© 2015 Lynsey

Day 1 – the old beginning

Marica is sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping.

“What’re we going to do? What’re we going to do?”

I hold her and try to act like we can take on anything, but the reality is I’m not sure about that and I really haven’t got a clue. Right now I want my Mum and Dad. They’re long gone and I make a decision that there’ll only be one of us crying at a time. That’s the second decision of the kind of the day.

This morning I watched Michael shake with determination as he downed the four glasses of “Tang” the hospital sent us. I tried it yesterday. Salty lemon-y lime flavour. Kind of like cheap instant margarita mix, without the tequila, and about twice as disgusting on the second sip. Michael punctuates the drinking of each of the four glasses with a visit to the bathroom to download.

“It’s yellow and clear like pee.”

We nod and grin and pretend it’s normal, and encourage him to down another glass of the solution. He’s focused on cleaning his teeth and then having a barley sugar to get the taste out of his mouth.

He visits the bathroom another three or four times before we go to the hospital. As a sign that miracles can happen, we got a park, just inside the basement garage. It wasn’t as cool as I’d imagined, but it was darker, quieter. I’ll take that. The garage smelled of cars and concrete dust and old fear.

We found the purple lifts, they’re ones that are green.

In the colorectal department the staff are busy and efficient. There’s no real down time. I watch four people go through while Michel has his blood pressure taken and he’s prepared. He’s grinning and we’re fooling around – him from the bed, me from the waiting room. Thumbs up.

The specialist calls us into an office. We obligingly sit where we’re supposed to. We’re all polite because we want as little fuss as possible. If we’re good, act nice, be polite maybe they won’t tell us what we already know.

Oh yeah, we know.

We don’t know the details, and we won’t say the words out loud, but we know. We know we know we know.

The specialist holds the report up to his chest, folding his arms to protect himself from our gaze. We’re not angry. We know we know we know. He flashes us photos of the alien as if we needed visual confirmation. He talks about scans and surgery schedules and to keep with our holiday plans. Act normal, don’t be upsetting. There’s a someone who’ll contact us to talk about it.

Good luck with contacting us. We don’t need telepathy to know that we are both thinking, “They’ll be useless.”

We nod agreeably.

As though that’s something we want. As though that’ll make all the difference. Pretending politeness.

He runs out of words and leaves us. He’s got a full caseload and it’s Christmas. The door clicks shut and we take the first breath of the day. We try to make up a game plan. Marica has played this game before. I haven’t. I’m not sure I’m the first choice to have on the team. I’m not sure of anything any more. No, I am sure we’re packing and getting out of here.

We sit in the hospital foyer eating roast beef and lettuce, and egg and ham sandwiches from Wishbone. They’re chilled to the core. Visually nutritional, essentially flavourless. Marica reads the report. I eat. Michael talks. Too loud, no filters, off topic.

There was no topic but doesn’t he know that if we’re not polite and nice bad things might happen? We need to ameliorate the risk of bad things by being exceptionally likable. That’ll make all the difference.

Across the floor some bored Island boys fool around with rubber gloves. One white glove, on the left hand, Michael Jackson style. Our coffee arrives. I ask for sugar. Apparently it’s over on the counter. Could I be more stupid? Don’t you know? Where else would it be? She returns to her coffee-making world, oblivious.

Michael can’t stop talking. We hush him down, and make reassuring noises. Marica gives in, and makes the first decision of its kind for the day. No secrets. She tells him everything.

He’s fine with the news. He’s been there before. It’s a familiar routine. Like watching a favourite movie over again.. He can say the lines, he’s seen it so many times before.

We drink our coffee for courage and we draw straws to ring Michael’s sisters. There’ll be more calls throughout the afternoon and evening. The food and coffee kick in and our headaches back off down to a growl.

So many questions start chirping like baby birds, demanding attention. What’ll we do – will we have enough money – who and how do we tell – Michael we’ll have to get you new pyjamas for the hospital… polite, no fuss, obliging, managing our fears, don’t make a problem for others, it’ll be easier for you.

We get home and make dinner. Michael wants frankfurters and lettuce from our garden for his first real meal in nearly 36 hours. I’m slicing red onion for the potato salad and talking on Skype to a friend who needed business advice. My first live cooking show. Our renown kitchen machine starts up. Marica talks to people on the phone as she cooks, I retreat to continue my online conversation. Each member of our team pushing forward. We eat. Michael’s stomach gurgles with joy – fresh lettuce and frankfurters – food of the gods.

It’s been the longest day.

Marica sits on the edge of the bed.

21. Every day seek the support of others. You are not alone.
22. Every day refine, clarify and simplify.
23. Every day retain your personal power. It belongs to you. No one else.

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