I saw the movie Lucky on Sunday. It’s now Wednesday and I’m still thinking about it. I alternate between mentally drafting my end-of-life plan, and wondering at the loneliness of life. I can’t get him out of my head.
Each day for Lucky was routine. He’d get up. Light a cigarette. Go through his daily ablutions. Do his exercises. Then he’d head down to the local diner where he’d sit and do his crossword. Next, he’d stop by the corner shop to pick up milk or cigarettes before heading home to watch his game shows. That evening, he’d hit the local bar where he’d sit a while with his mates before going home to bed. One day followed the next, all with a repetitive sameness. He had regular interactions. People knew him to talk to but no one really knew anything about him.
Lucky looked at life through a veil of cynicism. We get glimpses of this through is comments and see how he’s lived through snatches of conversations he has with random strangers. He notes the difference between being alone and being lonely and I suspect he doesn’t consider himself lonely, until he sees what he’s missing.
This movie has stayed with me for days. Perhaps because so many elderly people live in my building, all of whom have their daily routines. I know old people whose friends have all died, whose children are busy rearing their own families, whose partners have long since gone. Some of them are treading water, warming an armchair, waiting to die. Others will be dragged kicking and screaming from the world, their exit the same as the way they came in.
What keeps niggling at me though is what happens when there’s no routine. When there’s nowhere you’re expected every morning at 7 or every evening at 4. What happens when there’s no pattern? Who misses you then? Who raises the alarm when you don’t show?
A few years ago, this sort of stuff bothered me. I had just one regular appointment – on Wednesday mornings. If I fell and cracked my head getting out of the bath on a Thursday, it would be a week before anyone missed me. Calls or texts going unanswered would be written off to busyness. Emails left unattended likewise. And who’d follow up? We’re all so busy doing and going and seeing to stuff that an absence might bother us temporarily but then would be forgotten in the manic minutiae of daily living.
I might deplore sameness, predictability, routine. But sometimes they have their uses.
That said, when the little old néni who sits beside me at mass in the village didn’t show up one Sunday and I saw a funeral leaving the village the following day, I assumed incorrectly that she’d died. But she showed up at mass the following week – all smiles – back from her holidays. I’d thought the worst but at least I missed her. I went on holiday for three weeks in my first year in BP and the only person who’d noticed I’d gone was the waitress in the café on the corner. Living with someone changes all that. It’s one of the pluses.