We met in 1952, and I remember her dress from the first day of college. It was red and I asked her out a week after I saw her for the first time. She declined. We still talked though, and I still noticed her. Noticed how no matter how hard she tried to pin her hair away, it would always fall into her face, and how her eyes always wondered why to everything. Then, a year later, after we’d had a bit more time, almost set fire to our homeroom together and passed all the exams we’d studied for, her red pen next to my black, she asked me out. We danced a slow dance by a jukebox, listening to Nat King Cole.
It’s very clear our love is here to stay, not for a year, but forever and a day.
After that it was Jane and I, me and Jane. I got a job as an odd-jobs-boy in a bank, and slowly I climbed the ranks. She was a nurse, and a magnificent one at that. Soon, we’d made enough money to rent a little flat. Two rooms with yellow flowers on the kitchen table and her writing in every corner. Shopping lists, poetry, no matter what, always looped letters, still red ink, still her hair in her face. We never had any children, but we were the storybook ending. The couple who travelled the world, who worked hard to make a home, and as we danced in the light of the fridge and quietly sang our own music, that was enough.
Oh my dear, our love is here to stay, together we’re going a long, long way.
Then, April 24 1961, I was on my way home behind the wheel of our very first car. Spring showers coated the road, but I didn’t notice. I couldn’t wait to get onto the street outside our house. I would honk twice, and when Jane came to the window, I would wave at her and tell her to hop in. I never got to honk or wave, though. On the corner between our block of flats and the little convenience store, a man in a suit lost control of his own car on the wet road and swerved into my side. I never got to show Jane that I’d taped up her picture in the glove compartment, either.
The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know, may just be passing fancies and in time they may go
But I never really left. Jane’s a woman of 78 now. The hair she’s trying to pin away has turned silver, those eyes who once asked the world why, now asks how. There are still yellow flowers on the kitchen table, though. I can touch her, but she doesn’t feel it. When she lies on my side of the bed, alone at night wondering where she is, she can’t feel me gently holding her hands, can’t hear me whisper that it’s okay. But I do.
My girl is getting old, and I can see that her mind, her memories are leaving her. So I follow her around. Every night I lay next to her in bed, and when her brows knit in her sleep and her breath labours, I put my hand on her forehead. I don’t know why, but it calms her. Maybe I’m erasing bad dreams, maybe I’m calling forth forgotten memories of sweeter times. When she puts her clothes on and forgets to wear socks in February, I nudge a pair out of the open drawers so they lie on the floor, a gentle reminder. When she makes her tea I always walk behind and turn off the kettle, and the stove is my responsibility as well. No burning down this home we built together. Of course she doesn’t know this, but she forgets, my girl. Maybe one day she’ll forget me. But that doesn’t matter. And for now, I do the only thing I can, to make sure that this world seems a bit friendlier, as her memories turn to smoke signals no one can decipher for her. Whenever she turns on the radio, I make sure it’s on our channel, the one playing our song. There is always one. I see her smile as once again our house is filled with Nat King Cole’s voice, and as she sways on the kitchen floor and hums the melody she didn’t know she knew, I’ll put my arms around her and we’ll dance again.
The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay, but our love is here to stay.
/This is the short story that is featured in the March issue of The Sound of Winchester, already mentioned in this post. The idea came about on a train journey with Cathy, where we were talking about what if ghosts existed and just kind of hung around, helping out when you needed it. I kind of like the thought of that.