A Port Phillip Life;
Eighty four…. and counting.
He woke wanting to pee. It was still dark and he rolled out of the low bed and stood a bit unsteadily before walking into the bathroom across the hall; he did it several times every night and was confident in the dark. He turned on the light and watched the yellow urine dribble into the pan and checked his watch, it was a quarter to five. He shut the window and returned to his warm bed, and the next time he opened his eyes he could see the outline of the wall of books next to the bed. It wasn't light enough to see the titles, and he wondered yet again why he kept getting library books when he could reread all the old favourites; there were more than enough to see him out!
He recognised one small book held together with a rubber band as Rudyard Kipling's Kim, a birthday present from his mother on his fifteenth birthday; he must have re-read it almost every year off and on since then! Despite Kipling's colonial overtones, that book gave you the authentic feel of the dust of the Great Trunk Road and the India of the British Raj. He'd visited Lahore once chasing an airport consultancy and had gone to the museum just to see Kim's gun standing on its brick platform; the Zam-Zammah the local people called it, a fire breathing dragon. He also recalled that Kim had gone to the Himalyas with his lama where they'd had an encounter with intruding Russian surveyors; pity Bush and Blair hadn't read the history of the Afghan Wars before involving us in that fiasco!
Yellow light reflected on the reveal of the bathroom window in the adjoining apartment showed that his neighbour was up so it must be after six. Once again he admired the rainwater head on the end wall of the building and felt obscure satisfaction that some unknown architect had felt compelled to sensitively design an element of the building that few people would ever notice; like those gargoyles so high up on Gothic cathedrals that you couldn't see the carved figures. He'd read that the masons often showed the clergy in a bad light in these hidden places and his mind flitted over Cardinal Pell being evasive on TV last night.
Twenty minutes later there was enough light to read the closest book titles at eye level and he identified 'Hard Times' and remembered Mr Gradgrind but for the life of him couldn't recall the names of the other characters. A few minutes later he pushed back the blankets and went back to the bathroom, dribbled half a cup of urine again, gargled and spat before inserting his teeth. He shaved and washed and dried his face, and after he'd dressed did a few bending and stretching exercises to loosen up.
He left the flat, walked down the stairs to the street and
re-entered the building at the next staircase but one and quietly
opened the door to the ground floor apartment of his wife. He
opened the blinds and hugged his wife who was still in bed before
quietly making coffee and putting out the breakfast
He spooned seven spoonfuls of breakfast cereal into a bowl for himself while listening to Fran Kelly, by which time his wife had joined him at the table.
The side effects of the radiation treatment for his prostate cancer made him get up three or four times during the night to pee, so he slept separately in the spare bedroom in his apartment during the week so as not to disturb her. Both regretted the loss of intimacy and he joined her at weekends trying not to wake her each time he had to leave the bed. He used the living room of his flat as his office and his wife used the other bedroom for dressmaking and office things; she made her strange artworks at her studio at the allotment gardens. They walked out on the pier every morning after breakfast to get all the stiff joints working, before going to their respective work places. He always marvelled at the great fresh openness of the Bay at their doorstep; it was a good way to start the day.
What had it all been about, this life he struggled on with? He tried to find some sort of response in his writing that only a few people read but found few answers. But he didn't feel unhappy, he'd run his own business for over fifty years and it died hard, solving design problems and telling people what to do! His writing gave him the chance to research whatever he was writing about; he was pedantic about facts, spelling and words! His wife thought that he could be doing something more useful, and he agreed with her but didn't know what else he could do, designing buildings had been his life and he didn't watch sport or have any hobbies other than reading and writing.
Occasionally he thought about his coming death, hoping that it would be quick, anything to avoid one of those 'God's waiting room' places. He pondered how you spend a lifetime struggling to understand the world, and then you die and it's all for naught. He supposed you had to accept that saying of Gropius he had always quoted to students, that if you live your life creatively with as much integrity as you can, there will always be someone who'll pick up where you left off, and that will be your legacy; that we are like those small animals each helping to create the Great Barrier Reef.
Stop being morbid, he told himself, it was his week to cook and he needed to go and buy some mushrooms for a risotto before it stated raining again.
Don Gazzard LFAIA