P for Purple
I hate November.
The skimpy trees outside my house stand like skeletons, and the few odd leaves lurking about will soon be mashed into the ground; this Monday morning is still dark and an easterly wind now gaining strength is about to complete the misery.
I’m getting divorced today.
I’m closing the door on my home for the last time – the wife has fled these last few months now.
The big ‘FOR SALE’ sign will be erected today, and seven years of my life in this house will be but a memory – a bad memory.
Today I’m thinking of another November day.
I’m in my office at home catching up on the invoicing in order to get the cash in for Christmas; Brenda is long gone to work. Charlie is off school for some holiday or other, and he is scoring goals freely on the playstation. I should be doing something creative with him but my work has piled up over these last few weeks, and this is the only opportunity I have to clear the paperwork. Tomorrow Charlie will be back in school and I’ll be back on the road chasing up some outstanding sales prospects.
She rings at ten – of course Charlie is alright. She is so excited – getting promotion – always wanted that job in Human Relations and the money is fantastic too. She might be a bit late, might drop into The Grey Badger for one or two just to celebrate. I’m so happy for her; she fully deserves everything she gets with that company, she’s been a stalwart for them since the first day she joined them. As I put down the phone I remember the bin, today is collection day; couldn’t stand the smell of that bloody thing for another week; better put it out.
From the back garden I hear that young bastard from down the road; he thinks he’s in Brands Hatch in that bloody car. Suddenly the almighty sound of screeching brakes rings out.
It’s his blond hair I see first beside the car. My screams rise to the high heavens when I recognise Charlie on the ground, I rush over to him – but it’s too late.
As I raise him from the road his body falls limp.
My darling boy is dead - red blood oozing from his mouth into my shirt. Somehow I raise myself from the ground and slowly carry him towards the house.
All I can remember about his funeral is his little white coffin and Brenda’s face.
I did not want to leave him behind in that cold dark graveyard.
But I had to go.
More dark days followed – we had no reason to get up in the morning, no reason to eat or talk; not even a reason to even breathe. And so our lives went on. Well intentioned family and friends were endeavouring to carry our load with us, but the truth is that we had died ourselves. Brenda resumed her job in Human Relations and her job was so demanding that she got periods of relief simply by concentrating on her work; I endeavoured to chase sales just for the sake of doing something. When we spoke I could still sense the accusing tone of Brenda, and I was so full of guilt myself that I spent entire days reprimanding myself for being so careless.
Time rumbled on.
After a few outings with the councillor Brenda’s gloom showed some signs of lifting; she was encouraging me to follow the same route, but I told her I was not ready – I would never be ready.
I almost threw up one evening when she said that we should have another child. Of all the sentences in the English language this is one I did not want to hear.
“Replace the dog, replace the cat, how could she think like that about Charlie.”
I refused to discuss the matter with her no matter how many times she would try to bring it up.
“Tell your bloody shrink that I will not have him interfering in my life.”
By this time I was receding more into Charlie’s life. I had decorated his room for his birthday, put up the latest Arsenal posters, and arranged his toys neatly in his room.
Brenda refused to enter his room and accused me of setting up some kind of shine for him. She said she wanted to try and move on with her life; I did not.
And the arguments went on from one week to the next – until eventually we were barely communicating at all. Brenda was less and less in the house now, but that suited me fine as well for I needed time to think – lots of time.
Brenda informed me that she had to go on a business trip to London.
When she returned she had an extra bounce in her step – and a bombshell for me.
She was expecting a baby.
Yes the father was well known to me – the financial director of her company.
She had gone to London with him to sort out things and their entire plan was hatched – she was leaving that day. I was devastated and felt totally betrayed.
How could anyone be so self centred and cruel?
I branded her Judas and a prostitute with all the energy I could muster but she just turned on her heels and went straight out the door.
Soon brown windowed envelopes were coming through the letter box – Brenda was on the money trail - she wanted her portion of the house.
The auctioneer told me that it was the worst possible time to sell any house but I gave him the go ahead anyway. The offers were even worse than I expected but I told him to sell the bloody thing as I wanted shut of the whole business.
His room had to be dismantled so yesterday morning I began. Each item I took in my hands rekindled memories of his young life until my heart could not take the grief anymore, and I ended up prostrate on the couch in an uncontrollable state of grief. John and Jenny from next door took over and completed the dismantling of his room. I’ll be staying with them for a few weeks until I pull myself together. I am moving into the granny flat at the end of the garden now vacated these last six months by Jenny’s mother who is gone to her eternal reward. John and Jenny know I haven’t a tosser to my name and it is through the kindness of their hearts they are doing this for me. Madam Brenda was expecting a nice little windfall from the sale of the house; but in spite of the fact that I was suffering myself it gave me great pleasure to inform her that there was zero left after the sale – the mortgage eat up the lot. All the papers for the divorce are signed and it is now just a matter of pasting a stamp. She rang to wish me a happy rest of my life- I replied with just two words:
Jenny advised me to read Tony Robins on the laptop; instead I lay back on the bed in the granny flat and gazed out the window at the birds shuffling in the big tree.
What was life like being a bird… searching for food from morning to night, coming and going for no particular reason; rearing their young and watch them leave the nest – would birds get lonely, would they cry after their young. Would they cry in the dead of the night; would they cry before they go to sleep, would they cry when they wake up. Birds are selfish I suspect. As I turned my gaze from the antics of the birds I gazed at the painting on the wall – it was Jenny’s mother – all smiley and grey and old and now dead. She lived to be a right old age though.
Does it matter if you die young or old; when you die you are gone anyway. I knew my thoughts were bringing me to a steep slope and I was not resisting going there this dirty grey day.
Would anyone miss me?
Who would shed a tear for my going?
The day was closing in now and the different shades of November darkness were enveloping the house. Earlier on Jenny had given me a few tablets to ease the pain and they were beginning to slow down everything inside my body never mind my head. I lay back on the pillow and made myself more comfortable in the big bed; this gave me a better position to see the birds in the trees. Time had indeed fallen asleep in the grey afternoon.
He was hovering just outside the window the first time I set eyes on him - a beautiful snow white dove. His body seemed to glow in the gathering darkness; he looked straight at me through the window. I jumped up and pushed open the window to get a better look.
“Da ‘tis me, your son Charlie”
“Oh my Charlie where did you come from”
“Da if I told you it would be impossible for you to understand …. Listen I am here to tell you that I am very well, very happy.”
“Oh Charlie how I miss you; you look so beautiful”
“Da I am with you all the time … I know what an awful time you are having and I am here now to tell you that all will be well”
“I cannot forgive myself for carelessness and for your death”
“Shss no more of that …it was an accident… not your fault”
“Listen Charlie I can hardly believe that it is your voice I am hearing; it’s so wonderful to hear you again”
“Now Da I want you to forgive yourself and forgive Mum, and great joy and happiness will pour into your heart, the one thing you learn on this side is that forgiveness has the magic power to heal all ills …I want you to take this to your heart because I will not be able to return to you again once I leave”
“Oh Charlie stay with me …stay with me”
“Da I have to be going now…all will be well”
There was a strong thumping on the door; I jumped up on the bed only to see the smiling faces of John and Jenny at the door.
“What a sleeper” says Jenny
“Asleep for eighteen hours”
“We had a few peeps in on you to make sure you were alive” said John.
“I have something to tell you”
“Keep everything in your head ‘till you have a fine breakfast inside you” said Jenny.
Over breakfast I discovered that they had a plan to take me out for the day and I still had not related my story to them. The image of the white dove was jumping round in my head and the strangeness of it all had my senses creaking. Perhaps it did happen; after all the window was open in the morning. I eventually decided to keep my story to myself lest they think I was losing the plot completely, and went along with the trip out for the day.
I had a new bounce in my step and for the first time in months my body did not feel heavy or cumbersome. As we were about to get into the car I stunned my two minders.
“Would you mind driving me to Charlie’s grave; I just feel like going there today”
“Of course, of course” said John.
For months I had refused point blank to go anywhere near the cemetery and the turnabout in my attitude left them totally perplexed. All my apprehension had evaporated and I felt a new peace and calm within me as I approached the grave.
Brenda had done a beautiful job on the grave – so neat and tidy – and she did not forget the Arsenal jersey either!
I had just started to bless myself when Jenny leaned forward and picked something from the grass.
“Oh look what a beautiful white feather” she cried out.
I looked upwards towards the watery sun and smiled.