Sweethearts

By Joe Lucking

HIM

This mattress, a map of blood, sweat, tears and sex. They want me to throw it out. Our son says I need a new one, for a new life, alone, like a celibate priest.

“Christ her ashes are still warm and already you’re thinking about other women. Out of sight out of mind.”

Elation precedes a forensic inspection of her hairbrush.

Is this one of hers? Could be. Hold it up to the light, smell it.

As sweethearts, we swapped stories about school milk, hopscotch, head lice, tin baths, meter robbers, art, and council houses.

“They would steal the bread out of your back door and sell it to you at the front.”

We are nothing but words, stories, myths, and half-truths.

I slept next to her for forty years.

The young and beautiful gods vanished.

She was highly strung, ignorant of misdeeds.

Contrary to popular belief, she didn’t have a monopoly on the appreciation of art.

Only artists can lead the way if ordinary obligations allow.

The world refused to accept us at our own valuation.

In the end, half her life spent praying did little good.

It was a good turnout. Strangers paid respects, one of them an old ill-fitting man in an ill-fitting suit, bones crepitating, a sweetheart.

The congregation sent their condolences with ‘lovely wreaths.’ I insisted they be burned with her, the flowers, not the civic minded do gooders.

A woman’s cries, a banshee’s wail reverberates fear and guilt.

Her gaze behind me, pulling me apart. That was then, this is now.

The past, a foreign place where things were different.

Nothing human is eternal.

 

HER

He had no appreciation of art before we met.

His mother dropped him on his head when he was a baby.

A queer fella, who couldn’t love anyone, whose certainties lasted half a day or so.

He wasn’t a bad sort, sometimes spiteful, others resentful, due to his lack of success at anything.

A refusal to acknowledge that most lives are mediocre, that he wasn’t settling for second best, led to shouty goings on.

Longing and regret were his companions as I suffered and sinned away, working myself threadbare, keeping a roof over our heads.

I had it out with him, he cried. A way to articulate frustration.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he said.

“You’ll soon find out” I didn’t say.

I couldn’t start my day until I’d started his.

I popped out for a few things, found a pew.

Stained glass windows, the televisions of old, changing seats, a new perspective, the remote.

Fickle and feeble they kneel in expectation.

An adherent of curiosity.

What did they tell their wives, their husbands, about the woman who prayed for their souls as she wanked them off under their coats?

Her energy revealed and devoured, seeped into lives.

Had she brought them closer to God?

We all have a cross to bear, he was mine.

Our love started with the promise of spring, then petered out after years of winter, leaving a void where myself had been.

You’d find him out there, bathing in melancholy as the day lost her grip on light.

A Nephologist away with the fairies.

Bloody whistling first thing in the morning, I mean it’s unnatural.

How I kept my hands off him I’ll never know.

God give me strength.

 

Joe Lucking writes for Theatre, Radio, and Screen. You can find him on twitter @joelucking66 and read his stories at https://rjlucking66.wixsite.com/website 

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