A Tight Spot…

Afflicted, dispossessed, shunned and reconciled to steep in merciless quantities of alcohol, slumped among shrubs, benches, doorsteps and bus stops…that was our window cleaner.  Long dead and having brought him up in conversation in the here and now, now and then, his memory by those around me is to say the least, vague.  It seems he left a shard of an impression, a mere snip from the corner of the singular page that could be filled to chronicle his achievements, his impressions…  Not so with me though… For the unfortunate aspects of his life, a library that would burst at the seams.

Derek was such a pitiful liar but he regaled me with such yarns and tales that I still carry now, and within a few sentences, he could paint the finest oil impression that even the great Masters would never have achieved.

Derek’s rugged and aging look, his troubled and glazed eyes, tough, tanned skin and hard-worked, tobacco-stained teeth, couldn’t hide the inkling I had that he was a handsome man in his younger years.  Sadly, life, or maybe his life choices/chances and the roads he walked, corners he turned, decisions he made, or had forced upon him, moulded and shaped him into the creature he was?  What a specimen though, what value he still had, has…  He remains a work of art in my mind, his tales still fresh where I logged them.  His character valued and considered priceless, to me anyway.  I can only hope that somewhere, with someone, other such impressions still exist; I doubt it though…  Orphaned and dumped in that miserable village as a child, left to fend for himself, bullied, pushed and pulled from home to home, forgotten at the earliest convenience, mocked, excluded from the benefits of education, singled out for humiliation by authorities – pinned-on mischief because it was ‘more than likely him’, what chance is there that he was someone’s ray of sunshine?  I learned enough about Derek to know and feel his malady.  Despite that particular impression, his smile was always wide, untroubled and sincere…

In between bouts of alcoholic stupor, Derek would clean windows to support his lifestyle, and it never failed to excite me to see him working his way up the terrace – he was a conscientious cleaner too; never heard one complaint or the slightest mention of ‘port-holes’!  He was also an expert at making paper aeroplanes – I would rush at him with sheets of paper and coloured pencils.  We’d sit out in the yard if he had time and colour-in his handy work.  One day, he told me a tale of fishing and crafted me a net from an old piece of cane and some old nylons; or what I thought were old nylons that I’d cleverly and secretly retrieved from mum’s drawers upstairs.  And it wasn’t just me who had the benefit of a home-made fishing net, a few of my pals had got one each too.

Derek, stood, reduced to my age and with more than a half the look of a little boy lost, cleaned mum’s windows gratis…  I think that made up for the ruined nylons she discovered us with…

Bless, Derek…


About Robert

A fifty-something, retired Celestial Travel Agent. Walked many paths; some good, lots bad. Meandering through the past, plodding in the present, crawling toward the future.
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