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At this moment I feel that One has to be brave and expose your writing for others to share, knowing that what is inside your mind may never be replicated in the reader's mind. But nevertheless, here goes:
He stands on the stoop passing the glass from one hand to the other. Back and forth, back and forth it goes; like a wet bar of soap in a shower it slips, so easily, from one set of fingers to the other, almost as if of its own volition.
He appears to be daydreaming - standing staring out into space with glazed eyes – while his hands do this thing with the glass full of water.
To be pedantic, it isn’t actually a glass full of water: first, because it isn't full, and secondly, because what is in it is more probably the fiery, very pale, gold-coloured sugar brandy, poured from the Mount Gay bottle standing on the kitchen table. The fading sun would impart the same colour to water, don’t you think?
In any case, the glass is filled to barely a third of the way up its tall, slim side, and a rainbow of coloured sparkles are being reflected and refracted by the slopping liquid energised by that fast-fading sun: The sun that has begun to paint his face an extraordinary shade of red. And in that light the diamond liquid becomes like blood, sparkling to match his eyes. Eyes that are glistening perhaps a little more than might have been expected.
Were you to be there, you would see, on those extraordinary sun-reddened cheeks the tell-tale snail's trails left by slovenly tears. They were not copious tears. Just slow, lazy, seeping ones, that took their time to wet their way downwards, meandering on the way into the confluent wrinkles that she had called his ‘laughter-lines’. Despite the meagreness of their flow, if he were to tell you of their cause, or you were somehow to be able to get inside his head and read his thoughts, you would know that these were concentrated tears - filled with as much, if not more, emotion, than the more freely flowing variety.
He makes no sound. There is neither sob nor sniffle. All that can be heard are the beginnings of the nighttime tree-frog chorus, and the rhythmic rush of the ebbing tide.
Despite the years he has witnessed it here in Barbados, he finds the speed of the setting sun to be so much more decided – his terminology; by which he refers to the fact that the Bajan sunset is not a long drawn out affair, but an act of determination on the part of the blazing orb: It having once decided that the time is right, approaches the horizon with alarming speed, and then sinks into the waters of the Caribbean without a by your leave. Sometimes, as now, it grows heavy and large, and like a chameleon swaps its cloak of gold for one of deep orange and red, which today he senses is tainted with blood. Its redness when viewed alone on his stoop brought back that awareness and with it memories of other sunsets: Some here, overlooking Hastings beach, and others, viewed from other beaches… but all of them with her.
When the time was right; when the glass was finally emptied; when he had drawn his mind back from its backward journeys; when the sun was gone to bed; he slowly turned his back away from the darkened sea and padded indoors, his bare feet slapping a little on the dusty grey floorboards. Down the short shady hall and into the kitchen at the back of the house, he went. As he passed, he placed the glass beside the bottle on the Kitchen table; it was an almost involuntary action. He was heading for the cupboard in the corner. The one beside the doorway out onto the rear verandah: The floor-to-ceiling one, that she had painted duck-egg blue; faded now, of course.
The old cupboard door creaked a little as it opened.
For the most part the old wooden house was a silent place, but in the evenings as the heat of the day dissipated into the night’s cooler air it periodically creaked, cracked, or groaned as its timbers cooled. So, the creaking of the cupboard door complimented the nighttime home. He would today have said that it matched. In the otherwise silent wooden house it was nevertheless a stark sound, and as it broke the silence with it’s rather mournful ta-dah it revealed nothing of splendour, instead, it revealed the junk-hole it hid from view.
An envelope slipped off the top shelf and flopped onto the corner of the rug. He glanced down at it, and thinking the tattered, almost threadbare corner of the dusty rug and the well-thumbed grubby envelope were happy and convivial bedfellows did not get down to rescue it. Instead, he began rummaging on that top shelf, and in the process a number of other articles found themselves descended to the floor: An old English Florin, dated 1933, her grandfather gave it to her on her seventh birthday in 1940; and, coincidentally, one of his own grandfather’s WW1 medals – its ribbon brightly coloured against the dusky blues and greys of the rug even in the subdued light of the lone, swaying, electric lamp.
She had made the lampshade. A plain wireframe had been transformed to something bright and feminine by her skilful hands, with fabric to match the loose cushion covers on the chairs. It was a very lightweight affair, and any errant breeze would set it swinging gently to and fro. For a moment, he glanced at its faded colours and remembered.
Both the coin and the medal had belonged inside a cardboard Milk Tray chocolate box. The box in which other mementoes of their departed relatives had long ago been laid to rest. The problem was, the box had seen better days, and battered and grazed, bent and distorted, one of its corners had become unglued so that slim objects could gradually creep out and escape whenever the box was moved.
The box wasn’t moved very often these days. He didn’t notice the small cloud of dust which fluffed into the air as he rummaged around with his hand, almost blindly, but he did see the futility of stretching up to search for something where he could neither properly see, nor properly reach.
He was convinced he would find it up there. That was where she had kept it, wasn’t it? He was sure it was.
He turned and dragged a chair. Placing its loose cushion onto the table, and holding onto the cupboard door, took care in slowly and painfully climbing onto its wooden seat. From his elevated position, his eyes took note of the swaying lamp, and he looked down upon the Mount Gay bottle and empty glass which threw streams of refracted light onto the tabletop. It came to his mind that today was indeed a day of matching things; strange things perhaps, but nevertheless matching.
It had started with last night’s dream: where they had lain together in their double bed.
A dream so real that when he awoke he could recall with incredible detail the softness of her pert breast beneath his right hand, its nipple contrastingly hard against his palm. Her luscious lips wide apart, pliant and hungry for his searching mouth. Her body arching itself upwards to meet his thrusts. Her hot breath streaming from her nose, nestled beside his, had carried an earthy moan modulated upon its flow. So real. So tormentingly real. So vivid that he even felt his ejaculation spilling itself inside of her, and could feel, as an after-glow in those waking moments, the sting where her long nails had coursed along the sweaty skin of his back at the height of her ecstasy.
He lay there for quite a while after he awoke, reliving the dream, remembering her, remembering every aspect of the lovemaking, wondering if in the moment of his climax he had called out and woken himself away from her.
He realised, while she was fresh in his mind, that there was a reason for dreaming such a dream, and turning to look over his shoulder at her photograph on her bedside table, he reaffirmed in his mind that today was her birthday.
He hadn’t forgotten her birthday. Ever. He had intended to drink a toast to her seventy-third birthday out on the verandah, the night before. But as so often happened these days, overwhelming tiredness descended upon him well before midnight, and he changed his mind, thinking that she would instead be pleased to receive a simple good-night kiss before he turned over to go to sleep.
He had dropped his clothes on the easy chair in the corner of the bedroom and slumped onto the big double bed with great weariness. He turned to her, laying beside him, and even in his tiredness continued with his nightly ritual of kissing her – or rather, her pillow – as he had done ever since she had gone. Imagining, somehow, that his lips transmuted their kiss as they passed through whatever dimensions lay between them and her spirit body beside him.
Had she been there in the physical sense; had they been the age they were in the dream; had it then been her birthday, then most certainly they would have kissed, and most certainly their kiss would have led to a passionate demonstration of their love for one another. The dream and the date had matched.
He remembered that he had savoured that dream, had re-run it many times that morning, its clarity gradually diminishing and fading into the blur of thousands of other passionate acts of love they had experienced together. They lay ever-embedded in his memory, bubbling like boiling water, and as each one bubbled to the surface, so it brought its own individual moments of love into the present.
Now, the swaying lampshade, the bottle, the glass, like the envelope on the rug, matched. They were easy bedfellows, not to be separated once they had found themselves brought together.
Turning back to squint into the cupboard, his arms reaching to move the rather surprising collection of disused pots and pans, cookery books and her favourite cut-glass flower vase, he saw it; right at the back, sticking up against the backboard of the cupboard, emerging like a phoenix from the dusty contents, a strange colourless semblance of a bird of paradise atop the dried frond of a palm leaf. She had kept it safe for many years. His eyes misted again, because he knew, without doubt, that the irrepressible force of time caused everything to change: Even this palm-leaf bird, made in front of them by a local woman on a sunlit Grenadian beach, would in its turn, transform to dust and become only a memory.
He replenished his glass of rum, and headed back to the front stoop, where he could share the evening with all he had... memories.
Lovely story Griff. though sad of course. Don't know if this is where to comment.
Great piece of writing. Life is about building memories for those moments when they are needed to remind us that love never passes.
No need to worry that others might not see your ‘picture’. It is masterfully painted. Some of the strokes are subtle; some have a harsh clarity; and yet others lead off into suprising landscapes. Sorry if I wax lyrical... but I just love this ‘voice’. If I was called on to pick a demerit, it would be that some of the positional, moving dialogue is overdescribed. It doesn’t detract from the whole, though.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Jim. I very much appreciate it. I just thought the sound of the feet on the wooden floorboards, for example, would resonate in the mind of the reader and make it come to life more. (Excuse the unintended pun!)
Fantastic piece. Very moving. Ultimately, all we have left are our memories.
Gizza kiss and I'll tell yer a silly story.
Pensive memories like these special moments should be treasured, for to have known love is the best feeling in the world.
Emotional, passionate and an engaging read.
J E Skinner
Hello Griff. An absorbing read, emotional and nostalgic memories laid bare for all to see. Precious memories last for ever. Well constructed prose with, perhaps, a few extraneous words here and there. Like Jim, I too like the voice/tone that you’ve used.
Thank you for sharing; not easy with personal thoughts and experiences.