This is my story about loneliness.
The elderly man made his way from the shop with a shuffling gait, shoulders hunched, head down watching for anything that might cause him to trip or fall. People hurried by, barely noticing him. Despite being tall and smartly dressed he was all but invisible to the world. He clutched the handles of his shopping bag in his arthritic fingers, fearing if he dropped it he would not be able to bend down to pick it up again.
The girl in the shop had been very helpful. He chuckled at the thought. Girl, was maybe the wrong word. She was probably in her forties but she seemed like a girl to him. She had waited patiently while he had emptied his basket onto the conveyor belt, smiled at him and said 'hello', even put his shopping in his bag for him, but she wasn't the chatty one, the one who asked how he was and who told him about her grandchildren.
He reached his house and let himself in, removing his overcoat on the way to the kitchen, dropping it on the chair in the hall.
Grandchildren, he thought, as he switched on the kettle to make some tea. He had three but couldn't remember the last time he saw any of them, nor his children for that matter. The grandkids, two boys and a girl, were all pretty much grown up now. All at university, with their own friends. It wasn't as if their parents could drag them round to visit any more. And they all lived so far away, not like the old days when families stayed in the same area.
He put his shopping away. A couple of tins of soup and some bread. He never did a large shop, not like the youngsters did. He couldn't carry a big bag and there was no way he was going to use one of those trolley things. Besides, if he didn't go to the shop every day he didn't see anyone.
Winter was the worst time. Cold, dark and often wet. If it was raining too much he would stay indoors. No point in getting soaked and catching a cold. Those days dragged. With only the television for company he often found himself talking back to the screen, especially if some stupid politician was trying to say how wonderful things were.
He took his cup of tea into the living room and settled himself in his chair by the window. He liked looking out at what went by. He was lucky he could see the street. Some might say he was nosey, but what else was there to look at? Four walls and the television? He would rather watch the people and cars going by than stare at the TV all day.
He sipped his tea and tried to remember when David, his eldest, had last telephoned. People, these days, were supposedly never off their phones, yet David never called him. Yes, phones worked both ways, but the last time HE had called David he was made to feel like he was being a nuisance. He was only supposed to call in an emergency, not for general chit-chat.
What would happen, the old man wondered, if he just drifted off here in his chair. Gone to that great, long sleep from which there was no waking. Would anyone miss him? How long would he be sitting in this chair before anyone realised what had happened?
Copyright©Kristen Stone 2018