Friday 26 May 2023

Memories by Sharon Hulm, black tea

Esther Walters looked round blankly. In this moment, in this ‘now,’ it was as if all her words and memories had been washed out on the tide leaving her high and dry – stranded with the flotsam on the shore. If she had been able to catch any of the retreating contents of her brain, she might have exclaimed ‘Not again!’; however, the memory of having no memory was rapidly bobbing away to the distant horizon.

That first occasion of memory loss was more years ago than Esther could currently remember. Eventually, she would recall that it had been at Waterloo Station. Arriving on the eight ten from Reading, her brain had disengaged at some point between passing through the ticket barrier and reaching steps leading either out of the station or to the tube. Carried along on the commuter flood she had found herself deposited on Waterloo Road where thankfully her brain re-engaged. Feeling rather anxious, but as ever striving for the positive, she had been grateful she hadn’t ended up on a tube to Cockfosters. She then headed for the office, a strong cup of tea, and the tedium of the day as though nothing untoward had happened.

Twenty years on, Esther sat and appraised her situation. Never one of life’s panickers, she breathed deeply to calm her tachycardic heart. In for a count of four, out for a count of eight. Then Esther was ready to apply logic to her dilemma. She was here, wherever here was and must be here for a reason. At some point, she hoped, that reason would become apparent otherwise things might get a bit awkward.

Two items lay before her. She stared at them. Across the waves, from a long distant ‘now’, was a faint call that urged her on. ‘Remasser votre stylo.’ Ah! Esther remasser-ed her stylo and looked about glumly for what she felt should be an accompanying le worksheet. A single  piece of papier stared unhelpfully up at her, devoid of words in its pristine whiteness. Her fifteen-year-old self raised a flaxen head and took control. ‘No problem! Leave it to me.’ Young Esther peeked surreptitiously at the others in the classroom. Everyone was writing. What would she write? She was struggling to cherché her words. What I did en vacances was the usual tripe but right now comment tu t’appelles was a challenge. She sighed. The grown-up, post-menopausal Esther knew about lost words, although she didn’t know she knew it. Brain fog or amnesia? Tomatoe, tomato!

It is a universal truth that if you want to find an object, look for something else. Finding a word is far harder. They run away. Catching words is like catching horses. If you trot after them, they bolt. But if you walk away, turn your back, appear quite indifferent, they come sniffing round, leaning over your shoulder, snuffling in your hair. Esther wrote, willing words to come. The stylo moved over the papier. Black was deposited on white. Esther looked at what she had written.

Food pour chats

Pomme de terre

Le Cosmopolitan

Esther frowned. Should we be writing a list of items? And isn’t Cosmopolitan a bit racy? Golden-haired Esther yawned and stretched. ‘Who cares?’ Esther felt her anxiety level rise again. A flagrant disregard for authority was not to be borne. ‘Chill,’ her younger self counselled. ‘You already flunked French.’ Esther raised an eyebrow. She was beginning to like this younger, brasher version of herself, and one point that both fifteen and sixty-year-old Esther could both agree on – they hated French.

Tides turn. They always do. The tide turned for Esther and her world snapped back into place. She scrutinized it, gave it a hard stare, and was not impressed.  This was Waterloo all over again without the drudgery of commuting or work; and yet she realised that even the powers of a strong cup of tea could not restore the overwhelming dullness of her life.  Esther ran her fingers through her greying hair. She looked down at her shopping list and groaned. When had she become a cat lady? The young Esther stirred. That youthful, hope-filled Esther had hankered after a kitten and so much more. Esther decided to pop into Smith’s on the way home and buy a Cosmo; and why not book an appointment with her hairdresser? After all, didn’t blonds have more fun?

About the author 

Sharon Hulm is a playwright and has published a range of scripts with Lazy Bee Scripts including a number of pantomimes, sketch shows and two plays. 


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