For the Love of Mary


The old man sits on the bench outside of the pub a sandwich left by a thoughtful stranger beside him.  This is his world, his bench and at this moment in time his very existence.  He is always there, whatever the weather and whatever the time of year.  He sits, one weary leg crossed over the other looking at the traffic on the busy road as if he might be surveying a beautiful scene and maybe to him it is.  The locals think they know him, wave and call out on passing. They leave him the odd sandwich or pack of tobacco and call him mate, although no one really knows him, where he comes from and who he was once.   The men that frequent the pub stop and talk to him on occasion, maybe while having a cigarette outside.  He welcomes the conversation but does not demand the attention, he is happy with the way things are.  Chitchat is light and flippant and it is rare that anyone really tries to understand the old gent.

He has been sleeping in the park for nearly two years now.  After Mary died he just couldn’t bring himself to stay in the house.  Not that he didn’t try, day after day he battled against the urge to run out of the door her body had been carried from.  He attempted to shop and care for himself but he had no idea how to do it as Mary had done everything for them both for over fifty years.  They had never had children, they had talked about it early on in their marriage but it never happened and as you did back then, they left it at that.  They were company enough for each other, the routine and daily rituals helped but it was the adoration that cemented them to each other for all those years.   Words were not always needed between them, they knew how each other felt, many an hour was spent sitting together in silence by the gas fire.  To live such a joyous life with the person you love is a blessing that is not given to many, he knew this and although alone in the world treasured the memory of his Mary.  He left the house on the day he realised it had changed, it was no longer their home.  The piles of dirty dishes, newspapers and flies around the rubbish had left the home beyond recognition, and if it wasn’t their home any more he wouldn’t stay.

The park was close to the house, he walked up the street sometimes to look at the boarded up and over grown home they had shared.  No one recognised him, that is if they had really ever known him in the first place being too busy to care in this busy city street.  He would stand for a moment, looking at the house, silently calling Mary’s name.  He walked into the garden once and sat with his memories, under the lilac tree turning the door key over in his hand, deep in his pocket, it was too much to bare and he left after ten short minutes.

He wore a long beard now, straggled and stained yellow with tobacco.  His once tidy department store suit hung from his body, stained and old.  An overcoat given to him by a kindly stranger outside the pub covered his shrinking frame.

They found him dead in June, on the bench outside the pub.  Kind words were said for the old man, although no one knew his name.  It was only the smell on the warm summer breeze that had alerted the bar maid to his death.  He was sitting as usual watching the traffic, a smile on his face and a picture of his Mary in his hand.  It was the anniversary of their wedding day that he died and like all those years ago at the alter, Mary was waiting for him.

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