Low level gloom tripping over my feet all week. Thought it was anxiety, back again, pounding at my head and heart.
Black branches like arteries in my face, sinuous, raw. Shabby steel fences blocking my path, every turn, until the only thing to do is to stand still and feel, and smell the dark air; clinging like deep night.
I waited for the anxiety to take hold – the filthy, nauseating, eye-blurring, heavy breathing breadth of it – but it never came.
Instead there was a phone call. My friend, Jules. Now living in England, safe, thank God from riots and economic uncertainty, but not safe, never safe from what love can do. So-called love.
My Mum’s had a stroke, she said. She’s paralysed. I think I should come home.
Jules is Australian. One of my oldest friends. She is now living in England with her husband and children. She comes from a very wealthy family. Her mother does not approve of Jules’ musician husband and has not spoken to her daughter for over ten years. She has never met her grandchildren. She sends back gifts Jules and the children leave tentatively at her door. Unopened.
When Jules told her she was moving to England she didn’t even respond, didn’t even say goodbye.
Let the bitch rot, was my first thought. Strike me down for being uncharitable but I have seen what this woman who should never really be called a mother has brought about. I have seen my kind-hearted, compassionate, sweet-natured friend lie on the floor clutching her stomach and weeping at what her mother has done. Or not done. I have seen a woman who always looks on the bright side being forced to admit that sometimes the day is dark.
What if she dies alone? There is a quiver in Jules voice that breaks my heart. There is hope in that quiver and a kind of pleading.
Please love me, it says. Please. At the final hour please love me.
The sadness could rip my soul right out if I let it.
The quiver is my undoing. I cannot talk Jules out of not letting her mother lie in the bed she has made. I’ll meet you at the airport, I say. And I’ll come with you to the hospital.
I don’t want to see Jules’ mother. But I do want to see what she does. I want to see if she is capable at the end of her life of bypassing the coldness that has enveloped her heart and extending her hand to her daughter who has only ever acted out of love.
I need to know that at the end even the cold-hearted, the black-hearted, the broken-hearted can speak in their real voices and tilt their heads to the sunlight. I need to see it.
I need to know that the dark air biting all week at my feet wasn’t a portent but an indication of some kind of miracle. I need to look out the window and see radiance.