Forgetting to Remember.
By CpSingleton © 2017
Bill Stevenson hobbled across the tiny living-room, cramped with memories, to the fold-away table.
He had done the same thing for three months, two weeks and four days.
The windows rattled to the beat of the 3.30pm Manchester to Leeds train as he eased his stiff, aching bones into the chair that sat behind the puzzle.
He shuffled back and leaned his stick against the chair’s tatty arm and then, with gentle care, pulled the table closer. The last thing Bill wanted was to tip it up at this stage.
The twenty-thousand-piece puzzle was on the verge of completion. Only seven pieces remained to be put in their respective places.
They’d had it made for their emerald wedding anniversary.
It was a picture of their wedding day.
The black and white image showed them standing, with immense pride, outside St. John’s. Four pieces of his double-breasted suit were missing, but he had to admit he looked quite dapper. Maureen, on the other hand, looked beautiful.
She was way out of his league. He was always proud of that.
Her warm brown eyes were the first to grab his heart. The colour was hard to distinguish from the photograph, but the warmth was not. Her hair, gypsy black, hung in ringlets over her shoulders and through the veil.
They had met through Audrey, his best mate’s sister and had courted properly. Nothing more than a peck on the lips passed between them for the first three months. Hugs at the doorstep. Small, soft hands clasped on walks in the park.
Then he had met the parents.
He remembered that it was a hot and sticky day as he stood, rigid, on their door step, waiting to be received, posy of flowers wilting in his shaking hands. Their stone detached house was far grander than his parent’s red-brick terrace.
He felt tiny that day.
‘Should I posh it up?’ He’d asked her, only half joking.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Maureen had giggled. ‘You just be yourself. That’s how you won me.’
Funny how some memories stick.
He filled in the image of the suit, clicking in the pieces, using his wrinkled thumb with meticulous care, while his mind played through their life together.
Their relationship hadn’t always been perfect, Bill had no illusions about that. They had had their pot of problems, just like anyone else, but he had never stopped loving her.
When he had finished, and had creaked backwards to look at the puzzle, he saw that only one piece remained missing from the picture.
When fitted it would fill her soft and gorgeous cheeks.
His wrinkled brow furrowed further as he saw that it wasn’t on the board. His doleful eyes cast around the room, until they passed across to her little chair by the fire. The piece could be seen, sitting on Maureen’s plumped up cushion.
Her chair was neater than his. He called it burgundy; she called it maroon. On the top of the back rest was a square of white-patterned cotton. He called it a hankie; she called it…
Bill couldn’t remember.
Blast his rotten memory!
He could remember her face: the soft, downy feel of her cheek as he kissed it before bed every night for fifty-nine years. Memories of the way she entered the room like a thick curtain was being torn from a large window; her light finding and filling every dark corner, always made him feel warm inside.
Bill recalled their first anniversary in Whitstable with ease. The image of her appearing from one of the coloured changing huts by the beach was as real as day. Her tall, shapely body made all the other girls look like stumpy, ogres.
For the life of him, though, he couldn’t remember the name for the square piece of cotton that Maureen laughed at when he used to call a hankie.
Bill felt an anger and frustration build in him. He needed to remember. He couldn’t have one tiny memory of her to slip from his feeble mind. He needed her to remain perfect and clear in his thoughts and dreams.
His hands began to shake.
A tear of frustration and pain bobbled down his wrinkled face.
Led by the strings of fury, he leaned forward and launched the jigsaw table as far as he could. Which frankly wasn’t far. However, it was distance enough for him to scatter the pieces on to the hearth and over the little sheepskin rug. Clumps of several pieces still remained together, like little families holding onto each other after a ship has capsized.
Someone, and he couldn’t remember who, had once said that if you stopped thinking about a problem, like trying to remember something important, and concentrated on another task, that you would remember what it was that you had forgotten in the first place.
Bill slowly and painfully got down on his knees and collected the little pieces of the picture.
More frustrated, salty tears blinded his sight as he struggled to collect every piece.
He cleared his yellowing eyes with his suit sleeve.
Bill would start the puzzle again. That should help him forget to remember.