Monday, November 3

Full-Stop

WITH ALL THE weight of someone being very interested in the answer but having put off asking the question for so long, I—‘How are you doing, Kim?’
The doors closed and the lift made its descent.
‘I’m OK, R—.’ Of course she was not. ‘I don’t think it’s really hit me yet.’
‘Death never does hit you straight away. It takes a while, and even then I’m not sure you ever totally get used to it.’
She didn’t look at me, but she kept on talking—‘Yeah, I will feel it next week . . . definitely. I know it’ll really hit me next week.’ She seemed very convinced that she would feel it next week. Kim hurried out of the lift into the building reception where the natural light from outside was mixing with the artificial light from indoors, all gold and white smoky. I watched her go.
On a particular Thursday her father suffered a massive cardiac arrest and his body told him that it didn’t want to be a person anymore but just a body. He had no say in the matter. Then Wednesday she told me they were turning the machine off the next day. The doctors were turning off the machine because he was just a body now. She was making her bosses cups of coffee when she told me this, and so I said sorry. They turned the machines off, which she was there for. A week later, on her first day back, I heard her laugh in work and it stood out to me because I had not expected her to laugh at work. Then we got in the lift together.

(Also) On Thursday night, my friend’s mother-in-law died. More accurately, she died very early Friday morning, when some people are going to the airport and feeling good about going on holiday because an airport feels special in the middle of the night. Though he is a very simple man and at times a fool, behind his glasses he hides a wealth of suppressed emotions, yet I do not suppose he cared that much that his mother-in-law had died but he cared that his wife was so upset because it was her mother and things had not been easy for her her whole life because her mother was an alcoholic.
‘My back hurts,’ she told her husband.
‘It’s the way you sit on the fuckin sofa. You need to sort out your posture!’ He had been saying that to her for years. For years the little things grew into big things so that they were big enough to eat her.
They were there all along, underneath her skin and her clothes, even when she was in bed at night.
Her spine was covered in tumours, the doctor told the pair of them as they sat dumbfounded in the surgery—‘They are everywhere.’ Slowly the realization struck them both. Then she could not walk. Then she lost her teeth and they took her to the hospice. She wouldn’t get to see her grandchildren grow up and they wouldn’t ever remember the smell of her skin.
After all that: no life insurance. No money for a funeral. So the sober daughter takes it up, to see her mother buried, and all of the money it costs from out of nowhere, punctuating the end of life with a most distressing full-stop. Scraping it up where she can, making death worse, the husband looking on, and her grandchildren rolling toys along the floor because that is what children do after all.

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