Patrick peels the crackled shells from the hard-boiled eggs. They are not quite cool and burn his fingertips. He runs the cold tap over the soft white flesh, and is transported back to his childhood, to his grandmother’s kitchen. He has been thinking about her a lot lately, her and the others who have died.
Joe is the first he can remember, a death he properly registered. He’d got meningitis when they were thirteen. He thinks of Joe now when he sees those fizzy cola bottle sweets at the cinema pick ‘n’ mix. There is always that pang of guilt that Joe isn’t here to enjoy them too, although at the age of forty-five they don’t seem to have the same appeal they once did.
Mark Hastings from work is the most recent. A heart attack at fifty-five in his downstairs bathroom. Patrick has a mental image of him crumpled on the floor of the tiny room, his cooling cheek pressed against the porcelain pedestal, legs sticking out the doorway like old pipework and nobody coming to help. On the rare occasions he visits the work canteen now, he can’t help imagining what Mark would have ordered. He always went for the ‘special’ or something spicy, unless it had aubergines in it. He’d hated aubergines.
Patrick mashes the eggs with a fork. The sulphurous tang is a little unpleasant, yet oddly comforting, reminding him of his grandmother’s neat sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and her carefully arranged salads on Pyrex dishes. He cuts the loaf into thick slices and butters generously; cholesterol levels don’t matter now. He thinks about the cress he used to grow on her windowsill in egg shells decorated with felt-pen faces; huge zig-zag teeth and multiple staring eyes. As a boy he had loved pressing the metal wires of the egg slicer into the white of the egg, feeling that brief resistance before it surrendered to the metal teeth and the slices emerged like the opening of a fan.
Patrick smiles and wonders what his Grandma would think about the fact that making egg mayonnaise reminds him of her, if indeed she has opinions on anything at all now she is gone. He wonders how his colleagues will remember him. Perhaps they will miss his quiet efficiency and ability to un-jam the photocopier. Perhaps he will come to mind when someone new brings in an egg sandwich. Those colleagues will eventually retire, move on, or die themselves until there are none left who remember him at all. Perhaps that is no bad thing he decides, and takes his first bite.