On the day that the UK Government announced a Minister For Loneliness I thought this short story might be timely.
Although it looks at a loneliness of a different type than we might immediately think of, it is still relevant in the modern times. A time where the state apparently feels it necessary to have a minister to address loneliness now that the family unit has so thoroughly been dismantled.
I have called it The Silence Of The Boxes, artwork photo by Misael Nevarez
The light was fading now. The last vestiges of sunlight dipping below the mature trees on the opposite side of the road. It was the third time Sheila had moved home and none had been from choice. They say third time lucky but she was not so sure. Moving had not bought luck before, so why would this time be any different?
The room was becoming cooler now, and she pulled her coat around her shoulders, tighter. Like a lovers embrace, a lover who was not there. A lover who had long gone. Her lover had said she was bored, bored with the silence, of one way conversations. Maybe she would come for her one day. Maybe she would regret it, and maybe she wouldn’t. Only time will tell.
There was a half-finished bottle of wine by the chair, Sheila reached out, it seemed to fit her hand, the neck feeling like a handle. A door handle. And she knew what was behind that door, because it had been ajar for a long while now as she peeked in.
As the pale fluid sloshed into a discoloured glass, Sheila noticed finger-marks on it, finger-marks that were not hers, and as the glass came up to her lips it smelt strangely of her lover, evoking memories of happier times, shared by two happier people. Setting the glass down she looked around the room. The shadows were lengthening now. Even so, they could not hide the boxes that surrounded her.
They seemed to be accentuating them if anything, giving the room an angular, harsh dimension, her life was in boxes now. Reduced to brown cardboard containments of a lifetimes memories. Packed away till the next time she dared look inside. To peek inside. She plucked up the courage to display the contents, arrange them on a shelf, try on cracked faded shoes from dance competitions long ended and gaze at pictures of awards earned in some far off ballroom.
The phone in the hall rang. She would let it ring. It’s shrill jangling echoing off the empty hard walls, now bare of any pictures, like the room she was sat in. Like the life she now had
Alone, Sheila couldn’t speak to anyone anyway; maybe that’s what her lover had meant, but she had never spoken to anyone. Not even as a child.
Because that’s what being a mute is.