Friday, 8 January 2010

Life’s Too Short

Today Mum and I are off to Hobart. Shopping and then in the evening we are going to the opening of Mona Foma, Hobart’s excellent and free music festival.

I have a list of tasks, sorting out the usual hassles of being a citizen of the twenty-first century. A reciprocal health card must be obtained from a Medicare office. Cash machines reject the pin number on my debit card. My Australian SIM card isn’t working.

The joy of small cities like Hobart is that they are sparsely populated and everything is handy. I’m in and out of Medicare, Vodafone and the bank in twenty minutes flat. Next stop is the library.

Before we enter, Mum changes her mind. “Lets go to Eco Haven first to get your tincture of sage. They might be closing in a minute.” Just a few doors down the street, Eco Haven is the shop base of Michael Thomsen, the wonderful naturopath who supported me with advice and supplies of supplements throughout my chemo and radiotherapy. Michael isn’t in so we gather our supplies and then mum realises that she’s lost her credit card. She borrows my now working mobile phone to call the shop where she bought a vacuum cleaner a couple of hours previously. “I think this is going to be a long one,” mum says as she plops onto one of the Eco Haven cafe chairs. “Can you take my library card and go on up to collect my books?”

I walk back up the hill and notice that there is now an ambulance parked on the corner by the library entrance. The paramedics are tending to a man who appears to have been hit by a car. It must have happened in the few minutes that we were in Eco Haven. Not wishing to seem ghoulish I avert my eyes and walk straight into the library.

In the library I sit down at one of the computers. All day I have been dogged by the thought that my last posting on Chemo Chic was too harsh on Nick. Part of me thinks “You should write what you feel and let him just suck it up.” But the further we drive the more I feel that what I had written was, as Sheldon would put it, snide. That is to say, using inside information to do harm. Nick’s behaviour has been cruel and self-centred but spitefulness is not my style.

I delete the uncomfortable paragraph. Mum joins me in the library. “Any luck?” I ask. “Yes,” replies mum brightly, “my credit card was in my pocket.”

As we leave the library I notice that there are now two ambulances on the corner as well as two police cars. All I can see is the soles of a pair of black work boots. Paramedics are gathered around the man, one holding a drip bag aloft. “Looks bad,” I say to mum as we head into the car park that adjoins the library.

From the car park exit we have to drive back past the scene of the accident. As we pass I notice two of the paramedics packing their trolley into one of the ambulances. A third paramedic is covering the man’s face with a blanket. “The man has died.” I blurt.

We drive in silence. The image of those black work boots and then the glimpse of the paramedic covering the man’s face play through my mind like a continuously looped two-frame movie. A few long minutes go by. Then, “That poor man,” I say, “just like that!” and I snap my fingers. Then I start to cry. I can’t take any more sadness. I want to go home. I want to go to bed and sleep forever.

But I am glad now that I deleted my nasty comment about Nick. There are no points to score. There is nothing to win. Our love is already lost. I don’t want to think about him anymore. Life’s too short.

And life goes on. We head off to Mona Foma.