Monday, July 18, 2011

February 1982 (Part 2)

I was wearing a shirt with cufflinks. God knows why. I think it may very well be the one time in my life I’ve worn cuff-links. Maybe someone gave them to me. I was 18, probably thought they were sophisticated. Westminster Hospital. The doctor was a woman, and by now she had the results of the X-ray at Greenwich and the biopsy, so she had the definitive word, a sketch of the likely treatment, prognosis, all that. She was very firm that it was curable. Which made me think – for the first time? Surely not, but perhaps this was the first time it became articulated – it made me think it might not be curable. But my memory as usual skips around the dialogue, all the dramatic stuff, fixes on the embarrassing detail. She needed to take some blood. Just roll your sleeve up, she said. Then she sat and watched me as I fiddled with the unfamiliar cuff-links, with fingers that may have been shaking, wanting to tell her it’s not that I’m upset, although I am obviously, it’s just that I’m not used to these things, these cufflinks, these impossibly fiddly, utterly pointless bits of metal. How long? Probably only 30 seconds or so, but it felt like minutes. Is it even possible that she helped me? Perhaps I asked her, or perhaps she couldn’t bear to sit there any longer, watching. Anyway, the sleeve went up eventually. I imagine we both felt like cheering. Big events are written in capitals, they’re loud, they have exclamation marks. But it’s the small stuff, very often awkwardness, clumsiness, a mis-step, it's the ordinary texture of life that snags the emotions and hints at everything that lies beneath.

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