kind of mystery.
The teenager and Waterfield took an early lead, then faltered, then failed to come back and finished fourth. Roy looked on, conflicted. Disapproval fought with sympathy. He switched to the men’s team gymnastics, where the muscles were larger, the armpits fuzzier. The British took an unexpected bronze.
An email arrived from Lucy: “sorry, don’t recognise those pictures. are they granny/grandad? are you enjoying being a housewife? it’s nice, my favourite daddy, that you’re not afraid to enter women’s space.”
No mention of Leila’s divorce, but with Lucy that didn’t mean a thing.
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