1 June 2014
“Hello miss.” “Miss?” she said indignantly. “Pack that in. There’s nobody here you need to impress.” He looked sheepish. “Hi mum. Are you okay? Have you been to church?” “Aye, that’s me on my way back now. Here, when I left and was on my way this wee boy ran into me, near knocked me off my feet. He was wearing a tracksuit. You should look out for him.” Phil sighed. “Yes, I will. You take care now.” Putting his hands back in his pockets he watched his mum for a moment as she turned the corner before heading back along the street. A boy in Govan wearing a tracksuit. With no regard for other people on the street. That’ll be a real hard one to come up with. He sighed as he carried on.
The streets were livelier than they had been when Jean had left. Phil could hear children playing somewhere. He passed a few people on the streets as he walked to make his way to central Govan. Passing through the streets with the new houses on them Phil began to feel himself softening. The difference between the ancient tenements in one area to these newly built houses on the ground where the old football pitch and swimming pool had been made him feel like he had entered a new world, never mind a new time. Even some of the older houses on the other side of the road felt decrepit, shapeless grey blobs that were unremarkable next to the new, sleek brown wood and glass affairs nearby.
Phil felt a twinge of hope as he passed a window with a blue Yes sticker in it. Walking past the houses he saw people coming in and out, some children playing in the gardens, cars passing. He nodded his head to people as they walked past him, rarely receiving acknowledgement back. This soured his mood until he came down to the main road, where he saw a boy of about fourteen wearing a blue tracksuit zipped up to the neck waiting to cross at the lights. Phil waited for the boy to cross before stopping him. “Good morning,” he said. “Whit?” Darryl plunged his hands into his pockets. “Where have you been this morning?” “Oot. So?” “Anywhere in particular?” “Aye, for a walk. Since it’s sunny ‘n that.” “Been out yourself?” Darryl waved a hand around at an imaginary group. “Naw, ma invisible pals came as well. Say hello, there’s six of them.” “Right son, I was only asking. Not planning anything in the next week are we?” “Aye, I’ve got a wedding to organise for the weekend.” Phil’s face hardened. “I’m not in the mood for jokes here.” “Are you sure? You seem like it to me with these questions.” Phil could feel contempt rising at the back of his throat but held his tongue in check at the thought of the hassle, and the image, of pulling a young boy barely in his teens in for being awkward in a conversation. “I’ve seen you around. Keep your head down, don’t let me see you starting anything around here. Got it?” “Aye, I’ll no…” said Darryl, trailing off as he was walking away. Phil chose to believe that he hadn’t added “let you see me” before turning back to the road to cross.
Govan Road was still quiet as Phil walked along towards the shopping centre. A bus rattled past with only a few people in the seats. Phil enjoyed walking the streets on days like this, he always said that a policeman’s ideal work day was to turn up, walk around a bit, and go home, with nothing of note happening at any point in between. As he walked though, this advice rang hollow inside his head. The few people he passed seemed to speed up as they walked past him. He motioned to help an old man cross the road as the lights changed, but a waved arm and an indistinct yell warned him off. Phil groaned as he saw the driver of a car that was stopped laughing at his rejection.
By the time Phil reached the end of Govan Road and the Town Hall he turned and headed back along the same route. The same things took place again, he walked the same path, saw what to him were largely the same people doing the same things, and still felt cut off from what he passed. He was not part of this community. The people he saw, the people who walked past him, they had no desire to acknowledge him, much less talk to him. He walked the streets alone, and the streets left him alone.
Phil went home at the end of the day and gave his mother a phone to make sure she was okay. He told her that he had found a boy that he thought she had run into, and to placate her told of a heroic effort on his part whereby he made the boy see the error of his ways and vow to reform. Once he had finished he went to bed, vaguely remembering he would have a new partner to break in the next day. New recruits starting on the week of the biggest event of Govan’s year. Somebody has a bad sense of humour, he thought as he drifted off.