Past his sell-by date

This is a true story I shared last year. It is true but I have changed all the details – not just the names of the people but every other aspect. The bones of the narrative are, as I said, true:

Rachel was seventeen when she met Jimmi; they met at a disco, many, many years before. She and her gang of friends used to go to different clubs and places around town, and Jimmi was one of the guys who was always there. He was two years older than her and a guitar teacher, which seemed glamorous to Rachel and her friends! They went out a couple of times but it wasn’t destined to be anything more than casual.
Rachel moved away the following year, and didn’t return to live in the town except to visit her brothers and parents. Her brother Rick used to bump into Jimmi from time to time; Jimmi went through a bit of a bad patch, not professionally, his guitar teaching was as busy as ever, but he had a few personal difficulties.
Rick always thought Jimmi was a bit of a strange guy, ‘an odd-bod’ as his parents described him. Rick realised that Jimmi was actually a couple of years older than what he’d originally said, but that was ok… he was pleasant enough, but they drifted out of each other’s circles – Rick was involved with the rugby club and socialised there. Rick married and he and his wife had lots of different interests which kept them busy. Jimmi, as far as Rick knew, still went to the same clubs and discos, and still wore the latest fashions, even though he was by now quite a bit older than the other ‘clubbers’.
Rick and his wife had children and became involved in their children’s activities – rugby, like their dad, swimming, scouts and guides… all the regular stuff kids do. Rick and his wife had their own social life, they went to a dance class to learn the tango, she joined a book club, he learned the ukulele and joined a little band, they had a wide social circle and went on holiday with friends as their children became older and wanted to do their own thing.
Rick was waiting at the station for his wife to come back from a trip to London when he was greeted by a weird-looking guy wearing a wig – it took Rick a few moments to realise it was Jimmi! Jimmi was a couple of years older than Rick, but he was wearing the sort of clothes Rick’s twenty-year-old son wore! They had an awkward conversation and Jimmi asked after Rachel and then he had to go, he had a ‘gig’, he said.
Rick mentioned this to his parents, who said they’d always thought Jimmi wore a wig, and they’d always thought he was very strange…  Years passed and Rick’s children left home, married settled down. Rick and his wife retired and were very busy and active – they had a camper van and travelled far and wide round the UK, Ireland and Europe. They were always busy and active, Rick still very involved in the rugby club and was on the committee, his wife now teaching the tango, and both of them members of the village society and involved in the planning of the annual fruit and produce show, the autumn carnival, Christmas activities, and the spring duck race.
It was the town’s food festival and Rick and his wife drifted along to meet up with their children and grandchildren. Rick had wandered off and was looking at a stall selling Greek olive oil when he noticed a little impromptu coffee bar nearby. He couldn’t help but stare at the odd-looking person sitting there. Espadrilles, ripped jeans, long shirt, leather jacket, bracelets, plaited leather wrist-bands, tattered bands from festivals, beads, rubber charity bands – the usual random collection of things a kid might have. There was a mass of gingery hair and a reggae Rasta beanie, which Rick only knew as a slouch because his grandson had told him. Rick caught a glimpse of an artificially tanned face hidden behind massive blue-lensed glasses; he looked away, took the change from the Greek olive oil man, and hurried back to his family.
A couple of days later, Rick was taking a short cut to avoid traffic but met another queue along a narrow country lane. The reason for the little tail-back was a car parked in a gateway but protruding into the lane. As Rick squeezed past, giving a thank-you wave to the car coming in the opposite direction who had waited for him, Rick saw the owner of the parked car, shutting the boot. The man, hitched a guitar onto one shoulder, a low slung canvas bag hanging off the other. He adjusted his Rasta beanie, locked the car and went through the gate.
Rick glanced after Jimmi… the man might want to look like a twenty-year old but in reality – and his parents’ word ‘odd-bod’ came back… After seeing Jimmi at the food festival, Rick had done a little research; Jimmi was actually ten years older than he’d said when he went out with Rachel… so now Jimmi was actually seventy-one… A strange fellow and sad, very sad…

© Lois Elsden 2018


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