Another troubled night. He showered and dressed in his best suit (a description that dignified it far beyond its age and condition). Upon inspection the fridge in his tiny flat revealed little. However, stale bread toasted well enough and once the mould was scraped from the solitary chunk of cheese it made a half decent breakfast. The remains of the instant coffee washed it down.
There was little in the flat to remind him of his previous life. In a way, this ought to have been helpful and letting go was always something that had been impressed upon him – the past was the past and tomorrow’s another day, they said; letting go’s easy, they said, focus on what’s ahead. True enough but these walls always seemed out of proportion to the size of the rooms, crowding in on him, leaving no room for positive thought about anything, let alone a tomorrow. He had had plenty of tomorrows but it was still the yesterdays that filled his thoughts.
He left the flat, walked down the dirty stairwells, ignoring the group of youths that seemed a permanent fixture and out and along the street in the direction his car. It was still there, somewhat of a miracle in this part of town. It coughed into life. Glancing down, he saw the fuel gauge showed a gallon or two; that would suffice.
The traffic was light as he drove out of town and he was soon on the motorway chugging along in the nearside lane letting the trucks overtake him. Why rush? Rushing always seemed to end in disaster.
Susan had been rushing that day, the coroner had said. Hadn’t seen the large HGV, hadn’t had a chance, the police said, couldn’t have suffered. Too quick, too bloody quick and the one good thing in his life had been snatched away from him. They had argued that morning. Something stupid and she had stormed out, out of the house and out of his life. No second chance. Susan had been his rock – how could he let go of her?
He saw that the exit was coming up and he slowed. The indicator on the nearside didn’t work, he knew that. The HGV behind flashed its lights and blasted him with its horn. Always rushing, always too close to the vehicle in front. Oh, God, Susan, why? Why were you rushing?
He was on a country lane now, a quiet B road that suited his slow pace. He felt calmed but his thoughts, as always, drifted back. With Susan gone he had descended into deep depression. The doctor had given him his allotted 10 minutes, written a prescription and with the slap on the back, had heartily suggested he let things go, move on, look forward. After a week, he had thrown the bloody tranquillisers into the bin. They had just turned him into a zombie.
He had thrown himself into his job. It had worked well for a few years, then came a downturn and the rumour mill went into overdrive; cut backs, headcount reductions. He had become depressed again. With Susan gone he had been struggling to cope with the mortgage and the bills on his salary alone. God knows how he would manage if he was ‘let go’.
But he was ‘let go’; it had hit him hard and a great rage had built up in him. Why had he been chosen? Hadn’t he always worked hard, met assignments on time, never took time off? Slowly the rage had subsided but a deep depression followed.
The severance pay had been reasonable, better than the minimum he might have expected. But it didn’t go far and it was clear from the few interviews he managed to get that another role wasn’t going to fall into his lap.
He met another chap, in the same boat. Jim was importing garden furniture from Eastern Europe and selling it to garden centres and at county fairs. Told him that they could make a lot of money if they made the range themselves. Jim said he should use his carpentry skills and make the range. Jim would handle sales. They needed a workshop and equipment but neither had the money. Jim suggested that they should get a bank loan. As he was in debt himself (not his fault) the banks would never lend to him, suggested he would have to.
“You look the part, anyway, more business-like. You’ll get your investment back with a bigger share of the profits.”
The bank agreed but had wanted a personal guarantee.
“Don’t worry,” said Jim, “I’ll stand behind you, nothing to worry about, just a formality.”
He took the chance.
It started well enough and was making just enough to keep head above water. Problem was… the summer was a washout, worst weather in decades. Sales were terrible and they went behind on the overdraft, deeper into debt. Same with the mortgage.
The bank called in the loan. As he had nothing in reserve, they took the house. Jim disappeared and the tatty council flat was all he could manage on the dole.
He pulled into the small car park, got out and climbed the stairs to the pedestrian access to the bridge. The river was very wide here and it took him 10 minutes to walk to the centre. He climbed over the rail and stood on the narrow ledge facing the wide river.
Let it go, start over, they said – he had and it had gone wrong without Susan.
He heard the car breaking hard to a halt behind him. Heard the door slam.
“Come on mate,” he heard the voice, “Got a few problems on yer mind? Pop back over the rail, we’ll get in the car and have a nice chat.”
But they were right – letting go is easy
“Come, you’ll soon feel better. We’ll get a nice hot cup of tea in the café the other side.”
Perhaps they were right after all
…and let go….