Cold (7)

He woke unable to see properly out of one eye. It’s flashing, he said. It has happened before and they put him on blood thinning tablets. I’m scared, he said. I know. I know. I feel separate from it all. Nothing is solid anymore. The ground is shifting. I have to go to work. He has gone back to bed and we will walk up to the hospital together in a hour or so. I try to keep steady. But I feel numb. Is safety an illusion? Is everything really haphazard, a matter of chance? Is he going to die? Is it to be soon? Will life continue without him? He seems so frail, so lacking in resolve or fight. I return to my sketchbooks. This one is from over twelve years ago. I remember going to see the play. I went alone. We hadn’t left Cambridge by then, and I wanted some relief from his care. He was in a deep fog of anxiety and I was running the risk of drowning too. So I went to Manchester, stayed over night and watched a matinee performance of Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables at The Royal Exchange. Were any of my old work colleagues there? I can’t remember now. How I love matinees. There are such a good source of faces to draw. Elderly women with their handbags and cups of tea and cake in the interval, men with papers, all that shuffling around, and in that particular theatre, the great humphing-up onto the chairs.

I walked this morning, the first time in two days. I have to keep my back ram-rod straight, buttocks clenched in, else it gives. Keep going, I whisper, egging myself on. And now I will have to take the hill. So be it. I want to be able to manage without him. To hold my life together, somehow. Keep steady, I tell him. Keep steady.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.