I don’t know who pays these useless assholes to run security at the home but hell am I glad they got such boneheads to do it. A quick push on the fire exit door and I secure myself a couple of hours away from that mass grave of zombies.
You turn 75 and they think we’re all sat waiting for good old Lucifer to drag us under. Well no sir, not yet, not for me. Hey, if I can still pick up a jog past the main entrance, I deserve a little more than rotting in front of daytime TV.
Today is a good day and I won’t let it be anything but that. It’s our day even though I’m here without him. I’m still gonna find a way to make it to him.
I tried to do it the right way, I tried to get permission to go out.
‘Too cold,’ they said, can you believe it?
Well screw them. I got two legs that work and a bus pass I swiped from Pauline that works even better. With a bit of luck, they won’t find me until I’ve been where I wanna be the most today.
There it is, the number 20 to take me across town. Been the same for sixty years. It’s the only route yet to change, even if it only ever seems to have about three passengers… thank you Pauline, the pass gets me on without a hitch.
It’s funny, missing things this simple but all I can tell you is sitting on this bus just riding around seems like a pretty swell time to me. It pauses at the Cineplex, which used to be a tiny theatre showing films about six months after their initial release. Sixty two sweet years ago, Joseph and I shared our first kiss in the back row of screen one, and to this day I couldn’t tell you what happens in To Catch a Thief (I think we only paid attention to the first ten minutes).
The bus skips the empty stop past the bench where I decided on a Tuesday after we’d been for an autumn walk that he was the true love of my life, and told him so.
Past the Olive Garden – used to be Al’s diner – where Jo asked for my hand, presenting a brass ring he made at work that he promised was only temporary. And now, involuntarily, my hand brushes the heavily tarnished ring hanging around my neck. Sixty years and I’m still waiting for that replacement, Mr Joseph Sneed. Wanda, who sits on reception back at the home, sent it off to get cleaned but they didn’t do much other than put a little shine back into the scratches. He’d kiss it every night before he said his prayers and every morning before he headed to work and that meant more than any jewel or gold ever could.
We never had kids, we never could. This was before all that fancy science stuff they can do now. It broke me, not being able to give him that gift, but sometimes we’d wander into the baby store by Jo’s work and imagine we were looking around. The bus passes the place. They sold it to an organic grocery company years ago, but if you look close enough you can still see the faded bricks where it used to read Mamma & Me. I’m not convinced there’s anyone else alive today that would remember.
We head out of town and at the last but one stop I press the bell. The driver asks if I need any help getting down but I wave him away.
‘If I can get on I can sure as heck get off.’
He laughs before closing the doors. I think he waits a moment to make sure I’m not gonna fall but I turn down the wooded path after a few yards. Why can’t anyone just believe that I’ve still got it?
The path up to the churchyard doesn’t take too long, perhaps a little longer than it did when we used to come for Sunday service… Eighth row back on the left, sixth stone along. That’s where we laid him. The plot next to it, that one’s for me.
‘Hey, honey it’s only Lucy. They tried to stop me coming ‘cus the weather’s a little cold but I’ve got your trench on so I don’t see the problem.’
I move a little moss that has started to grow over his date of birth.
‘You’d have loved sneaking out with me today, I got past ’em, right under their noses. You probably would have given us up with your chuckles and those heavy stompers.’
I pull up one of the deck chairs they leave out for you here. It’s nice of them really… means we can sit right by the graves if we wanna spend a little longer with them.
‘Well, they said my hearts doin’ better now, no more palpitating. They were worried for a while but it’s alright. My knee too… all healed up now. Bionic leg you’d call me. I heard from your sister. She said she got a new bathroom fitted. She’s still doing good at home on her own. She reckons they’ll have to drag her out before she comes to a place like mine. I wish I’d had it in me to fight, but you’d only just gone and I think that knocked all the wind out of me, for a little while anyway.
‘I miss you more than ever, Jo. Five times I’ve had to wake up on this day without you there.’
I put my hands in the coat to warm them a little, then I feel the flask I put in there yesterday while I was plotting my escape
‘Oh, JoJo, I nearly forgot, I bought us a little celebratory drink. It’s malt, your favourite.’
I pull out two plastic cups, fill them a little and crouch to place one by his headstone. I miss his body. All I have left to touch now is the marble inscription that is supposed to represent his whole life.
Dearly missed husband and brother.
He was more than that. What I’d give to hold his hand again, just for a few moments, just to remember his warmth and his musky, cigar aroma. The tears start pouring, so I get back to my feet before I get dizzy.
‘Don’t mind me Jo, I’m not crying, it’s just the dust honey… Oh, shoot. I think they caught me.’
A silver Toyota pulls up and Mary, my care assistant on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays, gets out.
‘I love you Joseph. See you soon…’ I follow my last words to him by tipping the remainder of my drink down my throat.
‘Oh, Lucy… you can’t be doing this every year! It’s too much of journey for you now,’ Mary says, wrapping the ugliest knitted throw I’ve ever seen across my shoulders.
I don’t pay much attention to the rest of her words. My defence of ‘I made it here alive,’ doesn’t go down too famously, but what are they going to do?
‘Malt?’ I ask Mary, once we are back on the road.
‘I don’t drink and drive,’ Mary says, keeping her eyes set firmly ahead.
I smile to myself. We don’t bother with any more smalltalk.
Rebecca Timms is a 20-year-old student of Creative and Professional Writing at Wolverhampton University. This is her second time being published as she won a poetry competition at eight years old. Rebecca based this story on the recollections of her own grandparents.
Banner image: Annie Spratt