The railway carriage is empty. As you sink down into your chair, still a little tipsy from the night’s festivities, you hope that you will manage to remain awake for just a little while longer. It simply wouldn’t do to miss your stop this late at night. The sound of the pneumatic door behind you signals that you won’t be entirely alone for the duration of your journey. In the reflection of the dark glass to your side, you spy a figure as they slip into the seat behind you. For a brief second you experience a fleeting sense of Déjà vu. Have you have been here before? Something about the stranger feels familiar. You are almost certain that you recognise their glasses and long, greying hair. Before you have time to ruminate further, you are suddenly aware of a whisper at your ear. Somehow, the stranger has managed to squash their face into the entire razor thin sliver of a gap that is between your head rest and the one next to you. You find yourself frozen, unable to move, as the man begins to tell you a story…
JIGSAW by Steven Holding.
Somewhere along the line, he had lost the boy completely.
The gap-toothed rug rat, giggling as he rodeoed upon strong and mighty shoulders, existed now only in dog-eared photo albums. Instead, a tall, pale stranger, permanently wrapped in a sheet of suffocating blackness, had somehow managed to stealthily creep into the picture, securing their place in amongst his family.
How and when this transformation had occurred was as unknown to him as the enigma his son had become. With the lines of communication practically severed (bar the occasional, non-committal grunt), subterfuge appeared to be the only avenue left open to him to appease his ever-growing list of anxieties and concerns.
With the household finally empty, he sneaked upstairs and commenced a slow and methodical examination of the teenagers stinking pit.
Ignoring the odour, he ploughed through piles of discarded thrash metal t-shirts, each name another addition to the litany of bands he held little interest in listening to. Throwing open wonky wardrobe doors, his acceptance of just how skew-whiff his own moral compass had become was complete. His rejection of any respect towards privacy and boundaries finally caused him to question what it was that he was searching for.
Drugs? A diary? Pornography?
What he had not expected to come across was a kitten in a box.
As he held the container in trembling hands, he attempted to comprehend the biggest surprise of all.
Like a jigsaw puzzle, and now, just like his own life, it too was in pieces.