You needed to see it for yourselves – the last time
wasn’t so bad, after all. You’d taken him out
to eat. He’d had some, spilled his half of shandy,
seemed pleased at news of next year’s wedding.
When you drove him back, he’d not asked you in.
You could live with that. You put it down
to tiredness, left. If not content, satisfied.
Duty done. Now there’ve been calls, texts. The door barred
to the lady who pops in to check and clean.
He’s not left out washing; been absent, missed.
So you go. Just three weeks, not the normal four.
He seems thinner. Uncombed, unshaved, unwashed.
The flat’s neglected: the fridge bare. An air
of quiet decay, despair. You find a shirt,
sweater, coat, go with him to buy food. The pub lunch
offer gets rejected. Instead he lets you
make poached eggs. Toys with them, is tearful,
trembles. When you try to shift the topic
from scolding him or fretting, he slips back
half a century. Those early rose-lit days
of marriage. On the trip home, unsaids choke
the car. At last, you turn in, stop. Your man looks away,
clears his throat.
He can’t remember Mum. He’s mixed her up
with the wife before, the one who died
at twenty four. Twelve months, they had. That’s all.
It’s just not fair. That’s what hurts the most.