Put on some music that you like, and give it a read. Sorry there are no pictures. You'll have to imagine some as you go.
Hope you enjoy
He’s about so tall.
He always wears a cardigan.
And he’s stood in his front room with a big window, a sofa, the television is on. His hair is grey and he’s balding. He wears glasses.
I’m standing in the doorway, he doesn’t know I’m there, a second before he’s aware that I’m here.
He lives in their house in Leeds.
He has a weight about his shoulders. His hands are rough.
He’s wearing slippers.
His name is Jim and He’s holding her.
But he’s not holding her.
He feels like he’s holding her dead body in his arms.
This is a familiar feeling for him – like when you accidentally sleep on your own arm and it goes dead and it hurts to move it – it is like this sensation. But he is holding some invisible weight.
He thinks, he feels like he is holding her dead body. He feels the heavy rain and he feels her in the bed next to him where she should have been later that night.
He hears the music that he heard when he found her and he hears the music she was listening to earlier that day
He remembers the smell of what he was cooking for her. He remembers how it tasted to kiss her in the morning.
And he thinks. And he says to himself ‘what the fuck?’, for the hundredth-thousandth time and he gets no closer to knowing.
And he can’t understand but he wishes he could.
He is still confused as to how they ended up with a yellow car when he really hates yellow but, despite that, he never even thought of selling it because she liked it. She loved it.
Not as much as she loved him. Which, in turn, isn’t as much as he loves her.
He stands in their front room holding her. Imagining he is holding but at the same time it is real because he has made it real. He has collected the very last parts of her that still hang in the air around him and moulded them back in to her and is, this very second, holding her in his arms.
At this very moment he is standing in the front room of his house holding her. Holding this heavy and deafening memory of the person he loved. Loves.
And it is deafening. If ever you have been, or are in, that situation you would know how deafening it can be.
And for the second time since I’ve started talking he think ‘what the fuck?’
‘What the fuck?’
We all grow up. This is a fact, even if we don’t grow up for very long or very successfully. And some of us grow up with things that are different to others: eyes, houses, hair, schooling, friends, siblings, hobbies, luck, parents.
Luck is important and counts for a lot
He had luck
He had luck and the biggest heart. Luck and the most amount of kindness and love a human could ever have.
This was lucky
They loved each other for so long, for what felt like eons but simultaneously like only the swiftest of moments. They were married for 57 years and they loved each other passionately until she died three months ago.
They were childhood sweethearts and as far as he can remember their memories, neither of them ever loved another.
Of course, this isn’t true. He had a first love and she had an affair. He has, though, unremembered these events. One so long ago and the other unwanted. Apart from these two small discrepancies, he is correct. Neither of them did love another and nor will they. They are and were together for life and they are and were perfect. Perfect for each other.
People said that. ‘You two are perfect for each other.’ They were
According to the lunar calendar they met all that time ago.
He is neither tall nor short and she was beautiful
The first time he sees her she is dazzling with laughing green eyes and a summer dress. He, if he is honest, is a little dowdy, wearing a cardigan despite the summer heat.
She has one of those miracle faces where her features are constantly smiling, even when she is sleepy or daydreaming.
So her in her summer dress and him in his cardigan accidentally walking in the same direction, deliberately at the same pace. This walk is to become something to look forward to, excuses to be heading that way or any way that the other is going.
Despite the cardigan and the floppy hair he gives her butterflies, she said years later, a tingling feeling in her stomach on these summer afternoons that she later understood as the first feelings of falling in love.
Occasionally their hands might brush or their gaze will catch the others. Now he can still remember each of these moments, lines them up like collectors items. Vintage. Antique. Impossible to value.
And their first kiss. Oh how the world was torn apart and born anew in that brief, awkward, life changing moment. Unplanned, unprepared and unparalleled by any other event that had previously occurred.
On one of their walks.
It felt like an accident. The most wonderful, inevitable accident.
After that they’d hold hands sometimes, but only when they were alone, never near friends. God forbid. But alone together they were growing perfect. This chit-chat and the silence across that long summer holiday.
He remembers they kissed only five times that summer, each time terrified that the other wouldn’t want to kiss back, that suddenly the magic might have gone and it would be horrible like every teasing-tom said it was.
It was great. Every time. Every one of those five kisses. And it would have been so many more had either of the two had their own way.
He stops wearing his cardigan and starts borrowing his dads Brylcreem.
She was effortlessly beautiful and entirely unaware of it. So she did nothing but smile. Always.
She is smiling when he leaves her in the garden. She has always smiled and this is something he loves about her. The photo on the mantle is of her smiling. And the memory of their holiday is of her smiling. She is smiling at all occasions. Their wedding, birthdays, weekends, mornings, evenings, dinner time, when he wakes up and when he goes to sleep. She is smiling.
It is summer and she likes the garden. She still likes summer dresses, that hasn’t changed and she is still effortlessly beautiful.
The children were very supportive to their father. They still are. They are wonderful children, now with their own kids. He is a grandfather. She was a grandmother. Neither the children nor the grandchildren have ever seen him cry and I can’t imagine they ever will.
They all hugged him and he hugged back. He was strong for them, trying to fill the gap that mother and grandmother left. No-one can fill the gap that wife left.
There is a medical condition called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as transient apical ballooning syndrome, also known as apical ballooning cardiomyopathy, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy and also known as broken heart syndrome. There is a medical affect on the heart when one suffers acute stress, the kind brought by losing a loved one. The affect is similar to a heart attack. A patient will more often than not survive the first attack, having had no previous heart-related conditions. However, the long term affects are dangerous and cause fatal damage to the heart.
He has had no previous heart-related conditions.
He has always been strong and well and not the kind of person to be taken ill. He has rarely been to the doctors.
If a doctor were to look at him they would know.
If you look at him you would know that he suffers from apical ballooning cardiomyopathy.
It’s in the way he stands.
The way he turns his head and slowly focuses his eyes.
The way his hands hang, his shoulders sit.
You can see his heart, it is all over him.
They looked after the garden. The garden was their pride and joy with neat hedges and beautiful flowerbeds. It looked wonderful in Summer and it looked wonderful in winter, covered in snow.
It was strange she was still our there even though it was raining, there was no need to work in the rain, they could finish tomorrow. It was strange she hadn’t come in. He’d been watching the last part of the cricket.
He guessed she was finished something, perhaps putting the things back in the greenhouse. He made her a cup of tea for when she came in; white with two sugars.
Over the years he has enjoyed listening to The Beatles, Beethoven and more recently Snow Patrol.
His favourite food is Swordfish and he would always drink Scotch leaning on the bar at the pub.
She would drink half a smooth.
She was beautiful.
She was fond of cats. They both loved Julie Walters, they thought she was hilarious.
She is called Hilary. 5 & ½ foot tall with long golden hair.
When they got married she smiled a thousand smiles. She was only ever off work sick twice in her whole life. She worked as a nurse and was very good at her job.
Jim always wanted to be a doctor.
He rarely swore, until now: ‘What the fuck?’
‘Hello Jim’ I say to him, to let him know I’m there.
And in a second it’s gone, as if nothing ever happened.
The tear in the corner of his eye rolled back up in to his tear duct, the weight is shuffled off his shoulders and he puts her down, as if I’ve never seen her.
‘Hello you’ he says.
He’s wearing his cardigan. The record player is playing The Beatles.
He is looking at me and in his eyes they are dancing; dancing like it’s the best thing in the world.
It’s as if they’re floating.
Obviously they’re their feet are firmly on the floor but it looks as if they are floating. One foot linked perfectly in time with the other linked perfectly in time with Joni Mitchell on the record player. It’s the expert way they negotiate the coffee table and the doorstop. They breeze past the footstool without even looking down.
Their look goes straight from one pair of eyes to the other, directly. Like this. Their gaze lost in the others gaze lost in their gaze, like looking at a mirror in another mirror. If you could get in between then you would see years, every reflection going back since they first met that summer.
When they were in their twenties they won a dance competition at the town hall. They were beautiful together. When they were teenagers they watched each other dance at the school disco, but didn’t dare take hands. A little later in their teens they danced near each other at a party whilst a jazz band played a slow song, one for the lovers. They danced the first dance at there wedding and everyone applauded. They danced at their 25th wedding anniversary and at their child’s 21st birthday, much to their child’s embarrassment. They danced at their 50th wedding anniversary and something they danced on a Sunday after lunch had been cleared.
There are many romantic dances. The salsa is cheeky, the rumba is sexy, the dance from Dirty Dancing is somewhere in there too.
But the most romantic dance is this one.
Where he is stood in his front room holding her. Like this. Delicately. He checks his stance and straightens his old back. His eyes gazing. A little smile.
Carefully, experimentally, he shuffles one foot forwards and she follows, weightless. He eases her in to the dance, a close dance in the front room.
And there, eyes closed, he loses himself in time. Holding her.
He feels like he’s holding her.
‘How’re you doing?’
That’s it. That ‘Fine.’
From where he comes from, from those decades, you shouldn’t see a man cry. Men don’t cry.
As far as he knows I’ve never seen him cry.
But he hugged me, as if it was just for me, as if he was comforting me. The smell of Old Spice.
An old man dancing by himself in his front room.
He has kept one of her broaches.
The rest he doesn’t seem too fussed about. Easily given things away, repainted, taken things to car boot sales or Salvation Army. He was attached to her. He was never a materialistic man.
But in a drawer in his dresser, in the box with his razor, his comb and his shaving glass is her broach. A little pin.
It’s of a flower.
Nothing much, but he’s packed it all in to that small totem, full to bursting.
That little flower.
Copyright Alexander Wright.