Friday, 8 March 2013
Three Little Words
I don’t suppose many women are lucky enough to hear those three little words from their other half every day, like I do. Granted, they’re not the same little words, but they mean just as much.
You and I were never the romantic type, were we? That stiff-upper lip, self-effacing English cynicism we were both guilty of, I suppose. A firm peck on the cheek, that was our idea of romance, and we were lucky that we shared it; another couple might have drifted apart with spontaneous acts of affection, tacky gestures guided by gift-shop notions of love, red hearts and roses on designated days that meant nothing to us. No, we were content. Why ask for more than to be content? Anything either side is uncomfortable - I needed nothing more or less from you, and if you had felt otherwise you would have let me know. My love for you was just as strong when I straightened the lapels on your raincoat as it had been the first night you took my hand and kissed it, like the gentleman you've always been. I was happy to sit in silence with you as you read your evening newspaper, occasionally reading aloud a headline that particularly tickled you or that you thought would interest me, while I sorted through my letters, and home was anywhere that you and I could sit together and put the world to rights. And did we ever put the world to rights. Working in the public sector should have made you more cynical, but your cynicism was always presented with a wry smile, like love in spite of many faults. You know, I was convinced that you would have made a wonderful prime minister, I’m sure I must have told you that many times, and I stand by it even now that you’re gone - you’re the best leader this country never had. But that’s beside the point now, I suppose. You were so rational, so level-headed, so approachable. People listened when you spoke, and I suppose in a roundabout way they still do.
Part of me wishes there was another way to do this. It’s funny how you can regret decisions that meant nothing at the time, things that seemed so insignificant but would make all the difference now. Why were we so convinced that a portable phone was a necessity, in our humble household consisting of just you and me? I liked our little phone cubby, as you used to call it, with our old plastic phone, slightly off-white with a permanently kinked lead and the clunky answering machine with your polite, crisp greeting on it. And then we caught up with modern technology, gadget by meaningless gadget, the sleek silver handset taking its place by the door while we donated the old telephone to the charity shop. You would walk around the house talking away to old friends and family, straightening pictures and pillows here and there, and we never bothered to record a new out-going message because the pre-recorded one did such a good job. We threw the tape away. That piece of you, your voice letting people know we weren’t there but they had still reached us. I don’t walk around on the phone as you used to; I take all my phone calls in the cubby, as if some rip in time and space will allow your voice to echo through and reach me.
I’m not too down about it though. I can still hear you. Not just in my head; not just repeatedly playing scenes from our life together, my finger stuck on the rewind button of some separate tape player for my memories of you. No, I mean I can still really hear you.
It’s the station. I know you never liked the idea of me going out alone in the dark, but I need to be there for the last train, you see. During the daytime there are so many people on the platform, coming and going, chatting to one another or on their phones, children shouting and laughing, heels clacking on the concrete - I can barely hear you at all, and I hate the thought of having to strain to hear your voice. But the last train, now that’s the ticket (if you can excuse the pun - you never did enjoy such obvious humour). I like it best when the sky is clear, with a slight breeze and the almost-silence of a deserted train station awaiting its last arrival.
A few of the platform attendees look at me like I’m mad, but the older ones, the ones who have been there for a fair few years know who I am, and more importantly they knew who you were to me. They’re happy to allow me through the barriers without a ticket, because they know I’m not going anywhere. They know I’m only there for one thing; to sit on the platform, on the bench beneath the loudspeaker, and wait for your voice to warn busy, distracted travelers to be safe, to be aware, to mind the gap.