Every day at ten past two, following a sandwich and a cup of tea; the particular filling might change from week to week, Saul Patrick Brownlow, played Handel’s Water Music in its entirety. Just under forty-two years old, and redundant from his job as a procurement manager with a firm of stationery suppliers, he could no longer afford to go out on non-productive journeys, or anywhere at all if his financial reserves were not to be dented by undisciplined activity.
Through the music, heard while sitting in his chair, his senses left their ordered prison and opened up his heart as if they were guided by angels: the familiar notes and phrases transported him through episodes and adventures his circumstances would not otherwise allow. Through music he might journey where he liked, and kiss his ex-wife once again, or see her tear-streaked face close to his as she exclaimed, “It’s all been a mistake. I love you” and always he forgave her and opened up his arms in tender reconciliation.
Thorough to the point of exhaustion, and particular in every aspect of his work he might have been, but his exasperated employers had been, as they phrased it, “Forced to let him go” because, as he became more detailed and particular in researching each contract without regard to time, his “In-tray” threatened to overwhelm his desk. His doctor said he was suffering from anxiety, and so he might have been, but whatever ailed him proved too much for the company and then his wife, who asked him to leave the family home. Beside him on the table lay the unsigned divorce papers because to lose his wife would cast him into wilderness, and thoughts of such a place must not be engaged.
Once the music drew to a close he sat motionless in his chair watching the gathering winter dusk cast the furniture into shadow. After a while he walked to the window and, regardless of the temperature, opened it up and lit a cigarette. He did not inhale but let the smoke rise up from it, the sight of which brought him a curious tranquillity.
Perhaps it recalled him to a happier time when a boy walking through the park one afternoon, caught a tennis ball lobbed in error from a court, allowing him to engage in conversation with a girl who grew to love him for a time: “A miracle of sorts” he had always said.
As he stood there watching the street below, a knock on his door recalled him from his memories. Puzzled, he went to see who it might be. Sandra stood outside, his very wife, and as he looked at her, measured in his politeness although not calm, she said, “What am I going to do with you?” and he said “Take me home.”