'Eric' by Darren Seeley

Everyone said Eric was too nice.
Every afternoon he would walk through Victory Park to his favourite bench by the pond and bougainvillea.  From his vantage point he watched the birds come and go across the water.  He would doff his cap to passers-by and smile and make funny faces at the children in prams.  
On Sundays, he collected lists from the elderly people in his building and spent the day doing their shopping, making sure they had everything they could need.  Mrs Wilberforce said he was like the son she never had.
It had been years since Mary had gone but he still felt her inside, giving him strength. They said he'd never quite come to terms with it, never looked comfortable again in his own skin, which like his overcoat on his ever diminishing frame had become too big for him.
Alone at night, he sat by the kitchen table and scratched at the coffee stains and pushed crumbs into the gaps where the wood was split. His hands trembled, trying to get at something and though he didn't know it, all the while he made a low humming noise with his lips as if he were unconsciously trying to dissolve the silence and fill his head with something other than his own thoughts.
Eric would imagine Mary opposite him, smiling over the top of her cup and reading him crossword clues from the newspaper. Her brown hair would fall around her face and even now he would reach out to touch it, gently, feel it slip around his fingers and watch her lips purse coyly as she shied away from his attention.
Eric thought Mary was beautiful, and when he looked into her eyes he found answers to questions he didn't even realise he had asked.
He didn't do crosswords anymore, hadn't for a while.  He wasn't able to concentrate so much these days, and the last time he'd held a pen in the post office, it had shook so much he couldn't write his own name.  He found it difficult to remember things.
But Eric used to be a fireman and there he had learned how to do CPR.  Two weeks ago, a man had collapsed in Victory Park.  Eric remembered everything, and down on the grass, surrounded by a small crowd of concerned onlookers, he had saved the man's life. For a moment he believed that Mary hadn’t died in the car he was driving and finally he could live in this world again without drink and be good for something, rather than nothing.


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