The Writers Voice
When I stepped out of his brother’s car, the wind howled and the rain lashed, stinging the tiny bit of bare flesh that wasn’t covered by my raincoat. His brother unlocked the front door and we stepped inside.
When we got inside the house, I felt.... well, I don’t know...sort of calm. His brother led me to the door of the room he was in, and I went in, alone. When I opened the door, I had to bite back a gasp. My friend’s frail frame was almost swamped by the squashy sofa that he was sitting on. His hands were little more than dying twigs, and you could see every vein.
His face was gaunt, but his eyes still sparkled with the same warmth that had always been there. They were the only thing that hadn't changed.
When he saw me, you might think he'd say something like;
"Good to see you, mate", or "Glad you could come".
HA!! Fat chance of that. What he actually said was:
"Is it raining out there? You look like a drowned rat." We laughed hysterically, and then I sat beside him.
"It's. Raining. Alright." I told him, in between gasps of laughter. He patted me on the back.
"I could tell." He replied, in kind sarcasm. Then, as if to tell me what I already knew, he flattened his T-shirt so I could see his protruding ribs. I must have gone pale or something, because the next thing I knew, he hooked his left arm around my shoulders and held me close to him.
“Hey, its alright.” He murmured, stroking my hair lightly. I didn’t say anything; I just rested my head on his chest and listened to the rhythmic resistance of his beating heart.
“Are you…” he paused, unsure of how to phrase the question he was trying to ask. I looked up at him, as if to say, just spit it out.
“Are you scared?” he asked slowly.
“Well, I…..” it was my turn to stop now, his question had caught me totally off guard.
“It’s alright. I am too.” He admitted.
“You’re……. you’re scared too?” I asked, almost stunned.
“Aye. It’s strange, you know, being faced with all this.” he replied, keeping his voice carefully calm and level. I felt a well of emotion building in my throat and swallowed hard, trying to keep it all in.
We sat in silence for a while, listening to the hammering of the rain on the window. He kept looking at me, trying to check whether I was okay. The conversation about being scared had shocked me, and he’d realised.
Casting around for a change of subject, my friend turned on the TV. It was already tuned to one of those hilarious blooper programs, so we spent the next three quarters of an hour laughing ourselves silly at some unfortunate persons embarrassing mistakes. For instance, one man was playing cricket with his friends, the ball was hit the wrong way and it hit him right in the……… I’ll let you work it out. My friend actually felt sorry for the poor bloke. On another one, some woman’s baby threw its dinner up…..all over its mothers head. It was stuff like this that kept us laughing right until the end credits.
“Oh,” my friend laughed, “I haven’t laughed like that in weeks.”
“And……and when the baby puked on her head……” I choked, doubled over with laughter.
“The woman’s face!” my friend choked in response. “Was a total picture!!!”
Everything was so normal that I’d almost forgotten that he was ill.
“That was good.” My friend said.
“Yeah.” I agreed.
“We should’ve done that more often.” My friend sighed sadly. I jumped.
“What do you mean ‘should have’?” I asked, suddenly terrified. My friend sighed again, and then tightened his hold on me.
“Chances are, it’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna happen sooner rather than later.” he explained gently.
“Wha-” I started, then I stopped because I didn’t trust myself to speak. I’d realised straight away which ‘it’ he was talking about and I was too shocked to speak. The next time he spoke, even I could see through his usual calm and collected attitude.
“Will you…….I mean……” he coughed, obviously upset by the thing he had to say next.
“Will I what?” I asked quietly. He looked down at me.
“If it…..you know, happens………would you stick around? For the family, I mean?” he asked. I could tell he was close to tears and to tell you the truth, so was I.
“You know I would.” I replied. Then we held each other as if we’d never let go.
After a long while, he cleared his throat.
“I know it’s not exactly easy for you, knowing all of this. But it’s pretty much what the doctors have told me.” He told me, not meeting my eyes. I sat up straight.
“Stuff the bloody doctors!” I exclaimed. “They don’t know you.”
My friend chuckled quietly.
“They don’t. You’re right. I’m gonna prove them wrong. They say months, I say years.” He said quietly.
“Did they tell you-” I started. (Jeez, this was a hell of an awkward question.)
“You mean, did they tell me how long I’ve got?” he asked, a trace of bitterness in his voice. I nodded.
“Aye, they did. They said 6 months, at the most.” He replied quickly. I hugged him again, slightly harder this time. He sounded so alone and…… scared, I guess, that I couldn’t think of anything to say to comfort him.
“You know, you’re the only one who’s acted so normally with me.” He told me. I sat bolt upright.
“What do you mean?” I asked quickly. He sighed sadly.
“They act like they’re doing me a favour by coming, because of the circumstances.” He explained.
“Favour’s got nothing to do with it.” I growled. How DARE they. (Favours indeed!) I was furious. My friend snorted.
“Glad you think so.” He told me.
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