Wednesday, 8 February 2012
She was sure that death, when it came would follow a series of long, intense, blinding headaches. Sharp and blurry head pain was her expected herald of the end, a pain that was so pure, pitched at such a high point of sonic perfection that only the clear white light of death could follow. It was that moment of perfect rapport with eternal mystery that could only end with the one appropriate and final conclusion. She was staring at her face in the mirror, that caring and conflicted face that had stared back at her, always in the same frightened way. She concentrated on her features, the detail, looking into her own skin, beyond the pallid cheeks, the tired eyes, the shreds of yesterday’s make up, the lazy and limp curls that framed her face, all familiar but all still enjoyable and strange to explore. You never really know your own face any more than you ever know the back of your hand, “whoever made that silly observation?” she thought. How easy it must be to say something and have it scooped up and framed in some assumed profundity. Nobody really knows themselves, people surprise themselves all the time, I’m surprised to be here today, thinking these thoughts, feeling this bloody pain and unaccredited disappointment, she thought how good was to have the courage to face her thoughts.
The hurt inside her head was normal, familiar, she was normalising it, absorbing it in a book, or by humming a song, reading an article or talking to birds or cats, strays that landed in her garden and lost themselves between her feet. She curled a wisp of hair around her finger and squinted at it close up, trying to make out the colours. The strain reminded of pain and the ache returned from it’s hiding place, somewhere just around the corner.
Smoking eased things, the poisonous aromatics of tobacco lightened her inner nasal passages, the smoke licking around inside her head, clearing the swollen and pink imagined breathing tubes. White puffs of hot rising air to toast the brain with a mild narcotic. She sucked the tip hard filling her mouth, throat and lungs, holding it in so the smoky fingers could get to work and stroke away that festering tension with their sticky massage. Again and again till all that was left was the inch and a half of brown stained filter tip with a red lipstick signature to complete the ending. It has worked but she was already counting the moments to the next cigarette or aspirin or cup of coffee, that’s how you navigate when the white light is calling you. These mild reference points and markers. Signs and wonders along the way. Relief anyway you find it. Inside her head she’s reading, devouring up the words they use so anatomically, so tragically to describe all those other lives, lives floating past in carriages or on escalators, in their hundreds and thousands, grey heads bowed down, children looking up, hats and bonnets. Badly written and unassuming, trivial and vital, spreading seeds and taking photographs, scraping the rust but then realising it’s all too late, the moment, the one that seemed to be lasting for so long has now passed. The pain has passed to, she’s reading again, all about herself, her exploits and loves and long periods of inactivity, conversations and turning away smiles. It’s all there, told as it happened but not as it really was, in the book of obituaries.