The remnants of my final dream drift away.
A quick check of the clock says it’s time to get up.
I weave my way to where hot water soothes my crusty eyes.
More weaving — toilet, then kitchen.
Bleary eyes won’t slow me down — I could find the coffee machine with my eyes closed.
I choose a favourite cup from among my favourite cups, all lined up on top of the machine.
Plenty of water in the tank (I fill it religiously – coffee is a religion of sorts).
The pods nestle in a ceramic bowl I bought at our local market, years ago. The glaze soothes my soul.
I choose a pod (nothing magical or spiritual about the choice, just the top one), drop it into the machine, close the lever and pray that the precious liquid ends up in the mug and not oozing out the side of the device. The life span of these machines is about six months, then the paper towels come out to sop up the leakage. The makers give them away once a year to lure new customers from a crowded market. It works on me, but then, I’m not very bright.
Within seconds, the liquid starts to flow, and as long as I don’t hear a spluttering noise (like I make when I’m drowning), I know my coffee is not far away.
A spoon of honey, stir well, hold the cup in both hands and inhale the same way you do with a sixteen-year-old Lagavulin.
Take the cup and stand by the window, wait for the parrots to have a bath in the creek.
The sun has been up for quite a while, but the tall eucalypts make me wait for direct rays.
After bathing and squabbling over the best bathing location, the parrots will fly to a low branch and preen in the sunlight.
The voices in my head haven’t woken yet, so I’m free for the moment and the day is full of possibility.
My dog wants me to go outside, but he knows to wait until that first coffee is consumed, then it is time to play.
From there I wait to see what the day has in store for me. It may be a day just like yours. It may be a day best forgotten, but whatever it will be, it is another day and another chance for redemption.
“My dad says that nine out of ten religions fail in their first year.”
“Yeah, well he would, wouldn’t he?”
“My dad knows stuff.”
“I know he does. You won’t get an argument out of me.”
Roman was right, and I liked his dad. His dad never made me feel like I was just a kid. When he shook your hand, which he did every time I saw him, he looked me straight in the eye.
“So how have you been, young Henry?” (That name stuck — I’ve been ‘Young Henry’ for thirty-five years). “How’s your dad?”
Roman’s dad and my dad grew up in the same neighbourhood. Roman’s dad grew up to be a provider, a husband and a father.
My dad got lost somewhere along the way.
“He’s good. Works hard. Hardly ever see him but.”
I think he worked hard.
That’s what mum said it was — the long absences and the tired smile when he was around.
I could tell he was trying.
I knew he wanted to be like the other dads.
He just couldn’t find his way out of the fog.
I remember one sunny afternoon sitting in the driveway of our home. My friends were off somewhere, and I remember not minding their absence.
I’d found a struggling bee.
I sat on the warm concrete and tried to get the little creature to trust me and drink some of the sugary water I’d made. The spoon nearly knocked the bee over a couple of times. Eventually, it drank some of the sticky liquid, and I was waiting to see if it would recover.
I was oblivious — in my own little world. I missed hearing his footsteps as he walked up the driveway and sat next to me.
I expected him to ask me what I was doing — he didn’t.
We sat and watched the bee recover its strength, test its wings and fly unsteadily away.
“Do you think he will find his way home?”
“I don’t know dad. I don’t know where he lives. It might be far away.”
“Wherever it is, you gave him a chance to get back home, and that makes this a special day.”
Looking back, it seemed like this encounter took up most of the afternoon. In reality, it probably took up twenty minutes or so.
I hadn’t heard my father say more than a dozen words in weeks.
Maybe something extraordinary happened to him that day.
He was home before dark, and that rarely happened.
Some nights he didn’t come home at all.
I’d like to say that things changed for us after that day.
I’d like to say that my dad found his feet and strode forward for the rest of his life and for a while it was just like that, but whatever it was that had wounded him so profoundly would not allow him to be happy.
He held himself together as best he could until I was grown, but it was never again the way it was that sunny afternoon sitting on the driveway with my dad, watching a bee regain its willingness to live.
Not exactly matching.
Not meant to be.
They each have a story to tell, and they all reflect my love of old things — things with history.
Take the broken catch on the bone coloured case, for example.
I was on an ‘overnighter’, up north. My boss, at the time, wanted some documents delivered by hand. Which was either a nod to the old school way of doing things or there was something dodgy going on. Considering how he ended up, I’d say it was probably the latter.
I never much liked Manchester, and having someone try and lever open my bag while it was in my room, didn’t raise my opinion of the place. I told the manager, and he checked the CCTV. I could see a bloke with a key going into my room, but he didn’t come out — not on that tape. It didn’t take a detective to work out that the bugger was still in there when I noticed the bag.
“Do you want to see if he comes out before you go back up Luv?” said the helpful manager.
I went out for dinner and asked the huge doorman to come up to the room when I got back. Lovely bloke and brave for a person on minimum wage. No burglar and the case was just as I left it. He must have legged it when I stormed out. Never heard anything more about it.
I stole all the toiletries, towels, and the entire contents of the minibar put them all in a huge designer bag and gave them to the brave doorman.
“For your missus,” I said.
“Thanks, luv, but I’m not married,” said the brave doorman.
“For your boyfriend then,” I said, and he laughed. One of those laughs that makes you believe in people again.
My boss looked at me scornfully when he got the hotel bill, but he never said anything. All charged to the client, I’m thinking.
The big tin trunk belonged to a friend, and she was throwing it away when she moved out.
“I’ll have it,” I said and tried to stuff it into the hatchback I was driving at the time. It banged on the back window all the way home.
I cleaned it up a bit — not too much.
The faint lettering said Lieutenant Wilson 2/12 brigade.
I looked him up. He was my friend’s grandfather. Killed in New Guinea.
I asked her about it, and she just shrugged.
If it doesn’t take batteries and connect to the web, it’s not seen as useful.
This tin box also has a dodgy catch which works when it feels like it. I usually wrap a belt around it, but large belts are hard to come by, and mine broke a week before this photo was taken.
The brown case was a present from an old boyfriend who left me to live and work overseas.
I was sad, but I understood.
Sometimes you just have to go.
The catches work well, and it even had its original key (a bent paperclip works just as well). I keep my personal stuff in it when I travel.
Today I’m on a train, my favourite form of conveyance.
The flowers are for my aunty. I’m going to be staying with her for a week or two until things blow over, but that’s a story for another day.
My pockets are full of chocolate bars, the scenery will be beautiful, and my aunty will meet me at the station with her old Morris van. Between the two of us, we should be able to load my bags into the back.
I considered bringing a book to read, but the views are too beautiful to miss, especially the viaduct.
No time to have my head stuck in a book.
I could not look into his eyes because I knew I was caught.
He didn’t have it all, but it was only a matter of time.
This detective may not look like much, but he has a quality that makes him dangerous — he doesn’t know how to let go.
Once he gets the scent, he keeps going no matter what the consequences.
He’s been suspended twice that I know of and his advancement through the ranks has been strangled because he won’t see the world the way his superiors see it.
He is threatening my existence and everything I have achieved, but I can’t help but like the bloke.
I have almost everything I need, and he has a suit that probably has a shiny bum and an overcoat that perhaps came from a deceased person — that was a bit harsh, and I apologise, but you get my drift.
I underestimated him, and now he is standing in my study on a rainy Tuesday evening when most folks are tucked up with a loved one, a glass of something nice and a fire to warm their bones — but not us. We are locked in a life or death struggle. Not the usual kind where two men are rolling around on the ground, each in a desperate attempt to gain control of a deadly weapon — no, this is different but just as deadly.
As I said, I underestimated him. I thought I had covered my tracks — I usually do and without too much fuss.
I kept on underestimating him. I think back and wonder why.
I’ve brushed up against the law before, but on those occasions, I have prevailed. Not always because I’m smarter, sometimes the universe intervened. On one occasion, a detective sergeant got very close to undoing my hard work only to receive a promotion. His successor lost interest in my case — I guess he wanted to make his own reputation.
As far as I can tell my nemesis has not confided in anyone at the station, he’s here on his own time. If I could be sure that he has left nothing lying around that could trip me up, I could decide.
That uncertainty is the only thing that is keeping him alive.
I used to be angry.
Most of the time.
Then I wasn’t.
The time gap between these two extremes is vast — most of my life, in fact.
For most of that time, I was unaware of the reasons for my anger.
I was aware of not having all the things I wanted, I frightened people, success seemed to come close only to run away — these things I knew and I assumed that my anger grew out of them. The more I strove to rectify these deficiencies, the worse things got.
The day I worked it out, I got angry. Not the old kind of angry, this was new — righteous, biblical, galactic.
For all these many years, I’d been living someone else’s life. Living their dogma. When I find that person, I’m going to reign down some righteous vengeance and lay waste to their existence — just saying.
I feel a lot better now I know.
Not knowing is the worst.
As far back as anyone can remember, there was the three of us.
Of course, there were others — friends, relatives, enemies, confederates, liars and parasites. But through it all, we remained untouched, unsullied and unconcerned.
My main job was to not favour one over the other — a clear course to disaster.
They both wanted me, and the feeling was mutual, but to fall in love with one more than the other would pull our world apart.
I’d loved them both — not at the same time, we were too young to be that creative or that unselfish. Our carnal adventures were played out over the raging fire of adolescence. We could not; would not see any further than our triumvirate.
I’m younger in years but older and wiser. I put a gentle stop to our naked activities, and it has been that way ever since — not an easy feat.
We are closer than family, fiercely loyal and dangerous to cross, as certain people have found out.
There are ‘sticks and stones’ to deal with from time to time, but we’ve heard all the jealous jibes, and they roll off us before they even make contact.
The concept of ‘friends forever’ seems to be a belief of the young. Life pulls friendships apart, but our goal is to be the exception.
Small cracks are beginning to show as our careers begin to accelerate and war looms, but for now, we are here together, and the sun is shining, and the breeze is cool.
If yesterday is a foreign land then tomorrow is a promise never fulfilled — give me today every time.
If television is to believed, people walking their dog or children chasing a ball into the undergrowth are the main ways that dead bodies are discovered.
That’s not how they found mine.
I’d been dead for a while.
It can’t have been fun to discover what was left of me.
Being dead, I don’t tend to worry much, but if I did, I would feel for the poor soul who looked through my window, and the unfortunates who had to take me away.
I’m considering haunting the real estate agent who is so gleefully trying to sell my former abode. My family needs the money, apparently.
I’ve tried giving her a fright, but she seems to be too self-absorbed to notice me — hanging around, with not much to do.
I not sure why I’m still here, but it’s not at all unpleasant.
I seem to be able to get progressively further from my home each day, so I can walk around a bit and spy on the neighbours, talk to dogs, that sort of thing.
I don’t sleep, obviously — not the human type of sleep, just the eternal type.
I always like the night time. It’s another world, and apart from the ner do wells who use the undercover nature of the dark, most people who are awake when others are asleep are friendly and sad somehow.
I don’t hurt anymore, not physically. It’s a strange sensation, something like in a dream. I’m aware of my body, but it does not seem to have any weight. I should float off the ground, but I don’t. Everything seems the same, but I don’t have any sensation of touch. It doesn’t slow me down, I just do what I always have — I put one foot in front of the other, and away I go.
I can move through solid objects, walls and things. I know this because I accidentally walked through a chair. It freaks me out a bit so I move around like I used to, by opening doors and occasionally climbing through windows — I did that a lot, back in the day.
I’m not worried about what comes next. I’m applying the same rules I’ve always lived by, be patient and let life come to me. Though in this case, it’s afterlife.
I have encountered a few others who are in my situation, but they are confused and angry, sometimes frightened. It doesn’t seem to matter what I say to them, it doesn’t help, so I steer clear.
I like my own company and the company of dogs, so I’m okay for now, but there are a few people I would like to catch up with.
Maybe one day, assuming they end up where I end up.
The doctor died not long after delivering the news.
“Give up coffee, or you will surely suffer a painful death. Maybe not tomorrow, but quite soon and it won’t be pleasant.”
I didn’t gloat, but I did smile when my sister told me the news.
My sister and I set up house together when it became evident that neither of us was going to attract a mate.
“We can save on utilities and keep each other company.”
“What if I get lucky and attract a short-sighted woman who will love me until she gets her eyeglasses changed?” I asked.
“We’ll cross that chasm when we get to it,” said my sister.
I’m used to her and her to me. We don’t exactly like each other, but neither of us contemplates homicide either.
“Dr Colour died yesterday,” she said while peeling potatoes.
“Did he have a cup of coffee in his hand when they found him,” I said. Unkind, I know, but he really pissed me off with his holier than thou coffee criticism.
“Not that I know of,” said my sister.
She rarely understood my witticisms.