‘People don’t usually come to this side of the world’, he started as he dusted the wood chips off his trousers and gestured to the seat opposite him. A woman, old and slightly scrawny filled it with her gentle frame, a sad look on her face. He, he was normal. He had a slight mark beneath his left ear, a nail mark and the blood had dried up so it looked like a skin infection. The room was barely lit and the single light bulb flickered on and off. The fan wasn’t working and the mirrors in the room were covered. But the Good Caretaker sat on his side of the table and waited for his guest to wipe her eyes. He had to give them time. It was never easy visiting him that much he knew. His was a place no one should have to come to, especially someone who was evidently young but looked old. He sighed and placed both hands on the small desk and looked again round his office. The single mirror had been covered with a brown cloth and the door was almost always open. Slightly ajar.
That way, when his secretary passed he could see her bum
But he digressed.
He had no photos of his family around, and the calendar was dotted with several ‘X’s’. He made to speak but thought better of it. His father had groomed on the ‘seven minute rule’. That was on the average how long it took women to begin speaking. He stifled a small smile when he also remembered that the number for men was eleven minutes.
‘He’s not too tall’.
She had started speaking, and whilst that was a good sign, it was never really the conversation. He could read people, what they truly wanted by the way they fought to speak more or just stop at times. He knew those who had caused it, and those who hadn’t. And those idiots who came with salt were the worst of all. Some…some even entered his office with their backs.
‘He’s not too wide as well’
That was usually good. They wouldn’t need to do so much with the clothes, and the tailoring was not that hard. But it was the weight he was after. The best shoes and material for the inside lining were surprisingly best if the person’s size was proportionate to their weight.
‘He was quite heavy but not too much’
He paused and smiled.
That was exactly what you wanted to hear. He then looked up and saw her face. It was wrinkled and her eyes slightly dimmed. It wasn’t the sight you wanted to see. He got up to close the door. Dorothy could wait. This one was different. He gradually and gently eased himself back into his chair but as he sat he brought out two books from his drawer. One’s title was emblazoned on the cover, two words. The other had markings and a border with symbols. She paused and pointed at the barely designed cover. ‘In black’, she added.
He paused and replaced the brown book with a different edition. Then he proceeded to discuss dates of delivery. Each was designed specifically for their clients. Some actually liked the suits they made, others weren’t really fussy. But in this climes, suits weren’t really sought for. But he did not fully understand what had warranted her crying. It couldn’t be possibly that heart-wrenching.
But there was a question that could change all that.
She answered the question. He sighed.
He went about his work with intense concentration once she had departed. Designing and cutting to perfection. He periodically reported his update till he could tell she was deliberately avoiding his calls. Although he did understand why such a response would be necessary, this was for a special day. He needed to look well and be well.
On the day that was appointed, he and the rest of his colleagues took their gloves and proceeded to walk down from the gate to the garden side. It was beautiful, a fence overlooking the small sea and three big trees that seemed to shepherd them when the caretakers were not around. The Grouchy Caretaker and the Stubborn Caretaker were unsurprisingly different today. These occasions tended to bring these emotions out. Tears of joy and happiness. But when it was done, he made his way to the front. He avoided those reaching out for business cards smoothly. He avoided his usual hobby of scouting potential returnees. He made for the woman, this time she was with a man who he assumed to be her husband. He held her hands, and then hugged her as she collapsed in his arms. He knew exactly why this had been so difficult.
The smallest coffins are the heaviest.
Afolabi Adekaiyoja is a student of Queen Mary University studying International Relations. A very good friend of mine, we attended Loyola Jesuit College where we both worked with the school publication, The Roar. Afolabi is your go to guy on politics and current affairs. He’s a very patient fellow as seen by his faithful support of Arsenal over their barren years. (Congrats!). He currently blogs at drenchedcoats.wordpress.com