Monday, 9 July 2018

Round 28.

28.

Joseph takes off his glasses and places them in the empty tea cup which sits on the table at the side of the bed.

He closes his eyes.

In the darkness he watches the memories that always seem to be there, if he wants to acknowledge their presence.

Tonight he does.

Mabel, on the beach pointing at the seagull that is trying to pull a piece of rope from the sand; his grandmother holding his hand as they walk over the railway bridge; his father’s pipe the day he picked it up and inhaled, his mother’s hand on his fevered brow.

Always hands, there are always hands in his memories.

He opens his eyes and the darkness floods away.

By the light of the bedside table he considers his own hands.

So old now.

His little finger, deformed and painful from arthritis. He squeezes it against his palm trying to coax live and youth back into the joint.

His nails - still dirty from trying to change the tyre on his car that morning.

The cut on his knuckle - where he failed.

He thinks about his own hands and how they have sustained him all these years; writing at school for the exams, catching the ball for the cricket team, praying each Sunday at Church.

Holding his first pint.

Mabel’s hand when he asked her in marriage.

Mabel’s hand was so soft.

Delicate.

Strong.

Is that a contradiction?

Mabel was a contradiction; she believed in unity but always preferred to be alone.

Especially at the end.

So long ago now; it seems.

Joseph reaches for his glasses, takes them from the teacup and balances them on his nose.

He peers into the teacup; it is empty.

From the bedside table he takes a piece of folded paper and holds it to his nose.

He can still smell her scent.

Night Fall in Bethlehem.

He only ever found it once, in a small shop on the quayside in Lisbon where their cruise ship stopped.

But Mabel had made it last; her hands were economic as well as soft and delicate.

Joseph unfolds the paper and reads again, though he knows the words by heart.

His mouth opens and closes as he voicelessly repeats them.

Then he cries.

Joseph takes off his glasses and places them in the empty tea cup which sits on the table at the side of the bed.

He closes his eyes.

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