St Lonely-Heart

I lived alone
Sunday morning,
awoken,
I watched,
as a bright burst of shimmering light entered the bedroom,
and a vision appeared
Just like how we are told they do

I said “Who are you?”
I answered myself,
“You’re an apparition of a saint,
aren’t you?”
The figure emerging,
acknowledged my statement-question,
with a bow of the head
“Patron Saint of,
what?”
I asked

“This,”
the Saint spoke with a marginal echo,
“is of no importance”
“Maybe not for you,”
I said,
“but maybe for me it is,
giving credence to my story,
for when I tell others,
about when a vision of Saint So-and-So appeared before me”

“No” Said the Saint,
firmly
“And be assured,
henceforth,
you will not make an easy-living from out of this experience
There will be no papal approval,
no pilgrims,
no decorated plates,
ashtrays or any little plastic models fashioned on me
This is between you and I,
only
“I see” I said
“And don’t take this as any kind of clue” Said the Saint,
pulling around a strap to reveal an electric guitar
“I’m still only a beginner,
I take this everywhere with me,
doing a bit whenever I can.”

“Okay Saint,
so tell,
why are you here?”
“Because” the Saint,
attention slipped,
extended a dark-skinned finger,
plucked at a string and bent the note up a whole-tone,
with two fingers of the left hand,
pressed against the Rosewood fretboard
Because,
you are a alone”
“And you’re here to keep me company?”
Defensively,
I pulled the bedclothes up around myself and slid my naked leg out of sight
No,
you think I have the time to do that?”
The Saint’s sentence carried a derisory inflexion
“No,
let me answer that for you,
I do not have the time
But I do have instructions for you”

The Saint produced a scrap of folded paper and read aloud
“Wash and dress,
take in but only a modest breakfast,
and a coffee
Then go yea from here,
head-out on the road that takes you westwards,
until which time you come upon a historic market town
Enter there the civic hall,
where thee will come upon a book fair”
The Saint looked up from the note,
“You have an interest in books,
yes?”
“I suppose I do,”
I replied,
“although I haven’t actually been to a book fair intentionally,
for many years”
“Then be ready to hasten child!”
The Saint,
with a look of impatience and a clearing of throat,
returned to the instructions on the note
“But hear me out first,
go on,
go on inside,
wander around,
try to look reasonably intelligent and there,
there,
your eyes will level with the eyes of your companion,
thereupon forming a relationship,
one which will last for what remains of your life”

“A companion,
for what remains of my life?”
I said
“Yup!”
Said the Saint
“And go yea both for a meal afterwards
There is a new American Diner nearby,
the food is – well,
it’s okay,
but the point is,
the book fair and the diner will represent an anchor for future nostalgia”
“O-kay” I said,
sounding unconvinced
“You do it!”
Said the Saint sharpely
“Promise me?”
“Okay okay,”
I said,
“I promise”

And so it came pass,
approximately one hour and forty-five minutes later,
my arrival at said market town
I wandered those streets,
adorned as they were with fresh litter
I dodged dog shit streaks upon the pavement and passed on,
by empty shops
Until,
I had located the civic hall
But inside,
this was no proper book fair!
Instead,
sub-standard displays set-up on trestle tables of self-published books,
by local writers and barely anyone else there
A mere murmur,
so quiet,
I heard the wooden floor creak under the weight of my steps
I felt no attraction to anyone present,
only disappointment and deep-seated disinterest
After a speedy circuit around the stalls,
careful to avoid eye-contact with anyone,
I was gone

Outside,
after my lungs had gulped adequate fresh air,
I headed off to a charity shop,
one I had espied earlier,
on the corner of a row of shops
“I had might as well see if I can come away with something at least” I said in a whisper
There,
I found a figurine ornament
Dull,
shades of brown with white,
not at all wonderful,
but a bargain and germinating some sense of relief
As I completed the transaction with cash,
I asked a question of the young person behind the sales counter
“There’s an American Diner somewhere around here,
on the outskirts of town?”
“That’s right,
Molly’s Diner,
yes,
the food is good there” The volunteer said

Having taken directions,
I drove,
out,
further than I’d imagined,
four miles or so to the east
Inside,
it was large,
arguably cavernous,
with some character but no soul
Yes,
tables inside booths,
pendant lamps,
but the staff were not uniformed to an American Diner’s theme
Instead,
dressed all in black,
with small,
black and white striped aprons tied around their waists
Standard café attire

Undercooked eggs Benedict and coffee and lying,
“Yes,
it’s great,
thank you” when asked how my food was
And,
despite knowing that the Saint’s prophesied sequence was already broken,
I scanned the dining area,
out of interest,
mostly
I saw tables with twos or fours of teens,
single parents with shared kids,
a smattering of couples,
over from the motel located on the other side of the car park

And then,
a woman got seated to the table next to mine
I discerned that she was similar in age to me,
perhaps a year or two,
or three older
Of note,
she wore a soft,
plaid cap,
her hair long,
her complexion a little over tanned
I sensed that she had assessed my fine features,
also
Never afraid,
I had grabbed at the tissue serviette from my knees,
dabbed at my ruby-red lips and prepared to rise from the chair,
when her husband brushed past,
took his seat opposite her
And that,
was the end of that

After an elongated journey,
I returned home,
pushed open the front door with a shoulder shove and there was the Saint,
with light dazzling all around,
sat in my armchair
“What was all that nonsense?”
I demanded
“What a waste of time!
I could have had a lie-in!”
“Calm yourself child,
calm yourself for all was not in vain” The Saint retorted
“Oh yes!”
I counter retorted
“The book fair was a complete waste of time
The American Diner was a complete waste of time
Even the brief stop on my way back to the home-and-garden centre,
which I will not bother to describe,
that,
was a complete,
waste,
of time”
“But,”
the Saint spluttered,
“what of what you have there,
clasped in your hand,
inside the plastic bag,
wrapped in newspaper,
what of that?”
The Saint sensed being on shaky ground
“What of it?”
I exclaimed
“It’s a figurine ornament,
it’s okay but it will never be one I particularly favour”
“But what of your experience in the charity shop,
who was it who sold it to you?”
The Saint’s question cued the light in the room to glow brighter
“Who was it who sold it to me?”
I retorted once again
“I will tell you,
as you ask
It was a young person of no more than twenty-one years of age
That’s who
Younger in years,
than my own daughter”
“Oh!” The light dimmed,
“I’m sorry,
this really hasn’t worked out,
has it?”
The Saint looked at the floor and all of a sudden – just like that,
seemed completely vulnerable,
fragile,
crestfallen
“Okay
Okay,
look,
it’s okay” I said in a consolatory manner,
my rising anger sunk
“I didn’t have any other plans for today,
and,”
I took from the bag and unwrapped the figurine ornament,
held it up,
waved it like a trophy for third place
“I got a nice ornament out of it,
which is something
So,
thanks for trying,
Saint Who-Ever-You-Are,
and never mind
You’re alright,
you’re a good Saint,
okay?”

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