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 coloured couch with the rose patterns in her lounge.
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 wanted to know couldn’t be answered.
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 the feeble light of the hallway I unlocked my front door, entered and tossed my keys on the kitchen counter. I picked up a spliff. Dark. Flare and crackle. Deep breath out. I moved to the sliding doors of my lounge, opened them and went through to my balcony's edge 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 listened to a city settle in its bones.
The news started to spread. My friend John blundered into its stain. He called. “Hey chump,” he said.
“We’re going for a beer in Ponsonby tonight, wanna come?”
“I, I don’t think I can . . .” there was a crack in my voice, raw emotion. It was a fissure, a chasm. It was a glacier and it was calving. 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. On a Monday night this was not what he’d expected. Was a gut punch, a karate kick, beyond all known parameters. This was him walking in on me picking my nose, on me masturbating. He could hear 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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