Tom & Mandy [19/10/09]

Tom used to re-enter the bedroom slowly, softly padding in freshly laundered socks. He left his shoes outside the room. He put them on when he left for work.

It was Tom’s practice to move unobtrusively, to be careful not to make too much noise: he wanted to avoid disturbing others at this early hour. He would flick on his bedside lamp and wink in the direction of a small puppy dog, cutely bundled up against her human mummy, unwilling to unscrew her little eyelids yet unable not to take some account of Tom’s presence in the room. Meanwhile, Mandy slept. Some mornings she stirred, but then went straight back to sleep.

After a tiresome round of ablutions and other medical preparations Tom would decide that his hair was as good as it was going to be that day – that no, a little extra effort would not mean he left the house looking like George Clooney – and that his skin wasn’t too bad for a man of his age. Not that he was very old or even old at all. But you sometimes feel old before 5am. The tablets seemed to work. He didn’t like to take medicine; didn’t trust it and believed that the body could repair itself – but perhaps it did need some assistance every now and then, and if an expert advises you to take tablets, well, you might as well.

Convention dictated that Tom and Mandy would say a kind of hello and a kind of goodbye in a lingering embrace in the soft, warm, charcoal period after his lamp was turned off. Convention means that this happened one day, then it happened again the next, and neither of them saw any reason to desist. It was a good way to start the day.

So Tom would stroke Mandy’s neck and she would ask whether he had packed his lunch as she melted back into slumber, and he would contemplate the many and varied reasons why a sane man would ever want to get out of bed when this was what he had in here, and what he knew was out there was indeed still out there – and would continue to be, every day.

Mandy didn’t like it when Tom left. He didn’t like it either but he had to go. It always seemed like a minor form of betrayal to leave, even though he had to, and closing the front door always felt like the act of a guilty man. It sounds silly. But it was true.

One morning Mandy became quite alarmed when Tom announced that he would have to get up soon. She said, “No.” The quarrel which ensued can only have taken a few seconds, but it seemed much longer, and the result was quite surprising. He had to; she didn’t want him to; but he had to; she didn’t like it; but he had to; but she wanted him there; but he really had to go – “Look, could you just leave your hand?” she asked. “That would be enough.” This seemed an odd request and Tom instinctively felt that it couldn’t work. He began his response, his rebuttal, his right of reply. “No, it’s impossible,” he began, “how could I …” And then a thought came to him. He smiled. All it took was a bit of arbitration in the small hours, stakeholders sitting around the table, putting their proposals and defending their positions. Tom’s hand proved quite willing to acquiesce and an agreement was reached.

And so on most sunny mornings Mandy can be seen riding her pink cruiser bicycle at modest pace down the street. In the basket is Lefty, Tom’s left hand. Mandy now has company and doesn’t feel so lonesome when Tom goes to work.

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Published in: on January 2, 2010 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

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