Part 1.5

Joe now lives at the other end of Islington, the posh part, enjoying his early retirement.  I don’t phone him, so he might not be there, but as it’s not raining and I don’t have anything better to do, I head off to the bus stop on Bevan.  A couple of pin-cushioned youngsters, dressed in black, are sitting on the bench groping each other in a frantic embrace.  I clear my throat to warn them of my arrival but am ignored.  Thankfully my wait is a short one and the bus arrives.  I climb aboard, flash my pensioner pass, and find a seat near the front.  The young lovers are still in deadlock as the bus pulls away.  I recall my first tentative kisses with Molly, so long ago, during our frequent walks along the Norfolk Broads around Stokesby, with George running ahead looking for rabbits.  It was for us a deeply private affair and I’m still feeling uncomfortable at the open display of intimacy at the bus stop.
Twenty minutes later I am knocking on Joe’s door.  I have to knock a few times before I hear the sliding of a latch and the door opens.  Joe peers out cautiously but then his face lights up. “Aaron, my old friend, what a lovely surprise, but er … you see,” he continues, still not opening the door fully, “it’s a bit inconvenient at the moment.”
“Inconvenient? What do you mean inconvenient?” 
“Keep it down, old chap.  You know what the neighbours are like.  I’m really sorry, Aaron, but I’m in the middle of something, with uh …”
I finish his sentence, attempting to sound ironic. “A young lady?”
“Ah, yes, precisely. You do understand.”
I should say at this point that Joe is my age, that is, sixty-seven, and decidedly not the better looking of us two, so I am a little flabbergasted to say the least.  “You’re kidding, right?”
He pauses, and then with a laugh opens the door wide. “Fancy some tea?”
I push him playfully to one side and enter.  “Young woman, indeed.”
I follow him into the kitchenette and watch as he puts the kettle on and finds two garish mugs, which he takes from the cupboard.  He turns to look at me, and says apologetically, “Long life milk only.  Hope that’s okay?”  I nod.
“So, how are things?” I ask, as we sit around his frail dining room table.
Joe shrugs, “Same old.  Not much to tell.  Apart from the fact there was another mugging in the alleyway last week.  The police came around asking if anyone had seen or heard anything, but as expected, no one had.”
“Did you?” I ask.
He shakes his head.  “I would have said something.”
“I know.”
“So, what about you?” he asks, taking a sip of tea.
“Oh, its all go my end.  I had a visitor last night.”
Joe raises his eyebrows.
“Just a cat, pawing at my window.  I reckon it must belong to the neighbours.  I let it in because the rain was pelting down.  It left this morning.”
Joe takes another sip of his tea, “Hmmm. So?”
“So what?” I ask.
“Did you see her again?”
“See who?”
Joe snorted. “The woman at the park. You were going to talk to her. Don’t play coy with me.”
“No, I wasn’t. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Were too, you old chicken.”
I sigh, “Look Joe. I’m too old for all of that.”
Joe puts his mug down with clear exasperation.  “That, my friend, is a load of cobblers, and you know it.”
“I don’t know, Joe, some days I feel like I’ve had enough and just want to end it all.  Then like today, life seems okay again.”
Joe looks at me intently.  “All the more reason to get yourself a good woman, my friend.  Look, I know, it’s the same with me: some days are good, some not so good, but that’s the way life is, and our job is to make the most of each opportunity for happiness.  Anyway, it is really nice to see you again.  Fancy a game of chess?”

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