With six months to live at best, two with mobility he had determined to make the best of what he was given.
Sometime after the onset of middle age, and after one of those periodic calamities which had marked his later life, he had become adept at whittling out nourishment and emotion from the bleakest of scenes: making a feast from titbits, treasuring a passing view, but now his time was mainly spent in solitude with music as his companion.
Friendships cost money, and now that was in short supply. “Not to worry,” he thought, “I’ve got memories”. and so he had: journeys abroad filled with adventure; parties where common sense had left the room; meetings with minds who touched base with life’s eternal questions; women who moved him with a tender curiosity:he recalled the tousled sheets and bric a brac of a careless life before they left him for more certain landscapes, but always without rancour: they had their needs, and knew he could not fill them.
He recalled moments of suspended intensity while walking late at night but now these events were firmly in his past and memories were all he had to take with him to infinity. By and large the place he sat in was full of known and unknown faces typical of a tourist venue. The rusty stalwarts like himself: same table, same coffee and a newspaper sat among the passing tourists who talked more loudly than the locals: excited by their new adventures.
Chance and coincidence were all that refreshed him, and there she was, a visitor from another land, another time and just across the shop. He remembered their conversations, lying there in bed. Her red hair, now grey, spilled out across the pillow. “You love life don’t you. You drink it up.” Her words had never left him. “It’s all I have!” he replied and they had laughed. Now here she was, forty years on and sitting with a family, settled with her grandchildren and the picture of an ordered and polite common sense. Across the room, their eyes met and hers were warm: familiar but final : a nod is all it takes to share a history.
He had six months to live but now he knew that a part of him would live on in others . He would live on their memories: perhaps that was the right place for him.