loft life

I once had two addresses. The way that came about, my friend had an empty flat he wanted to rent. When I said I might be interested he gave me the keys and told me to take a look. The flat was on the top floor of a purpose built block. There was a church at the corner and a launderette next door. There was a line of little shops. Inside it was two or three rooms a good size, with dormer windows and fitted carpet. There was a nice kitchen. A bathroom and a closet off the hall. Everyone in that building was in work. I stood there in the middle of the day and it was quiet. I stayed there for nearly an hour, standing in the different spaces, looking out the window. Then I locked the door carefully behind me and called my friend.

“I like it,” I said, “but I’m not sure.”

No one else was interested, he said. “Take as long as you like to make up your mind.”

The next day I went back and sat there for two hours. Soon, unknown to my friend, I was spending most of the day there, three or four days a week. I slept there. I had some of my mail delivered. It was calming to have this other existence and know that no one could find me unless I wanted them to. But it didn’t feel quite the same when I moved in permanently, so after about six months I opened the loft and dragged my belongings up there with a pulley and rope. Then I sublet to another friend of mine. He needed a bigger place. He had just got married, his wife was nice. I’ve lived here now for a good part of their lives. I come and go at night. I’ve listened to them fuck, eat, scream at one another. I’ve heard their two little girls grow up. I have a comfortable life, most difficulties of which turned out be easily solved.

One thing. You need to forget all the rumours you’ve heard about someone like me. Those factoids you learned watching movies in the 80s and 90s. The ideological cliches and convenient interpretations you’ve pasted on top of that as if it was the real world.

I’m not a voyeur. I’m not a stalker. I’m not the Cupboard Man. My life has been specialised, true. But am I going to descend one day from the loft and kill the family, or even leave one of them a birthday card? No. I’m not going to play cat and mouse with anyone. I’m not going to engage in a duel of wits with the police detective who’ll turn out to be cleverer–or less clever–than me in the end. I am not, in the end, going to be coloured by bleach bypass. You can forget all that. No one undergoes such inconvenience, no one lives secretly in a loft, for that. I live up here because the most extreme pleasure in life is to experience it on the edge of other lives. To be here and not be here: that’s where I’m happy. And if you think for a second you’ll realise that’s what you hate so much about me.