Thursday, February 13, 2014

he still sleeps on the couch,

the middle-aged man with ocean green eyes.

Why? I wondered aloud.

He hesitates, before saying - unconvincingly:
"Because the bedroom is messy...the couch is comfy..."

*                    *                    *

The bedroom is darkened, though the sun shines brightly outside.
The summer curtains are drawn closed, but they let some sunlight in - for they are after all summer curtains.

I imagine those summer curtains being of a bright colour of some sort - for they are after all summer curtains.
Bright colours clashing harshly against a gray ambiance.

Through this gray ambiance the middle-aged man approaches the person under the covers.
The key, he knows very well by now, is to wake her up at the right time...and on her own terms.
If so it would be a good start to the day, and the mood in the bedroom could be "just magical".

But I imagine that he pauses a while before doing so.
Maybe to take a deep breath, and take in the atmosphere of the room.
The tinge of fear in the air. For "fear was always there".

She wakes up to the ocean green eyes of her husband, though they are masked by the dimness.
A lady always on the verge of a migraine, she has been waking up every morning to a dun room because sunlight - even sunlight - makes her headaches worse.

But at least she wakes up to another day.

*                    *                    *

They went to Blackpool a few years ago, to go on the rides.

His fragile wife goes on her favourite ride three times in a row, surprising everyone.
"She surprised herself", says he, with a fleeting smile.

She was buzzing afterwards, but took days to recover physically from that escapade.
It was the last trip out they would take together, not counting the trips to the hospital.

"She was a strong character", "she pushed boundaries",
and if she decided to do something and it is within her power to do so, "it will be done",
the man gushes assertively about his fragile lady.

I imagine that lady now; a frail figure, in bed.
She is disoriented, weakened by both disease and treatment.
But though I cannot imagine her face I presume that she would have eyes betraying immense inner strength.
That despite everything, she was still in charge; if not of her physical strength, at least of her willpower.

"She handled it with the highest degree of class",
her proud husband assures me,
ocean green eyes almost glowering.

*                    *                    *

She was the youngest of six children, and was left by all those siblings to take care of her mother.
A mother with a host of illnesses so extensive,
"I don't know half of them", says the middle-aged man.

The man met the lady who would someday be his wife,
at a point in time where she was "finding herself".
And they found out that they were
born in the same year,
had similar backgrounds,
had parents with the same jobs...
After only a few meetings they realised that they fit like a glove; naturally.

I imagine that the shock would have been like a nuclear bomb had gone off;
when only months after they've met, she was diagnosed with cancer.

*                    *                    *

Why did you stay?

"She would have done the same if the roles were reversed."

*                    *                    *

In the darkened bedroom, husband and wife watch hours of sitcoms on the telly.
If I played my cards right, he said, "I could keep her laughing for hours".

Yet, by 2013 she was having episodes of uncontrollable crying, though she had rarely cried before.
She knew. They knew.
The end was near.

Hours of Coronation Street and Everybody Loves Raymond couldn't hide the elephant in the room.
Bright colours clashing harshly against a gray ambiance.

*                    *                    *

Why did you stay?

"She needed me there."

*                   *                    *

I had to put the next question across carefully; for at this point, it is so easy to misinterpret.

Was the whole experience - hesitation - a blessing in disguise?

A pause.

Before he answers
that some couples can't stand the sight of each other after just a few hours,
some couples just see each other for a few hours each day,
some couples are nothing but a couple of clones - repeating the same routine everyday.

That a relationship needs 100% commitment, 100% of the time.

But for him and his ailing wife, probably because of that very ailment...
it all came effortlessly.

It was a blessing in disguise.

*                    *                    *

Today, it is ten years and five days since they first met.
If not for the cancer, "we could have been hang gliding by now," he observes.

But, I note silently
that if not for the cancer, the last two years in that bedroom would not have happened.
Two years in the bedroom which were, in his words, "the best time of my life, and the worst time of my life".
The culmination of the nearly decade-long period before in which they were "each other's world".

*                    *                    *

I bring myself abruptly out of that world
and into the CSLC of the Stopford Building,
where I am in conversation with the middle-aged man with ocean green eyes,
who still sleeps on the couch.

Why do you keep coming back, to speak to us medical students?


"This is her legacy".


Work of non-fiction.