Love Around The Corner
by Bradford Middleton
Jack woke alone again; he always seemed to wake alone and as he climbed from his pit of a bed he tried to start the routine that would start every single day in exactly the same order. He began by switching on his kettle, coffee was needed, not because he had things to do but just because deep in the recesses of his mind he remembered that this was how he always started every day. A big strong mug of coffee and a joint to ease him into the day, that was all he required before he continued with his routine until it was time to go to bed again. It was that kind of life, one of isolation, spending almost all his time alone. It was not a life he wanted or even liked but it had become clear to him that the less he had to do with other people the better it would be all round. He hadnt really liked anyone for a very long time and all the people he used to see when he used to go out seemed nothing like him and therefore best avoided.
With the coffee made he took up his position in his armchair, the only chair in his room, and began to prepare his first joint of the day. From this position he would open his laptop and check his email and social media and maybe, if he was feeling so inclined, watch some porn. Porn had replaced the idea of ever having sex again some years before and it would be the closest he would come to any level of intimacy in this life of his. He hated not having a woman around but after some horrendous experiences with the female of the species he thought it best to just try and avoid them. Sure he was on a few dating sites but nothing had ever come from them and he was convinced that nothing ever would. That day though something odd was to come over him; something he hadnt felt for a long time, a very long time indeed. He had received a message from a lady, a pretty good looking lady who was about his age, and it got him thinking. As he went through her profile it ticked an awful lot of boxes on the list in his head and as he reached the end he saw a button suggesting he respond to her message. She had stated a lot of really good things which made Jack believe she was different, different to all the other people he had meet in a very long time. He clicked the button and the words poured from his fingers onto the screen in response. As he hit send he almost immediately forgot about it and began to roll another joint and prepare breakfast.
It was some hours later when a new email popped into his inbox notifying him of a response. He clicked through on the links and what he read he couldnt quite believe. She wanted to meet him but she didnt really go out much, she explained, so was there any way he could, she hoped, visit her. Shed left an address and unbelievably it was just around the corner from where Jack lived. It struck him as odd that she wanted to meet him in the afternoon; maybe dating had changed since Jacks last foray but surely not that much.
He climbed from his chair and began to ready himself for his afternoon appointment. It was now almost eleven a.m. and he had so much to do. He opened one of his cupboards and pulled out a little hand-held mirror. He had never been a good-looking guy but what he saw in the mirror horrified him; his beard was wild and unkempt and the hair, where had all that goddamn hair come from? He looked like a wild man, left alone to forage for his life. It took an hour for him to prepare and by the end he had trimmed his own hair, shaved off that damn hipster beard and sat down and rolled a really strong joint. He was quite palpably nervous about his impending appointment and as the joint took hold he could finally feel himself begin to calm. He calmed to the point where he simply passed out and when he awoke he was delighted to see that it was now half-past-one. He made one more cup of coffee and a mild joint and after ingesting both he got his keys and stepped foot out on to the street. It was the first time in a long time that hed left his room with the intention of going anywhere except the shop.
What appeared to be only moments later he found himself outside a rather prim looking house. There was nothing to make it look any different from all the other houses around except most of the others had lots of doorbells lined up whereas this one just had the one bell. Could she be rich? He hoped not, he didnt think he could handle that. He rang the bell and took a step back.
After a short while the door was swung open and what he saw surprised him; what stood before him was a woman, a very old woman of at least seventy years old.
Yes, she said as the pair eyed each other up.
Hello. Im Jack; Im here to meet...
Ooohhh, youre here already! Well do come on in, we are all dying to meet you!
Jack was worried. What did she mean we, he thought this was going to be a quiet and nice little meeting between two adults. The old lady took his hand and led him through. The corridor looked odd too, full of weird paraphernalia; this was clearly a family home. Eventually they made it to a door which the old lady swung open. Inside the room sat seven other people and none of them looked like the woman he had seen in his inbox that morning.
Hello, are you Jack? another woman asked. This was one of the oddest scenes Jack had ever seen. All of the people in the room were dressed like Amish folk but this was twenty-first century Britain.
Yes, yes I am Jack responded.
Well Im Jane, the person who messaged you.
Jacks eyes looked her over and unbelievably when he reached her face he saw those same beautiful eyes and skin he had seen in the photo that morning.
Would you like some tea? Jane asked.
Yes please, Jack said almost pulling out his tobacco pouch to begin the job of rolling a joint through force of habit.
Silence filled the room until the old lady sat down by the biggest pot of tea he had ever seen.
So, tell us. What is it you do Mr?
Oh please call me Jack.
Again silence filled the room, what more could Jack say. That he was a drug fiend who detested humanity and who refused to work. It wouldnt exactly create the best impression but after looking around the room again he knew what he had to do. Out came the tobacco and he began to skin up another joint.
Oh no, you smoke! Thatll never do, you must go immediately! the old woman stated, largely in shock that someone would try and bring such a filthy disgusting habit into their home. Jack sparked the joint and as the old woman pushed him he stumbled, falling to the floor and taking a tray of china cups and saucers with him.
Oh no, this simply wont do! the old woman exclaimed, her voice growing more desperate with every syllable.
As Jack finally arrived at the front door she opened it quickly and pushed him out. The joint was still smoking and Jack merely smoked it as he walked back to his room. No one said anything, in fact no one saw him. The distance was that short between their two homes.
Later that evening as Jacks mind was beginning to think of bed after a heavy weight of pot had been smoked he received another notification from the dating site. Again he clicked through and what he read he couldnt believe. It was a message, a very long rambling message, from Jane. It explained everything but then right at the very end she told him shed liked him and was hopeful that they could meet again. Maybe this time around she could come and visit him, she suggested, alone. He responded positively and the next evening, once the rest of the family had gone to bed, Jane turned up at his front door. Maybe love wasnt dead Jack thought as he let her in, maybe, just maybe.
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