RUNNING OUT OF LOVE

Time is a cruel master, driving age onwards and relentlessly wearing down everything. Eventually even love runs out.

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1. RUNNING OUT OF LOVE

 

 

When love comes to an end, weaklings cry, efficient ones instantly find another love, and the wise already have one in reserve.

Oscar Wilde 1854 - 1900

 

 

Kevin first noticed that something was wrong when Sharon started calling him Tom. He thought nothing of it initially, because she still called him Kevin most of the time. But when he realized that it was happening more and more often, he began to think about why she was doing it. ‘Does she have a lover called Tom?’ was the first thing that came to mind. ‘Or am I just judging her by my own standards?’

 

‘No, let’s stop this right now,’ he told himself, because he knew he was simply comparing her with the woman he’d met all those years ago. Young, carefree, happy and attractive. And with whom he’d spent most of his life. The woman she no longer was. Now that she had whatever she had. Whatever it was that was wearing her down. Making her unpredictable, moody and obviously unhappy. And now that the gaiety was gone, ugly too. Because she so rarely smiled. And she never, never laughed. Ever. It was as if she was wearing a perpetually ugly mask. One that changed her whole persona.

 

***

 

Sharon went to the doctor. But he wasn’t much help. He told her it was all part of the aging process.

 

‘Tom, it’s me,’ she said when Kevin answered the phone. ‘He says it’s quite normal. You know, to misplace your keys. Or to forget what book you were reading.’

 

‘What about forgetting your husband’s name?’ Kevin asked himself when she’d rung off. He thought about what she’d said. ‘Well, perhaps her doctor’s right.’ After all, he told himself, he’d forget things occasionally. Where he’d put something. The name of the person he’d just passed in the mall. And he even mislaid his keys from time to time.

But the serious nature of her problem was brought home to him when she phoned one day from a supermarket. ‘You see, I’ve got the keys, Tom, but I can’t remember where I’ve left my car.’

 

He looked up the so-called ten signs test. Lots of medical gobbledygook about feeling the cold more. Dressing regardless of the weather. Wearing warm gear on a hot day, or shorts on a cold one.

Falling asleep in front of the TV. Mood swings. ‘What a load of crap,’ Kevin concluded. ‘I’ve been presenting most of those symptoms myself for most of my life.’ So he tried to dismiss the problem. ‘Perhaps I’m just being paranoid. Maybe I should simply try to forget it.’

 

‘I suppose it could be worse,’ he thought, ‘Let’s just hope she improves. It’s not as if she’s started hiding turds in the fridge or anything like that. Not yet anyway.’

 

***

 

Of course there were good times. ‘Like that holiday we had on the island,’ he remembered. A long while ago perhaps, but he remembered it well. ‘When we met that nice couple,’ he remembered. In fact there were times when he still remembered that nice young couple very well. Especially Janet. ‘Yes, that was her name. And her boyfriend or fiancée was Henry or Herbert or Harry or something like that.’ He wondered if Sharon remembered him well. As well as he remembered Janet. He sighed. ‘Those were the days, as the saying goes. When we were young and still in love. When what the four of us did together didn’t matter. Because once the holiday was over they went back to their lives and we came back to ours. And we never saw them again. Nor did we hear from them.’

 

But all that was long before his world with Sharon had started to fall into a heap.

 

***

 

Over twenty odd years they’d had their ups and downs. Of course they had. But now that these symptoms persisted, and in fact got worse by the day it seemed, their relationship was much more bad than good.

 

There can be no doubt that Kevin loved Sharon. But he loved women. In general that is. So much so that he always seemed to be in trouble with them. Although he never articulated it in this way, the concept of monogamy was counter intuitive. For him. And although he may not have been consciously aware of it, he would have been prepared to extend this license to Sharon. Although this may not be viewed as politically correct my many people, perhaps even most, that’s the way it was and that’s the way he saw life. So, from his early days he’d thought nothing of a bit on the side.

 

But Kevin didn’t have any time for Sharon’s mother. Kevin and Helen rarely saw eye to eye. It had been like that from the start. Early on in their marriage, Sharon was quite taken aback when she asked him one day, ‘Is it OK if my mum comes on holiday with us this year? She’s very lonely and all that, all on her own, you know.’

 

Kevin looked at her in disbelief. It was the first time she’d seen him really angry with her, ‘What? You fucking mad Sharon? When we go away we could meet someone nice. Play around with them a bit. Like we did last time. But with her in the wings, no one would be interested. Because not many beds are built for five people. So, she comes, I stay. And that’s it.’ Then he walked out.

 

***

 

Of course there were times when things reached rock bottom. ‘Well what of it? I only fucked her once. When I was drunk. Years ago. You carry on as if I’m still in love with her.’

They were talking about an office party when things had got out of hand. Too much alcohol, and in those days, too much testosterone. There had been a fight too, though, thankfully he’d not been involved, so he didn’t have that one to explain away.

 

Funny enough, Sharon had accepted his excuse without too much fuss. ‘She was a dog anyway. No tits and with a bum like the back of a bus,’ was all she’d said.

 

Kevin chose not to respond to these jibes. It was the best way to handle her when she was in a mood like that. And in fact Sharon was wrong. Her memory had distorted the facts. In any case, Kevin consoled himself by remembering that Pam had had a good figure. Nice tits. A sensuous arse, and, as it happened, he remembered that she’d been quite a good fuck.

 

**

 

But things didn’t improve.

In fact they got much worse. Sharon had become slovenly. She’d long ago stopped working, and sat around at home in her dressing gown. She’d stopped eating, become emaciated and looked a mess. The months dragged by and became years.

And she’d stopped calling him Kevin altogether. To her he was only Tom now.

 

Kevin cast around for relief.

 

‘Death is the dirtiest joke,’ he thought. ‘We all have to face it but everyone ignores it. It’s the only way, I suppose. Keep it out of your mind. How else would we ever get through life with something so terrible hanging over our heads?’ Kevin thought for a moment about his own demise. ‘Painless and quick is what I’m hoping for. When the time comes. And what I guess I’m looking for now is something painless and quicker for her.’

 

He thought about Euthanasia. ‘Fuck, what’s wrong with me? That’s not what I mean. Perhaps her thing’s contagious. Perhaps I’ve caught it now. Because I can’t think straight any more. Euthanasia’s tantamount to murder. And they’ll think I was after her money.’

 

Assisted suicide. ‘Yes, that’s more like it. That’s what I mean. A helping hand, so to speak. But not to be confused with masturbation. Because some people use the same euphemism when they’re talking about wanking.’ But when he checked he found it was too complicated. And, more importantly, he realized, probably illegal as well.

 

He dismissed voluntary suicide as well. He just couldn’t see himself being able to talk her into jumping off a tall building. Or eating ground glass. Or getting into the lions’ cage at the zoo. Mad as she was, he thought, but she wasn’t absolutely screwy. Yet.

 

Eventually Kevin just ran out of ideas. And patience. And love.

 

In the end he did nothing about her. But he had something in mind for himself.

 

Kevin made several trips back and forth to his car. ‘Jesus, not much to show for twenty years together.’

 

When Sharon went to the window she thought she saw Tom Hanks loading things into his car. She went back to bed and waited for her cup of tea. Tom always gave her one in the morning. Tea that is, because he’d stopped fucking her long ago. She was still waiting when her mother called late that afternoon.

 

***

 

Kevin phoned Helen. ‘Hello, it’s me,’ was the opening gambit.

There was a long silence, then he said, ‘I’ve had enough. You must come over,’ and hung up.

 

Helen got there as quickly as she could, but the bus was late and it had started to rain. She let herself in with her own key, and checked on Sharon who had taken to living in the spare room. She looked like rubbish, as she did more often than not these days.

 

It was obvious that Kevin had gone. There were boxes of junk strewn about full if obviously discarded items. As if someone had been spring-cleaning. She saw that most of the books were gone. So were the CD’s. And so was almost all of the food for Christ’s sake. She went upstairs to the main bedroom. Kevin’s wardrobe was open. And it was empty.

 

Sharon was lying in bed still in her nighty. She was waiting for the tea that Kevin sometimes brought her. At one time it was almost every morning, but less and less often recently. For the last five years or so, that is.

 

Helen sat down on the edge of the bed. She started to cry, but stopped when Sharon half sat up and looked at her. ‘Hello darling,’ she said to her daughter. ‘How are you feeling?’

 

Sharon stared at Her. She thought Helen looked radiant in her stunning outfit. As she stepped out of the limmosine onto the red carpet in front of the crowd. With Tom just behind her.

 

‘So this is what happens,’ Helen said to herself, ‘when the symptoms set in.'

 

‘Come on darling, we’re going on holiday,’ Sharon thought she heard her mother say. ‘May take a while though. And it could be a bit of a bumpy ride. But I’m sure it’ll be really good for you. You need a holiday, don’t you darling?’

 

‘Yes, yes. I’d love to visit the Carrabean again.’

 

‘Thank God. She's obviously not with us at all,’ thought Helen, ‘Completely off the planet.’

 

Helen wondered if she had the strength. And it did take her quite a while. But eventually she got there.

 

She helped Sharon out of bed. Paying no attention to the blustery weather outside, she dressed her in a fucia blouse, white pants and gold sandals. ‘You look georgious darling. Just the thing for a sunny day at a pool in Georgetown.’

 

She managed to get Sharon into the wheelchair. She told her daughter to wait for her. ‘As if she could do anything else,’ she thought.

 

They waited for the rain to stop. Then Helen drove her car into the garage. ‘Some way to start a holiday.’

She maneuvered the wheelchair through the kitchen and into the back garden. Then she helped her daughter into the garage and into the passenger seat.

‘Will it be long?’ asked Sharon as Helen fastened the safety belt. ‘Till we get there?’

 

‘Dear Lord, why does she choose now to forget that she’s not supposed to be capable of asking rational questions?’ Then she realized that it may have simply been couched ambiguously, so she answered, ‘No darling, not too long. Once we’ve done everything we need to. Then it’s just a hop skip and a jump and we’re there.’

 

She went to the tool shed and collected the hosepipe. ‘Neighbours could have me arrested if they think I’m going to water flowers on a day like this.’

 

She got behind the wheel and held Sharon’s hand. She tried to visualize a tropical sunset. When she had a picture of swaying palms and a blinding white beach set in her mind, she turned the key in the ignition. The engine sprang to life and the colourless, odourless, tasteless and initially non-irritating toxic fumes spread invisible tentacles through the car window, reaching deep into their lungs searching for the terminal bronchioles. 

 

A dull frontal headache started playing around in her skull. Her heart rate increased and her blood pressure dropped.

 

The end had started its work.

 

Helen steeled herself against the synptoms. ‘It’s a small price to pay,’ she told herself as the gas blocked capillaries, saturated bronchioles and stifled alveoli.

 

Her daughter appeared not to notice. She was awake and staring out of the windscreen. Helen hoped that in her mind Sharon could see something nicer than the garage wall.

 

Sharon sat forward and vomited, but Helen never saw the puke spilling out of her mouth and dribbling down her nightdress. Helen's sight was beginning to be affected and she felt confused and dizzy.

 

She settled back in the drivers seat and tried to make herself comfortable. She held tightly onto her daughter’s hand. 'So this is what happens,’ she said to herself, ‘when you run out of love.’

 

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

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