Friday, 2 January 2009 - 9:16 pm

For the fallen

Sax sang for Simon tonight.  He gathered us all around and said goodbye to him for us, goodbye to a man none of us really knew.  We knew that his name was Simon Richards.  We knew that he struggled with his pain and tried not to let it out.  We knew that he pushed on when we asked him to, up to and often past his limits; he collapsed more than once.  We knew that he knew we wanted to help him.  But we didn’t know who he was.  We didn’t know his face before it was burnt.

Sax sang Amazing Grace for him.  It was beautiful, and sad, and heartbreaking.  It’s my favourite of all the hymns, but I couldn’t join in for the thickness in my throat.  I don’t know how Sax managed to finish it.  I wasn’t the only one crying by the end, and it wouldn’t stop even after we covered Simon’s face up.

I thought about all those who had fallen, about strong Carter and Trevor, and sensible Liz and the kid, and the poor lawyerlady.  I thought about Harry.  They never got words spoken for them, or a song to carry them away.  I’ve said words for them in my heart – does that count?  It doesn’t feel like enough, and I’m not religious enough to take comfort in spirit alone.  But I hope that they know, and I hope that Simon heard us.

Sleep well, my friends.

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009 - 6:07 pm

The minor fall, the major lift

There was an awful sound earlier, just after the rain started.  Laughter, echoing loudly in the empty air outside, and then a wet thump. 

I can imagine well enough what it was – the mental images won’t leave me alone.  The fascination of drugged eyes with tinted rainwater, the sensation of flying, of being so terribly free.  Not even feeling skin melting, or the impact with the ground.  Making maniacal, hysterical noises as blood and bone make a Dali painting in reality and bubble away to nothing.

I can’t figure out if that is a good way to go or not.  I can only hope that the cushion of drugs stole away the pain; otherwise, it would be a horror best left uncontemplated.  I would rather not contemplate it as much as I already have.

I wonder if it was Sally.  I wonder if I upset her so much that that’s what she chose to do.  I’m trying not to think like that, but how can I stop?  I didn’t make things better for her, and it’s possible that I made them worse.  I don’t want that to have been her choice.  Never that.

Or Masterson.  I’d be upset if I knew it was him, too.  Now I know about his family, about his pain, I can’t wish harm on him.  Especially not that.  I hope he’s all right, up there in his haze.


We all heard it, sitting in our cosy room and eating our muesli bars.  We all knew what it was, even Nugget; she went and huddled down in a corner, and refused to come out.  We were all thinking about it, imagining that last, doomed flight, like Icarus with his foolish wings. 

This place is sapping our wills.  I could feel it dying in that silence after that fall, feel the air being sucked out of the room.  It was leaving us gasping like fish afraid to go back into the water, twitching reflexively on the carpet.  We were fading, turning into the grey of the walls, into stains on the blankets.

I didn’t like it.  All of a sudden, I wanted to take in a deep breath and scream.  I wanted to get up and run around, I wanted to make noise and splash colour on our faces.  I wanted to be alive and bright and here.

But the hospital was a great weight on me, stealing my courage and audacity, keeping me crosslegged on my blankets as the rain hissed outside.  A thousand snakes making me huddle back from breaking out, like Nugget in the corner.

I looked around, and we all seemed to wear the same face over the same heart.  There was a metal bedpan in the middle of the room with scraps and rags burning in it, our only source of light, casting strange shadows on us.  It reminded me of camping with my dad. 

It’s been years since I’ve even thought about it – we haven’t been camping since I was ten years old.  Out there, it was dark like this, far from the city and the streetlights, starless when it was overcast.  We’d have a fire and uplit faces.  And these strange silences would descend sometimes.  We would listen to the sounds out in the darkness and wonder if there was something there that might eat us.  In those moments, Dad would start a song, something silly and made only for campfires.  We’d all join in and the world outside the firelight would fade away.

It was so incongruous that I smiled, sitting here in this odd camp of ours.  Dillon looked at me strangely, and moved over to ask what was going on.  I asked him if he’d ever been camping before and he shrugged.  Then I just started singing.  Not well – Dad always said I had more enthusiasm than talent – but well enough that the others perked up rather than looked annoyed with me. 

We’re a ragged bunch, but they all joined in eventually, except young Nugget.  She did move closer to listen, though.  Sax was first to join in, his bass voice rumbling in under mine.  Then Dillon, and Ben with an amused look.  I didn’t think Thorpe would, with his rolling of eyes and huffed sighs, but after a couple of rounds he decided to play along.

We filled that little ex-staff room up with sound, made it brim with our voices like we didn’t care what was happening outside.  We were unashamed, and some of us were even smiling, because the song is silly and yet all of us were singing it, even the adults.  But it didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter that the words meant nothing and the song slipped away from us as soon as it was finished.  It was worth it, for that feeling of lightness in my chest and the looks on flame-flickered faces.

I asked if anyone else knew anything else we could try, and of course, Sax stepped up.  And then Ben started one.  We kept going like that until our little fire burnt down, and then we slept.  All of us, breathing in time.


Row, row, row, your boat

Gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream

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