Passing the time

The queue outside the post office went round the block. I had two boxes to send for eBay. A Raynaud Ceralene “Morning Glory” butter dish – (ten quid) and a horrible Guernsey crested China cow creamer – (just three pounds). Thirteen quid. Half an hour in the queue. That’s still £26 an hour which is an acceptable rate for unskilled time. The sun was shining on the pavement, but everybody was hugging the wall, shivering in the shade. I shifted a foot and a half from the queue and into the sun. I turned around to face it and let it soak into my skin. This beautiful autumn weather, with the low light coming through the shedding trees.

“Don’t know why we all aren’t doing that,” says the old guy behind me, indicating my sun-seeking. Nor do I. He doesn’t join me either. He wants to talk. Very much. He’s lonely. This coming time is going to go hard for him.

I didn’t catch his name. He was talking through a mask in the wind from a distance and he’s had an operation on his throat. Didn’t stop him from trying. There’s a thing that he is looking for. Normally it’s in Boots but it isn’t in the local Boots. He might have to go to the one in High Street Kensington. You know the one? Just opposite X road. You know X road?

He’s in AA. Has been for nineteen and a half years. “Will you be able to go to a meeting and get your twenty year badge?” I find myself asking. He harrumphs. His head shakes. I don’t tell him I’m almost at three months but not through AA. Mere necessity.

The time passes in the queue with him talking and me attempting to interpret a quiet voice masked in the wind. Then I get a call from Jacky – while I’m talking to the guy. “Sorry I’m going to take this.”

“Are you able to do another shop for me?” Jacky is the old gal I’ve become lockdown Ocado for. She’s taught me a great deal about the stock of Waitrose and how to shop frugally there. I’ll be off again tomorrow.

It must be shit being old at the best of times. “All my friends are getting married!” Cut to “All my friends are having kids.” Cut to “All my friends are retiring.” A few more cuts but eventually, if you’re one of the lucky ones, it’s “All my friends are dead.” And then the final cut.

If we are going back underwater we should look to the older people we barely know who are near us. The ones who are prickly like they don’t want our help. Give them a bunch of flowers or something next time you’re going shopping. “I bought too many”. Fuck knows it’s lonely enough for those of us who have lots of living people in the phonebook.

I’m getting Hex tomorrow and bringing him back to Chelsea. With lockdown coming it’s the only way I can feed him. He’ll be company of a sort. But fucking hell. Here we go again. Let’s look after each other.

I went to Chelsea Physic Garden because it’s still open, and I stood under my favourite tree…

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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