Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

The pros and cons of kissing

Credit: imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Marketa stands on one side of me, Catriona on the other. Marketa is Czech and my carer. Catriona is my new wife. I’m lying on my back in dove grey flannel pyjamas.

At seven I’d woken to the most excruciating pain. Where the pain is located exactly I’m not sure. It is among my various lung and upper skeletal tumours, I’m guessing. Shoulders. Shoulder blades. Ribs.
Lungs certainly.

Once an hour I am permitted to press the morphine button at the end of the cable for pain relief. It goes beep – a jolly noise! After the second go, however, I have no pain relief and I’m counting the minutes to the next one. But shortly after I’ve pressed the button for the second time, nurse Marketa arrives to wash me and change my incontinence pad and pyjamas. So begins another day of this headlong physical decline. 

Sixty-six is my age; the day I was born, 66 was the life expectancy

The mental decline has been rapid, also, I think. During the night, for example, I looked at the bedroom door and wondered where it led to. Were we on the first floor, for example? Odd that, not knowing where previously familiar bedroom doors went, even at night time. Treena was wide awake, as usual, a guardian angel. ‘So where does that door lead to?’ I said, pointing. Mme Clarke looked at me as if my question were a trick one. I’ve been showing other signs of memory loss, true. Names. Dates. Events. But not doors or where they might lead. ‘The Winter Gardens, sweetheart,’ she said. And neither did it bother me not knowing where a once familiar door led to. Not really. Kinda fun, morphine.

So I’m lying on my back between wife and carer, naked except for my new nappy.

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