The horrified boy in the shower, on the side of his bed, locked in the toilet, fearing, more than anything else, the Sensible Thing To Do. Tense, heavy-hearted, restless, I crawled and stumbled through a few long days before I did the sensible thing. Thenceforth it had its own momentum, and I was at least spared of plotting my own course of action.
"Shall I take a look at it, then?"
"I'd rather you didn't."
I could just make out a smile forming somewhere inside his greying beard. Sighing, I climbed the patronising steps to the bed and dutifully, though hesitantly, lowered the elastic.
"The right one, just there."
His fingers were cold, clinical; I was numb. He rose, frowning, and I hurriedly shoved everything back into place. My family waited.
"We'll definitely need to do some tests."
The boy moved in the huddle of his family as if a ghost, suddenly detached from the present. The news had put him on autopilot and he could do little but gaze blankly at things. Everything bounced off. The murmur of the engine was the sole point of comfort; reassuring words irritated more than reassured. When it was finally black, I was still too hyped to contemplate a theoretical death with anything other than idle fascination. That hyperbolic fear didn't much weigh upon my mind in the intervening time, nor, in fact, did the more realistic fear; everything seemed to sit second to curiosity, even excitement. Consequently, I wasn't exactly sure how to feel when I received the news that the bugger was benign. Still, at least I got a consolation operation.
"I'm going under the knife tomorrow."
"Really? What for?"
I realised my mistake and stalled. Tom honed in, shattering my affected coyness. The school uniforms didn't much help matters.
"It's my knee." I pointed, vaguely. We moved for the bus.
All in all, a nice week or so of attention. I was sad to see him go.
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