I can see the headline in
the local paper,
‘Woman with two cats dies alone in
hope is when the undertakers arrive to collect the body they
don’t look at the ceiling. The damp stain I have been staring
for the last two days looks just like a map of Afghanistan.
Journalists are always looking for an angle and might suggest terrorist
connections with the corpse.
What pisses me off is that unless you can lay claim to one of the
fashionable asymptomatic Mexican swine flu viruses nobody is prepared
to believe you're really ill. A heavy cold they
they say! Had one of those last year. Overrated.
But my cold is the king emperor of colds - viral pneumonia with somatic
complications at the very least – and it quickly blossomed
phlegm-fest bringing with it a vocabulary of rare beauty: the
congestion of catarrh, the music of mucus, the slither of sputum. And
is there a more wondrously onomatopoeic word in the language than
phlegm? With its cluster of slimy consonants and its brilliant silent
g, phlegm sings of ill-health and possibly slow death. In the
unlikely event I am spared and get better I will incorporate it into a
poem. Or set to music as a pop chart topper maybe. Wonder
rhymes with phlegm? Meyhem?
Meantime I can’t get up but on the other hand can’t
just lie here with these thoughts and only Franklin and Robespierre for
company, contemplating suicide but without the get-up-and-go to top
myself. The two cats – F and R - though think it is
warm and wonderful, snuggled in each side of me, but if I linger on
beyond the weekend the cat food will run out and it will be different
The surgery said it's just the virus. As if that helps. The
said the doctor wouldn’t come and see me as this virus might
relation of the Mexican one and the new rules about pandemics prevent
me coming to the surgery as other patients might get it. The
doctor might get it. The nurse might get it. The current
seemingly is that sick people pose a real health risk to a surgery.
The nurse said she would arrange a prescription for some antibiotics,
adding cheerfully they are useless against this kind of
I thought of ringing the Samaritans, but I imagine what they would be
like? Awful people in woollen jerseys who Want to Help with your
Depression. They might say if I was seriously contemplating suicide I
should go to Pakistan where, if I could drive a van, I would welcomed.
I tried a shudder. Five minutes of being understood by one of those
Caring People who Really Do Understand and it is more than likely I
will be violently angry as well as plunged into an iridescent kind of
despair, life as an abattoir, eternity as a sewer, love as a sort of
lethal glue, and then I would have to get up.
I do not want to get up. Getting up might possibly do me the
world of good but I am not prepared to do it because of the temperature
(which even your average volcano would have trouble matching) and the
insomnia and the dizzy spells and the migraine.
Two days now of squelching sadly around my basket, hallucinating
lethally and fighting with the sheets and a Thing I bought off
Internet just weeks prior to my being ‘cursed with this
contagion’. (quote from Macbeth,
yes?) A Thing,
you know; a muesli and stuffed with goose-down. Years ago we didn't
have mueslis, just blankets, and then suddenly they caught on; how odd
that there was all that goose-down to meet the demand. I said
this to my sister who called in yesterday, handkerchief to nose, to see
if I had any last wishes and to remind me that I had promised she
should have the Dresden china
told me she had bought a Thing years ago, but no, the cheaper ones are
duck. When you remember the fashion for Chinese food preceded
fashion for Things, so they were chopping up duck from Peking to the
Himalayas and saving all the feathers, the clever little
And, by the by, they are called duvets and not mueslis. I
knew that and who had mentioned muesli? And she said I had
said never as muesli is a kind of breakfast cereal that looks like the
stuff you get when you clean out the birdcage?
But I still can’t sleep. It is sort of comfortable under my
muesli but I need to take a couple more aspirins and distract myself
with some positive thinking. Positive thinking about
Sex? ‘There is such an ache to my
(quote from Othello, yes?) For this virus seems to have done
strange things with my libido.
Hello, that thought about loins and libido was unwise: I
I’ve stopped breathing. When I was doing
First Aid at
school we were taught that this is one of the symptoms of what doctors
call 'death'. Not just doctors; locums do, too, when the doctors are on
holiday having a bit of a ski, something a bit energetic up Gstaad,
bend from the hips, weight on the outside edge, go with the curves,
watch the rhythm and make sure she has her orgasm first.
I have never heard such rubbish in my life. How can you tell?
When I had my health I watched that video, When What's-his-name Met
What's-her-name, the one where she faked a massive solo orgasm in the
delicatessen, and all the men winced and looked sheepish. Not me. I
found it utterly unconvincing. Nobody has ever made noises like that in
my presence, and if they did I'd throw them out fast. Pure histrionics,
if you discount the possibility that the women I know can not even be
bothered to fake it properly, which is of course ludicrous. We
harpsichordists are known to be the world's best lovers, possessing all
the necessary skills: a precise, quick, featherlight touch, a
bone-cracking sense of tempo and rhythm, the ability to contract the
correct muscles while doing the fingering for Bach’s E flat
Partita on his back with the other. My orgasms are always all
beautifully tuneful, creaked in rhythm with my breathing and my gasps
and the libretto all in the same key, the shrieks and the sighs
modulated into a crescendo. And the coda...
This conjures up a nice mental picture of my amour, the gorgeous
Michael who right now is measuring global warming by the thickness of
the ice in the Arctic Circle and, since I mustn’t distract
he falls through a large crack, I have not told him, when he calls up
on a crackly phone line, that I am death’s portal.
tell my brother though and he sounded sympathetic and he mentioned the
Dresden china figurines and I said fine he could have them after the
I did call up my ex to ask his advice about ordering an iron lung on
Internet shopping if the breathing problem comes back? But he
said but you never get ill and I said well now I have and he said you
don’t take enough care of yourself and I said well you never
bothered much with caring when we were married. So I got in a
temper which made my breathing worse. It was only half the
process that went wrong, the breathing out part. I could suck the stuff
in but getting rid of it again was impossible, so I lay there thinking
this is comfortable but not as comfortable as it was and wondering if
an untipped cigarette lightly smoked, would unbung the works, but then
I remembered I don’t smoke now so I’m lying here
for my life to flash past. I have waited and waited until I finally
realised it has flashed past already, over the last 30 plus years.
Nobody ever told me it did it in real time, so the only thing to do is
to think about something else.
Aspirins. The difference between aspirins and fancy aspirins is that
the latter come in bubble packs so, when you come to take the overdose
you have decided on , you find it is just too tiring releasing enough
to be sure of ending it all. And why is it every expensive
of fancy aspirins has a pseudo-scientific name, a monstrous advertising
budget and very few pills? A leaflet in tiny print tells you they will
soothe the throat, clear the nose, quell the fever, stop the shakes,
find you a new lover, pay off the mortgage and solve the political
problems in the Middle East. It also promises not to make you
drowsy. I don't know why. When I am suffering like this I like to be
drowsy. Ideally I would like to be completely comatose.
Then I would not have to think about my Last Will and
My cousin Freda has been banging on to me about that, even sent me a
form, but I told her, didn’t I, that I had nothing very much
leave except the cats. She said what about the Dresden china
figurines and I said oh, you can have those.
I’m wrong, that stain on the ceiling looks more like a couple
copulating. I’d like to be doing that right now
it would make me cough. But damn it, my lover would have to
blindfolded. I look totally wrecked. He
would have to
be wearing one of those antiseptic nose and mouth masks too in case
His hands would be in my hair, lips brushing my cheek, encapsulating me
in a cocoon of comfort. On top of me, under the muesli - sorry, duvet -
our legs entwined around each other's locking us together.
hands gently stroke me through my tastefully embroidered charity shop
nightdress, a hint of what is to come. His tongue softly
neck inciting sharp intakes of my breath. No, hang on, he
can’t do that, not wearing a mask.
Dear me, now my coughing, wheezing, sighing and the thrashing about in
the bed have frightened the cats. Heard the double clang of the cat
flap. Still, my imagination is unimpaired and my pulse has revived to
the point were a possible heart attack might achieve my coup de grace.
not. Power of positive thinking. Feeling so much
better. Might even get up. Might have something to
then see if I can call Michael up and check when he will be back from
the Arctic. Mixing only with Eskimo women for months, he’ll
understanding about a raddled, post virus trauma appearance.
Pity about the funeral though as there would have been an exciting
small family war afterwards with bits of smashed Dresden china
figurines scattered everywhere. But then I would have missed it anyway.