A man takes his wife to the doctor. The doctor says: “Your wife has Aids or Alzheimer’s. I can’t say which. The tests will take a fortnight.”
The man says, “Well that’s no use. Isn’t there a quicker way of telling?”
“Well,” says the doctor, “you could try taking her for a walk, and, when she isn’t looking, clear off and leave her.”
“If she finds her way home… don’t have sex!”
I don’t have Aids.
This morning I woke up confused, with a vague sense of panic. It’d be wrong to say I didn’t know where I was: where else could I be but my own bedroom? But it had lost its sense of familiarity. It wasn’t strange or unknown in the ordinary meaning. It wasn’t anywhere at all. It had lost its sense of ‘thereness’.
I got out of bed (the Boss was out buying the paper, thank God), and began my routine of showering and getting ready. This was something I hadn’t forgotten: something ingrained in my body, as automatic as breathing. The movements came in the usual way, but I’d no real idea why I was doing them. I recall looking at a tray of pots and creams on my dressing table. My fingers hovered. I knew I was supposed to do something, but for the life of me couldn’t remember what or why. All I could do was stand over the tray, dithering and on the point of crying. I’m not a crying woman.
I went back to the bedroom to get dressed. I found myself staring into the wardrobe, unable to choose what to wear. What day was it? What was I dressing for? To have friends round? To see clients? To go shopping? To work in the garden? I picked things at random. A brown blouse and a grey skirt.
I never wear brown with grey. They don’t suit me.
It only lasted a few minutes. I’d recovered by the time the Boss came home with a copy of the Telegraph. Slobber was on his heels, tail wagging cheerily. I grabbed a kitchen towel and wiped the strings of spittle from Slobber’s chops. No one mentions, when you buy a pedigree dog, that the damn thing will spend its days frothing at the mouth and sliming everything. In other respects he’s a decent pooch, good natured and a sight better company than our foul cat, That Thing, who’ll sink her claws into you as soon as look at you. We used to have a cat years ago, a sweet-tempered rescue-kitten. This one simply moved in and wouldn’t be budged. Slobber objected, of course, but once she’d given him a good hiding, he bowed to the inevitable. As did we. Both of us hate the cat, but it seems there’s nothing to be done about her. You’d think the answer would be easy, wouldn’t you? Drown her or something? Apparently we’re neither of us cat slayers, whatever other kind of murderer some of us may be.
Note: Google “senile dementia” and see where it leads. Pray to God it doesn’t describe me and what happened this morning.
Second note: Keep that last note to myself. My first instinct was to write it down and stuck stick it to the fridge with a magnet next to the number for the Indian take-away. Probably not a good idea.
These days we’ve all become familiar with computers. Even those of ‘mature years’ as the media call us, making us sound like a ripe cheese. We treat them as extensions of ourselves: repositories of our memories. I may forget stuff but my electronic pal doesn’t. I treat it as a friend – no, as a therapist, who listens quietly, takes notes and doesn’t judge. On my bad days, I think my scribbles (except one doesn’t scribble on a laptop) may turn into a Virginia-bloody-Woolf stream of consciousness novel: Mrs. Dalloway, which I’ve had for thirty years in one of those faux leather covered reprints that I’ve never read and never shall.
If I go barmy, this will be the record of my barmyness. If I commit a crime – not that I have anything in mind – this will be the record of my crime. Some record! It’ll be scattered with shopping lists, recipes and telephone numbers.
Maybe I’m depressed rather than senile? I wonder which is preferable? Has anyone ever asked? Taken a poll?
I should send Mrs. Dalloway to the charity shop for some poor sod to pick up. Sometimes I’m not a nice person.
I’ve seen a client. Boring. The Boss is dozing on the couch, roaring away in his sleep. That Thing is sitting on his chest looking at him evilly as if she knows her fur makes him sneeze. Slobber is drooling in his basket and occasionally amusing himself by gnawing the edge; I’m for ever sweeping up bits of wicker work.
When the Boss sleeps, his face relaxes. These days it’s full of wrinkles and slack flesh. The pores in his nose are like strawberry pips. His eyebrows are an untrimmed thicket. The changes creep up so slowly one gets used to them and never makes a judgment. I don’t see him with the same starkness as when I examine the old codgers queuing at the post office. Something comes between my eyes and him: the ghost of the man I fell in love with; a gossamer face that overlays the one I’m looking at. God but he used to be handsome! Some women say he still is, but we lie about these things to be sociable.
A man takes his wife to the doctor is the beginning of a joke. A woman goes to the doctor is the beginning of a tragedy. We know these things instinctively.
I should probably go to the doctor. Perhaps it’s just a vitamin deficiency? Or my shoes are too tight?
Actually this pair is too tight: Gabor aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.
I need to find out if anything’s wrong with me, because I have an idea in my head and I want to know if it’s true.
I have this notion that the Boss has killed someone.