She appeared in front of the table of the Yorkshire Rose that evening, like Medusa, the snakes were replaced by this long fizzy 70’s style look, that had been hastily doused with a spray can of wet look. The three at the table didn’t turn to stone, but her appearance created a sudden end to the quiet conversation, and they all looked up slightly agitated, with stone-like expressions waiting for an explanation.
The Gorgon lookalike splattered out. “I’m so sorry, so, so sorry I’m late, but Natalie’s dad wouldn’t release Natalie from the attic, and Darren broke his arm playing football, and Wesley went missing again, and the door fell off the mini - again.” Then she took her place at the table and sat down on the long-awaiting empty chair.
After the tirade of an explanation from the Greek myth, Joe had to make sure his jaw hadn’t dropped onto the floor, and his mouth wasn’t a gaping hole of astonishment to her insane explanation, because his mind was registering complete amazement at her admissions, and he wanted to make sure his facial expressions hadn’t aligned involuntarily. It was a shocking admission, it must be true, no one, not even Medusa could make an excuse like that for lateness, as the patient waiting threesome had just heard.
“This is Baggit, Joe. Baggit this Joe.” Ben made the introduction, he was the person setting up the blind dinner date at the Yorkshire Rose, pub come bistro, that night.
Baggit? Joe thought; sounds like a character from a Tolstoy novel.
She had a slim and lithe body, wearing a stylistic khaki jumpsuit, with a woven leather clasped buckle belt, showed off her waist and hips to a premium. The mum’s bag was dumped beside her dining chair, Joe recognized that, and knew it contained a mountain of fixtures and fittings in character with a modern mum, not just emergency supplies for the children, but the necessary cosmetics for herself. Single girls normally carry those small clutch bags, just sufficient to carry lipstick and no more, this was a big and heavy mum’s bag. In the middle of that Medusa hairstyle, were beautiful brown and hazel flecked eyes, opening wider, and peering when she was exploring faces for a reaction or just exploring, thin lips, sad lips. When the Medusa fizzy styled waves of her hair parted, there was an elegant long neck, such an erotic part of a women’s body. Her sitting posture was erect, and Joe could see the long slender legs perched on the dining chair, sitting adjacent to him. She was conversing with Ben’s wife Moira, still rattling on about her day, Joe listened intently, she sounded like a feminine version of the Madhatter recounting her bizarre tales. Her stories were unreal, chaotic, but she was laughing at herself, at her circumstances, Joe felt a warmth, some compassion as a listener to her tragic eventful day.
Ben was a workmate of Joe, and he had mentioned one day, I want you to meet a close friend of wife, she has been divorced twice, great mum, but hasn’t met the right one yet, was the introduction. He added “it will be good for you.” Joe knew what that meant after the tragedy of his recent young wife’s death.
Moira and Baggit grew up together in a steel town in the central lowlands of Scotland, buddies from an early age. Joe could see from their conversation at the table that they were as thick as thieves, very close indeed. Joe envied that; his school chums had traveled their own separate ways, eclipsing their previous chummy relationships, entered matrimony, and subsequently lost touch. His closest friend, his wife and soulmate had died.
Joe had met Bruce and Moira previously with his wife, at various parties, when his wife was alive. They were distinctive. Both drank heavily, Ben was tall and slim, he would even pull himself taller, when he wanted to make a point. He was eccentric too. He loved Moira unconditionally, with such an innocent school boyish fashion, Joe thought Moira was his first love, his only love, but Ben’s idiosyncrasies were plain to see, he had those lost in the adult world schoolboy expressions, as he would recite quotes from the classics. The most distinguishing feature was his Victorian style handlebar moustache, it was perfect for Bruce, but it also alerted a neutral to the eccentricities of his character. Ben was well educated with a private school education, whereas Moira was from working class family, and trying to hide it. Her modified accent was forcing the Glaswegian twang origins away in her enunciations. When Joe had first met Ben and Moira as a couple, his insights told him that not all was as it appeared with Ben and Moira. Moira may put on the “hairs and graces”, but underneath was a wild child.
This was within the first year after the passing away of his young wife. Joe was struggling both with the challenges of grief, and loneliness, and trying to bring up their only child in a foreign country. In some ways the practical challenges kept him sane, he had a beautiful toddler that needed care and attention, and this kept his mind away from the endless sad dark thoughts in his head.
All his family and friends had rallied round, always checking up on his welfare and wellbeing. He lived with his toddler son in the land of prayer, but again there were many friends around keeping him under inspection. Later, both friends and family would start to introduce single girls at parties, for possible dates. Joe was not ready, there was a blanket of gloom surrounding him, and he was always having to force a smile upon his face. When the group conversation became uninteresting, his thoughts dived into a cesspit of sadness. It was counterproductive him being in company, he just wanted to be alone, with his grief.
His wife’s family really surprised him by introducing him to distant cousins, and his wife’s girlfriends, in the hope it would start something new, he assumed it was more to do with the benevolence of the child, and his child’s current single parenthood. He was still a young widower, and those mates that had still had not met the love in their lives started introducing him to the single scene, parties, and discos. It was a complete rewind to a previous single lifestyle, and he had found his soulmate, closed the door to that singles scene chapter, opened another to a shared love nest, and the deepening of the relationship, and separation from the rest of the world. Shared existence and extension of their love and the maturing relationship, babies, feeding times, first walks, first utterances past the goo-goo language stage, nursey rhymes, and bedtime stories, this was the life he had he come to know, and wished still existed with his soulmate.
On those occasions when he was one-on-one with a new lady or girlfriend, he felt trapped, the ghost of his late wife hung a shadow, there were black clouds inside his head, as well as imaginatively above it. He felt like a caricature of a grieving widower, and the healing process needed time. In hindsight the rendezvous, the prearranged meetings with these ladies, was part of the healing process, it jerked him into the future without his love, his best mate, the mother of his child.
Laughter had to replace grief. Not the forced outside smile or forced laugh that came out of his mouth halfheartedly, no; genuine laughter that starts as a tickle in the mind and overwhelms the physicality it in its hilarity.
Before, during, and after the meal Baggit didn’t stop talking, she could talk, but instead of the forced accent of Moira, a brought Glaswegian brogue, with intermissions of Glasgow slang. Baggit always turned to Moira when she used slang words, as a recognition of their shared origins, with eye-to-eye engagement and unspoken thoughts saying, “You know what I mean lass!”
Her favourite word was horrendous, it was used often as a one-word punctuation mark, ending a lot of sentences, or just standing alone. Horrendous!
She met her first husband serving behind a bar at a hotel in Scotland, an oilman. They got married in a fever, as the song goes, and in minutes she is having babies in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the first man’s home was the local bar, and that marriage dissolved very quickly, and a one-way trip never to return to Japan, to live with her parents, now accompanied with two small children was end of that chapter. Then she met husband number two, a friend of Ben, and she moved down “sooth”, as they say, from the land of the Loch Ness monster.
Chapter two went equally as bad, mainly due to the non-acceptance of the children from the first marriage by the second suspect. They had a child, a daughter from that marriage, but the cracks could not be repaired, even by the best Sabi craftsman in Japan. They had divorced, but he lived in the attic, as the prospect and reality of shared custody kicked in.
Her day had been utter chaos with the hospital visit with the broken arm of one of her sons; trying to find the runaway other child; asking a stranger to put her broken door back on her mini outside the hospital, and pleading with husband number two, that her third child needed to eat, and the attic was not the most suitable location to do so.
For the first time in a very long time Joe felt something stir inside, after listening to this tirade of events during Baggit’s day. Moira would nod or add a supporting comment or two. Ben just smiled in knowing acknowledgment. Joe’s ears were warm from the verbal bashing. But there was nothing to do but laugh at these stories and the entire farcical situation. Baggit was sharing in the most delightful manner, impossible to change her circumstances, her chaotic existence, she was laughing at it. Joe thought that was brave, there was immediate respect, and it was helping him grieve. His mind was saying, this girl is a mess, there will never be a second date, but in his heart, there was sympathy, and a note to self, that there is always someone else that is burdened with more in life.
The dinner, and meeting Baggit that night, was worth the equivalent of ten visits to the grief therapist. This Medusa had turned him to stoney silence and astonishment with her stories, more than that; this lookalike Gorgon lady had created a parting of the dark clouds of his grief for the first time.
Thank you Baggit!