Walking Man

Man  starts to shave. Sees his reading  glasses  on the basin shelf. Wonders why. Wife  tells  him breakfast is  getting cold.   Hurries to the table.  Spoons down porridge.  She gives him a peck on the cheek (when  did they stop kissing  the way they used to? ) and  rushes off to work the way he  once did.

Reaches for  the iPad the way he used to reach for his morning paper, then realises he   needs his glasses.    Man-searches kitchen,  living room,  small office,  second bedroom,  and  – in case he wandered –  the  car garaged downstairs. Then remembers:   The bathroom.  Of course.  Puts them on,  and  reads  fitfully –  all old wine in new bottles.

Decides he   should  go  for  his walk. Changes, puts on  track shoes and  the  fluffy track pants she hates, but then she’s not here to tell him.   She doesn’t  get it. Climbing into  track pants is like  slipping into a warm  bath.

Finds his sunnies and takes off for  his  walk.  Pauses at an intersection:   Thirty minutes or 40 minutes?  Up the hill?  Or along the  kinder levels on its flank?  He  takes the easy option, but is in the slow lane.   Hears a  brisk swishing behind him.   Sees  a grey-haired sari-clad woman  overtake  him.  Puts on a spurt,  though she turns the corner a few hundred metres ahead of him.

It’s early, so he sees  school trains halt  at street corners  then take off again,  powered by innocence and laughter   Men his age  walk too. though laughter is  bloke no-go.  He nods. They nod back,  a polite acknowledgement.  A  mute  acceptance of ebb-tide tugging –  though if they walk fast enough, long enough, they’ll keep ahead of It.

Back home he  reaches  for  the glasses he  left on the piano.  Not there.   Not this again. Logic   should  help:  what  were you doing last when you lost them?  he asks himself.    But Logic  has heard this  too many times before and  doesn’t answer.   Bugger logic.   What does it know? Searches every room – is about to call her when he   walks, grumpy and lost  into the bathroom.

Looks in the mirror.  Sees  a  Walking  Man staring back at him. But more importantly – spots his reading glasses  strung from his  neck.   Makes a cuppa, downs it with a  gingernut,  though neither are what they used to be. One leathery, the other anorexic, unfamiliar.  Looks outside.   Still sunny and the garden  bag needs filling.  Pulls on gardening gloves but not his  favourites. Sometimes he harbours dark thoughts that somebody has nicked them. Logic counter-punches: who would want anything that old?

From the dark recesses of  the end of his garage he launches himself into the sunlight. Way too bright.   Goes back upstairs  to find sunnies. Man-searches kitchen,  living room,  small office,  second bedroom,  car and then remembers:     The bathroom.  Looks in the mirror.  Sees the  sunnies on his head…

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.