Living Under Treacle
She was living under water. Moving through treacle. Was this what people on lithium felt like? Well today would be different. Today she would... definitely. She slid out of the bed, swivelling legs to the floor, like some old lady. When did she stop throwing back the covers and jumping out of bed? The LED on the clock said 05:27, maybe there'd been a power cut. Her watch said twenty five minutes past five. No power cut. There was light coming through the curtains. Opening them allowed the view of a scruffy dawn behind the cathedral spire. The whole of the town's terraced streets, full of student lets, shady rentals and old people hanging on to the house they were born in, separated Medea's flat from the hilltop and its beautiful mediaeval buildings. She stood in front of the wardrobe. All the clothes looked like someone else's. However good they'd looked in the shop's mirror, when she put them on her own hangers, she was reminded of charity shops and jumble sales. Most days she had to force herself to wear anything at all. But today was the day. No doubt about it. So she would have to grin and wear it. Ha ha. Greg, the last one, would have made that joke first, before Medea had even thought of it. He'd gone and good riddance. Not everything was funny, was it? Some people didn't have to laugh every day. Medea took out the one item that wasn't hers. A vintage dress, some would call it. It was a Thea Porter maxi, it had belonged to her Grandmother. It still fit. Medea hadn't worn it since... Well, a long time ago. She laid the dress carefully on the quilt. Time for a shower. The water came slowly at first, running a little brown while the pipes settled down. The ventilator which came on with the light allowed the smell of chip vats from the take away downstairs into the cubicle. She gagged but didn't vomit. Nothing to puke in any case. The bald head looked out at her from the mirror. She got on with the eyebrow pencil. Her first efforts had been truly laughable. Now she felt she was channelling Joan Crawford's make up artist. On with the false eyelashes. No make up. Her skin was really good, no, really. The treatment really ought to have resulted in all kinds of spots, blemishes and lesions. But there was nothing. In fact, her skin was better than it had been in her twenties. The wig was on the polystyrene stand. Medea left it there. She was going to wear a hat. £2000 for a natural hair wig and it itched, scratched and made you sweat. The hat had been her mother's. Wide-brimmed, straw and with a beautiful chiffon hat band that could have done duty as Isadora Duncan's scarf. The chiffon's colour had faded from a vibrant purple to a gentle lilac and was none the worse for that. The clock said 8:05. Living under treacle.
She missed the 9.10 by seconds. Twenty minutes lost in the stairwell. Never mind. That meant there was no-one in the bus shelter and those uncomfortable moulded seats would be empty. The tramp who'd used to sleep there had moved on when the bus company had removed the bench. Medea believed that no-one could sit for more than ten minutes on those seats. The number 9 arrived every 15 minutes, so most people stood after a while. Medea used the five spare minutes to get out of the seat. Some of the drivers weren't particularly patient. Perhaps they were at the beck and call of what they used to call time and motion experts. No-one actually complained about the time it took Medea to board the bus and sit down. People just looked at their watches and looked away, out of the window or down at the floor. It was like being invisible, or being the most embarrassing relative. People couldn't, no, wouldn't see you. And they all knew, as if a huge sign over your head told them. Even if they didn't see you moving like an 80-year-old, they still knew. The bus stop outside the cathedral was the end of the line. If the bus arrived on time it parked up for twenty minutes and the driver would get off for a sneaky fag or a pee in the public toilets. Of course, having Medea on board would eat into that time. Most drivers tried hard not to scowl when she got on and off their buses, she could see that.
Medea's watch said a quarter to eleven. There were few people in the graveyard. The last time she'd come, it had been a bank holiday weekend. It had been busy. A man had given her one of the flowers he'd brought for a gravestone. She'd been tempted, but you couldn't tell. It was best that she had given all that up. The two graves were side by side in a corner under the shade of an ash tree. Perhaps it was one of the last in the county. Two lives taken by the first two bouts. She hadn't even known she was pregnant, when they'd sent her for the tests. Neither time. The doctor said the second time was a miracle. She'd insisted they give her the foetus, both times. Buried without being born. Medea's treatment would have killed them anyway. Jason left after the second time. And now it was back again and the treatment too. She was living under treacle. Perhaps that was what dying felt like.