The door swings open without much resistance, but my conscious stops me half way through, I return back inside. I forgot something very important, as any husband should know.
- Honey, do you need anything from the store?
"What?", her voice was faint. She was probably in the kitchen or in the laundry room – where a woman ought to be.
- I said, do you need anything from the store?
She peeks into the hallway from the kitchen, smiling.
"What's that dear?"
- For the love of God, are you deaf woman?
"Hold on dear, I can't hear you", she walks towards me with short steps, the stale cold and emptiness of the hallway vanishes in the presence of her warmth.
- Do you need...
1 / 18
Her lips were on mine before I could finish my sentence. She whispers while kissing my cheek up towards my ear.
"No dear, I'm not deaf, I just love hearing your caring voice."
I grab her by the chin and force her lips back towards mine. I gaze into her shiny, hunting eyes.
- Do you need anything from the store?
"Eggs dear, we're almost out of eggs."
- Anything else?
"I don't think so."
I grab her by the shoulders, turn her around away from me, and slap her behind.
- Alright, get back into the kitchen woman, I'll be back soon.
2 / 18
The store is a small retailer barely five minutes away. I remember when it had a regular door for an entrance, thirty something years ago, but nowadays even stores this size have doors which slide open. No one is behind the cash register, however, once inside, the clock beeps and an old friend emerges through the door-frame behind the desk.
- Good afternoon Ronny, how are you?
"George! Did you watch the game yesterday?"
I grab a plastic basket and disappear between the aisles. We almost always conduct our conversations like this, yelling back and forth, no customer has ever complained.
- You know damn right I don't watch friendly matches. How old are these eggs?
"Miriam delivered them this morning, straight from her farm."
- Any news about her son?
3 / 18
"Still missing in action I'm afraid."
- May God help them.
- How's the lottery this month, reckon any luck this time around?
"You should know better. If Helen was here she would scold us both."
- Oh come on, I won't tell her, just get me two tickets.
He opens the cash register and fiddles around with a pile of tickets held together with a couple of rubber-bands.
- Hey, where's the whiskey?
"Stopped selling liquor four years ago, you know that, after the..."
He stops abruptly and remains silent for a while.
4 / 18
I return to the dairy section and grab a carton of pressed orange juice. My wife has tried for years to get me to replace the alcohol with something more healthy.
"George, did you talk to Jeff about my money yet?"
- Yes, two days ago, said he is able to pay back soon.
"Soon? when the hell is that?"
- I don't know, these damn millennials are as vague with time as they are with their goals.
"Wanna eat dinner tonight at our place? Betty is making spaghetti and meatballs as we speak."
- Sounds delicious, but I got plans for tonight.
"Come on, you need to get out of that apartment!"
- I'm here, aren't I?
"Don't be like that, Betty and the kids misses you."
5 / 18
- Maybe next week.
"Alright, you're a man of your word, and I have witnesses."
He points at the customers, who were unwillingly listening to our conversation. I pass by the last aisle and pick up a bottle of dish-washing soap and a bag of paper-towels, before walking towards the cash register.
I rest the basket up on the desk. Ronny looks at me with horrified eyes.
"What the hell, you look like the devil's crap."
- (Haha), don't worry about it, I barely got any sleep last night.
"George, I'm your friend, so cut the crap, you've not been taking your medication."
- And if you're my friend then you'll mind your own damn business.
He begins to scan the items, the machine interrupted us with its annoying beeps.
"I can't lose you, think about your kids man."
6 / 18
Here we go again, always using my kids against me. Those ungrateful brats.
- Don't worry about it, they don't need me, they'll be just fine.
"You need to take your medication."
- I swear to God you're like a broken record.
Ronny stacks the last items inside the big plastic bag. He hands over two lottery tickets while chuckling and refusing to let go of them.
"If she saw me giving you these tickets – remember the first time you brought home lottery tickets? Dear God."
He laughs and shakes his head.
- I actually never told her where I got the tickets from.
"Really? And here I thought she spared me only because you actually won."
- Oh no, she held nothing back, I can promise you that.
7 / 18
The tickets finally slide out of his grip, I quickly shove them down my pocket like a kid up to no good.
"Please reconsider joining us for dinner, will you?"
I grab the bag of groceries and head for the exit.
- Next week. I will also make sure to bring your money too.
"Great! but if you don't take your medication then you will be dead by then."
- (Haha), it would spare me your nagging, take care.
"See you then."
- Kiss your family for me.
"Will do. Just call if you need anything."
The doors slide shut behind me. It is hard to hate the guy when his attitude reminds me of my wife's – it is her brother after all. Funny how that works.
8 / 18
Sunlight paints the buildings across the street. The light formed a sharp line all the way from two skyscrapers a couple of blocks away, the sun peeks playfully between them. It caresses my face with a warmth I had forgotten.
"Excuse me sir, do you need help with that?"
It was a young boy, pointing at the grocery bag.
- What? no, no, I'm alright son, thanks for asking.
"Okay, have a nice day sir."
- Wait, kid, come here, take this.
I pull out a chocolate bar from the bag and give it to him. He becomes overjoyed.
- Now off you go young man, take good care of your parents.
"Thank you sir."
9 / 18
I stretch upright and watch him run off with his long shadow chasing after him. What a great kid, not like that good for nothing son of mine. I can't believe I have become an old man who needs help with his grocery bags. I guess that is all people see when they look at me, just an old man. They don't see my world – but now that I think about it, neither can I see the worlds around me. I guess this is what makes life so stale and boring. I can only imagine how it would be if everyone could see each other's soul. Perhaps there are people who can do such a thing – angels like my wife.
Once home, I put away the groceries and begin preparing dinner. After barely peeling three potatoes the doorbell rings. She yells at me:
"Dear, can you get the door? I'm busy with the laundry."
- But I'm peeling potatoes!
"You're closer dear."
- For the love God, my hands are wet.
"Do you want to do the laundry then?"
10 / 18
The doorbell rings again.
- Alright, alright, I'm coming.
Who the hell could it be at this hour. I unlock the door and open it wide. My body freezes for a second as I stare at a reflection of myself. The face, the height, the stature, everything was a copy of me, except the age and the clothing style; that's what gave it away.
- What a surprise son. How are you? What have you been up to all these years?
He hugs me, tearful.
"I'm okay. I'm sorry dad, I'm sorry for not keeping in touch."
- It's alright son, don't worry about it.
"How have you been doing?"
11 / 18
- Great actually. I missed you, and your sister of course, and all the kids. They must have grown a lot by now?
"Yeah, they are almost unbearable now."
- (Haha), see, it's not easy raising kids. Please come on in, I'm making dinner.
"No dad. We are leaving."
- Already? We? You brought the kids with you?
"No, I came alone to get you."
- Get me? I'm not going anywhere son.
He reaches inside his jacket and pulls out a chocolate bar.
"You dropped this outside uncle Ron's store."
12 / 18
- No that can't be right. I only bought two, I gave away one to a kid, and ate the other one on my way back home. Someone else must've dropped it.
"Uncle Ron called, he said you were not taking your medication."
- He did huh? That nosy bastard.
"He said you were bending down outside his store, talking to yourself, then you dropped a chocolate bar on the ground and walked away."
- Has he gone mad? That man has a silly imagination. Come in already and greet your mother.
"Dad, mom died four years ago."
My hand slapped him before I could react or think.
- Don't you dare talk about your mother like that, go and apologize to her immediately!
Tears run down his cheeks.
"She died in a car accident, don't you remember?"
13 / 18
Another slap, this time much sharper. I grab his hand and pull him through the hallway towards the laundry room.
- Come, you will apologize to your mother, you good for nothing – I raised you better than this.
He kept weeping, almost sobbing like a child who had to pause after each sentence. He wipes away the tears with his hand while avoiding my eyes.
- What the hell is wrong with you?
I open the door to the laundry room.
- Honey, you can never guess what the cat dragged in!
A smell of rotten clothes fills the air. That's odd, she wasn't in the room. The layers of dust made it seem as if nobody had been in the laundry room for years.
- Honey! The laundry room is a mess. Where are you?
"Dad, please stop."
14 / 18
- Stop what? Look at this mess. Go get your mother, this needs to be cleaned up immediately.
Three piles of clothes occupied the laundry desk, one big pile of unsorted clothes and two smaller piles sorted by black and white.
- How could she allow this mess.
"Do you remember anything?"
- Remember what? Your mother was sorting them out, but we were in a hurry, I told her she could finish the laundry tomorrow. We both rushed out afterwards, excited. She was carrying a bag of presents, holding it tightly with her silly pink mittens.
"Dad, that was four years ago."
- Stop with that nonsense, your mother would never leave things unfinished like this.
He reaches inside his pocket again, this time he pulls out his cellular phone.
"Here, watch this video."
15 / 18
- What is this?
"Just watch it."
- Okay, but you have to stop crying, you're not a child, okay son?
He nods and pushes on the phone's screen. It was the whole family, singing "happy birthday". I smile at him.
- This is beautiful son, whose birthday is this?
- (Haha), that's a good one, I haven't celebrated my birthday for decades. Did you celebrate without me?
"No, this was four years ago."
- What's up with you and "four years ago", why do you keep saying that?
16 / 18
- I will, but wait until your mother gets here, she would want to watch it as well.
"No, it's okay, she has already seen it."
- I see. Well, whose birthday is it? because it can't be mine.
The video interrupts me. It was Benjamin talking, Mathew's oldest son. He waves at the camera.
"Hi grandpa, happy birthday, dad told us you can hear us even if you are sleeping. Me and Sarah and William and everybody want to know what you are dreaming about, can you please tell us when you wake up?"
Kids in the background repeat "please, please". Mathew talks behind the camera.
"(Hush), the doctor said no yelling, there are people in the other room trying to sleep. Now go hug and kiss grandpa."
All the kids formed a line next to a hospital bed. There was a man lying in it. The small heads with their party hats blocked the camera's view.
- Who is that?
17 / 18
"It's you dad."
- What the hell are you talking about?
The video focuses on Sarah, she stood in line behind the other kids who were hugging and kissing the person in the bed. She complains "I don't want grandpa to leave us like grandma, he must stay here with us." The other kids agree with her. Mathew asks her "is there anything you want to tell grandpa?" She smiles and shouts back with a "yes". Mathew tells her to go ahead while zooming the camera on her. She walks past the other kids who then help her up onto the side of the bed. The camera finally captures whoever was in the bed, but it made no sense – it was me.
- What is this son? When – how is this possible?
Cold sweat thundered and shivered through my body, choking me. My eyes couldn't look away from the phone's screen. Sarah leans over and kisses my cheek, I felt it on my own skin. Her voice echoed in my mind way before the sound from the phone even reached me – "grandpa you can stay with us because grandma is watching us from heaven."
18 / 18