Wednesday, June 22, 2011

February 1982

I remember the sun shining. Walking across the heath, the long expanse of green criss-crossed by roads, the big sky above me. I took all that for granted, because I grew up with it. Then down the steep hill, Maze Hill I think, towards Greenwich Hospital where I received – can this be right? – the diagnosis. Odd that I can’t remember the particular moment when I was told. I think it was then, that day, that place, rather than with my GP, or at the Westminster or the Marsden, where I found myself later. I’d had an X-ray, they told me the result at Greenwich, sent me to Westminster for the biopsy.

I walked back up the steep hill, carrying this new information about myself, back towards the heath, and towards a moment I do remember well. It turns up at the beginning of my second novel, The Alchemist. Of course memory is unreliable, layered and patched by the stories we tell ourselves. I think I remember it well, but perhaps I don’t. Doesn’t matter, it’s solidly part of my history now. A woman was coming towards me, she was bulky and pasty-faced, she wore a denim jacket, and she looked like she was in the midst of an argument with someone. She glared at me, a scary fierceness to her, God knows what she might say or do, she shouted something into my face, and as I walked quickly past her, she turned and spat at my retreating back.

I don’t remember receiving the diagnosis. I don’t remember telling my mother when I got back. I remember the mad woman spitting at me, opening the door to a different future.

No comments: