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Dec 24, 2021 | Sparking Match

Is that me?

Author: Pablo Gonzalez

Is that me? - Brunswick Daily

He opened up his eyes. He knew the day had just begun because it was precisely then when he sometimes gained that instant of mental clarity. Within that instant, he knew he was just about to forget where, when, and who he was. The familiarity of his surroundings kept him comfortable and mentally sane. He savoured that instant because of its ephemerality. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and when he opened them back up he didn’t know where, when nor who he was.

Rather than panicking, as he used to when senile dementia and younger mental clarity overlapped, he let himself go. By routine, he always slept on the right side of the bed. That’s where he belonged, where his dreams belonged. That’s where he could still dream of a reality that resembled what he always wished for his own life when younger.

“You know Ralph, you always have to leave the bed with your right foot. Successful men do this. Your household depends on your success, so you’d better start the day strong”.

He heard a bird tapping on the window. He looked at it wondering, is that me? After putting his right foot out of bed and into his grey slipper, he did the same with the left one. With both of his feet on the floor, he felt his body was too heavy to stand up. The bird tapped again and started chirping a morning song. It made him smile. Kids must be having breakfast now, I’d better hurry because I have an important meeting with the board at 10. 

An accountant Ralph. I’m an accountant, taking good care of other people’s money will make you money”.

As he walked to the toilet he saw a picture on the wall. It was a young woman looking cheerful and hopeful, naive and chipper. Again the question came, is that me? He then looked at himself in the mirror and he saw a memory. He remembered what an old person should look like. He took a deep breath and came back to his room. The left side of the bed was empty and neatly made. That’s weird, Marie must have made her side of the bed before going to cook me breakfast.

This is my car Ralph, you like it? I buy a new one every year, it’s important to let others know about your success. Let them know you’re happy and successful with a big smile”.

Mr. O’Neill! Are you up yet? Can I come in? Alice came in slowly, hoping he was in a good mood this day. You look great this morning! Did you have a good night sleep? 

Well, Ralph, men have always needed women to be there for them. Don’t you ever aim for less than a beautiful, educated and respectful wife! A woman who can take care of you, your family, and your house”.

She must be the new maid. How disrespectful of her to enter my own room. Marie will have to explain herself, where did she get this one from? What the hell, I’m hungry and I have that important meeting at 10 with the board, I’ll take care of this maid matter later. He looked outside the window and he felt lost and briefly but intensely scared.

It looks like you did have a good night sleep, Mr. O’Neill! It’s a beautiful day today, ain’t it? Let me check that diaper for you. The cloth nappy was clean, a rare thing for a Saturday morning. Friday nights were pork rib nights and that had its consequences. Have you been drinking enough water, Mr. O’Neill? Why don’t we go have breakfast on the deck? You can watch the birds, I know how much you love looking at them and making stories up, come on, let’s go!

Yes Ralph, this is a land of opportunities. Only fools don’t grab them, they’re there for everyone to grab! You just have to keep your eyes open!“.

When he left his room, the smell was familiar, it felt safe but he also felt he had to go back to bed, after all, he had been up for quite a while now. As he was about to head back into his room he felt a hand gently pulling his elbow leading him out, he gently resisted and then he let himself go. He walked down the timber floor aisle and he could very clearly hear it squeak under his and the strange woman’s feet.

I think I should get myself another job. The pay is low and I have a husband and a family to take care of and to be honest the smell of my kid’s ribless diet poo is way more bearable. There’s a step coming, nice job! Now let’s go outside, the sky is very blue this morning! And not only do I have to bear the old man’s many tantrums, but I also have to stand his needy daughter, oh my gosh! Will she ever make her mind up for once? Alice, don’t talk to him as if he were a little baby! Alice, be more patient, you know he can’t do that, he’s just like a little boy! Alice!!! Did you overheat his porridge, you know how he hates that! Did you give him more ice cream? Well, you are the one cleaning him up, so that’s on you!

Let the women educate the children, you take care of yourself”. 

A flock of birds was flying over the house. Three of them came down to stand over the fence. He watched them and wondered, is that me on the very left? I believe so because that’s the best-looking one!

Did you see the birds? It must be so nice to be able to fly away and forget about all of your problems, don’t you think Mr. O’Neill? She looked at the one on the very left, it seemed like the most relaxed one, the one that cared the less about the world’s problems. If I were a bird I would learn how to accurately aim a big load of crap at the people I hate. I would remorselessly aim at you, Mrs. Ruby, oh God, I would eat a hell of a lot of pork ribs the night before and drop the load right on top of your head or in your stupid “What Would Jesus Do?” pink coffee mug.

Alice, women are supposed to be gentle and sweet, regardless of the circumstances. That’s how men like them, strong, resilient but gentle and sweet”. 

Hello! Anybody home? Ruby entered the house with a bag full of groceries on her left arm. She had a terrible night, fighting the same old fight with her jobless husband. Alice, where’s dad? Did he have breakfast already? I brought him some biscuits, his favourites! 

Ralph, a man must always provide for his family, always! Make sure you learn this. A man provides even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or loved, he simply bears up and he does it because he is a man! I think the bible says it somewhere”.

The birds kept chirping and flying, traversing through the very few clouds, flirting and playing kamikaze games. He was very happy looking at them holding a coffee mug that kept his hands warm. I love flying, did you see that? I love it so much and I’m very good at it, I can even pretend I suddenly die and then spontaneously come back to life just before I hit the ground, wow! What I like the most about me is how the rest of the birds look at me with respect and follow my lead. 

Oh dad! You’re sitting here alone? Where’s Alice? Alice!!! You know you can’t leave him alone, what if he drops his coffee, it’s hot! How many times must I tell you this, Alice? He can’t be on his own. It’s me dad, Ruby. Dad? Remember me? I’m your daughter, your favourite flower! Saying this made her smile but she couldn’t understand how she could feel proud and sad at the same time. How has he been this morning? Did you check his nappy? Is he clean? Did he like his breakfast? Was the porridge at the right temperature? Have you been gentle and sweet to him?

Who’s my favourite flower? Me? Of course, it’s you! My favourite flower in the whole garden, in the whole world! Don’t you ever forget that, my sweet Ruby!“.

Another maid? Marie is going to listen to me tonight! She’s again spending all my money on useless things. My mother, she was a woman who really knew how to take care of money and the house. What time is it, am I still on time for my board meeting? Mr. Elliot hates those who come late. Fortunately, I double-checked the income statements, the cash flow of the company couldn’t be healthier, and my recommendation of reducing our accounts receivables by making more efficient the invoicing process has made me his favourite one. I can’t be late.

Neither all the love nor all the money! That’s the golden rule, Ralph. That’s how you keep them in line.”

But what choice do I have? I never learned to do anything else and we have bills to pay. At least here they don’t charge me for food as they did in that other house. Yes, Mrs. Ruby I had to go to the toilet. He’s been doing well, his diaper is clean. Yes, I put his porridge in the microwave for 3:18 minutes as you indicated. Yes, I have been very gentle with him.

Alice, how many times do I have to tell you, honey? This is how we’re supposed to live, there’s no choice for us, opportunities are for those with money, not for us. Make good use of what you have, at least God didn’t make you fat like your sister”.

If he doesn’t get a job by July I will divorce him. I’ve had enough, I’m a successful, independent woman with many responsibilities, I can’t be taking care of him as well! I wonder what he’s thinking when he smiles while looking at those birds. Dad? Dad? You were happy, weren’t you? Did you love mum? She looks down at you and takes good care of us from heaven, you know that, don’t you? Do you think she lived a happy life? I miss her, dad. Ruby sipped from her WWJD mug while feeling guilty for thanking God her dad was too lost to remember what was going on.

Come Ruby, I’ll teach you how to pray. You first have to kneel down, then you put your hands together and look up to the sky to talk to Him. That’s where He and those who’ve been nice people live. He’s always listening, He watches over us and takes care of the world. Always thank Him for the things that make you happy”.

Alice, I have to go play tennis with Samatha and then I must go to church. I know it’s Saturday but could you keep him company for the rest of the day? I’ll compensate you for staying longer and I promise to be back before six. Could you do this as a favour for me? Seriously, July is the deadline. I’ll tell him tonight because a man has got to provide and he’s providing nothing but headaches to me. I wish he was more like dad used to be. 

She couldn’t look more ridiculous with that mug. Jesus? Jesus would send her straight to hell for being an exemplary bitch, that’s exactly what He would do. Excuse me, Mrs. Ruby? Oh yes, of course, I can stay for the rest of the day, don’t you worry. Don’t worry, you go play with your racket and then go pray for your miserable life while I clean the old man’s mess. Oh yes, I’m sure, really it’s totally fine! I can use the extra bucks and so far it has been a good day for him anyway.

The day kept going uneventfully. He kept looking at the birds come and go and Alice had recently discovered how effective classical music, ice cream and biscuits were to keep him distracted and entertained. I can’t believe he flirts with me, he is flirting, isn’t he? Did I have ice cream already, honey? Yes, Mr. O’Neill you did. Wow, the old man can eat, he’s had half a litre already. Can I have more? Why not, it’s ten to six and his nappy is still surprisingly clean. Yes, vanilla or chocolate? A little bit of both, thank you!

After his last vanilla ice cream scoop, he widely smiled and closed his eyes while the birds started to sing along to the colours of the sky. The music was orange, pink, yellow and blue. Mr. Ralph O’Neill started to fall asleep to the sunset’s melody. Come on! Let’s go to bed, Mr. O’Neill! Alice patiently walked him to his room, she could feel his legs were weaker than usual but curiously his smile was full of hope and peace.

Ralph suddenly gained mental clarity and self-awareness. He knew where he was, what day of the week it was, and who he was. He looked at himself through the window watching how he took his last breath of life… he then shook his wings, looked up to the sky and flew away singing louder than ever, prouder than ever, and happier than ever.

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