Thursday, 30 June 2011

Where is she?

Where is she?

The station is swarming – suited and booted, uniformed, paint splattered overalls, too short shorts, floating dresses, rushing rushing rushing, rushing everywhere.

Too many people, where are they all going? Another train pulls in delivering more of them. Some have a firm shake of hands and walk off -  a business meeting, others rush to one another and embrace – old friends meeting up, another looks completely lost, furiously studying their map – a tourist.

Surely she must get here soon?

A short sharp pain in my back as somebody sits to join me on the metal seats, throwing themselves backwards into their chair. The waft of greasy meat hits my nostrils, making my stomach flip over with nausea.

I look up to watch the young, oily haired boy take huge, but hurried bites into the fast food grabbed in his hands. The brown bag it was stored in dotted with splashes of fat.

My backside starts to get a dull, throbbing ache in it, perhaps I should stand up. It took so long to finally get lowered down into this seat though, what with my shaky hands and stick. My knees aren’t what they used to be, sometimes I wonder if they’ll just give up and I’ll wake up one day and they just won’t want to support me anymore.

I’m shocked out of my daydream by a shrill beeping, as some sort of cleaning contraption with one of those coloured fellows sitting on it whooshes past. In my day a good old-fashioned broom or a brush and pan sufficed.

The middle aged woman next to me pushes her thick, black-rimmed spectacles further up the bridge of her nose and huffs, hastily moving her small suitcase to one side, out of the way. She starts tapping the screen of a small, thin computer-like device in her hands, deep in concentration.

“Ah, these damn things! The battery on them is atrocious, bring back my Blackberry any day!” she loudly announces to me. I smile politely, not quite sure what she’s talking about. Then the plastic block starts to emit a sound, much like mother’s old phone in the Forest Gate house. it’s a phone of some sort then? Must be one of these fancy mobiles, what do they call them, eye books or something?

I can feel myself getting hotter and hotter and wipe my brow with my handkerchief. The sun is strong today, fancy having a roof like this, it’s like storing us all in a greenhouse!

“We are sorry to announce the 16:37 to Shenfield is delayed by eight minutes, we apologise for any inconvenience caused,” a well spoken voice declares over some sort of loudspeaker. 

Delays? Hm maybe she’s stuck underground somewhere then? Surely she would have been better off getting her sister to drop her off, I don’t like to think of her spoiling her nice dress and shoes on the trains.

Maybe I’ll go find out what all the trouble is. If I can just get the angle right and lean on my good arm I should be alright. Here goes.

Bang! Smack back down on the chair. The woman next to me tuts, the youngster next to me says nothing. Oh he’s gone, I notice the empty seat, when did he get up and leave, he had a whole meal and drink to eat a minute ago. Well I think it was a minute ago. How long have I been here now?

“Are you alright sir?” I can just about make out the words of this blonde haired, frail, tight and brightly clothed girl. Such a strong accent, I can’t quite place where she’s from. I look up through my squinting eyes, the bright light bursting through the glass roof makes it hard to adjust.

“Albert, me old man, what you doing back ere?” Eddie? Is that Eddie? I hope Martha’s alright, oh god perhaps something’s happened to her that’s why she’s taken so long...
A smart young man with an oddly familiar face smiles at me and gently places his hand on my bony shoulder.

“It’s okay, leave him to me” he says to the young girl, she smiles sadly and walks away.

“So Albert, what are you doing back here again then eh?”

“It’s Martha, Martha’s running so late. Do you know where she is? Is she okay? Do you know Eddie?”

He clears his throat.

I look at my watch and tap my foot impatiently. “We’re going to end up missing the dance at this rate.”

The man goes to help me up, he must work here, I notice his name badge and the familiar blue and red outfit.

“Come on Bert, let’s get you out the way before the mad rush begins, eh?”

“Albert, my name’s Albert, Albert Smithfield. Son of Victor Smithfield, the owner of Smithfield’s Tailors down the road I’ll have you know.”

“Aw come on, you said yesterday I could call you Bert when we had that nice cuppa in the office, remember?”

He seems to be grinning at me like we’re familiar, he seems friendly enough I suppose, perhaps he’s confused and mistaken me for someone else?

“I’m sorry I think you’ve got a bit muddled. I don’t know you,” I let him down gently.

He smiles at me, rather pityingly I must say and tries to gesture me forwards. No, I’m not having this.

“Look sonny, I don’t know who you are and I don’t appreciate you manhandling me like this”.

Chris - the name badge identifies him as – quickly takes a swift step back away from me and holds his hands up.

“I thought you might not remember. You seemed to be getting better Monday. I’m Chris, Albert. We meet, probably around once a week or so, here at the station. You’ve been coming here for the past few months or so. Looking for Martha? ”

I’m confused. The past few months?

“She was your wife.”

“I know who Martha is! She is my wife, what do you mean was?”

Chris, the station attendant, looks sad, gently takes the old man by the arm and leads him off to the staffroom to start the process all over again. Calling Lindsay, the daughter, notifying Maplewood Care Home again and softly explaining to Albert that Martha’s dead. He’s in 2011, he’s got confused again, he’s not a young man off to court his lifelong friend and partner, he’s here in Liverpool Street station, yet again caught up in the neverending wait for the love of his life who passed away and left him over three years ago, when his dementia all began.

* This short story was written by me and inspired by a number of things – my wait in Liverpool Street station yesterday whilst I was early for my interview and did some more prep sitting there, my lovely dear Nanny Rhoda who is sadly no longer with us and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and also a really nice old man who used to live in her care home with her, who was always dressed smartly in a suit waiting for his ‘family’ to come and visit, who never arrived.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melanie,
    I liked this post of yours. You seem quite close to literature. You write quite well. Keep writing please. Personally, I have read several works of Russian literature. If you like reading short stories/novels, you can try Russian literature as well. You can get many in English at Gutenburg. Just a suggestion from me. Keep blogging..