Waiting for the number 12

“You’re new,” Sylvia said, shuffling and sitting more upright on the bench.

The man smiled.

“Not so hot today.”

The man nodded.

Sylvia wasn’t used to people not talking to her, so she tried again. “Are you waiting for the number 12?”

“I am,” he said. “You?”

Sylvia shook her head.

“Oh?” The man raised his bushy eyebrows.

He reminded her of Denis Healey except this man, her man until the number 12 arrived, was thinner. Just as young but blue, Sylvia thought, his eyes are bluer. She couldn’t remember what colour Denis’ eyes actually were, there was a lot she couldn’t remember these days, but she didn’t think they were ever like his… her man.

He sneezed and pulled out a not-quite-eye-blue cotton handkerchief, more royal, like King George wears.

“Bless you,” Sylvia said timidly but unsure why. Suddenly she couldn’t remember how old she was and began to panic.

“Are you alright?” her man asked.

“Oh,” she said, flustered, but his voice was so soothing that she already relaxing. “37.”

“Sorry?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s OK,” he said, and put a hand on her arm.

“I think I’m waiting for the 37.” Or was she 37?

“Oh,” he said.

Sylvia thought he looked like a John. She had a John once but she knew she didn’t have him anymore. Someone had told her that once and it stuck. So ‘her man’ became John. “Where does the number 12 go?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your bus. Where does it go?”

“Erm,” John hesitated. “The town centre.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.”

“Really?”

“I thought it might go somewhere nice, like the beach or…”

The man laughed.

Sylvia screwed up her nose and felt like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, or Tabitha in Bewitched. She wanted to twitch it to see if anything magical happened but she knew from life that it didn’t work like that.

“Are you going to work?” she asked the man.

He nodded.

“You look very smart.”

“Thank you.”

She liked his uniform, green instead blue like her first John’s, more hospital than navy. It was reassuring.

Sylvia winced as a drop of rain hit her nose. “It’s raining.”

“Oh dear,” the man said, holding out his right hand, palm side upwards.

“I didn’t bring an umbrella,” Sylvia continued. “I hope the bus won’t be long.”

“Maybe we should find somewhere to shelter.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“Shall we?” the man said, looping his left arm into her right.

Sylvia looked at his arm, then up at him and smiled.

As Jason Evans lead his oldest resident back into the nursing home foyer, he smiled, knowing that tomorrow, he’d be sitting on the garden bench next to Sylvia Tyler, pretending to wait for the number 12 bus.

***

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