For forty years, the overweight, balding Geoff had worked for his local authority, manoeuvring his way into the Housing Benefit department. He was a small cog in a large bureaucracy, but he tried as best he could to make a difference to the often-desperate people who needed his help. He was seen as a capable, if unspectacular worker, and Geoff successfully kept his periodic bouts of depression hidden from the office. On his retirement, Geoff’s kindly demeanour would be missed by his colleagues, even if not so much by his manager.
A divorcee these last ten years, Geoff’s life was now vacuous. He spent precisely three weeks happily retired, before realising that he could, and did, have more to give. There must be something he could sink this extra time into? Something that would benefit people? By accident, he was discussing his dilemma with best friend Joe one evening, during their nightly dominoes game at their local pub.
His nicotine-stained fingers rolling another cigarette, Joe had immediately suggested Dwelling. They were a well-known housing charity, there must be some way they could use forty years inside experience? And so, the seed was sown, the charity did indeed regard his experience as invaluable, and Geoff began volunteering at his local branch.
There, for three days every week, Geoff proved his worth time and again for the next twenty years. The directors of the charity could hardly believe that they had found such a valuable volunteer, truly a rose among thorns.
For the last year, however, Geoff had been having second thoughts, largely about his own mortality. He wasn’t getting any younger, he had developed pain where he would never have thought possible, and he was guaranteed a telling off from his diabetes nurse, whenever their paths crossed. And, about his place in the world. For all the help that he had offered, he had witnessed people’s problems become worse, not better. Despite constant reassurances to the contrary, perhaps his efforts made no difference at all? Maybe he even made things worse?
The feelings continued for the rest of the year, Geoff’s world gradually became blacker,
22nd December, and Dwelling closed its doors for a well-earned two-week break. Geoff, as usual, was one of the last to leave. On a damp, grey December evening, Geoff travelled back to his bedsit, alone. On arrival, he sat in his favourite armchair – his only armchair – took off his shoes and stretched his feet. He let out a deep sigh. Geoff was tired. And this was to be his world, for the next two weeks. Not even the nightly highlight of a game of dominos since Joe had moved away.
He slowly rose from the chair, padded over to the bed. Undressing to his underwear, he proceeded to neatly fold his clothes, as was his custom. Moving over to the fridge, he removed his pen of insulin. He wound it deliberately to its maximum, attached a needle, and plunged the pen into his belly. Returning to his bed, he climbed between the covers, letting out another long sigh. Now, it was time to rest.