WE ARRIVED at Ginny's house. Mum helped her change into her nightie and we propped her up as comfortable as we could on the cream-and-rose patterned couch in her lounge.
These were the days of terrible milestones we didn’t see; it was the last time Ginny would choose her clothes. We started to rally the family. Dad got a call and would drive up the next day. Hannah phoned and said she was on a flight the following morning.
And in the twilight I placed the final two calls to my sisters in London. Just starting their Monday mornings, Amber and Claire were appalled. What they really wanted to know couldn’t be answered.
What can we do? What are the treatment options? How long does she have? What can we do? Should we come home now or wait until Christmas?
In the end I could only tell them what I thought, "You need to come home now, right now. You can't take the risk."
After the calls: exhaustion. Mum and Ginny quiet, watching TV. There was nothing more to do, nothing else to say, so I drove to my apartment.
By feeble hallway light I unlocked my front door, entered and tossed my keys on the counter. I lit a spliff. All was dark. I opened the sliding doors of my lounge and went through and stood on my balcony and looked down on the shadows of Auckland's old train station, on the oblongs of orange pulsing along Tamaki Drive and the all-night-lights of the port in the distance, and contemplated a city settling into its bones.
The news spread. My friend, John, blundered into its epicentre. He called. “Hey chump,” he said.
“We’re going for a beer in Ponsonby, wanna come?”
“I, I don’t think I can . . .” there was a crack in my voice, raw emotion. I wanted to, needed to share. My friends would know what to do. My friends would know what to say. John would know what to say. I tried, “My sister, she’s sick. We just found out - "
But there was panic in John’s voice. He did not know how to deal. On a Monday night, this was not what he’d expected. Was a kick, a punch, was beyond all known parameters.
He could see where this was going, I was one step away from crying, weeping down the phone to him. Desperately he cut me off. “Buddy, I’ve got another call.”
I was a pariah, outcast, unclean.
I was fucking Milli Vanilli.
“It’s really bad, I don’t think she’s - "
“I’ve gotta take this, I’ve gotta go.”
John had gone.
He did not know how to deal.
Neither did I.
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