I bet you and I are not very much alike and would probably make conversation only because we are stuck in an awkward space together. Like a dentist’s waiting room. Or waiting for our children’s drama class to finish. A comment about the weather. A little laugh. Ha. Because we’re warm and sociable. And we’re British, and polite, but not too open, because that’s just weird. We’re just perfectly comfortable in our own skin, aren’t we.
Only, you see, I’m not. Comfortable. I’m actually holding myself together with bits of sellotape. Like one of those envelopes you re-use because you can’t be bothered to buy a new one to post that necklace from your mum in law from Christmas, the one you just sold on eBay, because I mean, has she never met you?? I’ve been opened and gutted and now I’m taped back together so that my contents (“Fragile”. “Handle with care”) don’t spill out. Don’t get damaged in transit.
But you probably wouldn’t know that. You’d think ‘oh, that’s a nice dress she’s wearing, bit mutton dressed as lamb but still… and who wears 4 inch stiletto heels to go to the dentist?’ You know, that sort of stuff none of us want to think, but which just pops into our heads and then we have to send mental apologies to the sisterhood because it’s just not nice, and then we try extra hard to appear warm and friendly and comfortable…
See, I’ll try very hard as well, so you don’t see that I walk around with this big bag of sawdust inside me. It’s stupidly heavy, and I am ridiculously unfit and there is no way on earth I can make it up the stairs with it. But I carry it everywhere. Couldn’t put it down because then I would deflate like a rag doll with the stuffing taken out. That sawdust is me, all I was, heavy and lumpy, but me. The thought of it makes my mouth go really dry, like I will never be able to produce saliva because… well, sawdust.
So when people ask how I am, and am I ok, I look well, I will always say ‘Oh I’m good! Don’t you worry about me. My bag of sawdust and I we’re doing just fine’. Because anything else would be catastrophic. Anything else would unravel me, and my insides would spill out, all that sawdust, getting into everything, what a fucking mess…
I carry death with me, and so much pain, and fear, and I’m in mourning. Imagine, a young married woman, a mother, starting to tell you about her fear that she won’t know how to do it when the time comes, and that she misses the way her husband used to smell, not this chemical smell which has become him, but the real him, from years ago… Nobody needs that level of awkwardness just before getting a root canal done. Seriously, nobody. I can’t sit there, watching the pretty goldfish, and tell you that my husband is not my husband anymore, he is a small, frail shadow of himself, with a clock inside him like Captain Hook’s crocodile. A clock none of us can stop, or slow down, and we’re all holding our breath waiting for the alarm to go off, and dreading it, dreading it like it’s the end of the world.
Because it is. It’s the end of my world.