Dinner at 6:30pm. Roast chicken, potatoes, Bisto gravy. Two slices of buttered white bread. After eating, he’ll roll three cigarettes. Pinch-tuck-roll-lick, pinch-tuck-roll-lick, pinch-tuck-roll-lick – his fingers will move with mechanical precision.
Before he finishes the third cigarette, his head will droop, chin rested on his chest. Embers will stipple the front of his shirt with burn holes. By 8pm he’ll lift himself from his brown and orange armchair and cross the room to kiss his wife goodnight.
The local newspaper will be open on her lap. She’ll wish she was dead.
The dinner tray will be a mess. Gravy will pool, crumbs scattered. She will make her way through to the kitchen, being careful not to drop any of the precariously piled plates and cups down the front of her favourite cardigan.
Leaving the dishes to soak, she will roll herself one cigarette (although she had told her husband she quit months ago). Her hands will shake, knuckles swelled by the cold. From the shelf, she’ll pick a book, one of a dozen or so she has read before and is sure she enjoys. She’ll read – never devour – two chapters, before deciding to go to bed.
She will brush her teeth with a toothbrush too soft. Pull on thick flannel pyjamas covered in lint. Put cream under her eyes in an attempt to ward off large bruise-coloured circles that will no doubt appear in the morning, regardless.
She’ll lay awake and watch the crack that stretches across the ceiling. The crack seems to grow with every passing night. The sound of her husband’s snoring will drill through the wall between them.
She will plan for the day she will leave.
Spain, perhaps. Maybe a little town in the South of France, or Greece. Sun and streets that bustle, bars with pink cocktails, books about love and sex and scandal, mangoes, the smell of suncream on her skin. Tanned young women and men with dark eyes and naive dreams fuck her senseless, they’ll find the wrinkles by her eyes elegant, charming, worship her gracefully ageing body, the mole on her right shoulder blade. Her skin will turn golden, the flush will return to her cheeks. She’ll learn the language, talk to strangers about philosophy, art, literature, the local shop owners will wave to her as she passes, hand her oranges and fresh shrimp, free of charge. She’ll cook food with spices she’s never heard of, won’t wear an apron, she’ll eat on the balcony of her simple apartment overlooking the sea, listening to Dean Martin sing ‘Sway’ on a second-hand record player. She’ll stay out late into the night, dance, spin, sing, then sleep naked between cool white sheets.
The sound of her husband knocking on the door will wake her. Breakfast at 6:30am. Two digestive biscuits. Coffee, too much milk and not enough sugar. She will prop herself up with a pillow. The biscuit will break, leaving a thick brown paste in the bottom of her mug – she won’t eat the second biscuit. She will desperately cling to the faint smell of the sea.
Her husband will ask what she is making for dinner tonight, the question pulling her off her little balcony and into the bedroom. And she’ll say she doesn’t know, she’ll check the fridge, she’ll go to the butchers, she’ll defrost something from the freezer.
Dinner at 6:30pm. Leftover bolognese. Two slices of buttered white bread. She’ll wish she was dead.
Josephine Sharpe is a writer and filmmaker, living and working in London. Her writing is soon to be published in The Daily Drunk Magazine and Analogies and Allegories Magazines. She enjoys people-watching, eavesdropping, and writing in the margins of books. You can find her on Twitter @Josephin_Sharpe.
Image via Unsplash.