ABOUT ONE MIDDLE AGED MAN AND HIS TYPE OF LONELINESS

Wind in your face. Down on your luck and nothing is going right.

Death is a strange thing

We live as if it doesn’t exist

and yet it’s often

our greatest motivation

for living.

Some of us

live harder because of it

more obstinately

with more fury.


Sometimes we become

so preoccupied with it

we go into the waiting room

long before it arrives

to take us.

We fear it.


Yet most of us

fear more

than anything

that it will pass us by.

And leave us

here

alone.


Grief is a strange thing

Something inside a man

goes to pieces

when he has to bury

the only person

who ever loved

cared

and understood him.


There is no time

to heal

that sort of wound.

When someone dear

leaves you behind.

You just stop living


But he wakes up

so he puts on

his worn out jeans

steps into his working boots

although there is no more work

to go to

and he shoves his hands

in his pockets

in that particular way

of a middle aged man

who expects

the worthless world

outside

to disappoint him.


He starts his walk

around the block

by kicking the bins a bit

on the way

he swears

and fishes out a paper cup

from the glass recycling

mumbling

something

about incompetence,

then he turns back.


Life was never meant

to turn out that way.

It’s eight o’clock

on a Tuesday morning

He mends the leaking tap

in the bathroom.

Put new screws

into the handle

and rearranged his tools

in the shed

and now here he is.



On the floor in the living room

his useful-stuff boxes.

Stuff with a function.

Full of screws and nails

and spanner sets

and that sort of things

and one full of documents

he has written and she had signed.


He tried to sue everyone

for the loss of his child

and the spinal injury

of his wife

It was not their fault,

and no one wanted to be responsible.

Not the bus driver,

neither the bus company,

neither condition of the road

or weather was accountable.

He tried to sue them all.


But everywhere,

sooner or later,

he was stopped

by bureaucratic staff

in suits and glasses

and strict,

smug expressions

on their faces.

And one couldn’t fight them.

Not only did they have

the state on their side,

they were the state.

The last complaint was rejected.

The fighting was over

because they had decided so.

And he never forgave them for that.


The bureaucrats at the council

tried to do everything

she did not want

make her stop working

move her out of their house

imply that she was worth less

than a healthy person

who was able to walk

and asserts she was dying

He fought them.

With documents

and letters

and appeals.

AND THEN SHE LEFT HIM ALONE

in a world

where he no longer

understood the language.


She saw everything.

She understood

where he was hurting.

One late wet morning

she rolled up to him

in her wheelchair.

She tok his pen away

slipped her hand into his rough palm.

“That is enough now. No more letters.”

And then it was ENOUGH.

And then one day in May she died.


He mutters ‘idiots’

at the closed window

just to be on the safe side.

Then he stares up at his ceiling.

He doesn’t know

how long

he loses himself

in his own thoughts.

Floats away,

as if in a mist.

He’s never been the sort of man

who does that,


He doesn’t like it all.

When the doorbell goes

it’s like he’s waking up

from a warm slumber.

He rubs his eyes hard,

looks around

as if worried

than someone may have seen him.


He and his neighbour

on his right

had known one another

for almost forty years,

and they had been at loggerheads

for the last twenty five

He could not in all honesty

remember why.


It wasn’t the sort of dispute

where you did remember.

It was more an argument

where the little disagreement

had ended up

so entangled

that every new word

was treacherously booby-trapped,

and in the end

it wasn’t possible

to open one’s mouth at all .

And now his old neighbour

is standing at his door.


He wrinkles his nose

in the way men of his age do

the wrinkle travelling

across his entire upper body.

Then he stares at him.

“O..kay?” Asks the neighbour.

“No! Nowhere is bloody okay round here!”

And with that, he goes back

and closes the door.

He sinks on to the stool

in the hall

and stays there

for a long time.


He knew very well

that his neighbours thought

he was nothing but a grumpy old sod

without any faith in people.

But that was

because people

had never given him reason

to see it another way.

Because a time comes

in all men’s lives

when they decide

what sort of men they’re going to be:

the kind that lets other people walk all over them,

or not.


Instead of the breakfast

he takes down a plastic bottle

from the top shelf in the bathroom.

Towards the end

the doctors prescribed

so many painkillers for his wife.

He thinks about how it would feel,

He has never taken any narcotics.

Hardly any alcohol.

Has never liked the feeling of losing control.

He closes his eyes and think of his wife.

It’s not that he’s the sort of man

who gives up and dies;

he doesn’t want her to think that.

But it’s actually wrong, all this.

She married him.

And now he doesn’t quite know

how to carry on without the tip of her nose

in the pit between his throat and his shoulder.

That is all.


His neighbour calls.

His voice seems somewhat strange.

He puts down the phone

and looks at the photo of his wife on the wall.

She smiles back at him.

It is time to do the right thing, it says.

He knocks impatiently on his neighbour’s door.

There is slow dragging sound inside

before anything happens with the lock.

Then, finally, it opens and his neighbour stands there

looking at him with an empty stare.

It seems to him he sees him properly for the first time

His neighbour's body is emancipated

and hunchbacked, his beard is grey,

bordering on white.

This used to be a solid bloke

commanding a bit of respect,

but now his clothes hang on his body in rags.

He’s grown old: very, very old.


“My mate, at last,” his neighbour exclaims.

“Yeh, well…one thing’s for sure, I’m not the Pope,

he adds hastily

without allowing any time

for emotional smalltalk:

“You still got that electric driller of yours?"


The baggy skin on his neighbour's face

cracks into a sleepy smile.

He heard whispers around

he is suffering from the Alzheimer.

Everyone wonders how he copes,

never married, one lonely chap.

So they end up in his neighbour’s dusty shed

Both men, once as close

as men of that sort could be,

stare at each other.

One of them a man

who refuses to forget the past,

and one who can’t remember it at all.

BOTH LONELY IN THEIR OWN WAYS.

And then they start to look

for that electric drill of his.

Well he has to

because his neighbour

doesn't remember a thing.


Sometimes it is difficult

to explain

why some men

suddenly

do the things they do.

Sometimes of course,

it is because they know

they will do them sooner of later

anyway,

and so they may

as well just do them now.

And sometimes it’s the pure opposite -

because they realise

they should have done them long ago.

We always think there is enough time

to do things with other people

TIME TO SAY THINGS TO THEM.

AND THEN SOMETHING HAPPENS

AND THEN WE STAND THERE HOLDING

ON TO WORDS LIKE ‘IF’.


On his way back from his neighbour’s house

he sees a teenager pushing another glossy thing

inside his neighbour's overflowing post box.

He curses to his direction.

The teenager shows him a middle finger.

Tomorrow he paints for his neighbour

NO JUNK MAIL SIGN.

He walks to the teenager

and grabs hold of his greasy,

late-pubescent shock of hair.

And the teenager hisses back

something about the weird old man

who should be locked away,

trying to free himself

from this mad old man’s iron grip.


He scrutinises the youth

as middle aged men often scrutinise

younger men

who seem to invent

their own grammar as they go along.

He sees fear as the youth scratches his face

with his entire hand, embarrassed and defenceless.

He pushes the drill into his exposed ribs

and watches him to trash around

like a wet puppy he still is.


Then let him go.

Not because he doesn’t think

this late-pubescent moron

doesn’t deserve a proper electric drilling.

Because he does.

But because he knows

it’s been a while since someone reminded him

of the difference between being wicked

because one has to be or because one can.


Then he goes back to the house,

forgotten the pills already.

It is Wednesday tomorrow

they used to go with his wife

to do their arounds

in the afternoon

The builder’s and furniture shop

and garden centre.

She would buy potting soil

and he like to look at tools.

Back in the house

he would help her out of the chair

and gently put her on the ground

so she could do some gardening

in her beloved flowerbeds.

In the meantime

he would fetch a screwdriver

and disappear into the house.

That was the best thing about the house.

It was never finished.

There was always a screw somewhere

for him to tighten.

Maybe life is just like that.


You miss the strangest things

when you loose someone.

Little things. Smiles.

The way she turned round in her sleep.

Even repainting room for her.

His wife.

“I miss you,” he whispers.

It’s been six months since she died.


His wife believed in destiny.

That all roads you walk in life,

in one way or another

‘lead to what has been predetermined of you.’

He, of course, just got very busy

fiddling about with a screw

mumbling under his breath,

men are what they are

because what they do.

But he never disagreed with her.

Maybe to her destiny was something,

that was none of his business.

But to him, destiny was someone.

It was her.

It’s a strange thing,

becoming an orphan at sixteen.

To lose your family

long before

you’ve had time

to create your own

to replace it.

It’s a very specific sort of loneliness.


He thought about his old neighbour

for a while

To him, dignity was simply

that he’d had to manage on his own

when he grew up,

and now when he getting old

he saw it as his right

not to be come reliant on others,

when he was an adult.

There was a sense of pride

in having control.

In being right.

In knowing what road to take

and how to screw in a screw.


His wife once said that his neighbour is just like him

two men caught in the wrong time.

The men who only required a few simple things

from life, she said.

A roof over their heads,

a quiet street,

the right make of car,

and a woman to be faithful to

if one comes by.

A job where you had a proper function.

A house where things broke at regular intervals,

so you always had something to tinker with.


HE DIDN’T KNOW EXACTLY

WHEN HE BECAME SO QUIET.

He’d always be taciturn,

but this was something

quiet different.

Maybe he had started

talking more inside his own head.

it was as

if he didn’t want

other people to talk to him,

he was afraid that their chattering voices

would drown out the memory of her voice.


He lets his fingers run gently

across her gravestone

what he misses most of all

is having things the same as usual.

People need a function, he believes.

And he has always been functional,

no one can take that away from him….


NOW HE LEANS FORWARD

AND LOOKS WITH GREAT SERIOUSNESS

AT THE GRAVESTONE

AND HE TALKS TO HER.

“I know how you felt about

my grudge against our neighbour

on the right,

my beloved one,

and you were right,

we speak the same language

me and him

and he needs me right now."

He pokes his thumbnail

into the palm of his hand.

The gravestone stays where it is

without saying anything,

but he doesn’t need words to know

what she would have thought.


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Comments 6 comments

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 4 weeks ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

As I think through all the reactions this triggered, I find I am left with no words.

I suspect that future students of poetry will be referred to your work, if they are not being directed there already.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 4 weeks ago from Western Australia Author

thank you so much my fellow hubber for your kind words, I write very incorrectly many say in English, because it is not my first language smile, but I just like to do things my way, I just WRITE for love of writing, just like I live for the love of living:)


Byonder5 profile image

Byonder5 4 weeks ago

I really enjoyed that. If I may; you write well. Pared down and sparse but powerful like the protagonist. The chap is very old school masculine, that's just an observation! *Smile/wink* b


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 4 weeks ago from Western Australia Author

Yes he is and there are still plenty around at that age in every culture:) Smile...happy you enjoyed, grumpy old men with iron grip and old fashioned attitudes need their space on our pages too because they are just making our lives just right and remind us that not everything old fashioned is good to forget:)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 weeks ago from Central Florida

Beata, your poetry always tells a story. This one tells of a lifetime of emotions and the struggle Man sometimes grapples with within himself.

Very powerful, Beata!


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 2 weeks ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you my fellow brave warrior , thank you so much for your insightful input:)

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