This piece is based on something that happened to my mother in her old age. This is a stressful time of the year for lots of people especially those who live alone. Our society is dysfuntional in so many ways; the increase in social isolation and the way the elderly are regarded are symptoms of a deep malaise.
When you find yourself automatically turning on the television for the six o’clock news, when you become aware once again of the dull throb in the left side of your head, when you stretch your right hand down to rub your aching thigh, when you decide it’s time to shuffle towards the kitchen and see what’s in the fridge, when you scrape off the morning’s coagulated porridge from the saucepan and empty it down the lavatory, when you slowly eat your solitary microwaved meal, when you return to your sofa and continue to watch the television, when you find yourself drifting off to sleep; you come to with a start – then suddenly you feel there is someone standing behind your sofa.
The visitors are here again. Although you are not sure if they are the same men as before, you think you recognise the taller one. He has a moustache and black hair. As you get up from the sofa the men turn to face you and edge round the furniture. The smaller of the two, the one with the shaved head, crosses the room to sit in a chair opposite the sofa. You feel agitated and find you cannot focus on the intruders sufficiently. The smaller of the two is speaking and his words sound loudly in your head. You look to see where the tall man is and cannot quite make out a figure in the darkness of the hallway. You decide to speak.
“I’m alright you know. You don’t need to worry; I have two sons who visit me and a nurse comes on Fridays.”
The bald man is speaking again in a low voice now. You can only catch some of the words,
“Trying to. . worry. .keep the door.. . .safety.”
You have the front door key and can’t understand why the man is talking about the door.
You start to feel anxious and snap,
“Get out, get out!”
You see quite clearly the tall man walking past you towards the front door. When you look around for the bald man he is not to be seen. Then you hear a voice but you are not sure who is speaking.
“We’ll make sure you are ok.”
This does not make you feel secure and now that the men have left there is an empty silence.
You sit down on the sofa with a loud expulsion of breath and notice your right hand is shaking.
“Why, why?” you say out loud, and again,
“What would Albert think about me talking to strange men?”
You get up with some effort and walk slowly towards the kitchen to put on the kettle. As you fill up the kettle you wonder how the men get inside your flat. You drink the hot tea and wonder if they are from the council, and that you probably forgot that you let them in. You sit down and notice your hand has stopped shaking.
You retire to bed earlier than usual. It is half past nine. You notice you haven’t put the pile of washing in the washer. You tell yourself to do this tomorrow morning and move the pile to the kitchen.
It is six o’clock the following evening. You have had your meal of mackerel and mashed potatoes. You are watching the six o’clock news. The body count from Syria doesn’t register and the latest plan for improving the NHS somehow gets mixed up with statistics about prisons. You press the remote control eager to find something less confusing. You find a nature programme about badgers when you hear the doorbell. You get up and see two men in the hall. You wonder if they are from the council. You haven’t seen them before. The tall one has a moustache and black hair. . .