When the taxi arrived at her flat, even her eyes seemed to plead with me as she asked me to come in with her to talk for a while. She said that she wasn’t ready to be alone just yet. She kept apologising for how she was. My own heart was breaking to see her like this. She held my hand as we mounted the stairs to her first floor flat.
She apologised for the state of the living room. Her hairdressing equipment took up one corner. There were lots of framed family photographs and she explained each image while we waited for the pizza delivery I’d ordered. When it arrived, we ate it on our knees as she quizzed me about my life. We’d never got around to that properly.
There wasn’t much to tell. I’m divorced, no children, no siblings. I see my parents once a week usually. I’m also a workaholic, so the nearest I get to socialising is gossip with the neighbours as I garden or when we pass in the street.
Janet asked me to stay and be introduced to her sister. She’d mentioned me in her email. I was happy to oblige. I’d never before in my life become as involved with anyone as I was becoming with Janet. I couldn’t even analyse myself what I felt as we talked. It was comforting, but more than friendship, she was undeniably attractive, but it wasn’t lust. It wasn’t just pity either -although that did play a part. I enjoyed being with her, watching how her movements and expressions changed to reflect movements in her moods.
The ding-dong sound of an incoming Skype call found us sitting side by side on her sofa. Janet’s tablet lay open on a tiled coffee table in front of us. She picked up the iPad to answer the call. Linda was as blonde as Janet was flaming auburn, but their faces and body types declared their relationship. Linda asked immediately about the diagnosis and prognosis.
“Christ, sis!” she said, “That’s awful. How do you feel about it?”
Janet went through with her the conversations she’d had with me. She was spooked by the idea of death but was even more frightened by a dread of pain, of utter helplessness and dependence on others. She told Linda how she didn’t know what to decide about her treatment options. As a nurse, Linda was able to say a bit more about her own, admittedly few, experiences of caring for patients with advanced, cancerous brain tumours. A couple of times, Linda addressed me directly. She spoke as if she assumed that Janet and I were an item. Neither of us disabused her of the notion – though later we laughed about it. Linda said that if Janet became incapable of coherent speech or thought – as was possible – I was to become her contact. We exchanged details.
When the call ended, Janet started sobbing again. She said how what Linda had described had filled her with fear. For a while she lay in my arms. Occasionally I’d get up to make us a hot drink or one of us would need the toilet.
Later, Janet asked would I mind staying the night. She said again that she was afraid to be alone with her fears It wasn’t, she said, that she wanted sex, simply for the company of someone to hold her while she tried to sleep. Only moments later, however, she said that she’d changed her mind.
“Jesus Robbie,” she said, “within days they’ll want to admit me into hospital. If I can’t have sex now, I might never get to have it again. God! I never thought I’d be pleading for a bloke to fuck me, but I’m pleading now”
In her room we undressed each other slowly, shyly – exploring each other’s bodies with our eyes and our hands before she suddenly pulled me on top of her, on to her bed.
Later, snuggled beneath her duvet, we discussed death, the possibility of an afterlife – and what that could possibly be like. She questioned why she’d ever lived if she were just going to disappear forever.
Well, it wouldn’t be Liverpool without the Beatles, would it? The statues stand near the Museum of Liverpool. I took this shot with a camera that I traded in a while back – a 24 MP Pentax K3-ii. I used a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
The EXIF data are 1/100 secs @ f4 and 16 mm,. The ISO was 100. The shot was tripod mounted.