MESSAGE TO YOU
I think it’s imagining your hands that keeps me listening: fingers fair and tapered, palms smooth and dry, your sure confident grip sensitive yet subtly sensual. Your voice is a more obvious hook; it’s an adulterous voice, full of mischief and bass, a delicious deep tone that offsets your slightly high-pitched laugh when you let yourself go. You like to let yourself go and the people in the studio seem to like it too. Georgina – I know there is nothing between you by the way – treats you indulgently with a niece’s cool ribbing, moderating nicely her obvious professional respect for you.
It’s time for bed now, Neil. Please think of me in your dreams for I will surely be dreaming of you. If we were telepaths we could share our thoughts too. I send you my thoughts all the time by the way, but as you’re a sceptic I’m assuming you don’t receive them: I heard you giggling when the Winchester Vicar talked about a frantic ghost in his vestry; that was a bit naughty and if you were here now I would lightly spank you.
I like to imagine your shiver as you react to the ‘s’ word but I’m not a violent person. Let’s just say if you were here I’d give you a very good talking to.
Goodnight my love, Rita xxx.
That was a marvellous programme today. I laughed when you said that you thought George Formby was ‘almost certainly from Formby’ even though you know and I know that he was absolutely certainly born in Wigan. That tickled the man from the George Formby Appreciation Society and when you said, ‘ta ta then’ instead of goodbye it sounded like you were saying ‘Rita, when?’ I’ve played it again and again and the more I play it the more I know you are saying it, ‘Rita, when?’, I mean. I’ve tried a similar thing with your name. I was making T, he who bears no name, a wholemeal sandwich for tea and as I presented it I said it’s a wholemeal sandwich with ham. I said ‘wholemeal’ like ‘Hold me Neil’, ‘Hold me Neil’, again and again until eventually he asked me what was wrong.
I missed you today. Have you gone and got a cold again? That would be the second of the year. I saw on Mail Online that you and her were out at an opening last night. She might have looked after you better and saved you the embarrassment of being photographed in that awful purple tie and a silly grin I have never seen before, and care not to see again, spread across your lips.
You mentioned her buying that tie seven months ago in a witty (witty on your part) exchange with the gormless weather girl, Katcha. Then you said ‘thank heavens for small mercies; she might have bought me five ties.’ Georgina, ever the mock Head Girl, told you off for being unappreciative but you had a point. ‘Humour’ as my mother used to say ‘can’t hide the truth, dig deeper and it will surely reveal the truth.’ The truth as you and I know is that purple has never been your colour and never will be your colour. I have sought to normalise the situation by parcelling you up two ties, both Savile Row, both silk, and both navy blue. Please do not return them. All l I ask is you rid yourself of the offending tie, along with the pink flowered misjudgement you wore at the Chelsea Flower Show. No need to tell her, I will wager she won’t even notice they’re gone. I’ll be looking out for you and for them, and I’m already flying close to the moon imagining them resting so close to your beating heart.
Get well soon my love, not too many hot toddies, think lemon, rest and dream, my heart is racing, racing its way to you, xxxxx.
So, not a cold after all. Gout is painful but surely presents not enough of a reason to be off work? Sorry, I’m worried about you but I’m also a little cross that you’ve succumbed to a preventable condition through excess. I don’t blame you, I don’t play the blaming game, but I have to say that someone who swore on oath ‘in sickness and in health to love and to cherish’, to take care of you in plain language, is just not up to her job.
You must know you will need to cut back on the drinking, and, to weather the gastric irritation caused by strong anti-inflammatories, you will need to stick to alkaline foods. I am making you some leek and potato soup laden with double cream and will deliver it later today. I will ring on the bell seven times. If you are not well enough to come down to collect it (I know she will be at her precious work), I will leave it on your doorstep. It’s cold and your beautiful tiled steps will be slippery and freezing so please wear your moccasin slippers when you eventually make it down.
I will be there and will only speak if you want me to. I will be wearing my blue Hermes coat. You’ll know it because when you did a live recording in Bracknell’s shopping centre five years ago, I asked you for an autograph and you said it was ‘very lovely’. You looked straight at me and not at the coat so I think we both knew what you meant. I won’t be wearing so very much underneath, and if you ask me in I will gently heat up the soup for you; but if you prefer I’ll keep the coat on. I’m bringing the Schubert CD you love, but returned, in case you’d like us to talk less and relax more, and some Perry Como just in case you’d like me to have a peek upstairs. I’ll bring two films, Doctor Zhivago and Groundhog Day, both favourites of yours I know, and will leave the choice to you. I’ve also bought a large pack of Nurofen Extra in case your foot throbs. Talking of which, I realise of course that you may not be able to wear slippers as it might be too painful. I will bring a pair of T’s slate-grey flip-flops if you don’t mind wearing plastic. Don’t be embarrassed by the look: your natural elegance can carry it off . . . if not walk it off. Sorry, just my little joke my love, to hopefully ease your pain.
I can’t wait, I really can’t. Till then I send healing thoughts out to you, xxxxxxx.
I was so disappointed you didn’t answer the door at some point in the day. She came back at midnight as per usual, and after much inspection and poking around in the bag (I had removed the Como and the Zhivago by then) dragged it in. I’m sure the soup was never even served and I know you’ve decided it’s best to keep your counsel, to play safe, but a little drop of politeness, a simple thank you now and then wouldn’t hurt you or anyone. Quite the contrary, it would be lapped up and placed in a saucer on the mantelpiece and served up for eternity. No, it’s not good enough, gout or no gout, you really should show some appreciation now and then. I will not be taken advantage of.
Well, enough of that, it’s still been lovely having you back in my room. I recorded today’s programme and have played it three times to make up for the three days you’ve been away. T came back from work during the last recording and pulled one of those ‘pity me’ long-suffering faces that make him look like a bloodhound. Then he closed the door and left us to it. I could tell your poor feet were pinching from time to time because your voice went a little high sometimes, and you weren’t making as many of your jokes or laughing at them as much when you did. It was so unkind of Georgina to say the only other person apart from you that she knew with gout was WC Fields. What about Winston Churchill or Reginald Bosanquet? She really is a bitch at times, isn’t she? Don’t answer, you have a professional relationship to keep up, I’m just being naughty.
Well, it’s only seven but I’m exhausted and am off to bed with a good book. I’ve been continuously reading John Steinbeck after you said you liked him the other day. Naturally, I like him too. I am particularly struck by his thoughts on narcissism: ‘for the most part people are not curious except about themselves.’ That certainly doesn’t describe me, I couldn’t care less about myself, my only interest and care is for you. There I’ve said it, I can’t be plainer than that. It’s up to you now. Where do you stand from the point of view of curiosity? Are you hearing my words or do you shut things down and reach out for the off button? Well, I’m reaching out with my heart for you and all you have to do is open up a little . . . come close and listen, but I won’t wait for ever, you can’t rely on that, that wouldn’t be fair!
It must be an omen; a spectacularly good one at that. I came into town on the coach, 7-3-7, and then in a taxi via Broadcasting House en route to my doctor’s in Weymouth Street. And there you were . . .wearing one of my ties! I’m sorry I screamed out of the window. That was wrong but I felt delirious, like I was still that teenager screaming at The Beatles in the front row of the Palladium in 1963. I admit I once loved Paul but I can also tell you that I can’t bear his stupid plasticine face now!
I saw your sweet gracious smile before you ran in, and may I be immodest for once and shout to the heavens: ‘the tie really suited you!’
A tie maketh the man’, my mother used to say, and that tie maketh you, maketh you even more perfect than you already are!
There was no need to see the doctor after that. The tie was a sign. It’s over. I’ll be mature, it’s not about winners I know; there are no winners in this kind of thing. I can wait; I know you owe her something. Be kind if you need to. I’ll try with T but I think he won’t hang on for long; he prides himself on being chivalrous about this kind of thing and would always make way for a better man. Well, maybe he should have the house as compensation as I know you won’t be able to commute from Oxfordshire. When she’s moved out I’d be happy to move . . . look at me, I’m running way with myself when I said I’d wait. I can wait. I will wait. Just don’t keep me waiting too long!
Thank you so much for your kind gifts.
I liked the ties and the soup, and your coat is still lovely!
Message to You is in Hearing Voices, Litro Anthology of New Fiction