Accidents happen. And often we see the happening before it happens. A split second and then it is too late. Done. The finger is cut. The blood starts to flow.
It wouldn’t stop. We ought to go to A&E, you said, just in case. I felt a little silly, it was nothing. There were only a few people there. One man lay prostrate across three chairs. We waited. A man shuffled past in a hospital gown and black leather jacket. He wore bright yellow socks on his feet, no shoes. We’d seen him outside smoking, the back of his gown gaping, showing his underwear. One of the doctors, you said, mistaking the yellow socks for surgical boots. Typical, you said.
My name was called. A junior doctor. Are Dutch? I said. No, Irish, he said. We found a room. I lay down on a bed. He wanted a second opinion. I lay there and watched the blood running and thinking about a Dorothy L. Sayers story about a haemophiliac. The red. Deep red, beginning to clot. A staff nurse burst in. What have you been doing then? he asked. Never, never clean ovens, he said breaking into a smile before bursting out again. The young doctor returned with his ‘boss’. No, no stitches, he said, but you need to rest it. You and the Irish doctor talked about Gaelic Football as he applied the tiny strips to my finger. I stared at the impossible whiteness of the hairs on his arm.
London. I am intoxicated by smells. An elderly gentleman, now shabby, with a silver-topped cane waiting for a bus outside the NPG. 8.30 am Guildford station. A gaggle of schoolgirls surge into Costa Coffee, giggling. Every second song now a Christmas one. The fog is cold, clammy. A father drags a reluctant child in a bright red cape across the station car park. I sneak another piece of pineapple into my mouth. I think about the night before, in the hotel, waiting and talking to the receptionist. She is Russian, lived in Lithuania, studied in Guildford and married an Indian. They wed in Mumbai. I wore a sari, she said. Her grandmother was a woodcutter. She’s still very strong, she said, even at 93. We had a second wedding in Lithuania, she said, a traditional one. The next morning there is Postman Pat and I am mesmerised by the perfect beauty of my nephew’s tiny toenails.
Later in the train’s toilet a tiny piece of paper flutters in the vacuum like a moth.
I have decided not to do it. How does that feel? To let it go like that? Strange. Emptying. What next? What of the void? Shall I chance it? Let it be. That void.
They are talking about the weather and the cult of the weatherman. We want them to make the chaos reasonable, he says, to make the future safe.
In 1953 over 300 people drowned in the floods in East Anglia. We don’t feel it so vividly anymore, he says.
No. We don’t. To live vividly. Vividly, lividly. Red. Blood. The flow is staunched, temporarily.