Tuesday, 10 April 2012
He is in the living room, writing and listening to a critically acclaimed jazz record from the mid-1960s. She is in the kitchen, ironing and watching a popular primetime hospital drama on her laptop. During the short periods of silence between tracks he can hear the programme through the closed door – they have a cheaply rented flat and the doors are thin, little more than plywood. After a while he becomes aware that she has turned the sound up on the hospital drama – he can hear dialogue through the quiet parts of the compositions. A nurse says, ‘Ready?’ and a man groans. Another nurse is chatted up and then threatened by a doctor, and so on. At one point during a searing trumpet solo he hears a screech of tyres and the sound of glass smashing. He is a little annoyed, as she has told him that the reason she is using the kitchen rather than the living room is to give him some peace and quiet while he works. ‘Peace and quiet’ was the exact phrase she used. He thinks he would be well within his rights to go and ask her politely to turn it down, particularly when over the top of a lengthy, trumpet-led ballad he can hear people being dragged from wreckage, the wheels of stretchers on concrete, screams of jobbing actors. But he doesn’t get up. It’s not really distracting him that much. He has nearly finished the first draft of a short story and doesn’t want to interrupt his flow with the mild altercation that would inevitably follow if he were to speak to her. And, he thinks, if he can hear her TV programme, she can probably hear his jazz, and would therefore be equally entitled to ask him to lower the volume. Besides, he is writing and she is ironing. She is ironing his shirts for work because he can’t make enough money from writing to enable him to quit his crappy job, and he is writing a short story in which she appears as a character. These facts instantly give her the moral high ground. He thinks, what kind of person would do that? What kind of person would ask his girlfriend to turn the sound down so that he can listen to a once ground-breaking but now slightly anachronistic jazz recording whilst she is ironing his clothes and he is using her against her will?