Marlon Anderson’s bitter tea

Marlon Anderson is the saddest person in the street.  He knows it.  He sits by his window, when the sun is coming up through the leaves of the tall elms in the park, and he says to himself,

‘You’re the saddest person in the street, Marlon Anderson.’

It’s something.  It’s an achievement of sorts, Marlon thinks.  If you’ve fucked up every little bit of every major thing, then you can, at least, know that you’re the saddest person in the street at five am.   And when you’ve said it, you can decide that you might as well have tea and be the saddest person with the blackest tea.  So Marlon puts the kettle on.

Sadie Reilly is not the saddest person in the street.  She knows it.  She gets off the early bus and waits for the next surge of tears to peak and slide from her eyes, so she can wipe her face and arrive at work decent.  She says to herself,

‘Come on, Sadie Reilly, think of Yvette.’

Yvette is in pain again and she doesn’t ring.  She is waiting for Sadie.  The pain is like a broom handle in her back.   She tried to tell them yesterday and they wrote ‘confused’ on her notes.  She wants to wee.  Sadie will get her on the commode.   They won’t.  They say, ‘you’ve got a pad dear…’

Marlon is in the bay window sipping his black tea.  He notices Sadie standing still by the bus stop.  He watches as she lifts her glasses, slowly, from her face and wipes at each cheek with the right cuff of her jacket.  He’s affronted.  No-one in this street can be sadder than him but he’s not crying.  Damn.  He feels like running back upstairs to fetch the full basket of sodden tissues from the small hours and carrying it out to the wheelie bin like a trophy.  But that would be ridiculous.

Sadie turns the deadbolt and then the Yale.  The smell is always there.  It’s not urine, or cabbage, or anything that people imagine in care homes.  It’s a too sweet smell.  It’s air freshener on talc on fabric conditioner.   Sadie hangs her coat and goes straight up the stairs, past the night staff room to Yvette’s door.

Marlon sees the woman go into the care home.  He stares at the building.  It’s sad.  He imagines himself in there – hollow-cheeked old man with two day stubble, pyjama bottoms lassoed around his hip bones.  Alone.  Tears come then.  That’s better.

There’s a light on in the upstairs front window now.  He sees the woman pulling the curtains open.  She lifts the sash window and Marlon can see that she’s laughing.   She turns to speak to someone behind her.  Yes, he knew it.  His tea is cold and bitter now.

‘You’re the saddest person in the street, Marlon Anderson.’

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