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Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)
By Graham Starling
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The gloom slowly gives way to a grey dawn. A gust of wind throws a pebbledash of raindrops against the window causing it to rattle in its frame. The battle for sleep is lost for one more night and it’s time to take up arms against the aches and the chill of the day.
Slowly pushing back the bedclothes, she slides her feet over the edge of the bed and sits up. Arms into a dressing gown and feet in slippers, she shuffles slowly towards the bathroom. Having dealt with the necessary, she gazes wistfully at the reflection of a familiar face, hidden behind a latticework of creases and liver spots. A few minutes with a brush tames her brittle, white hair. No sense trying anything else; there’s nothing left to enhance, and no-one to appreciate it.
She shuffles into the kitchen and sets the kettle to boil. The milk smells sour. Nothing seems to last these days. The tea once made is tasted, grimaced over and left to go cold. She has no appetite for breakfast and so makes her slow, weary way back to her bedroom to dress.
The wardrobe contains a scanty collection of filled with sensible clothes. Bright colours, although not too bright, and warm. High collars and long sleeves. Hem well below the knee and elasticated stockings – thick enough to hide the blue traces of varicose veins. Every movement is slow, every stretch and contortion painful, but eventually she is satisfied with how she looks.
She counts the coins in her purse. Enough for a pint of milk, some eggs and maybe a couple of slices of ham. But then the lady at the delicatessen always gives her sour looks when she asks for just one or two slices, as if it’s not worth her while. The ham doesn’t taste as she remembers form her youth either, so maybe just the milk and eggs. Maybe a fresh loaf and some butter as well.
The morning is well started by the time she steps out the front door, clad in sensible flat soled boots and a warm coat and scarf. The stairs are always a challenge coming down, and will seem daunting on her return. She has asked several times about the elevator, but the landlord always seems too busy.
She makes her slow weary way down the street to the nearby shops. She smiles at people as they pass by and apologises whenever it seems she is in someone’s way, but no-one looks at her, and all she hears are muttered expletive from passers-by. With her slow pace, she is aware of the rush and hustle of the world around her, and the filth littering the streets. Strange to be so lost and alone in this place where she has lived all her life.
Later, back in her flat, she sits with her albums and looks back at happier times. There had been a time where the world was hers to explore, horizons and possibilities expanded in all directions. Then sometime in her middle years – so subtly she didn’t notice until much later – those possibilities began to close in. Now it seems each day is a greater challenge. Each day the cold digs deeper into her bones. Each day it becomes harder to do even the simplest things. Now her friends, her family are gone and all she has are her memories and the lonely wait for the day when she will win that battle for sleep once and for all.
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