Hugh Jones
Melbourne, February 2017

Somewhere, although I’m not sure where, it dawns on me: I’ve let slip the one woman I truly love. I should have married her when I had the chance years ago – I have to find her again.

I think I’m with somebody else now, but perhaps not. Judith and I were together for years but somehow I moved on and left her behind. How did that happen?

I know where she works. It’s a big building, an institution like a hospital or a university. They know me there, from when I would come and visit.

It’s dark.

“Have you seen Judith?” I plead to a familiar face behind a desk.

“Not for a while,” the face replies with a grin, “she’s been seeing a bit of James O’Brien lately. She could be with him.”

James O’Brien, a work colleague from years ago. At a Christmas function once, with enough drink on board, he confided to me that he judged Judith a very beautiful woman. Of course that bastard’s been seeing her.

Despair. Have I lost her forever? I don’t know where to go or what to do. Fear, panic …

… I wake, panting and perspiring as if I’d been running; I’ve been dreaming, thankfully.

I recalibrate: Judith and I did marry, some 30 years ago, but she’s not lying beside me; hasn’t been so for many weeks.

Judith is on the other side of the world, at the bedside of her dying mother. After more than 90 years, her shy, gentle, caring mother is nearing the end. For a month she has been sleeping, rousing briefly to take a mouthful of soup or smile. Her husband of 66 years and daughters wait nearby, their lives in limbo.

Here in my city I’m fretting after my father, lost in the aftermath of a stroke and the creeping invasion of inoperable cancer. In a blink, seemingly, he has gone from independence to complete dependence.

All my life I’ve been able to lean on him, rely on him, trust him for good advice and encouragement. Now he’s leaning on me and I’m not sure I’m up to it. Siblings share the load but I feel exposed.

Wrestling with the bedsheets a tune runs through my head, a tune I can’t shift. What more can a poor boy do?

No doubt about it, I feel pathetic, impotent and alone, unable to set things right. What more can a poor boy do?