Albert suspects that all this closure stuff is a bit of nonsense. Why close off parts of your past, even if they’re painful? Why not keep them open, available to be perused and pondered at leisure? There is no greater pleasure, Albert reckons, than reflecting upon hard times when happy.
Albert’s office building is shared with many other companies. There’s a woman in an events management company on the same floor that he’s taken rather a shine to. Albert has no real idea what events are or why they need managing but he’s more than happy to chat to her whenever the chance comes his way.
Strangely, this often happens in the corridor, just as he’s about to head into the male toilets. This goes on for a few weeks. After a few of these chats Albert has established that she lives alone with two cats. Well, this is very encouraging. Albert finds himself thinking about her a lot. She’s so funny and warm and kind and apparently interested in the things Albert has to say. Albert becomes less and less productive at work, distracted by his daydreams about her.
Until one day, catching sight of her just before pushing open the door to the male toilets, he says to her, ‘I suppose you must think I’ve got a really weak bladder.’
She looks blank.
‘I haven’t,’ Albert says. ‘Not at all. Quite the opposite in fact. In case you were wondering.’
She explains that she wasn’t.
They don’t seem to chat so much anymore. On the plus side, Albert is back to his usual productive self.
When we first moved in everyone warned us about our weird, psycho neighbour. Rumour had it he’d hidden the bodies of five children in his cellar. Well, I like to form my own opinions about people so I spent some time getting to know him. And yes, okay, his breathing was a little loud and irregular and the way he swung his arms from his stooped body as he approached took some getting used to. His stare was certainly intense: one eye on you; one on the clouds. But really, come on, there was no way this poor unfortunate had killed five children. Two max, I’d say.
Firstly, thanks so very much for coming today. It means so much to me. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And the fact that no-one, including me, knows why you’re all here shouldn’t trouble us too much. Let’s just make the most of our time together.
I asked about our relationship.
‘It’s an ending waiting for a beginning,’ she said, leaving me none the wiser.
‘But you think we could make a go of it?’
‘In the forest,’ she replied, ‘you can’t say which leaf will fall next.’
I reckon she’s just playing hard to get.
Towards the end Dad took to removing his grey flannels in the bedrooms of other residents, much to their surprise and, I have to say, my mother’s.
“Well this isn’t like him at all,” my mother said, rubbing his hand gently with her thumb. “He’s always been far too busy with work for all that. He’s just never been that much of a ladies’ man.”
My father stared at her face blankly for a minute. “Ah, here’s one I know,” he said, surfacing briefly from his confusions. “Don’t I?”
“You do,” my mother replied, cherishing the moment. “You really do.”
One of Albert’s colleagues, Eileen, is being a little slow at the photocopier. Come on Eileen, he says, before remembering the song. Hey, come on Eileen, Albert repeats, chuckling to himself. Until the look on Eileen’s face tells him that perhaps this isn’t the first time she’s heard this one.