On the day we got your diagnosis he came to me.
Pain came. As unwelcome guests always come: uninvited, unannounced, and with lots of luggage. It was clear to me that I wouldn't get rid of him so easily. And I hadn't even been consulted! Neither did he creep in quietly through the back door. Oh, no. His arrival was quite an event. Helplessly, I had to watch as he took over the best room in the house, moved the furniture around, spread himself all over the place and completely took over my life.
At first, his pals were constantly there too. Confusion, Fear, Rage, Sorrow. He has a wide circle of friends. They were always there, lounging about the place, drinking the fridge dry and eating me out of house and home.
As your test results improved, so their visits became less frequent. The fun had gone out of it for them. When they did drop by, they didn't celebrate with a feast but just sprawled in front of the television with half a packet of crisps, zapping through the channels. But even so, when they left they gave me a piercing look, which said »You won't get rid of us. We're watching you. The big party will take place one day. You know it and we know it, and there's nothing you can do about it.«
Pain settled in. He gradually collected up the things which he had strewed around the house. I even managed to force him back into a corner. But he didn't move out. Hope would have been able to evict him. She has her own methods. He would have lost his nerve and thrown in the towel. But your condition left no room for Hope, so she didn't even make an effort. I would have paid her train fare, for a taxi, even carried her on my back from the station, but she preferred to hang around with other people. So Pain stayed, lurking in his corner, reading trashy novels, although no longer listening to his loud music. We came to an arrangement. I tried to make a wide circle round him. Sometimes I forgot that he was there at all. Our paths crossed less often. His pals came round as before, but their visits were fewer and they came one at a time. Sometimes I even managed to close the door against them.
Six years passed like this. I had learned to live with the situation. I would have been able to cope with this unwanted flat-sharer for quite a while longer, but again I wasn't consulted. Your results got worse, your condition also. The weaker you got, the stronger he became. I heard him moving the furniture again. Suddenly his heavy-metal posters were hanging in the hall. At first, I tore them down, threw them away, dragged his shelves back into his corner. He knew well enough that I couldn't hold out for long. He was right. To act out the role of Hope for you, when I had heard nothing from Hope herself, took too much strength. At times, I could only sit on the floor and watch apathetically as once again he took over half the house. His pals came more often. If one left, another arrived. When they turned up the stereo I pulled a pillow over my head.
The last week of your life, you spent in hospital. My home belonged to me only as far as the name on the doorbell. My unwanted guest and his friends were the masters now. There was no corner where I could escape them. Even if they were out of sight, they slammed the doors and bellowed to each other throughout the whole house.
Then came the morning, which was to be your last. When you ceased to breathe so they began to roar and rampage. That is what they mean by having a great party. All of them grabbed at me. I screamed at Rage, howled with Sorrow, hid under the bed with Fear, and jumped into the lake with Confusion. And Pain?... He laughed, seized me so tightly that I was covered in bruises, and shook me like a rag doll. All these at the same time.
That is now four weeks ago. The party is long since over. The worst of the mess has been cleared away. Much has been broken, there are shards everywhere. Some can be repaired, the glue is called time and is very expensive.
Sorrow had his fun by throwing and breaking all the lamps. Gradually I am buying new bulbs so that it will become brighter again. The bruises are slowly fading.
Pain is sure to stay. He has taken down his posters since I have been getting more visitors. Remembrance has been a couple of times already and we looked at some photo albums together. Pain looked at us over his shoulder, and Sorrow busied himself reading the TV guide. But they have become quieter. My space in the house is getting bigger, Pain has already taken some of his shelves to the dump. Someday he will move into the basement, and with a separate entrance we will only meet occasionally. But he intends to stay.
He knows it and I know it.
I wish that you could have stayed.
But I wasn't consulted.