Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Ultra-Modern Nursery Rhymes No.2: The Christmas Guest
He takes his overcoat from the stand by the front door, puts it on and buttons it up tight. Wearily placing the straps of his favourite red handbag over his shoulder, he pauses by the mirror and checks his antenna. The mirror never lies. He looks old. He feels old. So old.
He unlocks the door, steps out onto the balcony and pushes it shut behind him. More graffitti. Fresh paint daubed untidily, spelling out just one word.
He no longer has the will to fight. No longer has the energy for anger. He leans on the balcony and looks down on the decorated fir tree in the square below his tower-block flat.
The wind is blowing crisp bags and MacDonalds cartons across the nearby children's playground. A group of youths are sat on the swings. The drizzle is falling, making everything wet and grey. In a week it will be Christmas Day.
The lift hasn't worked for years. The sixteen flights of filthy stairs take a good while. As he walks down, he's plenty of time to mull over the good days. The years when everyone knew his name. Tellytubbyland, the luxury of the Superdome. The fun they had. The games they played. The mischievous jokes of naughty Noo-noo. Such a way away. Before he'd been cast aside and abandoned, eeking out a miserable existence on a meagre BBC pension. Before their home had been bulldozed to the ground, sold to LOCOG as the site for the Olympic diving pool. Days long gone. Days when he still had someone who loved him.
The Post Office on the High Street is still open. A large sheet of chip board covers a broken window. On the sign above, someone's scrubbed out the 's' with a black marker pen and drawn a picture of a cannabis leaf underneath.
Tinky Winky sees none of this. His eyes find the small, type-written notice sellotaped to the glass on the inside of the door:
Please note the last day of postage for guaranteed Christmas delivery is 18th DECEMBER .
There's no queue at the counter. He reaches into his red bag and removes a green envelope. He slides it under the glass partition with a one pound coin and says, 'First class please', in his soft voice. One of two young ladies takes the envelope, applies the stamp and pushes it back with his change. He thanks her, turns around and heads for the exit. It's only a moment before he hears their sniggers. He glances in the mirror in the shop corner, catches sight of them nudging each other and playfully pointing at him behind his back. An object of amusement. He leaves through the door, stepping out onto the wet pavement.
He pushes the envelope into the letter box. He feels better now that this job is done. The only card he ever sends at Christmas.
The Salvation Army band are playing carols outside the empty shop that used to be Woolys. He stands and listens for a while. Smiles. Despite having no money to spare, he walks over and pushes his change into a collection box. 'God bless you, Sir,' says a man with a grey beard and military cap.
Chavs are gathered round the bench near the bus stop. He keeps his head low as he passes.
'What you looking at?' a young voice shouts.
A push. A shove. A punch. A fall.
He lays on the pavement for a while. Waits for the shock to recede. He no longer has the will to fight. No longer has the energy for anger. Eyes closed, he dreams of days long gone. Days when he still had someone who loved him.
'Dirty fucking perv!' a young voice shouts, and then they're gone.
He's sitting in the old chair by the electric fire, waiting. He's been sitting in the old chair by the electric fire all morning. Waiting.
He hears the metallic clink of the flap in the front door.
He walks unsteadily into the hallway and sees a green envelope on the welcome mat. The only card he ever receives at Christmas. He picks it up, clutches it to his chest and in all the darkness, there's a light in his eyes.
He stands for ages, lost in a life gone by.
Then, he walks back into the front room and puts the envelope on top of the gramophone.
In the front room, the table's set for two. In the corner, by the television, fairy lights flicker on an artificial tree. A green envelope lies, unopened, on top of the gramophone.
He brings just one plate through from the kitchen. A veritable feast of turkey, stuffing, parsnips, roast potatoes and veg. He places it on the table, lights a candle, opens a bottle of wine.
Sitting for a moment, he stares at the empty place setting and thinks of the Christmas guest he won't start his meal without.
He goes over to the gramophone, picks up the green envelope and returns to the table. Unsteady hands hold the envelope. He reads his name and address. Studies his own handwriting. Opens the same green envelope he posted a week ago.
Tinky Winky's Christmas guest.
There's a card inside. A card that he gives each year, now he's the only one who can. The last card he sent. A card he recieves each year and cherishes.
Tinky Winky's Christmas guest.
The message inside is short.
'To my darling Tinky Winky,
Remember, I will always love you,
Tears roll down his face as he reads the card.
Tears roll down his face as he thinks of the only person he's ever loved.
Tears roll down his face as he remembers the phone call. The day when both their lives ended.
Dipsy's wife and children will pop round tomorrow like they have every Boxing Day since. He'll be glad they never knew. Her husband. Their father. A great man. My lover.
He takes a sip from the glass on the table. Thinks of the lie his lover lived with. Thinks of the lie his lover could no longer live with. Wonders if the pain in his chest will ever go away.
Tears roll down his face as he kisses the card and puts it on the empty place setting.
His Christmas dinner's getting cold.
'Happy Christmas, Dipsy,' he whispers through his tears. 'Remember. I will always love you.'
A very merry Christmas from The SJC!