Degrees of Separation
Earlier in the month I posted a story about a man called Mick which grew from an earlier story about a group of inter-connected random acts of kindness. I am grateful to everyone who read one or both of these and to those who suggested that I write more about Mick, not least with reference to his possible developing relationship with the woman from No 11 Wilson Street. I’ve been thinking about this and have decided it’s a trilogy. So following Kind Heart and Brunettes https://www.abctales.com/story/gletherby/kind-hearts-and-brunettes here is the second part of the story Degrees of Separation. Part three to follow soon.
Moira has lived at No 11 Wilson Street for two years now, ever since she moved to the area. It’s a vibrant outer-city suburban area with good community networks and resources. Not that Moira knows much about that first-hand but the radio, her carers and a few thoughtful others, keep her informed and entertained with stories of local characters.
She had hoped that the move, might help to decrease, if not the physical at least the emotional, pains that have been her constant companions for most of her life. But new surroundings led to new problems and although Moira feels at peace in her neat and comfortable terraced house her serenity turns to panic anytime she attempts to leave the house. It wasn’t immediate – the fear of the outside – rather she noticed slowly that she was delaying and shortening her morning walk; convincing herself that she didn’t need to go to the shops after all; refusing invitations from kind new neighbours to accompany them to a coffee morning or an afternoon film showing. Things came to a head six months or so after her move. At the market buying vegetables she was braving the growing feelings of anxiety and chatting to a stall holder when someone roughly bumped into her whilst another grabbed her purse. She didn’t see either of them - it all happened so quickly - and so was no use at all to the police. The physical discomforts she felt from her fall were nothing compared to the fear she felt due to the tightness in her chest, the dizziness and shortness of breath. At the hospital a heart attack was ruled out. Even so the panic persisted and Moira was unable to properly shake the doctor’s hand as hers was trembling so much. She only began to feel better once safely back at home. When a couple of days later she tried to leave the house all the same terrifying symptoms came flooding back.
The kindness Moira has experienced since helps to keep her going. Following a couple of home visits her GP prescribed some anti-depressants and some talk therapy, which she is able to access via the telephone. The care company are both efficient and truly caring and she never feels as if her fears are ridiculed or her needs trivialised. Within the counselling sessions she has been able to explore – out loud for the first time – the complex feelings she has about her childhood illness and the consequences of it; the early death of her parents and her long but loveless marriage. The polio has left her with a slightly shorter right leg – she has walked with a stick ever since – the lack of self-confidence resulting from it with a quiet and hesitant way of speaking. Her low self-esteem coupled with the death of both her parents in her late teenage years led to her willing acceptance of marriage to the first person who asked. A man to whom she was little suited. Contrary to her preference for reading, the radio and an occasional TV drama or documentary he favoured a visit to the bookies or the pub after work. They weren’t cruel to each other and tried in the early days to find some common ground but it some became clear that this was impossible for their interests, their political inclinations and their hopes from life were just too different, too diverse. No children came along – which bothered Bill little and left Moira with mixed feelings given the state of their marriage (she was never one to believe that children could heal a damaged or broken relationship) – and any intimacy – physical or otherwise – was few and far between. When she visited the funeral parlour to say a last face-to-face goodbye and kissed her husband’s cheek Moira could not remember the last time she had touched him.
When the, admittedly late, fresh start she had so much faith in doesn’t go as planned, and indeed seems to make things worse, Moira decides to count her blessings. Her home, her cat, books and the radio, the kindness of those who care for her. This will have to be enough. But then she begins to think that maybe there are still things in life to fight for. It all starts when sitting in her favourite day-time spot, looking out at the world she is too frightened to venture into, she begins to notice the man. At first when she catches him looking her way she thinks he is just healthily nosy, looking in, and at, the daily doings of others as you do when you’re walking down the street. But then, as she becomes bold enough to look up, he starts to smile at her, and then to wave. The red flush on his neck (notable when not muffled in a scarf) that accompanies his actions convinces Moira that he is as shy as her which gives her the confidence to return his gestures of friendliness. And now she knows a little about him. Mick he is called, a widower for several years, a father and grandfather too, although his family have all moved away. A gardener, well allotment tender, who, she has also learnt, shares some of her political and cultural interests. It was Clare her regular afternoon carer, who, seeing Mick wave to her one afternoon, told her all this. Clare’s boyfriend Saabir and her friend Jacquie both know and like him. What is that phrase about being careful what you say about people as everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who you know, or something like that. Anyway, Mick sounds charming, and to borrow another term from Moira’s youth, is also rather dashing. A little older than her, five years or so, she estimates, but spritely. Must be all that digging.
On a couple of occasions Clare has thought that their courtship was about to go further. The window and her small front garden (tended by Clare’s oldest in exchange for a little extra pocket money and a large slice of homemade cake) that is between them rather hinders any development. At least twice he has hesitated near the gate of No 11. Once he had a rather intriguing looking package that he was holding flat in front of him; an edible offering maybe? But no. He doesn’t seem to have the courage to make the next move. So Moira decides to be brave for both of them. Having talked it through with her therapist she begins by opening the front door, standing on the threshold, in more ways than one, and looking out. At first the distress Moira feels is almost unbearable but she doesn’t give up. Next she moves to the garden. Clare sits with her, generally staying longer than for the time she is paid. Such a lovely young woman. And then slowly, Moira step-by-step – both physically and metaphorically – begins to reconnect with the outside world. It takes several months of small trips – walking to the end of the road, round the block in Clare’s car, the short bus ride into town and back – before she is able to stay out for a whole afternoon. She misses seeing Mick that day but it’s worth it for the pride rather than panic she feels. That and the pleasure she gets from her saloon haircut.
Next Saturday there is a Winter Festival taking place at the community hall. It’s going to be a big affair with people of all, or no, faiths, welcome. Moira thinks she is ready. Clare and her children are coming to pick her up and, she knows, that the younger woman will stay close to her for as long as she needs her to. Saabir and Jacquie are both currently suggesting to Mick that he might find the afternoon entertaining. Moira is enjoying the dancing butterflies in the stomach feeling that accompany her thoughts of meeting Mick. And if it doesn’t work out, if he decides not to attend the event, there will be another day, another opportunity.