in ordinary times

Competition Twelve Highly Commended: In Ordinary Times by

When did it begin, this soft, relentless unspooling of time?

When you could not remember the way home, calling me in terror, the dog barking hysterically in the background?

When your favourite blue mug slipped from suddenly weak hands, smashing into a hundred fragments?

When we saw the grey fog on the x-ray, and held each other’s hands, stroking our battered wedding rings.

We sit in front of a neurologist who is younger than our youngest child. He is explaining the grey fog and I think “ You are too young for this, you should not have to tell people such terrible stories “

A medical student sits next to him. She is pale and serious, like someone who has reached the top of a roller coaster and changed their mind. She takes notes assiduously and does not look at us.

There are blue smudges of fatigue beneath his hazel eyes. One white cuff is stained with coffee. His hair needs cutting and my hands itch to brush it out of his eyes. His words sound as though they are bubbling up from deep underwater, an incantation, words of power that we both struggle to understand. Secondary; melanoma; palliative; terminal.

When did those first dark changes begin ticking in the clockwork of your cells? In one of those endless summer holidays of your childhood, sunburned, dusty days of football and exploration, in a time before we existed for each other? On the beach with our own children,  the days of sandcastles and kite flying? The images knock the breath from my body, a tangle of chubby arms and ice cream sticky hands, peals of laughter as you held them tight and jumped wave after wave.

In the car park, we hold each other, sorrow blooming in the space between.





Karen Arnold is a writer and psychotherapist living in Worcestershire



Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash


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