Cold (5)

The day collapsed.

I’d got him up, as I said, in my insistence on trying to ‘keep things normal’. And we’d done the shopping, though he kept veering towards the pavement. Everything felt surreal, as if all the threads were unravelling. And yet I still kept noticing the details. Like that chatty girl at Morrison’s who usually does the flowers calling out to a colleague and saying that she really must change her perfume. I’d joshed him in front of our friend on the till saying that, of course, he, being a man, had the cold symptoms much worse than I did. She’d laughed and nodded. Then we’d returned home, again as I said, and I’d worked and then, just as I was getting ready to go up to the Library to do my research I heard him calling me. Had he called before? Had I ignored it? And there he was lying on the floor.

He succumbs, he gives in. He always has. He isn’t a fighter. I couldn’t raise him. Try as I might. He wouldn’t help. Grab this, hold onto this. Nothing. It must’ve been an hour of trying. And then, out of frustration more than anything, and out of a desire to not see him on the floor, so degraded and helpless, I tried to yank him up. And I heard it go, I felt it wrench, something in my back. I cried out in both pain and fear. What had I done? Then the unravelling continued. I went to a neighbour for help. I had to knock on his 100-year-old mother’s door. She was up, he was not. She was in a dressing gown having a late breakfast listening to the radio. Deaf and not good with her sight, she peered to the left of me, her head on one side like a bird. I noticed a fly on their easy chair. Their living room-cum-kitchen-cum-dining-room smelt of fried food, unaired, trapped. He’s strong, she said of her son, he’ll help. I felt awkward waiting at her threshold so went back upstairs to wait for him. He was still on the floor, his face hard against the floorboards, unmoving. The neighbour couldn’t help. He just kept sliding. A dead weight. I called 999. They came, two big men in green. So kind. He was somnolent, his body leaning to one side. He’s got a temperature, one said. They tested his blood pressure, asked for paracetamol to give him and chatted away. One asked me about a picture in our hallway. What is it? he said. Then he said, Do you have a shop? They took him away and I went upstairs to lie on the floor, in pain and  incapacitated, I wept and slept and texted and called cancelling the trip to see friends in Bath, spoke to my darling sister, longing to have her near. They sent him home in a taxi four hours later. We make shift together. He is asleep. And I am slowed. I will cope but I am slowed. Brought down and grey. I fell again last night, he said, when I woke him for breakfast. Why didn’t you call me? I said. What could you have done? he said. It took him an hour but he solved it. He got himself up. Love and anger. Compassion and frustration. I see him on the ground and know this is a harbinger. This is my future as it is his. And I am lost. Today I am lost.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.