31st July

Dealing with It

‘I’m not sure,’ she said, ‘how well I would deal with such news. Not as well as how they’re dealing with it, I suspect.’

‘You would deal with it in your own way,’ he said. ‘Calmly, philosophically, realistically.’

‘I’m not so sure.’

‘Yes you would, because that’s who you are.’

‘You don’t know the turmoil going on beneath the surface,’ she said, and gave him a serene smile and a look so measured it was impossible to believe that anything other than complete stillness lay below.

‘What else can they do?’ he said. ‘There’s no point in being emotional. They just have to accept the diagnosis, listen to the doctors and hope for the best. It’s out of their hands. And the best is pretty good these days. Twenty years ago it might have been hard to feel optimistic, but survival rates are so much better than they were. The fact that it was picked up early . . .’

‘Let’s hope early enough,’ she said.

‘And he’s not been feeling unwell. He looks exactly the same as he always does. Perfectly healthy.’

‘But he’s not. Beneath the surface.’

‘No, but if he was losing weight, or had a bad colour, or was in pain . . . But he isn’t.’

‘I said to her, if there was anything we could do . . .’

‘I said that too. To him. I meant it but I’m not sure he heard. Not that there is anything. It’s just a form of words, isn’t it?’

‘It’s an offering.’

He didn’t reply for a minute. The bus stopped, disgorged some passengers, took on others. All those lives, getting on and off, heading down side streets, going home, going to meet friends or lovers, going to be with some- one or to be alone.

‘What did you mean just then?’ he asked as the bus lurched forward again. ‘What you said about turmoil? What did you mean?’

‘I was joking,’ she said. She laid her hand on top of his. ‘There is no turmoil.’



But something surged through him so unexpected and violent that for a moment he thought he might be sick. If something should happen to her . . .

He managed a smile. ‘That’s good,’ he said.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium and Piano: Kit Downes
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