Lost and Found

What is the first thing that enters your mind in that moment you wake?  Do you look forward to the opportunities of yet another day or perhaps you are just plagued by the lost opportunities of the days already gone?  In truth, at that second of tired eyes being forced open, you just simply wish for the alarm clock to stop its morning chorus.  Its contempt for your endeavour to sleep is now annoying you to the point of utter hatred on your part.  This is the ability we all have to blame our surroundings for our plight whether it is the people who touch our lives or even an inanimate object such as an alarm clock.  Helen however was the exception to this rule, for her it was just the act of breathing.  There was no time for blame or regret or even basic self-pity.  Her morning routine had started as always, first the effort of pushing back her stiff hospital covers and then pulling herself to an upright position with the aid of a hoist situated above her bed.  This was followed by her wrapping her tired and deep lined hands around her left leg, forcing it to the bed’s edge and then tumbling over; the right was soon encouraged to follow albeit somewhat reluctantly. However this was no mass suicide of limbs for there was not a great distance to fall until the touch of a disinfected floor would meet the soles of her feet in support.  Following a struggling placement of slippers there was a movement to a stand and then a step. She placed her shaking fingers on the cold metal of an old chrome Zimmer frame, sliding them round to a joint wrenching grip and firmly letting them know it was now time for her to start walking towards the bathroom at the far end of a long mocking corridor; an unpleasant and rather tedious walk.  There was one closer and it required far less effort on her part but the exercise was good for the heart if not soothing for the soul as her father would always say.  She would take this action every day, each step harder than the one before but encouraged by its completion.  In all honesty it had not been getting any easier, in fact the opposite.  Every morning seemed to bring greater demands upon body and soul.  Anyway she was not one to complain, you just have to accept your fate and get on with it she would tell herself.  As for those interfering nurses, and that rather nice pert bottomed doctor, they have better things to do so why even entertain telling them she was finding it increasingly difficult to even get out of bed, never mind to attempt a trolley dash to the bathroom?  Today however something was different, there was a seed of change growing to its fulfilment inside her; even the joints of her fingers seemed to be receiving a massive respite.  As she walked memories of her long life kept whispering from the corners of her mind demanding a smile or a tear but needing some kind of recognition.  Unable to deny them she gave each one a moment of credence in the order of their appearance, letting them unfold in stunning detail and clarity with no moment left ignored. She had suffered much pain in her time and not the kind that was easily forgotten but the kind that eats away a little bit of innocence or belief and has no regrets in doing so. At these points in life your character is defined; you now find out whether you have the strength to survive and scab over the scars with new memories whilst resisting the urge to continuously pick at them and never truly forgetting, only helping them to fester.  The hard truth is that whatever you do they still wait just beneath your mask for those weak moments to remind you of times that cannot or will not be totally erased.

“I would have been a good daughter!” she declared unable to stop the words from being spoken from her lips with a hint of bitterness left on her tongue; for when she was only 3 years of age her mother was foolish enough to find love in the arms of another man and even more foolish to think fate would allow it to blossom.  God’s punishment her father would say!  She could never understand how men of the cloth in general found it so easy to judge but when it came to asking for forgiveness were only able to be a second hand party to the event.  In this case the fact that her father was not the man her mother was in love with may have proven to be one step too far and provided him with a reasonable lack of reason or judgement even if he had a stiff white starched dog collar and a bible to wave in his own defence.  Her memories of this event were usually unclear if not downright vague but for some reason, this time, that was not the case.  She could remember the car rolling over and over again with the unnerving sound of bending hot metal as shooting sparks of fire were quenched by the night’s cold air.  Her mother’s haunting scream ricocheted off the plastic panels and drab seat covers looking for any desperate means of escape.  Then silence tightened to an unbearable pressure on her eardrums in a desperate search for any other morsel of sound and reassurance.  All her memories beneath her protective scab were once again able to be seen in the light of her own unwilling thoughts.

“You’ll be old one day!” she shouted at a young man who seemed determined to not be diverted one step off his course, forcing her to make a sharp turn to the left and an even sharper interruption to her thought.  To make matters worse he did not seem to be alone in his actions.  It was no better than dodgems; all that was needed was a metal rod going to the ceiling producing the occasional spark from her Zimmer frame to complete the picture. Then all at once the smell of wild flowers flirted tantalisingly with her senses; she took a long slow sniff.  A trailing presence of a man’s aftershave pulled her back into the most delicious of lost memories.  She had almost forgotten how handsome he was and how his chiselled body offered no reason to find fault.  It is true she would think of him every day but all images fade with time and become tainted without the sharpness of a young bright mind.  However none of that now mattered, for he was now standing right in front of her.  A stray long black hair was caressing his brow seductively as his skin was moistened by the blaze of a hot summer sun. He would pull her downward into the deep wild fragrant flowers and gently follow the lines of her body, taking care not to forget one second of touch or one moment of his building lust.  She trembles in her sigh as anticipation tingled from the small of her back to his promising touch at the top of her inner thigh.  As he entered inside her with a gentle rhythmic thrust the bodies melted into one consuming entwining climax.  Even now, in just the memory, if she had a pillow she would have to bite it hard “just perfect just perfect Harry was!” she chuckled to herself.  Then her loss came flooding back with unrelenting vigour. They say it is the price of war, men die, women become widows and children never know their father.  In her case she was not even given enough time for a white band to appear upon her wedding finger following years of wearing a ring, only long enough for a seed to form inside her belly and a promised rendezvous at eight o’clock never to happen.  He had said it would be a date to remember but she was only destined to spend the rest of her life trying to forget its unknown promises. So in protest she would refuse point blank to buy anything that had made in Korea stamped upon it, in what she saw as a blatant boasting of the country’s achievements such as killing her Harry; holding each and every one of them responsible for his death and undoubtedly also being accountable for her long-term suffering.  It was not easy being a single mother but far more favourable than her second husband who lasted not much more than a year.  He did make her groan from time to time but only when his fists took it upon themselves to tenderise her body.  A bully and a drunk and definitely not a good love maker, not like her Harry.  She chuckled again remembering that feeling with an even greater clarity which had been, for her, far too long missed.

“It’s a conspiracy that’s what it is, a conspiracy,” an old man shouted as he planted his face only two inches in distance from hers.

“I may be old but I’m not deaf,” she replied turning her head away to find some sweeter smelling air.

“I know they can see me but they act like they can’t, it’s like I’m not even here.  It’s a conspiracy I’m telling you, a bloody conspiracy,” he continued.

She could understand why they would want to ignore him and was now starting to wish she had followed that same course of action herself.  Apart from his rather irritating manner and unpleasant breath which was bad enough in itself, a long white hair was protruding from his left nostril.  It was making her consider whether to undertake a daring attack with the set of tweezers she kept inside one of her dressing gown pockets just for such an emergency; although this act was unlikely to go completely unnoticed and was also not even guaranteed to bear her any fruit at first attempt.  It also had to be considered that if she was to fail miserably it would deny her any sense of satisfaction making an already unpleasant encounter even more infuriating.  So this plan of action was soon abandoned for a more timid and less confrontational response, realising she was not as nimble as she once was.  She gently touched the end of her nose in a futile attempt to draw his attention to the offending growth.

“That’s right my dear, we’ll keep it to ourselves for now, a conspiracy a bloody conspiracy” he repeated as he quickly shuffled away.

Her thoughts now return to Harry not wishing to dwell on her encounter any longer than is necessary and the beloved child he gave her to fill the void left in her heart.

“My Emily, she’s been a good girl,” she said to herself in a soft caring voice.

Then once again her mind was distracted from such pleasant thoughts for she had now reached that familiar destination, the bathroom.  Unfortunately she was finding it somewhat difficult to convince the door to co-operate with her needs by granting her entry.  There was no red engaged sign to provide her with a plausible explanation of its unwillingness to oblige.  To make the matter even more puzzling, not only did the door refuse to open but even the handle was stubbornly steadfast denying her any optimism, in what only needed to be the slightest of movements. Seemingly they were both content to completely ignore her existence; it was almost as if she was not there at all but just a fading figment of her own imagination.  Her choices were now limited, she could stay where she was and continue to try and outsmart her new-found foes or completely stifle their mocking by giving up on the whole idea and returning to her bed; maybe then, if her enthusiasm was willing, taking advantage of some more sympathetic amenities along the way.  The latter was considered her best opportunity of keeping her dignity intact.  The idea of the world seeing her as a feeble sick old lady who could not even open one door was threatening to be a little too much to stomach.

“I’m going to have to just bite the bullet and go for it,” she said out loud as she turned around and started heading back down the long corridor.

Then hitching a ride on her last remarks coat-tails those more pleasant thoughts returned which were once again allowed to occupy her mind.

“Where was I?’ she said.

“Oh yes my Emily, she’s been a good girl, a very good girl.

She could hear Emily’s first cry as clear as day itself.  Maybe time had allowed an echo of so much promise to overtake and deny its passing for just one second.  Then a child’s eyes flowing with unconditional love was once more burning an image into a mother’s heart.  She knew that whatever life had considered its right to throw mercilessly in her direction this had and always would be that most ideal of moments.

This image faded as quickly as it had arrived driven away by a cold biting shiver which was now snapping along the edge of her tired bones.  Even the breath from her mouth seemed to leave a trail of dancing smoke in the air.  She remembered being a young girl blowing smoke circles into the night’s sky illuminated by a full moon.

A bad habit that smoking, it will be the death of me, she thought to herself.

Then out of the corner of one eye she caught sight of that rather strange old man once more.  He was sitting in a private room beside an abandoned metal framed bed; the door wide open, offering nothing in the way of privacy.  The furniture did not look settled in its arrangement but placed there in haste from the lack of any alternative.  As she looked closer, allowing her not so good eyes to widen and peer deeper into the room, the outline of a human figure could be made out underneath a white bed sheet stretched to cover the entire length of the bed.

“Poor, poor soul he must have lost somebody dear,” she said with a gentle shaking from side to side of her head and an accompanying tut, tut.

Her actions try to cover the taste of guilt which now accompanied the memory of her response to their earlier encounter although he was totally oblivious to anything taking place around him and would gain no comfort from such a gesture of remorse.  Feeling more than slightly awkward in her position as an observer she moved on.

As she walked slowly a thought entered her mind.

I wonder if he had a chance to say his goodbyes.

Well I never did with my Harry, not properly anyway, she continued to ponder.

You can say you love somebody every single day, me and my Harry always did but sometimes it’s just empty words.  You don’t allow your heart to fill those words with love; it’s not that you don’t have the love, just not the time.  If you knew it was the last time you will ever see somebody you would squeeze every ounce of love from your heart into those words before you let them escape across your lips.  That’s life, you don’t always know when or where I suppose, I wish I did with my Harry though. She could feel a maverick tear break free from the corner of her eye and roll over the top of her cheekbone.

“Look at me, silly cow, getting all emotional after all these years,” she said wiping it away with the back of her hand.

At that same instance something brushed against the outside of her arm.

“Careful, an old woman walking here,” she snapped.

She then looked quickly to the side only to see a hospital bed being pushed past her with that same old man walking beside it.  The white sheet had fallen away from the top of the figure’s head revealing its true features.  It did not make sense; it did not make sense at all.  For she was seeing double, the same old man’s face which had been plaguing her all morning was now looking back up at her although completely abandoned of any life.

They must have been twins, yes twins she thought eventually; that being the only logical explanation.

“It’s a conspiracy, I told you,” the old man said reinforcing his earlier declaration.

“I’m not dead, not me, I’m not,” he continued.

“Of course it isn’t you, it’s your brother isn’t it pet?” she replied trying to validate her theory.

“A conspiracy, a bloody conspiracy,” he continued to say whilst walking away and giving back no other response.

Her contempt for the old man had now been replaced by pity, for she knew the hardest thing about losing someone you love is the reality of acceptance.  She had lost two of the main people in her life whose love was guaranteed for as long as her heart had a beat. Harry and her mum and also one she felt obliged to show the appearance of love to if nothing else, her father, who even on his deathbed found it impossible to show the same level of forgiveness he believed his God would show him.

“So sad, so sad,” she said to herself quietly not wishing to flaunt her emotions.

Her downward turn in mood had seemed to remove all other concerns even the need for the bathroom.  Now the only objective to occupy her mind was to return to her bed and find some false comfort beneath its covers.  As she reached the ward’s doorway the light above her head flickered once then twice, as if about to die but trying to hold on for just a little bit longer.  She then noticed that somebody else was unashamedly in her bed.   There was also a young woman who looked remarkably like her own daughter sitting openly holding the squatters hand.  There was also a man and another woman standing slightly to one side but a bit more discreetly.  She moved in closer, searching for a little more understanding of the situation, her glasses seemingly not close at hand to help reinforce strength of meaning although not truly needed.

A deep intake of air hit the back of her lungs as she rasped with shock.

For her own body was laid out cold and lifeless in plain sight and unfortunately she knew a twin sister was not to provide an answer for the abnormal.  Then the mysterious woman waiting to one side, whose stance now seemed very familiar, turned slowly to face her and said,

“Hello pet, it’s time to go”.

“Mum is that you?” she replied with a strained quiver of disbelief in her voice.

No time was given for an answer as the moving hands of a large clock above the bed became deafening.

The large hand clicked to twelve as the small hand clicked to eight.

The male figure now turned around completing the picture.  It was Harry, as sure as day itself, just as young and handsome as he always was.  He smiles at her whilst stretching out a hand and says, “I told you I’d meet you at eight o’clock and it would be a date to remember but also now it is one where you can finally forget”.


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