Jonathan had showered and was in the process of drying himself when he stopped suddenly. On this morning, in his steamy bathroom with condensation fogging up the windows, it struck him with more force than he anticipated. He thought he had taken the news of his redundancy rather well, sitting in the conference room of Supreme Buttons & Zips the day before. He was calm, measured and professional about the whole thing. He accepted the reasons why his job was no longer required, signed the relevant papers, shook hands with his former boss and walked out of the room feeling quite relieved, although he hadn’t a clue what he would do next to earn a living. He had enjoyed a few glasses of wine in the evening, a pepperoni pizza and four episodes of The Rockford Files from a boxed set he had been given at Christmas. He liked the look of James Garner’s chiseled jawbone and his casual but pointed way with one-liner quips. Jonathan had found his role model. The fact that Garner made the detective series when he was in his very handsome mid-forties but was now in his early eighties, carrying a little more weight and a lot more years, did not seem to matter.
Jonathan wiped the full-length mirror with the towel and stood for a while looking at his naked body. He turned to the left, then turned to the right. He breathed in, then out. He puffed out his chest, clenched his buttocks, studied his genitals, assessed his general condition and came to the conclusion that this fifty-four year old man reflected in the glass was grey-haired, balding, paunchy round the middle, tired-looking, unfit, baggy-eyed and accumulating new wrinkles every day. He wondered if he would ever get another job or find new romance ever again. He decided that he could bow to the inevitable and let nature continue to take its course or he could try to reinvent himself. The former option seemed attractive in that it would use up less energy but the latter, although harder work, was the only way he could begin to attempt to make the next ten years of his life as productive and as satisfying as possible.
He had joined a gym and his trainer had seemed to take great delight in showing Jonathan around all the intricate equipment, pausing every now and then to let him have a go. Jonathan wasn’t sure but he reckoned he heard a few stifled snorts of derision, catching the trainer once or twice holding his nose to stop a full avalanche of guffaws from sneering out. The couple of occasions when Jonathan stumbled or was left clinging to the bars of a machine or face down on a moving conveyer belt might have provoked some mirth, but he was deadly serious about getting fit. His work and love life depended on it.
As he finished shaving, someone started hammering on the bathroom door.
“Dad, Dad, how long are you going to be in there?” Jonathan’s daughter Sophie was in an aggressive mood.
“I’ll be a minute,” shouted Jonathan, rather abruptly.
“God, “ said Sophie in exasperation, “keep what little hair you have left on, why don’t you.”
Jonathan, stung by that remark about his hirsuteness deficiency, now studied his face in the mirror, particularly his hairline and breathed a sigh of despair. This reinvention project was going to be a real challenge, not least because Sophie, 22 years old, working in a bank and still living at home, tended to stifle any notion of bringing potential girlfriends back to the flat. She had no intention of leaving despite the many heavy hints from her father that it would be wonderful for her to share a house with others of the same age, to stand on her own feet, enjoy new responsibilities, party through the night, get drunk, have fun and develop her own independent spirit. Sophie just laughed at Jonathan and batted back comments about her dependence on her only reliable parent for comfort, support and security, and the odd £20 note when the end of the month beckoned and her cash had dried up.
Jonathan’s wife Annie, or the Cow as Sophie now called her, had walked out on them a few months ago to set up home with a man half her age. She had flipped one morning and blurted out a tirade of abuse at Jonathan, branding him the most boring old fart in the history of farts. She said she wanted to regain her freedom and enjoy the rest of her life with reckless abandon and not be tied down to the compromises married couples had to make to keep each other sweet. She screamed that their marriage was dead and nothing would ever resurrect it. She bellowed that she had wasted twenty-five years of her life in this matrimonial prison and it was time for her to make her great escape. Then, with her pre-packed suitcases, she walked out of the door, got into her car and drove off. Jonathan had not managed to get a word in edgeways and Annie had not even mentioned Sophie. From that that day neither of them had received a phone call, text, email or letter from her. Sophie was devastated.
Jonathan walked out of the bathroom and Sophie rushed in saying: “About time too.”
He loved her dearly but she was a handful. Jonathan faced the door, put his thumb to his nose, and waggled his fingers in silent response to his daughter’s impatience. He had to do something to sort out his life and a potential consequence of his plans, whatever they turned out to be, was a possible rift with Sophie. He had to find a way to reinvent himself professionally, rekindle his romantic talents and encourage his daughter to finally set up home somewhere away from him. The first two could end up being a doddle compared to the latter. “What’s life without a challenge”, thought Jonathan, “oh yes, slow death.”
“And don’t waggle your fingers. You’re not six anymore,” shouted Sophie.