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December 2021

A memory of summer

By Josh ClementsPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 9 min read

Her legs had quickly become numb, yet she had no plans to move. Not for a moment did she long for the warm soft couch of her grandmother that she had left behind that morning. No, this cold bench was where she had to be, and soon she would go to where she needed to be. After all, she was about to lose everything that mattered to her, and she felt like it was all her fault.

For she was not okay. Not even a little. A festering mix of grief, guilt, and anger gripped her; a manically served cocktail invading from the inside out. That caused her to break out often, as she did now, into seizures of uncontrollable crying. And then she remembered, on this bitterly cold December morning, sitting upon this freezing dead wooden bench, with a fearful twilight sky above, she remembered just how angry he had been, when she had gone that day for it. What he had said, when she returned with the plaster on her arm, oh, how his scolding went far deeper than that bloody needle. For the argument which followed still sliced away at her; putting that vaccine beneath, inside, for getting it done had been a big deal, and as she thought further of it, the moment that is, the flashes came, like one would see whilst drowning, the moments they shared together, and this ghoulish question of blame devouring all.

She had sat on this bench for many hours this past week, ever since he had been admitted. It was an unappealing dirt garden, which maybe in spring looked nicer, but not now. It was a small place, and the concrete path to the bench was unused, the diagonal wear, the quicker route, found itself to the seat much more speedily, but by taking this shortcut all those who had trod here had ruined the tiny square of grass. The whole thing had been destroyed but to save a few silly moments.

And what about that memory, the one that kept coming to her, one among many, for her thoughts went like this, jumping from moment to moment, the reminders of days. One back in summer, when the world was rosier, and they had seen their friends at a wonderful pub. The one with the small stream out back, the name annoyingly escaping her every time it came to mind. It was a lovely one, a quaint pub, with an outdoors bit, the place where they sat with their friends, sipping ale and wine. Getting drunk. How in that moment, chatting and laughing, it had all seemed so fickle like a great pause had turned to play, as now they were back together, their lives could go on.

A memory like this didn’t last long however, no, her mind had become an old scratched VCR tape, jumping from scene to scene, bleeding in black and white, broken, just like the tapes he had put on when they began dating. Even though it was the mid 10’s, where a VCR had long left the shelves. She froze it, tried to see in these analogue memories, the moments of fault; was it when he shared those YouTube clips, was it the harmless tutts she gave as he sent on another marauding post, copied and pasted, copied and pasted, another message from a convincing Doctor in the USA. After all, he was dressed up in a suit, he looked so good, so proper. Is that how he would look, when he was gone? Would they all sit there in the church and think it is her fault, that she should have done better.

Her tears kept flowing, whilst her thoughts rolled on, the next scene in their movie, her self-critical commentary playing as a score. Maybe he had been right, her thoughts interrupting her thoughts, that this was all a big misunderstanding; he wasn’t sick, how could he be? He had to be right. Soon, this matter would be an outtake or leaving behind their movie sharing, better yet, like a mistakenly brought meal in a restaurant. They loved going to restaurants or ordering takeaways. He would always microwave the food when they got home, the food had to be hot; she broke again at the image of him, waiting for the timer to go on their chicken curry.

Yet, what was it, mind moving once more, the chat they had last Christmas when they couldn’t visit her family, what is it he had said, “let’s go out anyway, they don’t know anything. They will say it’s all this fuss but it’s really just a cold! They want to control us” ...oh, what cold kills, it had been a mantra; she placed her hands on her freezing nose, then rubbing onwards and down, across her body to keep warm, and after all this, she had had hundreds of colds and never ever been to the hospital for them. In 28 years of life, so how can it be, this thing, this thing on the tv screen; tv isn’t real, this wasn’t real.

Soon she would find out, she murmured incoherently to herself. Her conviction unravelled. She pretended to stare up at the window and wondered like she had done every day, which room belonged to him. For she had seen this garden with its tiny pond for the first time from his room. Otherwise, she may never have known it was here. Back then, she had seen it while it was still moving with water, not much more than a puddle, no life within, yes seen it from his window, by the bed they put him in, when he first came into the hospital, coughing.

A cold snap had come throughout the week, as it does in December, with it the turning of this pond to white. To a thin layer of fragile ice. But back then, on Monday, when it was warmer, and it was just a silly test that came back positive, oh how they laughed. They laughed! Or had he just laughed? Had she been noticing the small garden down by the side building, just off the car park with ugly grass. While he squirrelled away excitedly, to tell people on reddit or Twitter, or whatever he was on, those friends he had made, the ones that he joked with. And a joke it had been, oh yes, she remembered what he said, “hun, it’s made in a lab by the Chinese to hurt our stock market and now they are using it to take away freedoms and money from people” and he had mentioned, “really, do you think that an untested vaccine would be safe? How do we know what will happen in twenty years?”

She murmured more, as a dream elapsed, for she was so tired, maybe she had been dreaming on this bench the whole time. Ever since she sat down. Beaten by how once more she would need to go to that room, all wrapped in plastic and eyeballed and tested. Oh, how the sterile clothes kept her from touching him, unable to comfort him, unable to hold him.

There she saw those red devil wires abusing him. Were they too a lie? The doctors came like monsters into the room, she had thought of it, but now she had proof, after all, he had convinced her, he was right and she was wrong. These giant white lies coming to steal their life away. Dancing they did through bleached corridors, yelling at her while she suffocated in used grocery rags. What now would become of him, would they lie and hide him away; no, she would go back inside, and the warmth would come again, Spring, is when the lie would be revealed, the scheming relented, and the heroes triumphant.

She could see it now outside, as the whites grabbed her, see it, out there by the pond, the melted pond, back to life with fish and reeds, and he is sitting next to her holding her, reminding her playfully that it had all been a scam. Yes, through the window she could see that life had returned to her, and the ground was soft and full of grass, perhaps a little bit playfully muddy, dark stains licking her boots as she kicked her heels.

The dream fell further again, as it intertwined now with memory and nostalgia, their embrace in bed one hot sweaty night, love pulsing in the air, and in her hand a needle, with him soundly sleeping, he would never know that she had saved their life; he could happily go about, sleeping soundly with that gift, sweet and invisible, an unheard whisper of, “I love you”, as he dreamed of the football or having a laugh with the lads. And her own dream wondered, for what could have happened if she had been not a withering fruit or a buried seed. If her thoughts had been her own and she had convinced him instead of her.

“Fucking bastards”, she said aloud as she jerked awake. Her jacket moving uneasily, half frozen in this night to day. She closed her eyes once again and squeezed her tired lids so hard that they cut dry skin. As her fingers tighter still, ripping at the cotton gloves with nails, they dug in past the gentle fabric and into her palms, until surrendered, she fell once more.

This time in the fall, the blame was there with him and he was sorry like he had been yesterday. She forgave him and herself. And she knew him, the real him, his charming eyes and funny Brummie accent. A gift came in a scene, and she saw how they met, picking fruit on a farm in Australia, when all the boys had been after her, except him. Except him, slightly shy and funny, they had chatted amongst the fruit trees and moaned about the heat; spoke of how they didn’t even eat that much fruit anyway, and the whole thing was kinda pointless, silly really. Finally, as they had done, all those years ago, they snuck away in the night, gliding through the warm outback air, together.

Finally, an itch of reality came; awakened fully, she went inside, was there for him, and she held his hand, as she lost him. And then back, back to Nan's house, for her to be held, to cry by the fire, and to have a cup of tea.


About the Creator

Josh Clements

Known to scribble away at my fantasy novel, screenplays, poems and short stories.

Tastes may vary.

Twitter: @JoshuaClements89

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