TWO LONELY ROADS

18 Jun

He was at the end of two roads and Minah Larkin was glad. It had taken a lifetime to get here and he was both travel-weary and fed up with life.

Not that he’d always been the latter.

He remembered Jasmine. Dear, sweet, long-haired fresh-faced Jasmine! He’d loved her with a great passion, had spent spine-tingling hours with her in her college room with the door locked for privacy and far too much love in his heart for it to last. And it hadn’t. It had vanished in a single letter one summer day when she’d said she’d had enough and all he was left with was an emptiness where lust had lived until then.

So he’d gone in search of a replacement. He hadn’t looked at it like that, he rather thought he’s been looking for a comforter in his bed and a cook for his belly and a new bright friend. Anyway, whatever he needed he found Suzanne and she might have been perfect had it not been for her nose.

He had never been able to put his finger on why that nose was so important. At first he’d thought it pretty, beautiful even, and he’d written a poem proclaiming his love for it. He’d spent extravagant minutes kissing it before kissing other parts of the lovely Suzanne.

Then out of the blue and a year or so later, he’d seen how ugly it might become, one day when he knew it might grow to dominate all of her face like a cancer, and after that he’d gradually and painlessly dumped her.

Painlessly for him, anyway.

Jenny was the next light in his life and she had given him three children over six years of relentless passion.

Then he’d seen just how obsessed she was with the brats. How a runny nose must be wiped yesterday, and wasn’t his running and didn’t it need help? Then how a bruise needed so much gentle rubbing it left her no time to rub his bruises. And he did have some, big ones, in his head, and they needed soothing away.

So he built a garden shed and became a hermit. For most of the time, that was. Occasionally when Jenny came out looking for him, or so she said, and begged him for this or that he saw that lust was his duty and obliged her. Not that was what she said she wanted, but who truly knows a woman’s mind?

She divorced him, blaming him for everything she could think of, and that was that.

It was then, when he was alone, that he’d started on the travel-weary road.

There had been work in it, a series of nothing jobs that led nowhere but provided a crust for him and a loaf for the ex-family, another most unsatisfactory marriage to someone whose name escaped him, ups and downs that had all ended up piercing something inside his heart. And he’d tried, God, how he’d tried.

But nothing had gone right. He was alone, and the world owed him more than a living. It owed him a life. Of that much he was certain.

Even that medical procedure, that operation, had gone wrong and left him with one pig of a scar where poisons had leached out. He’d thought of suing the hospital, but in the end had given up. He still had the scar, though, it was a reminder of an early signpost on that travel-weary road. The one that pointed to tomorrow but was fading as he stared at it, the signpost, that is, not the scar.

But he was, now and on this day, as has been noted, at the end of both roads. There was nowhere ahead. Just a kind of darkness that covered everything until days and weeks and miles and the sky and the earth and the seas, even the mighty oceans, all joined together to become an amorphous mist that, itself, dissolved as he watched to become nothing. And he was standing at the ends of those roads, staring at it.

“Why am I here?” he asked himself, and, you know, he couldn’t answer. Why was he there? On those roads staring at that vacuum, wondering what in the name of goodness it was? And where?

There was a sudden stirring in the void, a kind of picture made of fractured memories, of this room and that bed, mingled with a strange remembered chaos, popped into his head.

“You’re here,” suggested Jasmine, “to put things right. I’d had enough, you know, quite enough.”

“And it wasn’t my nose,” put in Suzanne from a compartment in his head, “you can’t have thought it was because you praised it in poetry, beautiful rhymes of nose and clothes, trumpet and strumpet, pretty and bitty….”

“Or the kids,” added Jenny. “I love the kids. Mothers do, you know. We have to or they’d never grow big and strong.”

“You’re driving me mad!” he shouted.

“We’re your past,” chided Jenny. “You should never be mad at the past.”

And they became the present and faded in a sultry moment into the amorphous mist that was still absorbing both of his roads, became one with it, and then it drifted like a cloud from Hell and wrapped around him, clutched at his heart which, gloriously, stilled to silence.

And he lay still where he fell.

“A waste of space,” murmured Jasmine.

“Offensive little man,” sighed Suzanne.

“Best forgotten,” breathed Jenny.

And the mist folded up into a blanket and lay upon him and stayed there for a strange and endless eternity, waiting for nothing as three women wandered off into life, giggling with memory.

© Peter Rogerson 06.06.17

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