That moment in an old film when a double (diluted by light) departs the body of a character who just died and drifts out of view. As often as mind has room I fume a failproof lookalike who strolls about town. Oh, the places she has seen! Priceless when fancy factualises for a wisp of time. A caper on my scooter – first in a year, or two. Almost called out – look at me! – like a child riding her bike without stabilisers on. Hung a while on armchair at the bookshop twenty doors from mine, tried a little conversation. Turns out a semblance of normality is quite a strain.
In a matter of minutes home and supine again. Slept in clothes that night, entwined with spectre. Days later the idea of a repeat seems preposterous, but: elsedom was achieved, momentarily. Blue plaque please?
In bed (not on) long before evening falls; still bright outside, not nearly night. Like most, or all, I waited for the light of spring, green shoots, raw splendour to refute earth’s plight, yours, mine. Yet now that days step up their game, I find that spring does not reside in me, take hold, drive buds and blossoms. Or not the kind I hope for.
A roll call by the weathervane finds selfsames skittered out the door. Just words now: artist, maker, reader, earner, sleeper, walker, failed lover, lucky friend… One with steady hands, one who remembered, one who talked a mile a minute hours on end and savoured silence. So earnest, so keen to do things right, with a propensity for shame. I wish I’d worried less, been bolder.
At sunrise: Take me to the warden, for a slice of day, a pound of night!
Last Tuesday I was out, for pleasure. First time since the book launch in November; already dreaming of more… Went with friends to Dulwich Picture Gallery – Vanessa Bell’s paintings called out to me. Favourite jeans on (flared), and riding a grin; or else a wheelchair pushed by stronger arms than mine. No coffee afterwards, no sideways glances; all energy assigned and labelled ‘art’. Beautiful portraits there, abstraction too, collages; vibrant, discerning work. Always learning, I think, trying out. Books feature – people read, which I loved especially (long to myself, so much). Good to know: DPG is well-equipped for rest, and dotted with divans. Very comfy indeed (says one who often lies on floors), in dark emerald green – most becoming with my orange blanket. No protests when I lay. Soles did not touch, I swear.
The painting I wish home with me gives an intimate glimpse of Virginia Woolf (Bell’s younger sister), looking worn, held in an armchair’s warm embrace. She’s got a piece of knitting in her lap, red as the flesh of water melon. Her hands seem caught in hesitation. I’d like to look at her every day.
I am lnely.
I am lnely, and I am struggling.
I am nt k.
I cannt say it withut shame.
N petry. N metaphr.
Third illness thumped through the door and wedged my lungs with thistledown. This one a thoroughbred of a disease, cultured, in prime conditions curable. A period of quarantine at home, same old. A jamboree of drugs to take at dawn: count out in fur-lined cup with whiskered edges! A dedicated nurse-team gives the word. Each dose is filled with best intent. First though, a ferry in a storm. Occasionally a day’s relief, a breather. Signs saying: that way, please! Strapped in. Pillar to post. One and two look on, astounded.
46 days left. Anguish and hope are falling into step. A better week! Nausea: moderate to good.
Pure pleasure trip one morning, to café down the road. Crept out through crack in clock face. Wheelchair pushed by bubbly befriender; trundling from pothole to pothole. Forgot to touch peeling bark of silver birch on former totter fringe, let garden views flit by. Beeline while upright… Made outside corner mine, head propped on purple cushion. Fleeting acquaintance with strawberry tart, crumbs licked off finger-tip, custard trickle. In no time at all talk travelled far and further, salut, dommage, güle güle. Homeward bound stopped to chat with neighbour only ever waved at when bundled into car on way to hospital. A few minutes of banter, laughter. Bed after.
Suddenly a third illness looms, and I am scared and unsettled in strange, contrary ways, hoping for and dreading yet another diagnosis. Time for a professional disease (not this preposterous amateur affliction); a new label, steel blue, rule book cool, with proper treatment options, and above all else: one where fatigue is a side show and not the centre, the crummy sun around which all of life revolves.
The doctor treats my need to lie down half way through consultations as an eccentricity – my own fault, I did ride in on a steed called Rolling Pin, without a saddle. She repeats over several appointments ‘I am sure it is nothing’; another finds the scan alarming. I want it to be nothing (lest something turns out to be life-shortening), I want it to be something (lest nothing means more of the same). I am pathetically, perversely torn, as if I considered wishing a genuine source of influence. What if #3 were the sister who moves to Moscow after all and pulls her hapless siblings in her trail; the blazer who, sickle in hand, cuts paths through medical undergrowth, carves gates in walls, marches ahead with go-getting, new sight-setting good sense? What if she falters, sprawls with the other two on a bed that is much too small?