Saturday, October 6


Back after a long weekend and a day off — travelling from the coast back into the city, watching the autumnal paling of light, the smell of change and a dozen unlit candles. Work greeted me thoroughly in its own unpleasant way. Breezing through my e-mails, one stood out. Perhaps it had arrived before and I ignored it — because the subject is so bland, so much like junk — but today I decided to open it and read… It was from the pensions company.
A few years ago the pensions company came to our office and gave a talk; two sharply dressed white men in suits; it was clear, somehow, that one was the other’s boss, and it was the inferior of the two who spoke, clean-shaven, slim, erect. I raised my hand—‘How do I know you’re not going to spunk my pension on some bullshit investment?’ He assured me that some-or-other regulations body had vetted him and the company. We sat there and listened to him present and outside of the window it was raining, I remember that. I looked at the rain because I did not want to think too hard about pensions. After a while I grew bored of looking at the rain and my stomach groaned for food, so I asked the man more questions, hoping to make him squirm. One of my directors put his hand on my arm and told me quietly—‘That’s enough.’ My card was marked though and the man from the pensions company would probably put my money into the most unstable of investments as retribution — bastard!
The e-mail contained a file and instructions that it was sensitive information, only to be opened by the intended recipient. I opened the file and read it, but could not make sense of it. It was broken down into tables and numbers. I am good with numbers but dislike money; seeing £-symbols messes with my mind somewhat. I forwarded it to my father and told him—‘Maybe you can make sense of all this.’ He has a strange interest in such things. When I visited my parents’ house for my birthday, he even asked me about the state of my pension. ‘I don’t know,’ I told him—‘And I certainly don’t wanna talk about it on my fucking birthday.’ Yes, he would really be interested in the state of my pension, and he would no doubt talk to me about it the next time I saw him, give advice, speculate on what it meant and ask me whether I could live on ‘x’ amount.
Looming. I don’t use that word a lot. (I write as much as I can find the state of mind and time for, but) I don’t think I have ever used the word looming before. It loomed out at me, catching my eye. When will I retire?
Two-thousand-and-fifty-three is a number that sweeps up from something small and ends (last two digits) with a solid block, like sea defences or a wheel of cheese.
Two-thousand-and-fifty-three is a number that got stuck in my eye.
Two-thousand-and-fifty-three spread out like dominoes.
At first the number was strange and unfamiliar. I realised that the year two-thousand-and-fifty-three was further away from me than my own birth. Imagine! my whole life was insignificant to the age at which I would retire! Thirty-three years old! All that and more until I could finish work for good. Before learning the word mum or how to walk, before earning my first memory, before being bullied or falling in love, all of that laid before me and more! What a terrible thought!
I laughed to myself: the pensions company — as is their business — had most likely also calculated or estimated the date of my death, imagining it far more than I ever had. Far be it from me, though, to look up within the document when my estimated death was, or, more accurately, how many years I would have the pension for.
Two days previous I had been on the pier with my niece as she rode the rides and I looked after her; I showed her that if she pressed the buttons they would make a noise, which excited her greatly and I felt like I was really making a difference because someone else was a little bit happier.
So maybe I did not look up how many years the pension would last, but knowing my family history, I looked up what would happen to my pension should I suffer a premature death…
To my wife.
So they knew I was a heterosexual male, as well! Furthermore their audacity led them to assume I would be married. But there she is, my wife, brilliant as ocean and exquisite! She looms out the fog of my future, clutching pearls and magnificent in love. She gets the money and goes—‘Ah well, he is dead! At least I no longer have to eat his cooking or suffer his snoring!’ Hopefully she will spend it on a holiday. I would like her to go on a holiday with the money from my death. The money of my death. She would visit the beach in a one-piece and would smile because she knows how much I hated the beach, and she would drink expensive cocktails and at night she wouldn’t say a single prayer. Maybe she would see an increase in the royalties of my novels and poems after my death; maybe there wouldn’t be a penny because I won’t be published. She will lie on the beach and read a book that we both love(d) and the sun will sting her eyes.
What if, like my grandfather, I died before retirement? How humorous that would be, to just up & die before I had any chance to enjoy the autumn of this terrible existence! Or what if, more than that, I died without a wife, without my parents, leaving my younger brothers alone on this earth, pitifully sinking into a meagre and underwhelming death upon the state’s bed of white cotton?
Quickly I returned to thoughts of my wife. She is there (do you see her?) ordering a Caipirinha on the beach, she is probably a bit sad but she’s been sad her whole life and I can’t do anything about that, but it’s one of the things I loved about her. A local boy approaches her and asks if she wants to buy some sunglasses, but she declines and asks him for a good local restaurant. She eats her meal alone and requests an extra bowl, which she sets opposite her own. I wonder how much longer she will live. She wonders how much longer she’ll live.
I closed the e-mail and walked away.

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