“People are scared. This is what I know. People are scared for so many different reasons. People think they deserve so much. They tell you so, saying they are good people and hard-working. People want to feel protected. They will confide this. They say they need protecting from all kinds of enemy and hardship. People want to be left alone. They are proud of their independence. They want people in authority to leave them alone. They say they don’t want to be interfered with or judged or have experts tell them how to live. People want to ignore the world.”
They were on the attack; shots rained in. Soon each side would assess the casualties, know who was defeated. It had all been going on too long; it felt senseless, stupid. Days ago he had felt optimistic but now reports were coming through on the radio about yet another loss. He wanted it to be over: for the whole thing to end. He might turn his back and try to forget. Was that what people did? There was a deafening roar. Elsewhere, a boy closed his eyes and started to cry, not able to watch as the final whistle blew.
Don’t worry, it’s on me, said the middle-aged man in the blue suit as the waiter came with the bill. I haven’t been out for a long lunch in ages. I’m breaking no rules and I should take advantage of my privileges: after all, they’re there to be made use of. My boss says that this year one of his big worries is that if we don’t spend the money they’ll think we don’t need it – and take it away. So keep your wallet in your pocket. Should we get down to business? Or would you like some more Champagne?
She was sat two seats to his left and he could tell she was doing that self-satisfied smile. She wouldn’t say anything more now; everything had already been said. First had come the sly criticisms, tempered with a few jokey remarks. A day later she said that nothing was meant, that they were still a team: he had her support as always. It was supposed to put an end to the matter but there was no way it could be forgotten. He wanted to tell her to leave but it was impossible. Either way, they both knew it was over.