Walking into the light



We walked into the brunt light, towards the hospital.

The air was dry, February-cold. Traffic was going about its business. Mostly we kept our eyes on the pavement in front of us.

The waiting room smelled of toast. This came from a serving hatch at the centre of the room, staffed by volunteers. Doctors also queued there, swapping bonhomie with each other.

Nurses came and went, sometimes stopping to call a name, or stoop to touch the arm of a patient. In the corner was a bookstall. The tables were piled with magazines.

I was shown into a small room with a large armchair and a stacking tray full of needles and swabs. In the corner on a desk sat a computer. Next to it a large machine, about the size of a bread-maker.

I proffered my arm for the bloods. They said I had beautiful veins.

A kindly-faced woman appeared at the doorway, cradling a cup of coffee. ‘You must be my new young gentleman,’ she said.

Shaking hands over her desk minutes later, I noticed she had the same radiant twinkle. She spoke slowly, asking us to start at the  beginning and describe why we were here.

Looking us in the eye, she told us my chances. She said we would need to take the rest of the day off, to come to terms with it. ‘Be kind to each other,’ she said.

Leaving, we explained we had had eaten our Valentine’s meal the previous day, the better to focus on the details of the diagnosis.

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