Alice will be here tomorrow—if today’s Saturday. Alice comes on Sundays. He’s fairly sure Alice comes on Sundays. He’s lost the damn glasses again. He knows he had them yesterday—Alice left a note.
Uncle Stu, you left the glasses outside. In the rain! I put them beside your bed. Love you. A XX
But they weren’t there. They weren’t there after breakfast and they still weren’t there when he made tea at eleven. Elevenses, he thought, who the fuck has elevenses? Tom. Tom used to have elevenses, so, he has elevenses. Tea—with a digestive. At eleven.
He looked for the glasses and they weren’t there and then he made tea. There were no digestives. There was a note from Alice.
Uncle Stu—you're out of biscuits. I’ll bring some on Sunday. Maybe have some toast instead. There’s apricot jam. You like apricot jam xx.
Lovely Alice. Alice has Tom’s smile—he looks for it always. She smiles and kisses him on the cheek with Tom’s mouth and she lets him talk. She strokes his parchment hand and she lets him talk about Tom and he loves her because he can remember so much—but not that he likes apricot jam. Lovely Alice. He has toast with butter. He forgets the jam.
Before lunch he looks for the glasses again. Still not there. A rising dread creeps over him. He knows he’s forgotten something. Is he forgetting Tom? What if he can’t remember Tom without the glasses—the talisman he carries everywhere from coat pocket to trousers and back again?
Alice says, “Uncle Stu! Just leave them by your bed. You’ll lose them for good—or break them and our hearts with them. What would Uncle Tom say? He’d say, leave my bloody glasses by the bloody bed! Wouldn’t he? You know he would...you won’t forget him, sweetheart—I promise I won’t let you forget him”. Alice balls her fists and puts one on his chest and one on hers. She says, “We’re keeping him here, aren’t we?”
He forgets to eat lunch—he is not forgetting Tom. He makes tea. There is a note stuck on the cupboard door.
Uncle Stu, it’s Halloween. The doorbell will probably ring a lot. It’s just kids. Ignore it if it bothers you, but I left you some sweets to give them if you want xx.
He answers it a few times and gives them sweets. They’re just kids—he is not haunted by the dead. The dead? The dead are a comfort.
Tom would have said, “Fucking Halloween. Ridiculous American import. It’s All Hallows’ Eve! Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day and next week is Bonfire Night. Bonfire Night—honest-to-goodness, British history. Remember that?”.
But sweets would magically have made their way into the groceries and he’d have answered the door and pretended to be scared of five-year olds in pumpkin outfits. Stuart would have laughed at him. And then kissed him. He eats a few of the sweets himself and forgetfulness gnaws at his belly. He forgets to eat dinner—he is not forgetting Tom.
At bedtime he gives up looking—Alice will help tomorrow, if tomorrow is Sunday. He’s looked everywhere. He thinks he’s looked everywhere. There is a note by the kettle.
Uncle Stu, please eat something before you go to bed xx.
He makes tea. He thinks he might have a biscuit. He has forgotten there are no biscuits.
When he goes upstairs, the glasses are there—neatly folded on his bedside table. He sits on the bed and picks them up and holds them in his lap. He forgets things. But nothing important. Nothing important, yet. After a while he puts them back on the table, under the lamp next to the dust covered, unread book. He pats them gently and smiles and gets into bed. “Coming, love”, he says.
Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day. Tomorrow is Sunday. Alice comes on Sundays.