THERE IS NEVER anything genteel about the person in The Body in the Bed. Films and TV programmes – even documentaries – never quite get to the visceral, hopeless heart of it all. That heart, which continues to beat away the dark-time interminable hours, where the thin line between sanity and the rest of the universe winds its tiny shiny cord.
I had been lied to.
The invitation to stay the night had been false, and rather than just being there in case of a falling out of bed, I would be there to keep vigil, actually watching over my father as he writhed and twisted in his demented bed. The only kind of angel I felt like was one of vengeance. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that he had ruined my life when he denied me all help to achieve what I felt was my vocation, my life goal and purpose back when I was sixteen; now, it would be so simple.
“But I was only downstairs for the time to drink a cup of coffee… no, I didn’t spot the pillow was likely to fall…”
There was no need for me to exact any vengeance though. It had already been taken care of. He was in this state. Mangled in body and mind, contorted and constricted, restricted by a body which refused to give up the soul as it should rightly have done so years previously.
A movement. He wants/needs help to move, because the constant pain has woken him from his shallow sleep. I assist as I can, crooking my arm under his bent wasted legs and draping his arm over my shoulder to try to shift him to a better position. We had exchanged a few words… I had asked, simply, nakedly,
“How can I help you?”
And he had replied with gestures seen clearly in the near-darkness only slightly illuminated by the night-light on the bookcase nearby. His pain kept causing him to subside sideways into the most impractical of positions, and the only way I could retrieve him was use brute force that I do not, in fact, have.
Finally, he fell deeply into sleep, and the slightly entertaining mix of language he had been gibberishing out subsided into the deep and sombre breathing of someone floating carelessly on Lethe’s waters. Look it up, what am I, a search engine? But it got me thinking.
If this is Karma, Fate, God, Whatever, doing its thing to him… what about me? I have failed him by not fulfilling my potential. If I had stood up to him back then, if I had fought for what I believed in about myself, then maybe – just maybe – that portion of Celestial Payback which is owed to me might not be there. What if it was a major part? What if, by fighting and then working antagonistically with him as opposed to the buckling that I had done, I could have made a large part of this go away?
It made sense. I could see the crazy-paved pathway leading to this moment. I could read the lines between the stones, the augury of rock, paper, scissors.
If his punishment was to endure this, mine was to see it and to be (not feel, BE) so helpless to alleviate that thing I hate, loathe and deplore more than anything…