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Lyrics and Silver Linings
“Skin so thin, I could paint it with pain” - the lyrics my best friend, Jack, was reciting to me. I'm not sure if he knows how I feel about him as I watch his fingers spiral on the frets of his acoustic, while he plays. His ocean blue eyes fall on mine and instantly, I know he can tell what's running through my mind.
As I drift slowly into thought, the blue of Jack’s eyes becomes a paler shade. The sort of shade they slap on hospital walls, in a vain attempt to lighten the atmosphere. Well that’s exactly where I am, and it's failing miserably. That typical antiseptic smell hangs in the air and a short corridor walk away, the steady beeping of ventilators can be heard.
I’ve been sat in this godforsaken waiting room for the best part of six hours now. Is it really too much to ask to want to see my granddad? He had been admitted two nights ago, for god's sake.
"Mirandaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!" mum had screamed frantically. She must've held that 'a' note for a lengthy five seconds. Anyway, whatever she had said next had decided to go around my brain as apposed to sinking in. Almost like a current short circuiting. When all was said and done, I'd managed to decipher the words 'Granddad', 'ambulance' and 'bye' before the front door was slammed shut with impressive force on my Mum's part. Upon further investigation, I discovered Granddad had suffered a stroke and was currently being treated at the Royal Berkshire hospital, which was a good sixty miles away. I closed my eyes and pictured Dad flooring it down the M25 like a mad man. But it wasn't funny. Not even in the slightest. I remember my feelings of anxiety, as I sat curled up in a ball on the sofa, in my pyjamas. And the way Jack had grabbed his little sister’s bike, no questions asked and pedalled like a psychopath, the three miles from his house to mine, at 1am.
I wish he could be here with me now. His arms would safeguard me from whatever home truths the doctors try to throw my way. But as my eyes drift back into focus, I can see there is someone here now. Not Jack, but a nurse. She beckons me with her clipboard and as I trail behind her, I can see we're following the signs towards the intensive care unit. I'm finally going to see Granddad. And about time too. OK so maybe I shouldn't have such bad grace, I mean, this team of doctors are working to the best of their ability to keep Granddad here.
“It’s really not very nice, there are lots of tubes and machines and he’s in distress.” Mum had implored in her famous patronising tone.
“I’m not in primary school anymore, Mum. I can handle it.” I'd snapped back at her.
But as I enter the unit, I start to doubt whether I really can. We stop at the foot of a bed occupied by a thin, frail looking man, trying desperately to rid himself of his oxygen mask. The nurse looks at me expectantly. I stare back at her blankly, I mean I sympathise with the poor man, but what does she want me to do, say grace? In my frustration "tell you what, why don't I give the Pope a call, get him to pay a visit?" is what i feel like saying, but I manage a feeble "can I see my Granddad please?" The nurse looks at me with what looks like a foundation coat of confusion, melodramatic, to match her sickening lilac lipstick and centimetre thick eye liner. Now actively angry, I snap "look, you prissy little airhead (well those weren't my exact words, but I figure I should keep it clean), I'm just here to see my Granddad, now I'd appreciate a little less guilt tripping over other patients and a little more of what I've sat six hours in a waiting room for."
"Honey, I don't want to embarrass you, but...this...is your Granddad."
"Sorry, what?" But I have no time to listen to her reply before I'm fighting back tears of guilt, tears of embarrassment rolling down my red flushed cheeks. I feel like a prize idiot. The kind that walks down the red carpet in a stupidly tight dress and wins Oscars year after year. Lilac lipstick nurse leaves and it's just me and the skeletal figure claiming to be my Granddad. Since his arrival here, he had suffered a massive-scale heart attack, on top of the original stroke. Perhaps that explains the perplexed look across his face. I squeeze his hand, but he doesn't squeeze mine back, instead he wriggles free. "Pop, it's me" I explain shakily, but a look of terror inhabits his eyes and he proceeds in struggling free from his oxygen mask. It's no good. He tires himself out in no time. What must feel like a valiant effort to him, barely qualifies as movement to me. I've never met this level of weakness before. All I know is it's contagious. I feel like dropping to my knees, but I know at least one of us in the room has to stay strong.
"Miranda...are you awake?"
"Oh...hey, how long have I been out?"
" 'Bout twenty minutes. You looked so angelic. I was reluctant to wake you. I was just wondering if you wanted anything to eat? Mum's making crumble. Mind you, she's bound to burn it - you know what she's like!"
"Oh...no, I...thanks, but I don't feel up to eating anything at the moment."
"OK, well I'll let you sleep. You must be exhausted."
And as my eyelids begin feeling heavier by the second, the frantic beeping of the smoke alarm downstairs (sure enough Jack's mum is making a mockery of the crumble) slows to coincide with the rhythm of hospital ventilators. Once again, I find myself walking down the corridor leading to the ICU, running my fingers along the powder blue walls, this time unaccompanied by lilac lipstick nurse. Upon entering, I take a deep breath and brace myself for another trial. What will undoubtedly feel like another lifetime in the stand. Questions being fired at me from all angles. But as I approach the dock, it becomes apparent that the jury have already reached their verdict. Barristers are sitting head in hands, looking defeated and the judge declares the sentence:
"Time of death; 12:54."
And although only the one syllable, 'death' always has been and always will be a big word. The kind of word no one is expected to swallow whole. Like an aspirin minus the glass of water to see it down. Where is my glass of water when I need it the most? For that matter, where is anything to help take in what I've just witnessed? To my dismay, there's no one to sugar-coat it and spoon feed it to me. And as much as I hated being patronised, a scrap of compassion from someone wouldn't go a miss right now. Grandad can't be dead. I won't let him be. I want to be a doctor, that must count for something, right? I know a few things about heart attacks, it's all to do with plaques in arteries and blood clots. I mean, there could've been a mistake. And then it hits me, like a big, red, double-decker bus - I'm not making the slightest bit of sense. Thinking up medicine related things, in a pathetic attempt to contradict the doctors. I'd be better off taking it up with the grim reaper himself. Now there's an idea! Surely if I asked nicely, we could strike some kind of deal, y'know meet half way. After all, I am pretty good at negotiating...
Jack couldn't have picked a better time to crank up his guitar amp and wake me the hell up. I was seriously starting to fear for my sanity. Striking deals with the grim reaper? I hope this is just down to lack of sleep and I'm not actually some kind of deranged schizophrenic! I too, like you, am questioning why I'm cracking jokes about mental illness, when considering the circumstances, I should probably be bawling my eyes out right now. Don't get me wrong, I'll do that too at some point, but as far as I'm concerned, the longer I can delay it, the better. I love my life. It takes so many interesting turns, for better or sometimes for worse. Then again, it's times like these that make me appreciate the happier ones even more, so I've just got to sit tight. I loved Granddad more than I can even begin to put into words. Forget the grim reaper, I would've sold my soul to the devil to see that he could've stayed here with me. And although I don't go to church every Sunday, I do believe in God. And I've noticed how he always sees that there's an extra thick silver lining to every cloud in my sky.
Sure enough, there is to this one too, despite its threatening black exterior. I tell Jack I'd better be getting home and he understands. But on my way out, he grabs my hand and twirls me round to face him. And before I have a chance to ascertain what he's doing, he kisses me. Suddenly, the lyrics he had sang for me no longer apply. My skin is far too thick to be painted with pain now. Every second I'm with him, the pain is painted over with security. And I love it. I love him. Now that's what I call a silver lining!