December 1st, 2005.
An unremarkable day, a tick in the box of life, destined to be one more spent with little achieved, little lost, equilibrium maintained.
After 5pm, at work. The noise of a busy office only noticeable now in its absence, the hum of the heating gone, the gentle tap tap of a distant keyboard, the under the breath crooning of the cleaner.
I had a different job back then, before I became a manager. I was a techie, not a people person, back in the day. He was the person I referred to, the person in the office that always had time to help, the person who could answer any question.
I had waited until the office was quiet; I had a difficult query, needed to ask his advice about how to deal with this particular piece of work. I went to his desk, explained. We sat engrossed in the file, while he wrote down notes, asked me questions, referred to the computer, asked more questions.
His mobile rang under his desk. I heard it as only background noise, a quiet little tune. We carried on. It beeped, the shrill insistence of voice-mail, demanding attention.
He noticed it then, played back the message, started to walk away from his desk while he listened to it. I had caught a few brief words as he listened, his sister in law, trying not to cry. He walked halfway down the office, leaning on the filing cabinets, looking out of the window, across the square to the cathedral. I watched his back and his shoulders, his head hanging down while he talked and listened, listened and talked, wrote on a small piece of paper. I debated leaving quietly, not wanting to intrude. But I stayed at his desk, waiting. Waiting for him to finish.
I saw him finish the call and walk back towards his desk. I looked at him, not asking, but waiting for him to see if he wanted or needed to talk to me.
It was his brother. He had smelt gas at work, he had said. He had wanted to know if anyone else could, it was strong. No one else could. It got worse, he had started to feel worse. And worse. An ambulance called. A seizure. Tests, scans, all done by the afternoon. A brain tumour, they thought.
I stood away from the desk and watched him while he told me. I opened my arms and stepped forward, pulling him tight against me. He leaned his head on to my shoulder, I heard a ragged, sobbing breath, and then he raised his head, face composed.
I carried on hugging, trying to give him my strength, trying to support him, trying to make it alright.
But I couldn't.
Sunday, 18 November 2007
December 1st, 2005.
Posted by The Woman who Can at 22:34