S T Vasectomy Clinic - 17
By Jane Hyphen
Cece floated out of the room like an angry spirit.
St John waited until she was halfway up the stairs before relaxing into a sigh then he went to the kitchen with the plates. He crudely scraped and stacked them and pushed a few pans into the bottom of the dishwasher. There was a lady who came twice a week to clean and help with laundry, she was due in the morning so it didn’t really matter how he left the kitchen. There was no doubt that he wouldn’t be seeing Cece again that evening, she would be hiding in her room or hovering like a creep in the nursery, fawning over the baby shaped hole, possibly crying. Whatever she was doing he didn’t care. The house was huge and they could hide from each other but now he longed to get farther away, to escape.
It was still early, a few cracks of daylight were visible above the horizon. St John’s favourite time of day was dusk, it was a magical time when animals appeared and also the stars which hinted at the oblivion beyond the confines of the earth’s atmosphere. He had become a big fan of oblivion and frequently found himself seeking it in its various forms; his role as a medic had made him dubious about overindulging in alcohol and he’d seen too many colleagues slowly lose themselves in drug taking. No, he was seeking another form of oblivion, the sort of dead rush which accompanies danger and deceit, that blows away the grind of the familiar.
He put on his jacket, grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl, his front door key from the table and stepped outside into the still evening air. The birds were exchanging a few final tweets of the day. The lane on which they lived was dimly lit and at first all he could see was the flash-eye memory of the lights inside his house, temporarily blocking his view with big pale blotches, he soon adjusted. The street was empty, in the absence of wind, the air was loaded. It was so very quiet. Their road, being private, was generally quiet but on Sunday evenings there wasn’t a soul around except for the odd cat, blinking into the closing darkness.
He paused and glanced back at his house and noted how he felt strangely detached from it and indeed all earthly things. Suddenly he felt as if he could leave everything behind and just walk and walk towards the oblivion which so attracted him now. Perhaps Nina would be waiting for him there, dressed in her business-like blue shirt and her brogues. He longed to hold her tight, squeeze her little waist and pull her glossy hair, not too hard, just enough for her to gasp and know he meant it.
By the time he reached the end of the lane, much of the daylight had gone and he cursed himself for not bringing his pocket torch but he was reluctant to turn around and return home so early. That would have felt like some sort of failure. Loitering wasn’t an option, there was an art to loitering and St John had been too privileged all his life to perfect it. Neighbours had security cameras and he didn’t want them snooping and gossiping about him; he despised most of them with their new money and big ugly cars. There was no choice but to keep walking into the blackness of the countryside ahead.
Shadow shapes seemed to move in the darkness and he frequently heard rustling in the hedges, small mammals just waking up, starting their day. It seemed to take forever for St John to reach the familiar paddock. In daylight it always felt like such a short journey but now it eluded him and he began to question whether he was on the right path, perhaps somehow he had taken a wrong turn and entered an unknown area, a secret world. His heart began to beat a little faster. It was getting colder now, damp sunken air nipped round his ears and nose, he fastened his jacket and squinted at the strange silhouettes around him.
The situation was reminiscent of one of his dreams, the recurring ones he experienced about uncovering hidden areas inside his house or neighbourhood. Beautiful places which had previously been withheld from his view, suddenly unlocked in his dream as if he’d reached some higher level of the game, the game of life or perhaps the world of his subconscious. Maybe I’m too old for this, he told himself, maybe somebody will pick me up and report a confused old man roaming the countryside. He shuddered at the thought of it. He was committed to staying young. Surely it was Nina who held the key to his eternal youth. Cece was making him old, like a witch, causing him to shrivel up under the dry, hot winds of her presence which he viewed as a menopausal sirocco.
He thought about his mother, ninety one years old, sitting in her room in the old people’s home fifty odd miles away. Instinctively he felt that she was awake, lucid, possibly thinking about him. I must go and visit her, he thought, tell her about the baby? No, that would only confuse her. She’d been such a brilliant mother, so calm and nurturing, she’d been his champion and his childhood home had always been so beautiful and organised. Cece had come a close second but her childlessness, over time had made her eccentric and bitter, that was what made their relationship so exhausting.
The souls of his feet began to detect a familiar pattern on the path, large, protruding flints and then he felt the hedge at his side, he heard the faint sound of his horse pulling blades of grass and chewing in the distance. ‘I know you’re there,’ he said quietly and he held out his right hand to feel for the gate. ‘Hey, come over here, I need to speak to you.’
A half moon was visible as he reached the gate and the sky was brighter with a brown/purple hue. He could see the horse as a great black lump in the middle of the field. Reaching into his pocket he removed the apple, felt for the little oval label, peeled it off then took a bite. The horse stopped chewing the grass, lifted its head and looked over, lolloping towards him, slowly as if it was suspicious of his presence at such a late hour. St John held out the apple and felt the dry, bristly lips rub along his finger as the beast extracted the fruit and chomped down noisily on it. ‘There, there you go, a midnight feast, you weren’t expecting that were you, Laddy, were you!’
He attempted to stroke the horse’s nose while it was distracted by the food but it tossed its huge head and reversed a few steps backwards out of reach of the fence. Suddenly the world seemed like a very lonely place to St John, his own head felt impossibly heavy, he rested it on his folded arms on top of the fence and shut his eyes. It was easy to see how a man seeking oblivion would eventually find it, if not in some strange, absorbing hobby or another woman, then in the ultimate and final nihility.
What if I don’t ever return home? He asked himself, what if I change my identity, run away and grow a beard or what if I just keep walking with no food or water, all the elements on me. Eventually death would surely come, a slow death, hopefully not too painful, maybe he would sleep seamlessly into his death, inside dreams of hidden worlds. It seemed unlikely, more like a painful, cold bout of suffering and dehydration, he would most likely become ravenously thirsty and resort to drinking from puddles. Surely Cece would report him missing or maybe she wouldn’t. The clinic certainly would, colleagues would be concerned and in these modern times a helicopter might be dispatched with a heat seeking device and he would be found and sent to some ghastly mental ward.
There were other worlds available to him, he just had to find an intelligent way to access them. Surely there must be to find some way to communicate with Nina, beyond the unsaid speech bubbles which escaped through mutual furtive glances in the workplace. Sometimes a look said it all but was it possible that it said something completely different to each of the ‘lookers’. Perhaps Nina just felt sorry for him or was trying to stay on his good side while lining herself up for future promotions in the clinic. This seemed implausible though. There was more to it, he was absolutely convinced that she had feelings for him, she was curious, perhaps even emotionally attached, she was definitely seeking something from him. An opportunity there for him to create a new, happier life and he must come up with a plan to try to turn it into a reality.
The modern world which prevented him from wandering the countryside into rural obscurity and eventual oblivion could work to his advantage. He hadn’t used his smartphone much, except for texting, in fact he’d been scathing about both the vanity and the inanity of social media but maybe it was possible to find Nina somewhere in the virtual world. Keep up or get left behind, they were the words of advice from his wife. The clinic had a Facebook page, Nina and Louisa took care of it all but on a personal level he had always avoided it until now. It would have to be anonymous of course, at least to begin with since he wasn’t familiar with the various privacy settings and to expose himself publicly would be a disaster.
It occurred to him how amazing it was that a man can feel in despair one minute and in the next, with the help of a bit of imagination and a plan of action, excited about the future. His equine friend was lying down now, lifeless on its side, St John too was feeling physically weary, his legs were stiff from walking although his mind was agile and buzzing with possibilities. ‘Goodbye, I’ll see you soon, hopefully I’ll have some news, some developments. The Egremont Russets will be in the shops soon as well, I know they’re your favourite.’
The clouds had rejoined, forming a thick blackout curtain and the return journey was precarious. The darkness before him didn’t seem real, he wasn’t sure if he was in fact looking into the darkness inside his own head. He used his hands to feel either side of him and made a picture of his whereabouts in his mind, pieced together from daylight memories.