Woke Up This Morning
Woke up this morning feeling fit as a fiddle. That was a nice surprise because most mornings I felt dreadful. I lay in bed for a while enjoying the long forgotten feeling of wellbeing. My legs didn’t ache, my chest didn't burn. When I pulled myself up to a sitting position, I didn’t wince at the effort. It was a bright morning, the sun lapped at cracks in the curtains, it made me smile. I swung my legs out of bed and placed my feet cautiously on the floor, waiting for the dizziness to hit me, but it didn’t come.
The morning air was warm so I went downstairs without bothering to pull on my dressing gown. I had made it as far as the kitchen when I heard the front door open. I ran, forgetting that I couldn’t run, to the kitchen table and ducked beneath it. No-one had a key for my house, I had no-one to give a key to. Then I remembered there was someone, the health visitors had a key, though I hadn’t had a visit from them in ages. I peeked my head over the table, the door had been left wide open. I could hear people shouting to each other outside, one man shouting to another. I ducked back beneath the table again as one of the shouting men marched right into my house. He was wearing a yellow jacket and smoking a cigarette. I stayed under the table as he clumped through my hallway, imagining the mess his boots would leave on the carpet.
I knew what was happening, I was being burgled, you heard about it on the telly all the time. Old ladies being burgled in broad daylight, what was the world coming to! The man was going up my stairs and suddenly I was furious. How dare he just walk in and take what he wanted. I crept up the stairs after him and followed him into my bedroom. My bedroom! I stood in the doorway watching him opening the draws and cupboards, running his hands through my clothes. He hadn’t noticed me. I watch him pull back my bed sheets that was too much to bear.
“What do you want?” I said, he turned round but didn’t answer me.
“I suppose you think you can just walk in here and take whatever you want from a frail old lady, don’t you?” I said. He ignored me and tutted with annoyance before moving to my chest of draws.
“Well you won’t get away with it!” I shouted and ran back down the stairs. The front door was still open and, as I walked into the front garden, I saw my belongings tumbling out of the window. Another man was collecting it up and tossing it into the back of a van.
“Hey!” I said “you leave my things alone!”
I ran out of my gate and round to the house next door. I banged on the door and rang the bell too but no-one came. I ran to the next house, and then the next. I was half way down the road before I realised I was still in my night dress and must look like a mad old lady.
I stumbled back to my house, back past the man with the van who paid me no attention. I went back up the stairs to my bedroom.
“Please don’t take my things.” I said weakly as the man in the yellow jacket pulled off my bed sheets and threw them out the window. I couldn’t take any more. I ran towards him and beat my fists against his back. Oblivious to my blows he stood up and walked away. He didn’t just walk away though. He walked right through me.
That’s when I realised what had happened. No wonder the men didn’t see me, couldn’t see me. I was gone, though not completely. I must have slipped away in my sleep. I hadn’t felt a thing. It was a blessing really, it hadn’t been much of a life in the end with the heart trouble and the arthritis. I’d had a good innings as they say.
I relaxed then, nothing else to do. I watched as the man dismantled my little world bit by bit. I sat back and I watched him discard my collection of fabric swatches out the window. Every colour you could imagine, patterned and plain. I’d been collecting them for years, I’m not sure why now. At the bottom of the wardrobe he found my shoes and handbags. He picked them up in bundles and threw them out the window too. I wandered over to watch the ever growing pile of my beloved things in the front garden. Some of the neighbours came to have a look. Funny, I’d lived next to them for more than a year but I don’t think we’d ever spoken. The Mother chatted cheerily to the man with van while her little girl picked at the mound of material. She pushed her hands into the heap, plunged them right up to her elbows, and brought out a handbag. It was the last handbag Albert had bought me before he died. It was no more than a purse really with a long handle and covered in sequins. He was always trying to get me to wear sparkly things, said it made my eyes twinkle. She held it aloft and the man nodded, she slipped it over her shoulder as they walk away.
“Don’t take that, not that one!” I shouted to no-one. Oh what does it matter now?
I sat on the bed as my room was cleared. Everything went out the window; a pair of silver candle sticks my mother had given us as a wedding present, the suitcase we’d taken on our first holiday abroad and the winter coat that Albert bought for me, the year it snowed at Christmas. After he had cleared the wardrobes, the man brought up some crates, for the things he couldn’t throw away I suppose like my jewellery box. He opened it before packing it away. I stood over his shoulder to see in. My wedding ring sat on top, I hadn’t been able to wear it for years. My hands had withered with age and it had started to slip off when I was washing up. I couldn’t help crying as he packed it in the crate beneath some bubble wrap. I mean it was my wedding ring, I was sad to see that go.
I followed him downstairs when he’d finished in my room. It was a bit upsetting if I’m honest that complete strangers were charged with the task of erasing me from the earth, but then there wasn’t anyone else. We hadn’t been blessed with children. I sat in the arm chair by the window and watched them take out all the kitchen things; cutlery, crockery, toaster. I saw him lug my old typewriter out. I’d used that to write to Aggie my sister, she’d always complained that she couldn’t read my writing so Albert bought it for me.
“She can’t complain now” he’d said and he was right, she never did. I hadn’t touched it since she died, over twenty years ago now.
I sat in the arm chair as they took down my collection of cat ornaments, the mirror over the fireplace that Albert used to check himself in before leaving for work and my books. The worst thing was when the photos went. The one of Albert and me on our wedding day, one of mum and dad holding hands, the last one of them together. There was one of me and Aggie on the beach with ice cream on our chins. Memories of moments I didn’t want to give up.
All these well-loved things discarded in the blink of an eye. I stayed in the arm chair as it got dark. I stayed there until they lifted it up, with me still in it, and carried it out to the van. I watched them drive away and went back into the house, it was completely empty now. It had taken a day to clear it. One whole day for one whole life to be wiped from existence. It’s not long is it?
So my time was up, it had been a good life, mostly. I let the darkness take me, knowing none of those material things mattered now. Knowing Albert would be waiting for me.