She’s sobbing into my chest but I think its a muffling technique rather than an action looking for comfort. I’m probably her least favourite person in the world right now. This is my fault. The crying is permeated by intermittent, choked wretches, each one sending painful pangs through me. Selfishly I wish I could tune them out.

  The clinic is a grubby little place, its once sterilized whites now shades of grey or yellow. The portly woman in reception did nothing to distance herself from Hollywood stereotypes when we came in a little while ago, judgmental and scathing in equal measure.

  “It’s not too late-“ I begin, but Alice punches me weakly in the stomach and moans for me to shut up. I fight back my own tears; its the last thing she needs right now. She shrugged my hand off her shoulder a couple of minutes ago but when I try again she doesn’t care, or doesn’t notice. Whichever. My eyes are beginning to sting, so I focus intently on the posters  on the far wall. Posters I wish now I’d gone out of my way to read before.

  “Alice McCarthy?” someone calls, and Alice and I both look up to see a woman standing in the doorway to the surgery, an open lab coat giving way to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers shirt underneath, and I can’t help but feel nervous leaving my girl in her hands. Of course, Alice won’t be my girl after this is over. I’m not deluded enough to believe that this will be something we’ll be able to put behind us. We’re over.

  Alice stands up and I can see a final shudder ripple through her slender frame. If I’d seen that eight weeks ago I would have done things differently. That’s what I’ll tell myself tonight, anyway. Alice turns back to me, a desperate look in her eyes, as if she’s thinking of making a break for it. Her cheeks glisten under the halogen strip lights above us.
  “Alice…” I say, waiting for her to give the word. To tell me to take her and run, away from this sordid place and the terrors waiting at the hands of the Chillis fan. But she doesn’t. She turns her back on me once again, and I realize the look was one of condemnation. She follows the doctor into the back room and the door closes behind her.

  A few minutes pass. There’s no wails from behind the door. Paradoxically, the lack of extroverted drama accentuates the horrible reality of it all. I sit with my face in my palms and wish I had the balls to get up, kick the door down and carry her out. Promise her that everything will be okay, that I’ll always be here, that I’ll look after us all.

  I’m in my daydream for longer than I realize. Before I know it the door is opening again. Alice walks out a changed woman. Harder, tougher somehow. She’s no longer crying, and her strength makes me weak. Or allows it. Either way, I burst into tears where I sit, stifled sobs seeping out of the sides of my ugly grimace. She walks over to me, carrying herself differently already. In every way, she is empty. Her hollow eyes, devoid of emotion, stare down at me.

  “I’m ready to go now,” Alice says. The doctor is behind her, calling the next patient, her life-changing powerplay but one of many she’ll perform today. I stand up and reach for Alice’s hand, and – surprisingly – she lets me take it.

  “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and I cry harder. She holds me to her shoulder, her free hand in my hair, curling my locks around her fingers.

  “What?” I manage, utterly confused. She never answers. Somehow I know she never will. What I don’t know is that she’ll be there for as long as I ask.


~ by Joseph Blame on July 1, 2010.

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