Panic, panic, panic, like the torrential rains we have had these past few days, beats down on every thought, drenching every thought, negating every thought, and my heart pounds and pounds and pounds its terror, and I hear it speak in a quiet voice, Oh, dear God, must there yet be more of this?
And I have no words of comfort other than the truth, ‘There will be no more conversations, now that she has gone, now that my dear wife has gone. For she was the one who spoke to us, she was the one who always knew what to do.’
But can she not come now, from the afterlife, if only infrequently, if only once?
‘I thought she would, because she could not doubt the fact of life after death. There is just too much evidence, and she read the books of researchers who jolly well knew their craft, and in the face of such evidence, there could be only one rational position. So if anyone were to come back with words of comfort, it would be her, yet she does not come, and that is half of your panic. The other half is stirred by the realisation that there will be no more conversation, for the rest of our time in this dismal, cruel reality, there will be no more conversation.’
Can we not find other people to talk to?
‘Maybe. But how do we find them? How could we ever develop that intimacy that we shared for all those years? No one knows we are here, you and I, slowly losing our reason for lack of conversation that like the centreboard of a boat would hold us to a sensible course.’
Could we not continue on our old course?
‘No. Have you forgotten? She died, and for all those years, because of her lifelong illness and disability, we looked after her, and her thoughts were as free and vigorous and engaging and enlightening as they could be, for her sickness lodged only in her body. So that is why we were always so busy, you and I, preparing meals, washing and cleaning and taking her out to the hospital, and once in a while, so infrequently towards the end, we would have a day out at St Albans, and before that we used to visit that second-hand bookshop that had taken over the premises of a closed-down solicitors, with all those little offices, ideal for categorising all the books into major subject areas – in this office, history, in this office next door, literature, and further down the long, long corridor, other little rooms for gardening, adventure and travel, crime, and children’s books, right at the very end. But do you remember, the owner had to close the shop when the council put up the business rates to a level he could not sustain? That was when we bought one of his tables, which we brought home in the back of our car, which to this day has been in the back room, its two shelves, and the top of course, stacked with books, so maybe the table does not know anything untoward has happened, and in its own feeble way, for it is made of wood, it thinks it is still in the bookshop, and that when I go to take books from it, and bring them back, it thinks I am a customer.’
Is there nothing, then, that will end this pounding and this panic and this despair?
‘I do not think so. We must hope that it will not last for long. We are not young any more, you realise? Not like we used to be. For that is how we felt, we felt so very young, right up until the day she died, even though others, especially those who are as yet young, would think us already old. This is how our days are now, and they are not so bad, not so bad when tabulated against all the other days that sometimes others must suffer, for the suffering here is so very great.’
I do know that, I do. And I am so very sad for it.
‘As am I, as am I, my dear heart – for that is how she would refer to me, sometimes, and that is how I may now address you, just for a little longer, to keep the phrase alive in this little house (for it is not “our little house” any more).’