Let Me Think

By Sue Simpson

Chain Border

Tony lay on the bed. Flat on his back with only the pocked white ceiling tiles and the sound of his ventilator for stimuli.

"Let me think."

Lately the times when he couldn't think were becoming more and more frequent.

"Dear God please just let me think."

He concentrated hard to bring his thoughts to order. Such effort, such bloody hard work. His mind shut down and he drifted off to that other place.

Was it the same day? He thought not, different perfume, different person. He could identify most of them on perfume alone now. That was good because his eyes were worsening by the day. He could almost feel the thickening of the cataracts as they grew over his once attractive eyes.

He could still hear. They say that hearing is the first sense to arrive and the last to leave. Even that was impaired though; everything audible came down a long, long tunnel before it reached him. By the time it did the sound was tired and distorted and couldn't always be bothered to make itself understood.

"Please let me think."

He was losing it. This one thing that had continued to serve him. He couldn't remember so well, couldn't reason as good, couldn't think straight. He was losing his mind.

"Let me think. Don't take my thoughts away from me too. Please just let me think and I'll ask no more. Make no other demands just let me keep my mind. Please God let me think."

Different perfume again. She was washing him. Wasn't it just a couple of minutes since they'd last washed him? He didn't think he'd shit himself, he could usually smell when he'd shit himself, but he didn't smell so good these days. Huh that was funny. If he could still smile he would have done it at that. Didn't smell so good. Get it? Another day must have passed.

The turning on of the fluorescent light marked his calendar. This was his only way of knowing that another day in hell had come to an end. He had no idea how long he'd been there, but it was longer than the life of two fluorescent tubes. He marked his Christmases by the irritating and pathetic dangly decoration that always hung directly above his head and by the nurses' excited chatter round his bed. At the last Christmas party, doctor Saresh kissed … who did he kiss now? He did know. Damn, it had gone with all the other information that he kept losing. Like how to stop himself from shitting the bed and what sunshine felt like and how many irritating Christmas decorations had fluttered above his head.

He couldn't cry. They used liquid tears several times a day to stop his eyes drying out. Not being able to blink was a pain, but he couldn't tell anybody that it was a pain, just like he couldn't tell anybody when he had shit himself. Thank God at least for catheterisation. If he could thank the almighty bastard for nothing else, he could at least be thankful that he didn't lie in his own piss.

They could still cry though. Not they of the pleasant, and sometimes not so pleasant, perfume. The other they. They the family. They had an incessant ability to cry. Funny that, even after all these years they still cried. They didn't know that he could hear them, didn't know that he understood perfectly what they said, didn't know that he was aware. He once had a T-shirt that said, "I am aware!" on it, he never knew what the hell it meant, but he wished that he had it on these last however many years it had been.

They came everyday, one, other, or all of them en-masse. He wished they wouldn't. Wasn't it enough, one life mouldering away here, without them adding to the wastage of time? Once a month would do. They talked at him constantly, but not as Tony, sex god extraordinaire. They talked at him in silly sing-song voices filled with false optimism and plastic happiness. And then the façade would crumble and they'd cry. Thankfully not every day, but often enough for it to be another pain in the arse that he couldn't tell anyone about. They felt guilty because they could walk, talk, make love and shit in a toilet, and Tony felt guilty because he still made them cry.

At least they did talk at him, the coats only talked above his head about him, and the perfumes just talked around him about their active lives. He was glad they did actually, better than them not talking at all.

Oh oh here they came now. The happy family. Taking their usual places round his bed, always the same positions, always the same chairs. Eh up what was happening? Something was going on, something different.

Mum's crying before she's even opened her mouth. At least he usually got all the banal chatter before he got the waterworks. An atmosphere as thick as treacle. What was happening? Think, c'mon Tony think.

"Let me think damnit. Just let me think."

They talked, they cuddled, they sobbed, they kissed him, they held his hands, and they sobbed some more. He wanted to pull his hands out from theirs. How could they do this to him?

"SHUT UP, shut up, shut up. You can't do this to me. I'm here damnit, you can't just turn me off. I'm here. I'm here. I'm still here. I CAN THINK." And in a small voice inside his head he thought, "And therefore I am."

He had been still for a long time, but then for the first time in eight long years …

He was dead still.

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