The conversation could – of course – have gone another way.
One that didn’t leave him in a daze, sitting outside the office wondering who to tell first. Or what words to use.
Instead, after 40 or so years, he was left with this: five, six months at most.
As he sat there, fumbling for his phone, an older woman sat alongside him. Next in line, probably. Better luck, missus.
He wasn’t surprised that she started talking to him (something about weekday traffic), but he was when he responded.
Shouldn’t he be staring at a void, or consoling his wife?
After all, why keep up appearances when everything else has fallen down?
Perhaps it was her face, or voice, the human connection
That saw him suggesting alternate routes home for her.
There’s a dull safety in the banal, the simple chat.
Or so he thought afterwards, after the calls, and the tears, and the paperwork, and the goodbyes they didn’t want to admit were goodbyes.
When he could think clearly, he thought about that day, and those conversations.
The one that began with a doctor telling him things were not good, and the one that ended with an exchange about freeway routes.
I know which one I’ll take with me, he thought.