Another one of the 500 word efforts... This one is called CS65.
The morning is unusual, unsettled. Characterised by questions, asked but unanswered. And then the news comes. Meet. At morning break time. There can be only one explanation.
A dozen people sit in unaccustomed seats, facing what is, for them, the wrong way. Normal would be up on the dais, explaining. But now they sit on the high stools, facing the front. Not facing the room. She is not here. Of course she is not here. That is why we are meeting. I am there, but I am not, floating around on my own tiredness and a growing fear that this is real. But it is as though the whole day, life itself is not real.
Outside the room, others equally desperate to know, equally touched by the news, are forbidden entry. They cannot be told. We cannot let rumour escape and do what we ought to do ourselves in telling them. As ever, it is this taking control of information that might best be shared, this withholding, this secrecy that masquerades as kindness when it is not. It is only much, much later that I know this, when the moments of shared honesty hidden among all the masks, all the talking around, all the lying that I have to do for my own sake, when those moments of shared honesty touch this moment.
He stands at the front. Dignified, perhaps, calm in this moment of crisis. We do not know yet, but we know. Yesterday, she wrote ‘I’m not well, and I think it’s accumulated stress but in any case I can’t breathe properly.’ Her last message was, simply, ‘Sorry to dump you in it.’
He says something which I barely listen to. His words do not make it into my mind, held away from me somehow. I am sheltering behind some sort of armour that I have built for myself. The last time, I heard him say it and I immediately thought of them, the ones who needed us most, and I spent the day with them doing what I could.
“… could not revive her.” It is, even in this moment of heartbreak, vague and imprecise. Is she gone? That is how the others react. That is the news. She is gone. I think of her, the fight with her cancer, the plan, the dog, the move to London. It is not the cancer that has taken her. It cannot be. Her treatment had worked. It is something else. Something unexpected.
She had planned to see a doctor. The world might be different now if she had done that then, instead of waiting and hoping. I write about waiting, and hoping, and love, and death. And I think of her, her child, her husband, the puppy that must not have joined their family. But mostly, I think of me. And my secret: her insight into me, that terrible sentence that I wish she had never uttered. That she has taken with her. Goodbye, friend. Ave atque vale.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought