I curse every one of the hundreds of miles I jogged after I quit smoking, as I curse the quitting itself. I curse the alcohol not guzzled, and the rich food not eaten. I curse the guy who taught me to meditate after my doctor suggested meditation as a drug-free way of lowering my blood pressure. I curse my not having gotten addicted to heroin, and the drunk drivers who left their office parties or bar-and-grills a minute too early or a minute too late to victimise me. I curse the friends who talked me out of getting myself a motorcycle for my 60th birthday because motorcycles are so dangerous. I curse the airline pilots who always got me where I was going, and my sexuality. Maybe if I’d been gay, I’d have gotten AIDS. I curse my never having seduced other men’s wives, as maybe one of them would have been homicidally furious, and I wouldn’t be here dying of boredom and loneliness — but not nearly quickly enough! — in Beigeland.
My daughter washed her hands of me when she was 17, and we’ve not spoken since. My younger brother was lucky enough (though of course it didn’t seem so at the time) to have a drunk driver in his life, in 2003, and we were never mad about each other anyway. Him and his positiveness, his eternal looking for — and finding! — the clouds’ silver lining!
There was no one to take me in, so the council put me in here. First-time visitors are forever telling my fellow residents how nice Riverview Assisted Living is. It’s fairly light, and airy, all tastefully combined muted yellows and beiges to which nobody could object. I overhear a lot of the other residents’ visitors remarking on how nice it smells. They must get through bloody lakes of air freshener every month here, but you can still make out the incontinence and disinfectant if you concentrate.
Behold the oppressiveness of good taste. Beige is the colour of blandness and resignation and boredom, and if I had a great-nephew or something, I’d ask him to sneak a couple of cans of the most lurid purple or orange spray paint he could buy. Some obscene graffiti might give this place a little personality. God forbid. I object to the beigeness.
You can’t die of boredom. I’ve found this out the hard way. Every morning I wake up and think to myself, Oh, no: still alive. If you’d call what I am alive. They wheel me into the dining room and bring me a plateful of something vaguely resembling food, but without flavour or texture or even aroma, and I watch the usual suspects drooling all over themselves, and Caroline Somebody being so bloody…upbeat and friendly to everybody that I’d like to strangle her with my bare hands, except the left one is far too arthritic for the job. What a pair she and my brother might have made! Then the staff try to persuade me to join in the morning’s activity, which will be something like Resident Karaoke, at which only Caroline bloody Somebody will sing, and she’s the worst singer in the United Kingdom, so I ask to be wheeled back to my room and try to read until lunchtime. The type in the Large Print books might be large, just like it says on the tin, but it’s also too blurred for me to make out. Sometimes I’m able to fall back asleep until lunchtime.
Can you guess what’s for lunch? Nor can I. I suspect it’s just breakfast, on a different plate, with a fresh bloody parsley sprig. Flavourless. Texture-less. Aroma-less. And then I spend the afternoon missing Maggie, and getting angrier and angrier at myself for not appreciating her as I should have, for not realising when she was alive how much I’d miss her. I can’t remember the last time anyone in her got one of my jokes, as Maggie did every once in a while. But to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I bothered making one.