Disconnected – a short story

Beep Beep

The dark is full of noise

She remembers seeing him at Sunday School.  He’d been small for a seven year old, smaller than her, and he’d always sat alone at the side of the room, solemnly perusing the proceedings through his round, thick lensed, spectacles. She had always been too busily enthralled in the harsh teachings of heaven and hell to ever acknowledge him, even though, or perhaps because, her mum cleaned for his.

The Watsons had only lived down the road from her, but their house couldn’t be more different. Her and her mum lived in a tiny terraced cottage whose only front window edged the pavement. It was all her mum could afford when Dad had gone. But the Watson’s house had a drive, a front garden, and even a porch. As a child she had thought of him as the rich, boring, swotty boy, and didn’t really notice when he was sent off to boarding school when he reached eleven.

Beep Beep

She had seen him now and again during the holidays. He usually had his head down and earphones tight on his head.  He had dressed eccentrically, usually jacket, baggy wool trousers, shirt and bow tie, and the girls used to titter about it.

‘A bow tie, for goodness sake, who the hell does he think he is?’

‘Not exactly a looker is he?’

‘eewww…fancy kissing ‘im…’

‘bit looney’

and they’d all laugh cruelly.

Beep Beep

She remembers asking her mother about him.

‘What’s he like, the Watson kid?’

‘Nice boy. Very polite. Bit of an odd bod perhaps, but very bright. He’s on the county cricket team you know.’

‘Really?’ He plays sport? But he’s blind as a bat, isn’t he?’

‘Well, he wears contacts these days I think. And don’t be wicked, he can’t help his eyesight.’

When they were both eighteen the Watson’s had thrown a party.  Her mother had made her go.

Beep Beep

‘I don’t know who else will be going, I don’t want to be stood there all on my own.’ She’d said ‘come on, you might enjoy it.  It’s a garden party. You never know, they might have champagne!’

So they’d gone along together, her mum in her best cocktail dress, and her in a new outfit bought especially for the occasion from Dorothy Perkins. It struck her how odd it was to remember such minor details. Her mum had treated her, but insisted on having some say on what she bought, so she’d ended up with a light blue trouser suit and white blouse that would ‘do for interviews later on’.

He was there, at the gate, meeting and greeting. It had been the first time she had seen him smile.

‘Hi, Roslyn.  Gosh, you look lovely today’ he’d said. She remembered being surprised that he even knew her name.

‘Thank you Josh’ she’d said trying to accept the compliment gracefully ‘you look, erm interesting!’ She knew he wouldn’t mind, he was after all, wearing a harlequin costume.  She’d had a second of panic wondering if mum had forgotten to tell her it was fancy dress.

‘Oh don’t worry, no-one else is dressed up’ he’d said, reading her thoughts ‘I just like to cause consternation to the old folk, mum won’t speak to me!’ and he’d winked at her, conspiratorially. She remembered the slight frisson that that fleeting moment of collusion had given her.

He led her and her mum across the lawn to where the food and drinks were laid out, told them to ‘dig in’ and left them to go and mingle with the rest of the guests.

‘Did you know he’s going to the same uni as you’ her mum had announced as she picked out a plump sausage roll. Was there any champagne?

‘Really? What’s he doing?’

‘Medicine. His mum won’t stop telling everyone how he’s going to be a doctor’ her mother said, rolling her eyes. ‘Perhaps you could get together there.  Be nice if you married a doctor!’

‘Oh for goodness sake mum. I’m not going to marry him. You can forget that right now.’

Beep Beep

In fact, she had bumped into him in the first month or so of her new independent life. In Macdonalds. She had a face full of Big Mac when he sat down opposite her.

‘Do you mind?  There are no other tables and it was nice to see a friendly face.’ He’d said, putting his tray down carefully.

‘No, no, course not. Good to see you.’ She hadn’t been sure if it was good or not. He was still wearing the bow tie, had a severe short back and sides, and to be honest, wasn’t looking like the coolest dude in town to be seen with. Still, they had chatted for a bit, he told her how tough he was finding his course, while she complained about her digs and the flatmates she’d be thrown in with.

Eventually though, he’d left with a throw away ‘see ya’, and they’d only ever bumped into each other a few times after that, usually when one or the other was running to a lecture.

Beep Beep

Her mother had kept her updated about his progress.

‘Josh passed his finals, he’s a proper doctor now!’

She remembered how inadequate that had made her feel. She had spent her uni years enjoying life, and only scraped through her course.  She’d ended up working in an office, finding a boyfriend there whom she eventually married, and producing three children with him. It disconcerted her that she couldn’t remember any details, not even the children’s names. As though all those years were meaningless.

Beep Beep.

She hadn’t seen Josh since.

Now though, through her still, glassy eyes she recognised him instantly amongst the many others wearing scrubs. He looked concerned.  She wondered if he recognised her, and wanted to say ‘hey Josh, it’s me’ but couldn’t.  Couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. It struck her that they knew each other without knowing each other at all.

Beep Beep

She tried looking from another angle, and found she was easily able to float above her prostrate body.  Looking down from above, as she was, she could see the nurses blotting the blood from her twisted face, and the tubes attached to her.  She could sense the tension emanating from the doctors.  Josh, older, greyer, but still wearing his bow tie, barked instructions at the others.

There was no emotion or feeling. She could see them working, talking. She could see the machines attached to her and noticed with interest that the one which had been beeping out it’s mechanical tune whilst tracing her fluctuating heartbeat on a screen, now showed a constant line.

The last sound she heard was Josh’s voice flatly pronouncing

‘Time of death, eleven forty eight.’

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