The Gramophone

by Eva Graf

The gramophone next to the sofa sits in pristine condition, not a single spot of dust, dirt, or grime on its surface. Cynthia Jones always liked it that way. She often found that after a long, stressful day working at the telephone operator office downtown there was nothing more relaxing than walking into the living room and seeing the gramophone sitting there, perfectly clean, and just waiting to be used. So, that is what she did every evening. She had a routine. She would arrive through the door at exactly 5:15, taking off her coat and shoes and placing them neatly in their place next to the door. Then, she would walk into the living room to find her husband, Albert Jones, sitting peacefully next to the fireplace reading the newspaper. Smiling politely at him, she would make her way to the other side of the room and turn on the gramophone. Like every evening, her favourite song would fill the room and unconsciously she would begin to hum along. Making her way into the kitchen, she would turn on the stove and take food out from the refrigerator, placing it on the counter to start preparing for dinner. Without fail, her husband would always call out, asking if she needed help, and she would always respond with a simple “no thank you”. He would remind her that if she needed anything he would be just in the next room over, and she would in turn remind him that she never did need anything. In forty minutes, the couple would be sitting across from each other, sharing a delicious meal, and talking about their day. Albert would complain about all the work he had to do in his office today, and how the new employee – who admittedly had been new for some ten years now – was never doing his job completely satisfactory. Cynthia would listen attentively and then take her turn to complain about all her colleagues at the telephone company. They would wash the dishes together and then watch the evening television in the living room, with the gramophone playing softly in the background. Once the television programme finished, they would make their way up the stairs into their bedroom and fall asleep, just waiting for the morning to come and repeat their routine all over again.

It was a happy routine that was simple and never changing for nearly 20 years, until one day it did. It was that day that Cynthia had been a part of a horrible accident on her way home from work. Albert’s doctor thought that it was unlikely that she would survive the surgery, however they would, of course, try their best. When Cynthia was out of surgery the doctors said that it was a close call and that she might never be the same again. That scared Albert because a change in Cynthia’s health meant a change in their routine.

As it turned out, their routine didn’t change much. Cynthia stayed at home most days, the gramophone music ever-present in the background. Albert took over most of her duties outside of the home, while she stayed and made them food. Admittedly, Cynthia now needed more help around the house and in the kitchen than she used to, however Albert would do anything for his wife.

After the accident both Cynthia and Albert kept to themselves lot more. Albert’s friends from the office told him that he needed to face reality. Albert always insisted that there was no reality to face as he and Cynthia were happy with the routine they had created. Whenever he said that, his colleagues would just shake their heads sadly.

As happy as Albert tried to be, there was always a feeling that something was wrong. The food never tasted quite like Cynthia used to make it, and the house never seemed quite as clean. The gramophone was sometimes covered in a light dusting of dirt; however, it was always cleaned the next morning.

There is a moment in every life that the realities of the world conquer the false realities in your head. For some it’s when a friend mentions something that doesn’t quite line up with what you imagined, or when something else shocks you out of your imagination. For Albert, however, that moment happened when the music stopped playing. He heard a crash from the living room and when he turned to look, the gramophone lay on the floor, broken into a million pieces, not unlike the broken pieces of his mind. The destruction of the gramophone caused a similar reaction in his mind, and pain came flooding back in.

It felt like a punch in the gut. In only a few seconds the reality of the past few weeks came crashing down on him. Cynthia never made it out of surgery. Suddenly everything fit like puzzle pieces. The food never tasted quite right because no matter how many times Albert had watched her make her famous dishes, he could never get the spices quite right. No matter how many times he watched her as she cleaned the house, he never quite had the same technique and diligence as she did. No matter how much he tried to learn, Cynthia had always done things just a little better than he did. And now she was gone.

Albert sat down on the floor of the kitchen. He wept for the first time since he and Cynthia had lost their only child. He wept for the loss of the only thing keeping him together. He wept for the fact that no matter how hard he tried, nothing could pick up the broken pieces of his heart. He wept for the fact that nothing could stop what happened next. And as he picked himself up from the floor and over to the third-storey window, he could faintly hear humming in the back of his mind – humming, accompanied by the same song he had heard everyday for the past twenty years.