Martha-The Rewrite Chapter Seven
I can feel her stroking my hair. I open my eyes and she smiles down at me. She kisses me on the forehead. She stands and slips away to the kitchen. She returns with a mug in her hand and puts down a black coffee next to me. I can smell the brandy in the steam.
“Thank you Sash”, I croak. My voice sounds funny.
“How are you feeling mummy?” She only calls me mummy in times like these.
“I’m not sure love, too early to say” My torso feels like it has been battered by a large man wielding a cricket stump. I think it’s convulsions, my body at once resisting and releasing the pain.
“Paracetamol please love,” Sash reaches out to the side table and carefully selects two pills from the blister pack and puts them into my mouth. I take a sip of the coffee and swallow
“I don’t think I’m up to dancing Sash, it was a bad one.”
“‘I know mum. You look like shit.”
“Thanks babes,” I raise a smile even though it hurts to do so.
“I’ll run you a bath mum,’ I nod gently and look deep into the coffee. There’s a shudder inside me that never emerges. I can hear the taps spewing warm water in the bathroom and I try to breathe deeply to cajole my body to make the trip across the front room. I swing my legs off the sofa and my feet feel the soft rug below my toes. It’s so much softer than usual. I push myself up to standing and try to just stand still. I am so feeble. My knees shudder and I hover between taking a step forward and sitting back down. Sash emerges from the bathroom and rushes to me, taking an arm.
“Maybe you should sit down for a bit more mummy?”
“I need to get up sometime Sash, I’ve been almost dead for two days.”
“Four days? What day is it now then?”
“It’s Friday morning mummy.” I flop back down. Four days. Fucking hell. A new personal best. I wiggle my toes in the rug and decide that’s all that I will do for now.
“Is Jimmy here?”
“He’s gone to the shop mummy, he’ll be back soon.”
“Ok love. Let’s see if we can make it to that bath together, eh?”
I sit in the water and try to let my body hang loosely. It has been scrunched up in a ball for days. Four days apparently. I can feel it unfurl as the warmth creeps into me. I lie back and stare at the ceiling. There’s a crack that is tinged with brown. I keep forgetting to tell the landlord. It is bothering me so I look away and watch bubbles pop instead. I don’t understand this.I don’t know if this is sadness or something else. It is something that is so familiar and yet so foreign. It’s a close friend, a filthy spectre, an ongoing punctuation in my life. She never puts enough brandy in the coffee. I know it’s because she cares but it’s also really fucking annoying. I can hear talking from the front room. At least, I can hear Sash talking and not getting much in the way of a reply. It must be Jimmy. I call out to him and he comes into the bathroom, brandy bottle in hand. He knows me too fucking well. I don't cover up. I mean, he’s seen me covered in vomit and stood next to me when I pissed myself outside a pub, I’ve not much to hide. He tops up my coffee with brandy. It’s like having a massive silent butler.
“Thanks Jimmy,” he screws the top back on the bottle.
“I love you Jimmy boy,” he smiles and looks like he might actually speak but instead he just keeps smiling. He knows what I mean. I hope he does. He’s the only person I know who does stuff for other people and genuinely expects nothing in return. I know I don’t do that, not even close. If I do someone a good turn, they sure as shit had better help me out down the line. Not Jimmy though, he just does stuff. I tell myself to be more like Jimmy. No fucking chance.
I dress slowly not because of any lingering pain but because I want this to last so I don’t have to do anything more unsettling. The bath has helped my body a bit. I can walk around and just about do stuff like make coffee and pour brandy into it. I look in the fridge. There’s still a few fruity ciders left. Jimmy must have restocked at some point. It looks like he bought bread, butter and some eggs. I could just make Sash an egg sandwich for her dinner. No, that feels so cheap. I need to go shopping. I could ask Jimmy to go but I don’t want to take the piss. I can do this. I go back into the front room and there is no one there. Sash will have gone to school when I was still in the bath, Jimmy probably walked with her. Looks like I’m going to Aldi on my own. I can’t face it anytime soon, I’m not even sure if I would get up the steps to the street right now. I make another brandy coffee and sit hunched on the sofa with my elbows pressed against my knees, trying to contain the last of the pain inside of me. I sit like this for fuck knows how long until I feel better. I reach out for my boots and clumsily wrestle them onto my feet. Today’s gonna be hard work.
I go out onto the street. A van rattles by and sends a fuck load of noise right into my actual centre. I turn and go back into the flat. I should have asked Jimmy to go. I take a cider from the fridge. I start texting Jimmy. I hold the delete button down and watch the message disappear. I’ll have to sort this out myself. I go back onto the street and make it back up the steps. I look down at the pavement. The slabs shimmer and I stand still, gripping either side of the gate post.
“You ok Marth?” Second floor Stu is stood in front of me, way too close.
“I don’t know Stu, am I?” He looks at me with the expression of a dog who has just heard a confusing noise.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“I’m drunk and scared Stu and I need to go to fucking Aldi,” he nods, like I’ve just said something that wasn’t fucking deranged.
“I’ll go to Aldi with you,” he says it slightly too loudly and with such pride that everything feels a little bit better.
“Are you sure, Stu?”
“Yeah, sure, I’ve nothing on this morning,” he looks at his watch, “though I need to be back for 12.30.”
“Thanks Stu, if you’re sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. It’s only Loose Women, try to catch it each day. Not that I like it you see, it’s just interesting, the debates and that. Makes you think don’t it?”
“Why don’t we go and get the bus and you can tell me all about it on the way?”
“Ok, just give me a second, I’ll just nip up and get my shopping trolley.” I mean, he’s so very strange but how can you not be heartened by him. I sit down on the wall and think about what to buy. I concoct a special dinner recipe to cook for Sash and Jimmy if he’s about. Like a celebration meal. I did it, I survived again, I’m still here. Something with quinoa.