I wrote this several years ago and, as it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share it:
I have a confession to make.
We’ve all done things wrong, and we’ve all done things we’re not exactly proud of. But I think mine probably tops all of yours – I mean have you ever killed the one you love? No? No…I didn’t think so. To look at me, you’d never imagine that I could be capable of such a malicious, sorrowful deed – for I am perhaps one of the most humble, slightly-built older males you are ever likely to see.
It’s taken me a few days to collect my thoughts on the matter – a few miserable days, sitting in this cell – with only the faraway drone of the other inmates and the sparsely decorated walls to keep me company.
I’ll tell you the tale right now and I’ll pull no punches and spare no details, for I am
old now, with such little life left that there’s no point even attempting to preserve myself from whatever justice the authorities see fit for me. You may feel sympathetic to me perhaps, but then you may very well agree with the majority of society and deem me a villain – one not fit to share the world with the other right-thinking folk.
I’ve been in love with someone before, oh yes I have! When I was much younger! She was a lovely lady.
Virginia Wright was her name.
And even now many, many years down the line I still think of that name in a rose-tinted light. She was a few years older than I, and perhaps not the easiest lady on the eye – but out of all of her many suitors she chose me and our affectionate companionship slowly turned into a deep-rooted understanding and love.
I’ve always been too slow of head to be a well-versed romantic, but I’d have to say she was “the one”, and perhaps once I’ve been judged by the aforementioned forces of authority I may well be reunited with Virginia Wright in another life, somewhere far, far away from here.
The early days (honeymoon period) were my favourites – they stretch out before me even
now in a sort of effervescent movie montage. The places we went together, the little characteristics and quirks we both had that we learned to love so well, the people we met and of course those quiet moments that are shared between two like-minded souls, the quiet moments that no one else ever knows.4
However as time went on and age consumed Virginia faster than I, it became more and more of a challenge to get by – at the start of things it was a pleasant challenge to keep her happy, but toward the end it got so it was a struggle just to support her through anything. Whether it be helping her on a simple cooking expedition around the kitchen or a trip to the lavatory.
Everyone tried to convince her to ask for extra care, care that I (being no spring chicken
myself) couldn’t really provide, but being the strong soul she was she was determined to
carry on. And from that determination I will always carry inspiration. I still remember the day she died in my arms like it was yesterday, her soft hazel brown eyes closing as life was finally taken from her. It looked more like she was asleep than devoid of life, but perhaps that’s all death is?
Just another level of sleep, one that mortal minds can’t configure.
From a selfish perspective I was distraught at losing my life’s companion, but from a more senior, learned point of view I was able to eventually rest soundly to the oh-so-familiar tune of her “being in a better place”.
But alas, I’m getting off of the real point of my sin with all this talk of Virginia Wright –
perhaps I am more of a romantic at heart than I initially thought.
The lady of my confession goes…or rather went…by the name of Lily Swann, a pretty name I’ll agree, but very misplaced.
In the years following Virginia’s passing I had little or no connection with
anyone, Virginia’s family all lived away from the city and I, myself, was born of another
country and at my age I had no real way of getting back there. So it was a lonely life I led, a life spent mostly traipsing to and from various shopping centres, markets and outlets – people watching.
If I didn’t have a life of my own I could at least gain some interest from what
others around me were doing, you can earn an awful lot from people and from my various vantage points I saw many dramas, conflicts and romances unfold. Life has a simple algorithm, we just like to kid ourselves that it’s more complicated than it is.
It was while I was scanning the aisles of a second-hand store on West Street that I was
approached by a lady called Linda. She must have noticed my lonely existence before, as I was sure I’d recognised her from somewhere – but when you reach my age all the names and faces seem to roll into one and it becomes harder and harder to decipher any countenance that isn’t common place in your life.
Linda was a weekly carer for a lady called Lilly, and she must have thought of herself as some sort of matchmaker as she arranged for a few meetings with us. We didn’t really warm to each other at first, I didn’t feel I wanted her – and she felt she had no use for me, but the relentless matchmaking continued and eventually we fell into a mutual companionship.
I’ve always firmly believed that if you try hard enough you can learn to like, and who knows, maybe even love someone if you really want to make it work. It was hard getting used to Lily’s hair-string temper and shoe-string budget but I settled into the idea that I would never find anyone else to love at such a late age.
That woman proceeded to wear me down – both physically and mentally. I’m not trying for sympathy now, I’m sure that perhaps I could have just upped and left somehow, but I just could never find the nerve.
She used to mumble to herself all the time, what she was saying I couldn’t decipher at times – but I knew it was nothing positive, her mutterings gradually changed to insults – mainly aimed at me. Useless. Never has a word cut me so deep as that, through my whole life I’d been a hard worker – both at work and in a relationship, and to be constantly called this whenever I was with her or helping her hurt me in a way that you cannot imagine.
Never has such a simple word, fired at me so maliciously, made me feel so redundant.
But as we grew to know each other better, and as we got older, words turned to actions. The little things at first, nudging me out of the way when she wanted to hobble a short distance across the house, spilling the odd drop of boiling tea onto me without the slightest murmur of an apology and then slowly moving to the physical. She soon fell into the habit of kicking me from the solitude of her own gnarled rocking chair whenever something annoyed her. As if I was some sort of worthless scapegoat that
she could unload her pathetic, ill-founded frustrations on.
Alas a few days ago the two of us had decided to head into the city for a day’s shopping, and this is where things came to a head. Having your body fail on you is the worst part of old age, a body that you’ve grown so used to over the years – suddenly becoming rigid and hopeless.
We were a few yards away from the house when I felt a sudden pang in my creaking limbs, and before I knew it they’d stopped – locked up completely – I couldn’t go any further.
“What’s wrong with you? You’re useless. I want to be back in time for the soap operas”.
With that she straightened herself up and flung a leg at me, striking me a lot harder than I would have expected from a woman of her age.
“Useless. Useless. Useless. Supposed to be there for me. Useless”.
With each cry of useless her foot connected against my limbs, until I felt something rise
inside of me, an anger so sharp and so stunningly severe that I’d never felt it before. But an anger that brought new life into me and I found myself lunging forward at the old hag – we toppled to the pavement in an ear-splitting crescendo of shouts and screams- noises
of pain, raw emotion and rage. Next thing I knew, all I could hear was a sickening, crack as the old lady’s head met the pavement. It was only then that I realised just what I had done.
Emotions. They often get the better of you in the end.
Oh…wait, what’s this that has broken my tainted string of thought? The cell door in front of me is opening, finally! It’s barely been opened since the day I was first banished here. Two policemen appear in front of me – bored and tired in their dark blue, padded uniforms.
After a moment they fix their attention on me and the room, and I can hear the first
one speak: “Bloody impound lot gets more and more cluttered every time I come in here”, now he turns his attention to me, and me alone, “stupid rusty wheelchair, that can go to the scrap yard I don’t think we’re going to be needing that anymore.”
“That from the Swann woman investigation?”, asks his younger colleague.
“Yeah, weird one. Found her on the pavement with the chair on top of her, but no one could seem to find anything wrong with the chair itself, ‘cos she wasn’t even on it at the time. Almost as if it just got up got up and rolled on top of her”.
His colleague laughs.
I know my fate is sealed. The scrap man calls.
Virginia, I’m coming, I won’t be long now.
by Ashley Brown