A GOOD LISTENER
The first time I saw him, I was wobbling along on a bicycle, in an attempt to get fit, more toned and feel better.
I remember I almost rode into him, just managing to stop in time. Of course, I fell off the damned bike and I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye as I flew through the air and plummeted to the ground.
I was wearing my best shorts and sweater, so I was not happy about landing, unceremoniously, on the dusty track and I scrambled to my feet, brushed myself down with trembling hands and rode off as nonchalantly as I could manage; my right knee throbbing and my cheeks burning in embarrassment.
He was there again the next day.
I glanced shyly in his direction and nodded slightly. His tweed hat covered most of his face, so I could not see his expression, but he stood, stock-still and watched me huffing and puffing up the slight incline and on along the path that meandered through the field of newly sown crops.
I had never really hankered after a rural lifestyle. I loved the city, my busy life and social whirl.
But things can change rapidly and ……… some time ago ….. I had arrived home unexpectedly, in the middle of the day, to find my best friend Kate and my boyfriend, rolling around on our bed, doing a horizontal tango.
It soon became clear that they had been regular bed-mates, meeting most lunchtimes and some evenings, when I had to work late.
Well, Kate was a dancer and I knew she could kick her legs higher than any of the other girls in her troupe; but from the evidence before me, I guess you could now say “WIDER” too !
I’m afraid I went totally berserk and gathered up their clothes, which littered the bedroom carpet.
Opening the window wide, I flung them out into the street below, startling the passers-by as L’Agent Provocateur knickers and matching bra …… and Calvin Klein boxers……… floated down onto the Camden Town pavement, as though conjured out of the air by some magician.
Kate clutched at a towel and hurried away; showing her considerable assets to all as she tried to retrieve her garments from the gutter and Dave grabbed some trousers from the closet and flew down to help her.
Meanwhile, I collapsed in a heap , sobbing uncontrollably and slowly slipped into insanity. It was the final straw in a series of stressful situations and, for a while, I lost the plot completely.
My Aunt, in the country, offered me sanctuary when I left hospital. The breakdown had left me weak and vulnerable and totally lacking in confidence. So, here I was, far from the city …………………and the duplicitous Dave and Kate …………………………..trying to put my life back together in this tranquil setting.
Aunt Sarah disapproved of my moping and a frown creased her kindly face whenever I flopped around like a wet lettuce. She knew I needed to ‘get back out there’ …. but in gentle stages. So, she encouraged me to get out and about ………..on her old bicycle.
At first I was reluctant but my dear old Aunt persisted. And it wasn’t long before I found myself setting off every day; sandwiches and flask tucked into the capacious wicker basket on the handlebars, to explore my surroundings.
At first I only cycled as far as the Golf Course, where people with putters tried to manoeuvre little white balls into tiny holes, then praised each other for their efforts. But I soon tired of this and ventured out into the countryside and that is where I met him ……….. my soul-mate.
The third time I saw him, I actually stopped and said,
” Hello !”
and as it was such a lovely, peaceful spot, I decided to stop, eat my ration of sandwiches and rest a while.
He was dressed in the old, familiar tweed hat, checked shirt and work trousers; a well-worn Barbour jacket and brogues completed his outfit. He didn’t say a word as I settled down beside him, just smiled in a kindly manner and I felt safe and comforted.
Oh, what a listener he was !
Over the course of the next few weeks we met every day ……… always in the same place and I spilled out all my troubles; talked through the whole sorry incident. The betrayal, the breakdown, overdose of sleeping tablets, hospitalisation, counselling, everything.
He never criticised…..just let me talk it all through with no interruptions.
I began to feel so much better, my confidence returned. The cycling strengthened my body, but our conversations strengthened my mind. Each day I felt closer to him and I knew he was fond of me.
Five weeks passed ………… I felt as though I had known him a lifetime and, as I rose to cycle back to my Aunt’s, I kissed him on his cheek and hugged him.
He just smiled, in his gentle way, and I felt a rush of ….. what ?
Of gratefulness, of friendship, of love ?
I knew I was restored to my old self and I think he knew it too.
A new day dawned, it was the last day of my sabbatical. I was ready to return to the city, to my work, retrieve my life. But I could not go without saying goodbye to my friend, my beloved confidante and counsel.
Off I went, into the countryside on the ancient bike.
The corn was getting higher now and I peered about, but could not find him. Surely he would be here, he knew I was leaving today.
I cycled up and down the track, but no………….. all my attempts to find him were foiled and, dismayed, I returned to Aunt Sarah’s.
The taxi pulled up outside my Aunt’s cottage and we hugged and said our goodbyes.
I didn’t have a lot of time ………not wanting to miss my train………. but, although I knew I was recovered …….. mended mentally and renewed in spirit …… I felt a little empty.
I hadn’t said goodbye to him and my heart was heavy.
The taxi trundled down the narrow country lanes that led from the village to the town and, from the window, I scanned the fields, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Arriving at the railway station, I felt sad and regretful……… I would probably never see him again and I owed him so much. He had put me back together again.
I found a window seat and plonked down, dejectedly, just as the train pulled away from the platform.
“ Get over it !” I told myself, ” You are better now ….. recovered ………. You are going home !”
The train line runs back past the village before it joins the mainline and I gazed out at the fields and woods and the lanes where I had cycled and ……….. YES.……. !!!!!
There he was ……… in a different field …….. on a curve in the line where the trains slowed almost to a halt
I jumped up ….out of my seat and …..standing on tiptoes……… I stretched and waved and he looked at me and his wise eyes followed the train.
I knew he could see me …………. I mouthed the words,
” Goodbye ! Thank you !”
………………………. and the scarecrow held out his arms and silently smiled.