One Last Move
The corner is dusty, but he was never much good at cleaning. Mind you, she hadn’t been good at cleaning either. They’d been an odd pair in anyone else’s estimation, but they’d suited each other just fine.
That’s what he wants to remember.
He just wants one last quiet moment in the dusty corner of their living room, to breathe in the musty smell from that carpet she’d insisted on carting back with them from the flea market they’d discovered accidentally after three wrong turns one Sunday. That old carpet smells like sawdust and old books and just a bit like her perfume. It smells like the last fifty years and he wants to keep those years especially close because they were his favourite years and he just isn’t quite ready to let them go.
He thinks about the day he first saw her. There had been dancing, drinking, and every face was full of youth and mischief -or at least, that’s how he sees it now. He’d had another girl on his arm then, nothing serious, it was a first date. She’d been there with a date of her own, but somehow throughout the night he’d managed to slip in and offer her a lift home. She’d accepted. So did her date. He made sure to drop the date off first, even if it did mean he had to double back and take the long way to get her home. She’d smothered a grin when she mockingly scolded him for his brashness, but he’d seen the twinkle in her eye and even if he hadn’t, the burst of laughter immediately after would have given her away.
From then on, the world was adventure.
She wanted to go everywhere and he wanted to be wherever she was, so they saw everything together.
He was the one to reach out and grab her hand but she lead him on a wild and wandering path he would truly have missed had she not been the sort to venture forward just for curiosity’s sake.
It wasn’t all golden beams of light and the cry of cicadas. He recalls the sound of breaking glass as frustrated hands trembled with emotion she couldn’t find words for and how she didn’t seem to feel the cuts she made as she tried to clear up the mess while her tears splashed down among the shards of their wedding china. He recalls the times he let bourbon blur her around the edges and wonders how there could ever have been a time he had found anything but seeing her clearly remotely acceptable to him. He can still feel the heat in his palm from the force of the blow he served to their kitchen table when it seemed they were on the brink of losing everything.
A sweet and humid breeze of Earl Grey breaks his contemplative state and he reaches for the saucer with hands that are only now starting to lose their steadiness. She wrinkles her nose at him and smiles as she hands over the cup. More wrinkles on and around that nose than there were when they’d got married, but he’s not about to point that out. He may be old, but he still values his life.
“Where were you, just then?” she asks
“Still here,” he says “Just in 1976, is all.”
She hums for a moment and blows out a breath before sitting down.
“I thought for sure we were going to lose the house that year,” she says after a moment
He takes a sip and grumbles about how they’re losing the house now and she swats at him with a smile.
“We’re not losing it, we’re giving it up for adoption. Completely different.” she grins at him and sips her own tea.
He wants to tell her he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay in this house, he wants to stay just as they are, but he can’t find the words to say so.
“Where did the time go? There used to be so much of it.”
She pats the box labeled “Photos” she’s sitting on.
“It’s all under my arse.”
He snorts despite himself and she places a gentle hand on his knee.
“The thing about time is that there’s never enough of it but there’s exactly as much of it as you’re going to get.”
With a groan, she heaves herself up, kisses him on the forehead and returns to packing.
Logically he knows they’re old. Not too old yet, but old enough that a house is more work than relief. It isn’t like he didn’t agree they should sell, move closer to the grand-kids, make their lives easier…it just feels so final. Through every step of their home he can see the layers of the past years like onion skin pages that flicker in a never ending animation of their lives. Anywhere else is not here and he can’t help but feel he is laying his youth to rest by accepting his age and moving forward. It feels like this move is an all too real reminder that their time is running out and someday he may not wake up to see her beside him or may not wake up at all.
He was never afraid of death but now he feels like he’s reached the final chapter in a book he was thoroughly enjoying and as much as he’s looking forward to reading it, he doesn’t want the book to end.
Finishing his tea, he sets it down and searches out his wife. She looks caught in her own moment of reflection as she runs her hands over the edge of another finished box and he wraps himself around her, resting his chin on her shoulder and she hugs the arms encircling her and sways them slightly.
They’re quiet for a moment before she clears her throat.
“The thing about things is that they only mean whatever you make them mean.”
She gently turns in his arms and kisses him soundly before stepping away. He grabs her hand and smiles at her, so she does what she’s always done. She leads him on another adventure.
As you may have guessed, this post is to make up for the lack of blog last week. Last week was a flurry of work and plans with friends, so I ended up falling short on my goals. Hopefully you enjoyed this piece of fiction. I’m not sure why my brain wanted to write a semi-sad story about an elderly couple (again) but it did so that’s what you get. This week: Sometime Completely Different