Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Naomi Robinson

Boxes

Ken wakes in the dimness to a silent morning. No radio, no clatter of dishes. She must have gone to the shop.
When she’s back she’ll bring his cup of tea. She’ll put it on the bedside table and kiss his cheek. Years ago, she used to climb in for a cuddle. Years ago.
The boxes loom cosily and the central heating creaks. When he wakes again at noon, the house is still silent.
He shuffles to the kitchen: a badger following its threadbare carpet trail between familiar mounds of boxes. He can’t remember what they contain, the boxes. They are his landscape now, unchanging. Except . . .
Except, when he goes in the spare room to turn up the heating, the landscape is altered. She’s opened the curtains again, but it’s not that. The New Box looks like the other boxes. But it wasn’t there yesterday.
He isn’t sure why, but he shivers slightly as he lifts the lid.
Ordinary contents. Bank statements. Photographs. Newspaper clippings. Not his, though. Perhaps this is her box? But she emptied her boxes when they moved in, thirty years ago.
A photo of her at a desk, smiling at the camera. He peers. This room: the boxes replaced by a sofa, a lamp. The study she always wanted. She looks younger and somehow bigger. His mind tumbles. She is pregnant.
She couldn’t be pregnant. They never had a family, despite trying. ‘There’s no room for babies here’, she’d said. Eventually, she had stopped talking about children. Got over it. Moved on.
And yet, in another photo: a laughing family outside a cottage. The boy has his dad’s gangly legs and the little girl, her mother’s wonky grin. He feels dizzy. His old Corsair is parked in the background.
A newspaper clipping: a marriage announcement. The breeze in her veil and proud parents beaming. He couldn’t wait to marry her back then.
‘When we have emptied your boxes’, she’d promised. She had offered to empty them for him, but that was ridiculous. It was his stuff. He would do it.
But he never had.
He is finding it hard to breathe as he pulls a tiny hospital wristband from the box. Isaac Rogers 22.07.88. A greetings card announces ‘It’s a Boy!’
At the bottom of the box lies a book, ‘The Transgression’, with her name on the spine. On the cover it says ‘International Number 1 Best Seller’. The flysheet is printed with the words ‘Thank you darling Ken, for creating space for our dreams’. He tries to read, but the print seems to fade before his eyes. By the time he reaches the page, the book is empty.
He stumbles into the bedroom on his gangly legs. Her small wardrobe is bare. Glinting where her suitcase should be is the engagement ring she has worn for thirty years.
He lumbers back to the sagging box. The photos are blank. The newsprint crumbles in his hand. The baby’s wristband is shrivelled.
But the pain in his chest is blinding.
The boxes are moving. They lurch and sway. They clog the doorway. They block out the light. Boxes and boxes full of his past, before he met her. Cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes containing . . . what? He can’t remember. All he can remember is her wonky smile.
When the clearance men come a week later, they can hardly open the door. They don’t even ask ‘How could anyone live like this?’ They’ve seen it all before.
They’ll get nothing for this rubbish. Straight to the tip. The sale of the house will cover their fee.

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.