15 Minute Write
“ Are you okay? “
There were visible tears on this old guy propped against the railing overlooking the derelict pier, accentuated by how they were washing rivulets in what looked like layers of filth down his hard-lived face.
“ Uh. Yeah. What do you want? “ Most people ignored him now, or just abused him, he knew this was his fault, he had come to expect it, to believe that he deserved it.
“ You look upset, that’s all, sorry " She was taken aback by the rudeness. She was only showing concern for his wellbeing.
There was something about this girl. Her bleached blonde hair, her casual carefree manner, her charm, her toughness. She didn’t look like she was going to punch him or rob him, but more, she didn’t look utterly appalled by his appearance or stench - he clocked she was up-wind, luckily.
" Do you mind me asking why the tears? " She asked it in such a tentative way as to appear genuine, but he knew by now not to let his guard down. Life had taught him few things, but distrust was something he had learnt and now excelled in through constant practice.
" It’s nothing. Just this place " He waved his hand at the pier in front of them, the rusting and decrepit hunk of cast iron, wood and brick.
" It’s beautiful, in its way, isn’t it? ", she offered in the hope of getting more out of him.
" Hmmmph, not now it isn’t. But I remember when it was the centre of my world "
“ Dry your eyes “, she passed him a paper hanky
" Do you live here? ", immediately realising what a stupid question that was. ‘Live’ implied a home, and this guy was, clearly, someone who didn’t have a regular roof over his head.
He let it slide.
" Nah, when I was a kid I grew up here - would spend all my school holidays here with my aunty who owned a guest house, I’d help out until it all got a bit shit. She got arrested, I told her to run and hide, she didn’t ", too much, he realised by the look of horror on this girl’s face. He needed to simmer down, he was almost enjoying this conversation. The first, he realised, he’d had in days, maybe weeks.
" They were good days. I was just trying to remember someone I met before I left for the last time. It was in 1979, I remember as that was the year the last steamer left from here. "
" Gosh - that’s an age ago, I’m not sure my parents were even born then…. "
" Yeh, no shit Sherlock. But really, it’s not that far back. I’m only 60… ", he realised how pathetic that must have sounded ‘only’, plus he probably looked at least 15 years older than he was, certainly his body felt like it after ten years on the road.
"Sorry," he offered, realising he’d upset her
" It’s just when I was your age I thought I’d remember everything and here I am now not even remembering the name of the girl I messed around with that year - and she has such an impact on my life. I was crying because of how little I remember and, probably, a little bit for her and what might have been, it feels like it could have made a difference"
"It’s alright. Can I do anything to help? Do you want some money for food or something"
He looked at her with condescending eyes - he hadn’t thought she was one of those do-gooders, his face puckered like hers might have had she been downwind of him. But again that look in her eyes.
" Thank you. But no. Unless you want to try and get out to the island. You see in the arcade - the building behind the lifeboat station, there’s a wall with her name carved in the wood panelling. If I could only recall her name, I reckon the memories might flood back. "
" I wish I could help. I’d love to see what it is like over there. Do you remember anything else about her? "
" I remember her birthday. 1st June, that was when we were over there last. And I remember calling her my Sunday Girl "
" Why that? "
"You know, I'm not really sure, perhaps I only saw her Sundays because of helping out at my aunties?"
He turned to look at her properly. He never really looked at people any more, trying to avoid eye contact and the agonisingly hurtful looks on people’s faces that he seemed to generate. Did she remind him of her? Who was this girl? Who was the girl who had uncontrollably formed these tears of his? Why was unable to remember the things he thought he would never forget?
Weston-super-Mare, February 2023. Nikon d750
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