commodities

Margot’s husband Jack died three months ago, and everything is still as he left it. His check cap is still hanging on its peg, his walking stick is still in the umbrella stand by the money tree in the hallway, and his armchair is still to the right of Margot’s, the only difference being that the remote controls have migrated the short distance from his table to hers.
‘I keep expecting him to walk in the door,’ says Margot, looking past me.
I can’t help but look, too.
Margot and Jack were married for seventy years.
‘We got that for our sixtieth’ she says, nodding to a wide, two panelled picture with a black frame over the mantelpiece. The panel on the left has a photo of the Queen (from here, without my glasses, she looks strangely appraising, like she knows that you know the formal letter of congratulation to her right doesn’t even begin to cover it). Between the two panels, almost like an afterthought, there’s a gold tassel, trapped behind the glass like the hair of some fabulous beast. Beneath the frame and all around it are endless photographs of children, young adults, people, in churches, gardens,  in university gowns and Christmas jumpers, on ski slopes and football pitches, lifting glasses, shaking hands, collecting cups.
‘So many grand-children, great-grand children, great-great-grand children – just don’t ask me to name them all!’ she says.
But despite a few of them living nearby and popping in now and again, Margot says she thinks the fight’s gone out of her. Since Jack died she just doesn’t feel like carrying on anymore.
‘You get so tired, you see?’ she says. ‘And anyway, no-one lives forever.’ She re-arranges the shawl on her lap, then slumps back into an attitude that’s as pale and insubstantial as her hair.
I ask about her carers.
‘Mary? She’s a good girl. She’ll be in soon. She’ll want me to go out with her today, but to be honest, between you and me, I think my going out days are over. Don’t you?’
‘It must be very hard, losing Jack like that,’ I tell her. ‘It’ll take time.’queen
‘Well that’s the problem,’ she says. ‘I think I’ve just about run out of that particular commodity.’

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