In a small 60’s style town house, loud patterned wallpaper peeled off the walls. Worn down carpets and discoloured floorboards felt cold to the touch. Outside plants grew freely, painting the garden in the colour the house seemed to neglect. Throughout the summer months, birds would roost, never once scared that they would be disturbed. It would appear the house had been forgotten, which I suppose would be quite true, however, I would not want to suggest the house was empty for it was quite the contrary. Inside lived an eighty-something year old almost as forgotten as his house but yet somehow even more alone.
Upstairs an old man shuffled from his bed to his wardrobe - the slight movements sending dust to dance in the sunlight that wormed in through the blinds. This man was Kenneth. Despite the run-down state of his house, his clothes were cared for. Kenneth carefully picked out an outfit from his collection: a simple shirt and tie and basic blacks. After donning his worn green slippers for smart leather boots, he carried his green tweed jacket down to his chair.
The lounge was Kenneth’s favourite place in the house, his chair, overlooking the garden and soot covered mantle, although he’d never really known why. He felt so many emotions here: joy, remorse and even an element of love. He felt no conflict within himself, but the room gave him a sense of belonging. He crossed the room and sat down in his armchair. The movement caused a small photo to fall out of the jacket pocket. Looking at it, he saw the black and white figures staring back up at him – himself and a stranger. Although not quite a stranger but more a face without a name, a name he once knew so well.
Like a key into a lock, the name returned from the lost catacombs of Kenneth’s mind: Dorothy.
Suddenly, Kenneth’s world was plunged into colour and a loud buzz filled his ears and the strum of the bass went straight to his bones. There he was once again in Ed’s diner, 1966, the day he – what? He couldn’t remember but somehow he knew its importance.
It was the day his life had changed. He caught sight of a young twenty-something year old, himself - and made his way over. His younger self was laughing and dancing with a woman. Another stranger? No, it was the very same one. It was her. It was Dorothy. The older Kenneth spent the night watching the young couple laugh, dance and flirt, reliving each minute himself. It had been the most wonderful night in the little corner of the bright painted dinner with the round mirrored table reflecting their own little bubble of happiness. It had been the night Kenneth had met his wife.
Kenneth laughed, his heart lighter than it had been in years and watched as the scene changed once again. This time, Kenneth stood outside a townhouse, modern in its day. Trees blossomed and flowers grew, painting the garden in what could have been jewels. It was quite clearly his house but it wasn’t the same. This house was loved and cared for, a happy place unlike his own. On the doorstep, the young couple stood once again, smiles showing every tooth. A man in red shook their hands and passed over keys which glinted in the sun. This was the day he’d bought his first house.
Once again, the scene changed and Kenneth stood inside the house. Dorothy sat with a babe on her knee. Baby Rosa they’d called her. How happy they’d been. How happy he was now. There was a brief flash as the young Kenneth took a photo, promising to frame it on the mantle.
The scene changed a final time and this time he was sixty. The love and joy that had been in the air previously had gone, leaving a void of emptiness in its place. Dorothy lay ill in a bed of white. Pneumonia. Everything felt heavy and silent, only the irregular beep of the monitor made a noise. The young Kenneth entered the room – flowers in one hand as he took his wife’s in the other. As though a knife was suspended above his head, Kenneth was forced to watch. Was forced to remember as the memory returned. He watched his younger self tell Dorothy it would all be ok. Watched him stroke her hand and kiss her. Never once did she let on the fact she heard. His pulse quickened as he watched the scene unfold towards the inevitable. It felt like an eternity but then she died. Silently. Peacefully.
Kenneth was back in his chair and was once again quite alone with Dorothy’s photo warmly staring up at him. Tears ran down his cheeks as he looked at the empty chair beside his and then to the mantle where the photo sat like he’d promised. He knew that it had all been true and he smiled because he no longer felt alone. He was happy. With a smile on his face, he closed his eyes one last time and began his long journey to return to his long forgotten wife.