The year is 2044. The time is 12pm. The church service has just ended and so have the usual pleasantries. My wife and I set off for home.
We love to walk, my wife and I. It was a habit we picked up while we were young. There was something about walking that aided us think and plan for our future. Besides, we did not have the money to keep meeting in restaurants. Meeting in our rented bedsitters was not particularly encouraged. It was only a few months to the big day and we did not want to make sport of our chastity. Hence we walked. We have been doing so for the past thirty years of our marriage.
Our kids never understood why we insisted on going for evening walks. However, I have this peculiar feeling they now do. Several times I have descried Eric and his wife walking about town-hand in hand. It took a while for him to come around. Eric was introverted and incurably coy. When that time came for father and son to talk about girls, he flinched. This wrought me great relief for I too was not ready to delve into the subject.
Unlike Eric, Carol was the life of the party. She brought sunshine into every insipid room. Unfortunately, her sanguine nature could not distinguish between occasions. One time she turned up for a friend’s funeral adorning a pair of Bermuda shorts. You should have seen the look on her mother’s face. Bermuda shorts! Who does that? Well, Carol does. Nonetheless, much to my happiness, Carol had an inclination for the outdoors. Chief among her past-times was bird-watching- a hobby we shared. I did not have to beg her to join us for a walk as I did Lance.
Now Lance was something. Eric and Carol never quite understood him. He was always on his computer working on a new app or another project beyond their comprehension. It wasn’t unusual for Lance to go on and on about a new technology that required the genius of Einstein to understand. His immutable manner of breaking the ice started with ’Did you know..?’ This did not go down well with the lasses who gravitated towards Eric whenever they visited. Lance was not the least bothered. He deemed girls to be a distraction. My wife and I encouraged this in his early years. In retrospect, I fear we might have erred. Lance is still single. And to answer your question, he still finds girls a distraction.
Yes, we love walking, my wife and I. I can see the gate to our home now. She has not spoken a word since we left church. Young lovers might deem this awkward. However, to old lovers, silence can be golden. Overtime, one can tell when silence is attributed to trouble brewing or a blissful state. In this instance, it was the latter. I stole a surreptitious glance at her. Old age was taking its toll; she walked with a slight bend and there was a noticeable tremor in her fingers; the wrinkles on her brow folded deep and the skin on her arms hanged loosely. Yet she still had her wits. Her quick witty rejoinders always reminded me of when we first met.
It was at the Supermarket. I did not immediately notice her for she was ordinary, so ordinary for one of my ilk to notice. You see, back then, I had the reputation of being something of a ladies’ man. In order to avoid tarnishing this fine reputation, I flirted with girls whenever and wherever, and more often than not, with no particular end in mind. I was always at the top of my game, never allowing the lass for a minute to get the best of me. Yet that is exactly what happened on that day.
The lines at the cashiers were excruciatingly long. In an effort to while away time, I took at my phone. Accessing the internet via a mobile device was still kind of a big deal. I tapped. I swiped. I smiled sheepishly. I moved along the line like a Zombie freely roaming the graveyards; placing one foot in front of the other without giving much thought to where it landed. Yes, I was one of the walking dead; dead to this world, alive to another in the palm of my hands.
A tap on my shoulder attempted to bring me back to earth. I ignored it. It came a second time with such vigour I could not possibly disregard. I turned around.
‘Please don’t,’ the lady behind me whispered.
‘It is unbecoming of a gentleman to pass a chance at good conversation. So please don’t,’ she said while pointing at the phone in my hands.
I slid it back into my pocket and scratched my head for something to say. I did not have to try so hard. She was at hand to help.
‘You could start with the weather’
‘Ha! The weather! Let us try books, shall we?’
‘Sounds good, which kind of books?’
She smiled. Two tiny dimples formed across each side of her chocolate cheeks. She raised her eyebrows revealing a pair of eyes that seemed to grow more beautiful with each passing second. There was something about her. I could not quite put a finger on it but it was there, somewhere. Her beauty was not striking. I took a while to notice it. It was hid under a facade of ordinariness and only rose to the surface after a considerable period of interaction. As I stared, she uttered these words that have forever been etched in my heart and mind.
‘I think we are going to be good friends, you and me.’
Scores of years later we are still good friends, my wife and I. She completes my thoughts. She knows when to intrude and when to let me be. She knows the rhythm of my steps for she can tell which part of the house I am in at any one time. Heck, she even knows the whiff of my interiors. She would scorn me whenever I broke wind during dinner and tried to blame the boys. She knows…
The year is 2014. The time is 12 am. A phone ringing startles me from a deep slumber. I stare blankly at the uncompleted programme code on the computer. The Ministry of Defence will have to wait a little bit longer for its security software. I pick up the phone. I want to hit the red button. My thumb lands on green.
Hi, who is this?’
‘It’s Sheila. We met at the supermarket, remember?’
‘Ah, Sheila the Technophobe’
‘That’s the one. I was wondering if we could go for a walk sometime.’
‘You call me at midnight to invite me for a walk?’
‘You do realise how preposterous that sounds’
‘Yes but it’s worth your while’
‘Ok. Sounds good’
‘Great. I’ll call you’
And with that she hung up. I went to bed that night with an ominous yet pleasant feeling that Sheila was going to be an integral part of my life.