Holding breath

Holding breath

A Chapter by TLK

I am young and my father is instructing me.

“People don’t want to live,” he says. “They just want to die more slowly.”

The problem is not what he is saying. The problem is that I am listening to it.

As his tongue unwinds under the amber relaxation of liquids spilt from glass bottles, he says even more.

“It’s not the job of the doctor to make people feel good. It’s the job of the doctor to make people continue to feel bad. So they can get up tomorrow and have everything reasonably the same.”

At this point, if he was telling the truth, and if he loved me, he would put his hand on my head and look me in the eye.

 

He goes to work the next day, black bag in hand. His eyes are still red. They still refuse to look at mine.

 

 

This man reminds me of my own father at the same point in his existence. Sick, shrivelled, whispering madly through cracked lips. The biggest difference is that I do not hate him.

“My daughter will come soon. Tell her that I am gone. Tell her that I want to be here for her still. But I will not be. Tell her that it all means nothing. Tell her I am sorry for making her go through this herself. Tell her that there is no answer. Tell her that there is no light. I am not raging at the dying of the light. I am not being transported through a tunnel of light. Tell her.”

All of this grasping for words seems to take a lifetime; exactly the same length of time that he took to learn first-hand about existentialism, futility, the absurdity of existence. I suppose that the joke is that he has brought someone else to act in the pantomime, and she is not here to listen to the incomplete punchline first-hand.

I don’t know if his last sentence was finished or unfinished. I’m not sure if it would make a difference.

 

I am with his daughter. “Did he have anything to tell me?” she asks, staring right through me. I am happy to be invisible.

“Yes,” I quaver, wondering whether I should hold her hand. Would that be inappropriately sexual? Or would it be supportive? I don’t remember being trained in empathy.

I step forward and lightly touch her arm. I let her gaze hold mine. I try to help her ignore that fact that we are in a cool corridor that is busy with death and that, overall, her own suffering is a footnote in an event unimportant through endless repetition.

“He talked about heaven, and life. He said that he was hoping to see you again, and for you to see him. He said this was not the end.”

She takes air in roughly. Her stomach swells with the containment of emotion. My hand drops uselessly to my side: it has hovered, frozen, for long enough.

“No,” she says. She is looking through me once again. “No. That is not what he would say. You are lying to me.”

I don’t move. I am one with the functional absence of this entire building. I am clinical and unimportant. I am just one more face in a heap of hushed tones and professionalism.

“It’s enough for you to tell me that he is sorry to be leaving me. That’s all I need to know. I don’t need you to lie. I don’t need you to pretend.”

 

I hold my breath. I let my slight smile stay there, frozen. I have nothing to say.




© 2012 TLK



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It's got a wonderfully clever continuity in it. How his father says that doctors lie so that when you wake up, everything can be the same the next day, and how he seems to have an alcohol addiction, which reflects this hopeless kind circle. And then how his son carries on his profession for him, by also becoming a doctor -lying so that everything can stay the same.

It's also clever in that he's a doctor and holds this view point, as I guess that is the kind of profession where the hopelessness of life would be evident, what with watching people being born, people suffering and people dying every single day, and always being reminded of how unavoidable it is. Also seeing how people dealt with grief in the same way. This is why I think that the encounter with the other man and his daughter is so great. It shows the same kind of hopelessness, except that this man doesn't lie, and when the 'boy' does to the daughter, she notices and tells him not to. They both inherited their fathers' attitudes. Another contrast being how his father says that everyone wants to die more slowly, and yet her father says that he's sorry that she has to go through all of this -which I interpreted as her having to live for so long.
And what really all ties it together is how the boy and the girl really are similar in the end. Although one lies and the other doesn't, they both feel the same hopelessness and understand something similar of death. Is that meant to be saying that death is the place from which truth exists, and lies are only created the further you get from it? That death is the only certainty, as in the end, she knew he was lying anyway?

And what a wonderful end -how he just doesn't say anything, and seems almost happy, and maybe a little bit mortified (hah, pun!). Why isn't he saying anything? I interpreted it that he knew he'd just have to lie then, and how they've both acknowledged that anything but this bareness of death is simply a lie and futile. What did you intend?

My favourite bit was : "I don’t know if his last sentence was finished or unfinished. I’m not sure if it would make a difference." as it is just so blunt, as in who bloody well cares what your last words are, and to whom they are said? You're dead anyway.


Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

What did I intend?

You have uncovered a huge bluntness here. But it careens on, into th.. read more



Reviews

It's got a wonderfully clever continuity in it. How his father says that doctors lie so that when you wake up, everything can be the same the next day, and how he seems to have an alcohol addiction, which reflects this hopeless kind circle. And then how his son carries on his profession for him, by also becoming a doctor -lying so that everything can stay the same.

It's also clever in that he's a doctor and holds this view point, as I guess that is the kind of profession where the hopelessness of life would be evident, what with watching people being born, people suffering and people dying every single day, and always being reminded of how unavoidable it is. Also seeing how people dealt with grief in the same way. This is why I think that the encounter with the other man and his daughter is so great. It shows the same kind of hopelessness, except that this man doesn't lie, and when the 'boy' does to the daughter, she notices and tells him not to. They both inherited their fathers' attitudes. Another contrast being how his father says that everyone wants to die more slowly, and yet her father says that he's sorry that she has to go through all of this -which I interpreted as her having to live for so long.
And what really all ties it together is how the boy and the girl really are similar in the end. Although one lies and the other doesn't, they both feel the same hopelessness and understand something similar of death. Is that meant to be saying that death is the place from which truth exists, and lies are only created the further you get from it? That death is the only certainty, as in the end, she knew he was lying anyway?

And what a wonderful end -how he just doesn't say anything, and seems almost happy, and maybe a little bit mortified (hah, pun!). Why isn't he saying anything? I interpreted it that he knew he'd just have to lie then, and how they've both acknowledged that anything but this bareness of death is simply a lie and futile. What did you intend?

My favourite bit was : "I don’t know if his last sentence was finished or unfinished. I’m not sure if it would make a difference." as it is just so blunt, as in who bloody well cares what your last words are, and to whom they are said? You're dead anyway.


Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

What did I intend?

You have uncovered a huge bluntness here. But it careens on, into th.. read more
three flashes and one conclusion. i really like the tone with which you relate the three scenes - it's almost like a mini-play. very nicely done - but somehow this doesn't surprise me, coming from you, my dear talented friend :).

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

TLK

4 Years Ago

I look forward to having the time to develop my talent more in future!

Thank you for be.. read more
A great bit of storytelling on every level I can think of :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

It works for me, on a lot of levels. What do you think of it?

Posted 4 Years Ago


TLK

4 Years Ago

I have nothing to say.

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TLK
TLK

Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom



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