Conversation: Julian Howard and Alleyn Wallace
Jul. 18th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm
I turn to look at him and nod. "Thank you. I - I need to go to Golders Green." I pull out of his embrace and attempt to be a bit more businesslike, taking some writing paper and a pen from the desk in the corner. "Please put down your address. I'd rather not discuss future employment prospects before your current employer. It's not that I want to hustle you out the door, it's just - I need to go to Golders Green."
I watch him in silence for a moment before bending over the paper he has handed me. "I'm giving you both addresses, studio and flat" I say as I write. "I think that you'll be more likely to find me at the studio... I don't believe I'll be wanting to spend much time in my flat. And the studio is safer, anyway."
I finish writing and take my eyes off the page. He is standing about halfway across the room, watching me; he looks all at loose ends. I hand the paper back to him in silence, unable to think of a thing to say.
"Thank you." I lay the paper on my dining table. "I'll - er - walk you out. Need to go to Euston, catch the tube." I take my coat from the the hook and realise he is still wearing my jacket. "And you need your clothes back." I hang my coat back up, retrieve his tails from the bedroom. "Your tie is in the pocket." I hand it to him.
"This would be loads easier if David were here," I burst out - that's certainly a non sequitur. "He had all the useful connections for you. And other than falling in love with me, he had a knack for staying sane that I never fully mastered. If I had done, I'd have a wife and an inky office job by now. So I suppose that's for the best, but he would have had much better advice for you."
I stand to receive my clothes and am half out of his jacket when his words make me stop. I look over at him.
"I'm sorry he's not," I say. "I would have liked to meet him. But
you sell yourself short, Alleyn. Your advice has been perfect - and you are sane enough for me. Even if that isn't saying much."
I look down as I shrug off his jacket and pick mine up. "Just think," I say towards my shoes, "With me as your friend, you can seem far more skilled at staying sane by comparison." I pause and then look up, momentarily enlightened. "I think that may be what I meant last night when I said you are braver than I am. I did say that, didn't I?"
I can't help smiling. "You are mad. Bravery and sanity are opposites for men of our sort. The sane thing to do is always to find an inky office job and a profoundly boring wife and spend your dreary existence in hiding. The brave thing to do is to live. David kept at Rothschild in an attempt to split the middle. And until me, he gave in to his illegal urges only when in Europe. Him having the balls to tell me he loved me was the bravest thing I'd ever seen, from him or anyone. Him agreeing with my suggestion that we rent a house together was about the maddest thing I've ever seen." I slip my diary into my coat pocket and lock the door behind us. "No, bravery and sanity are hardly the same thing at all. It's accepting the madness that keeps us seeming sane. But then, I think everyone is rather in that position these days. They aren't exactly the easy Victorian times of childhood, are they? Well, you wouldn't know, you're too young, Edwardian through and through."
Out in the Gray's Inn Road, I ask, "Where are you headed? Nearest tube is Kings Cross, that'll get you Metropolitan, City and South london, and Piccadilly Railways; I'm headed over to Euston to pick up Hampstead." The wind has picked up - quite cold for going out to a cemetery today, but we do what we must.
I pull a face. "I am no good at this. But... oh... I need Piccadilly! Yes. Lord, I'm dull today." I shake my head and shiver a little. We are getting close already, and there are people about everywhere despite the cold. I look over at him as we walk; he is gazing straight ahead. "Alleyn," I say, getting his attention. "I've already said it a thousand times, but... Thank you."
I stop when he thanks me. I am painfully aware of my own behaviour and of the number of people out and about. I offer my hand. "I'll say goodbye to you here. There's no need to thank me. I'll talk to Tamara when I get the chance." My own voice sounds false in my ears - it's the acting voice, I can hear it. Projection. Displaying the business-like nature of the exchange to everyone around. And that makes me feel even worse.
I take his hand and we shake. It all feels almost unreal; everything that existed in his home is gone, either hidden or flown completely. - on another day I would possibly be able to tell the two apart. I try to resist my urge to stare into his eyes, looking for answers.
"Well," I say quietly. "Goodbye, then."