Part 1.1

I wake with a start, my head pounding mercilessly against my temples, scarcely daring to open my eyes. I do and gaze painfully at the bleak off-white sky of the ceiling against which a lonely light bulb hangs from a piece of wire.  A cobweb wafts by, propelled by unseen drafts.

It’s my own fault really – too much cheap red wine – but it didn’t help that the upstairs neighbours were pounding the bed springs again, all night.  A nice change from their usual fighting, however.  I don’t know why they bother staying together.  Perhaps they fear becoming what I have become: old and alone.

I continue to lie in, under the covers, consider going back to a troubled sleep. Force of habit drives me out, groaning and stretching, my joints cracking with complaint.  I stand for a moment before the dresser, looking at myself - tall, pale and scrawny, my heavily lined face unremarkable except perhaps for a long shaggy grey beard reminiscent of a sage rather than a fool.  I turn sideways and examine my profile - curved spine, bony hips and protruding rib cage. I wonder how long I’ve looked like a concentration camp escapee rather than a pensioned member of the noble British welfare state.  What the hell has happened to you, Aaron?

Sighing, I put on a threadbare gown and worn slippers, staggering from the bedroom to the kitchen, only to be reminded that, yet again, the dishes need doing.  I will definitely have to tackle them today, but I recall thinking that yesterday too.  I salvage a vaguely clean bowl and spoon from the food-encrusted pile in the sink and fill it with cereal dregs and milk that is rapidly approaching its really-you-ought-to-have-used-it-by-now date.

Breakfast is soon done and the prospect of spending yet another day alone in my crummy Islington council flat fills me with dread. I eventually head off to Sainsbury’s supermarket to get some food, clutching a hastily drafted shopping list in my hand.  The aisles are jam packed with hapless trolley pushers entangled in commercial confusion, and lifting my basket above waist height, I wade through with my gritted teeth.  Just a few things to get: pasta , canned tomatoes and mince for my beloved spaghetti Bolognese, bread, milk, cereal, and then of course, the wine. Ah, yes the wine, ever the wine: sparkling red in the glass like a harlot’s promise, the ruin of all who yield. For a moment I have to pause, fighting the memories and the tears, my wrecked marriage, my ruined career, my estranged daughters.

“Excuse me!”  The voice is accompanied by the sharp nudge of a trolley in my back. I turn to face my antagonist. She is a lean woman of uncertain age dressed in a white track suit, large golden earrings and hair tied back tight enough to produce the effect of a DIY face lift. She glares at me and snarls “Are you going to stand there all day?”

      For a moment I consider beating her to a pulp with my empty basket, but instead I  smile an apology and let her pass, watching her bony hips sway from side to side as they exude a terrifying sexuality that makes my stomach churn. Shrugging my shoulders, I turn to walk in the other direction, soon filling my basket with customary male efficiency. I do not understand the concept of browsing. I come, I see, I buy – that is my motto.

It’s not until I have started queuing at the one-basket-only till, with six people crowding behind me, that I remember the wine. Cursing, I leave my treasured place, watching the gap close hungrily behind me as I stride towards the drinks aisle with the ‘Specials’ shelf - the only wines I can really afford on my meagre pension.  I am not surprised to find it is mostly empty, apart from one lonely, but reduced bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  I reach forward …

“Excuse me!” The voice is familiar, as is the brutal trolley nudge. “I was going to get that!”

I turn and looked incredulously at the heap of dusty, tracksuit-clad angles before me, my anger slowly rising. “I don’t think so,” I growl, glaring at her.  But she stands, resolute: her hands perched on her hips like a vitriolic teapot. I sigh. Have I not done enough fighting with women for one lifetime? What has come of that?

“You have the wine,” I say, turning to walk back up the aisle. “I didn’t really want it anyway.”

I am soon back at home, surrounded by unpacked shopping, and I sit staring vacantly out the window.  A “room with a view” the chap at the council had said.  Funny guy.  Still, it’s not a bad flat, so I shouldn’t really complain.  At least I have a place now.  Those poor blighters sleeping rough under the bridge are lucky to wake up with their shoes in the morning.  Here, it is dry and everything works, and to be fair to the council comedian, I can see a bit of Regent’s canal ...  just enough to remind me of happier times.

Tags: reflections of grace, book, biography, comedy, download, drama, family, fiction, friendship, love, novel, romance, story, book, novel