This is not real

Wednesday November 27, 2019

It's Sunday and I don't want to go to church. I can't deal with many people today.

But – I promised Philip I'd take him, and I can't let him down.

Philip is delightful. He is 89 and not steady on his feet; it is always a pleasure to take him to church.

It is Morning Prayer today, and a smaller congregation. I think I can cope. I get Philip settled in his usual pew and slip out to the kitchen for a glass of water.

The organist fetches her own water and gives me a hug. Her daughter suffers with depression too and she knows how it is. The church warden suggests I sit in the smallest pew at the back, next to the door. I can easily slip out if I need to, she says. I am touched by her consideration.

All is well to begin with. It's not until the third hymn it happens.

Without warning my stomach clenches and I feel sick. My heart beats like a thrash metal drummer. Niagara roars in my ears and Laufrey the Frost Giant squeezes my chest tight in his fist.

Staying in my pew is impossible and I stumble out, grateful that someone has left the door to the church room ajar.

Inside the church room it is cool, and I can breathe again. I get another glass from the cupboard, carefully, so it will not slip out of my hands, and fill it with water to one centimetre from the brim. The water is cold and tastes silver grey on my tongue.

The churchyard is green, and two birds fly down from the yew tree and peck on the pathway outside. They are sparrows; chestnut and fawn and tan, with eyes that are black and bright. They do not see me.

People come in for tea and coffee. Someone brings me a cup of tea, puts a hand on my shoulder for a moment and then leaves me alone. The tea is hot and draws a note from a cello in my mouth. Middle C. I hold it with both hands so it will not spill.

I stand, balancing on knees with tendons fragile as light-bulb filaments, and take my empty cup back to the hatch. I push it over the mile of counter to the smiling ladies on the other side.

Philip guides his walker back down the path and I put him and it in the car and drive him home; concentrating hard because my arms and legs are twice the length they should be, and every movement takes a long time.

Philip is concerned: I can see that he does not want to go back into his flat and leave me. I hug him gently, feeling his fragile bones and the soft suede of his cheek.

"It's only chemicals," I say. "It's not real." And I smile.

I must remember that. This is not reality; this is just the way I feel.

A Moodscope member.

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