Featured Review on this writing by Shirley M. Langton

Walk of the Lonely

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Health and Fitness  |  House: Booksie Classic
A lonely woman struggles to come to terms with the impact of her loneliness on her mental health and wellbeing

Image of woman crying in the rain by Free Photos pixabay.com

Submitted: June 13, 2019

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Submitted: June 13, 2019

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Walk of the Lonely

I stare into the shower head and let the jets of warm water rinse my long brown hair. The sun reflects in my eyes, making me squint. Seems it’s going to be another bright, happy, sunny day. I soap my body with suds of intimate peach organic body scrub, soak myself, depress the bath knob and clamber out of the shower.

The sun has passed into dark rainclouds. I feel my spirits sag. I feel my towel glide between my legs, across my back, and under my hairy armpits. The towel dries the sadness from my blue eyes, draws fresh hope on my weary face. I wrap my hair in a turban and pad across the landing to the bedroom. The phone rings. It will be her. Checking that I’m alright. I ignore her. Seems it’s going to be another dull, lonely, rainy day.

I go to the window and draw back the net curtain. The garden is bright green with wet lawn, rainbows of washed out roses and salmon pinks, mauves and purples. The patio is grey with rainfall. I watch the rain falling steadily in slanted stair rods and wonder if it will cease. It has been raining five days now, with no end in sight.

I close the curtain and stand in front of the gilt-edged mirror. I shrug my shoulders, stretch my arms in front of me, behind my back. I tug my hair to the right, to the left. I nod and move my head from side to side. The pain in my neck subsides. I squat on all fours on the threadbare sheepskin rug, breathe deeply, then arch my back like a scared cat. I push my hands forward across the pink carpet until they slide under my bed and find an old sock.

My clothes are arranged on the bed. I dress in my comfortable waist-high briefs, red pop socks, a floppy navy tee-shirt, olive bottoms, and a fleece to keep the draught out. My trainers are brand new, a present from her, for staying well. I’ve managed to stay well for two weeks now: one less nightmare. I slip them on, noticing their interwoven pattern, their trendy style, and ask myself whether I’ll get wet feet.

I walk to the landing and hang my wet blue towel up in the airing cupboard. One of my speckled navy socks lies on the bare wooden flooring, in the dust. I leave it lying there, until next time.

I amble down the beige staircase and stop in the hallway to collect my mail. There is no mail.

My belongings are arranged for me on the fake pine kitchen table: a torn off sheet of paper, my house keys, purse, glasses, sustainable shopping bag, and a black umbrella. I collect my belongings, leave the kitchen, turn the corner, and enter the dining room. There is a green light, flashing on my cream BT Paragon. I press play. I have 2 new messages:

‘Hello, it’s only me, just checking you’re alright, miss you.’

‘Hello, I tried to call you, is everything ok, miss you, lots.’

I feel my facial muscles tense as I delete the messages. I feel hot. I walk to the window and watch the beads of rain spatter the double-glazing.

From my window, I can see the house with the soiled pink rendering, the rowan tree covering one whole window, the drooping red roses, the door that never opens. His black and green wheelie bins lie discarded on the pavement. Her clothing lies in black bags ready for collection. The curtains are drawn. There is no sign of life.

There is a break in the rain. I seize my opportunity and leave the house. The cul-de-sac is full of potholes. The potholes are filled with water. I cross the decrepit road, feeling grit and shale bite my undersoles, feeling water wet my anklet socks, my toes wriggle at the dampness.

I turn left into the high street, there is a gust of wind, the clouds burst, and it pours with rain. I erect, only to find my brolly is torn from the frame. I erect, and hold my brolly in place, as best I can. This end of the high street, the depressed, squalid end, is always deserted, the corner shop and Indian takeaway empty. The path is full of puddles.

I laugh at myself, hopping over puddles to the pelican crossing. I press a button and stand back. To prevent myself from being sprayed with water from the gutter. The light goes red, I doff my brolly like a royal at the cars as they watch me pass by. A man honks me. Honestly!

When I reach the other side, I see the two luxury apartments with a view of the rundown corner shop, that was partly destroyed by a fatal fire, remain for sale. The ground floor is empty – I wonder if it will become a fast food outlet.

I turn right, skirting the terracotta red fence that was blown down by the storm last autumn. As a gesture to the disabled, the landlords of the apartments have created a disabled parking slot, then planted shrubs in a border in front of it.

I shake my head and splash down the street as far as the Sports Centre. I pump my brolly under a covered walkway, the doors open automatically, I walk inside. The receptionist is on the phone. I brush rain out of the tips of my hair and wait. She looks up at me and smiles. I smile back.

‘Hello, can I help you?’

‘I would like to return to Chris’s Monday afternoon Pilates Class.’

‘Would that be Chris’s Monday afternoon Pilates Class at one o’clock.’

‘Yes, I took up running, now my back hurts and I would like to return to Chris’s Pilates Class.’

‘May I have your membership card.’

‘Yes.’

I pass the receptionist my membership card. She swipes it, then passes it back to me. I put it in my purse.

‘Thank you, that’s all done for you.’

‘Thank you.’

I leave the Sports Centre and erect. I turn right out of the car park, which is strewn with sodden leaf mulch, and walk past the Social Club. The Club is advertising for new members. Its advert is sponsored by an Australian lager consortium. I ignore the opportunity to mingle with lonely members of the local community and plod to the back street.

The back street runs parallel to the high street. Hearses use the back street, so as not to draw themselves to the attention of high street shoppers, particularly young mothers with children who are not expected to die just yet. I stand and watch a hearse reverse into an undertakers’ car park and speculate as to the life of the deceased. Why do hearses only reverse into car park’s when it’s raining. The driver wears a tall black hat with a silky neck veil. I giggle childishly then move on.

The street ahead is flooded. 4x4’s and lesser vehicles splash down the one-way street, spurting cascades of bilge over passers-by. I watch a bare-headed, elderly couple in orange anoraks, bend double with arthritis and baulk as they are saturated by spume from a passing white van. They look at me, frightened. I raise my brolly, so they see my face. See I mean them no harm. I call to them:

‘Its safe to cross now.’

They ignore me and scuttle off down the path in search of a warm dry sanctuary. I feel my toes, damp in my trainers, the rain and sweat run down my back. I draw out a wet ocean blue hankie, blow my runny nose. I don’t flinch. I don’t shiver. I stare ahead.

The old are fading shadows. Pete told me age is just a number. I think of the hearse, the coffin, the floral display on the roof, dripping with rain. The rain teems down, there’s a breeze. I feel water pipe down my bare neck.

Presently, I cross the common road to the rectory. From the car park and childrens’ playground, which are empty, I can see the Sports Pavilion. Before me lies a tarmac path, wide enough for one and full of fissures where the tar melted in the heatwave. Either side are football pitches without goalposts. The season is over.

I walk towards the man in the black hoodie, walking at me from the other end of the path. Walking at me with a deliberate stare. I realise, my navy tee shirt is hanging wide open for him to see. I draw my shirt together and stand to one side, on the grass, I stand on the wet grass. We pass within inches of each other. I smell his cigarette smoke. I freeze. I want to run away but can’t.

I reach the pavilion. Before me stands a giant man with a silver goatee and leering grin. We stand, facing each other. His soaking wet terrier strains at the leash. The giant stands aside, pulling back his rearing hound. The path is filled with puddle!

‘Mind the puddles, girl!’

I skip past him, I daren’t look back, I turn right. There is a plate glass window. The window opens into a play group. Women are writhing on the floor, wrestling with infants. A police blue light comes on and pulses. They wave at me angrily, think I’m a pervert, wave me away.

I pass the football pitch, the rain teems down, rumbling on my brolly. I stop to read a sign, a warning:

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A DOG POO FAIRY – BAG IT UP AND TAKE IT HOME!

I reach a kissing gate! A kissing gate, here between the rectory and the hospital grounds. Why? What if I was cycling to the surgery on my mountain bike? Then what. How might I pass? I pass three nurses, two women, one man, in black waterproofs, dragging cigarette smoke into their lungs, blowing smoky plumes out of their nostrils, clouds in misty rain. I catch the words:

‘Two-thirty jobbie, then?’

‘Yes, Seth, two-thirty jobbie.’

I cast my mind back to the dog poo fairy and shiver. I pass through the kissing gate and reach the other side. The other side is the hospital car park. I cough and sputter as a white van spews diesel fumes at my face.

A man approaches me, his head is crooked, his neck drawn like a dead turkey, his grey eyes have lost all hope, he passes by on the other side, to who knows where. I pass the mental health secure unit and look away.

Two young women approach me in burkas, one pushing a buggy. I drop down into the gutter and let them pass. Our eyes meet:

‘Thank you.’

‘You’re welcome.’

I cross the road, a zebra crossing, the road is awash with water, two men in yellow safety vests:

‘You won’t be here next week either then?’

‘No, I won’t be here next week.’

I pass the WRVS café. There is a stand in the doorway: the local hospice. A kind-looking man, a young couple deep in conversation. I catch snatches, always catch snatches, of what they say:

‘…would you like her to come to stay with us?’

‘’Next week? Is next week possible? I can’t cope, not with her and baby?’

I reach the forest road. I follow a grey-haired woman wearing a soaking wet light blue dress, no coat, bare legs, donkey boots, smoking a fag. She stops under the chestnut tree to shelter, to check her messages. A five-fold chestnut leaf lies, spread-eagled on the ground between her bare feet.

I think she’s an inmate.

An escaped inmate from the secure mental health unit, trying to make a call, make contact.

I think she’s an inmate.

Her face is streaked with wet grey hair, her eyes are lined with welts, her lips are cracked and sore, she is shivering, her fingers and toes are blue with cold, her knees are bent.

I think she’s an escaped inmate.

I back away from her, she gives way, I give her a wide berth, leaves lie in mulch on the sodden ground. There is a dry patch, by the tree trunk. Go stand there, won’t you?

‘Sorry if I frightened you, I’m lost.’

‘It’s alright, it’s alright. I’m sorry. I have to go.’

‘I understand, love, you go now.’

I turn to face the rain, I feel the rain stream down my face, like tears of regret, my heart aches with guilt. I turn right down a short cut, dripping boughs brush my brolly aside, drenching my blanched face.

The pharmacy abuts the surgery. I stand in the rain and pump my brolly, then go inside, into the warm. I reach inside my purse and draw out the prescription: for risperidone. The woman watches me slot the prescription into the repeat prescription box.

I take risperidone.

I have five tablets left.

Today is Thursday.

The woman in the blue uniform watches me frown.

‘Can I help you?’

‘Yes.’

‘How can I help you, today?’

‘I wanted to check.’

‘What did you want to check?’

‘I wanted to check that my tablets would be ready for collection on Tuesday morning.’

‘Tuesday morning?’

‘Yes, I’ve nearly run out of tablets, you see.’

‘I’m terribly sorry, we have a new system, coming in next week. Your tablets won’t be ready until next Friday. If you’d like to call on Monday, I’m sure we can arrange something for you?’

‘I’ll be fine, thank you.’

‘Are you sure? It’s no trouble.’

‘I’ll be fine, thank you…. I’ll be fine.’

I go outside and erect.

The brolly blows inside out.

Its black material tears to shreds.

Like my heart.

I walk the walk of the lonely in the teeming rain.

I walk the walk of the lonely.

Walk with me?

 


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