At last, I spoke to Bink. First time in ages, it feels. Her voice like honey on a sore throat.
She is low, though.
Caring about nothing, wanting nothing, seeing hope in nothing.
“Are you upset about your friend Tom?”
“Not for him. He’s better off.”
“Nobody is better off dead, Bink.”
(And then I remember what my father’s carer said yesterday. The sooner he can go, the better.
Yesterday, two of his pupils from forty years ago, twins, came to lunch. Brought communion – one of them a naval padre – and the BCP.
And company and laughter and anecdotes and very good wine. Not that my father can taste very good wine. Not at 101. Truth is, he could never taste good wine.
But we can...
And tonight he and I went over, again, Dido’s chilling curse on Æneas towards the end of Book IV. I’d forgotten less than I’d feared, in the fortnight he’s been in hospital. And tomorrow my brother comes and on Wednesday my sister... He’s not ready yet; not quite yet.)
Is anyone better off dead?
“Better than where he was.”
“What was wrong?”
“He could have got well, Bink.”
“I don’t see how.”
“There was the possibility of it. He can’t get well now, can he?”
“He has, now.”
We considered reasons.
“Because I’m not on Lorazepam any more? Professor Veale says this is just my natural state, without drugs.”
Well that’s great, that is.
“Don’t you think you’re any better? At all?”
“Maybe I am. My OCD is a lot better.”
“That’s fantastic, Bink! Really exciting.” So… “What would you like to do with your life?”
“What would you enjoy?”
“Isn’t there anything you want?”
I tried my mother’s old trick.
“If you could do anything in the world, no restrictions, anything at all?”
“To go back in time and my life not fall apart.”
Ok... Even I agree that’s unlikely.
Going back in time is challenging. Alex could perhaps manage it – when he was thirteen he explained time-travel to me in great detail, and it really did sound possible… in the future if not yet – and given that time often seems to stand still for Alex anyway, perhaps he might reverse it one day.
“Suppose your life hadn’t fallen apart. What would you have now?”
“Is that what you’d like most of all?”
“So, Bink, there is something you want! That the most positive thing you’ve said in the last half hour. You want babies. Come up with a plan. Work out how to meet interesting people. Find work that will introduce you...”
My cousin Fleur has said it to me over and over again, in the last ten years or so.
Where there’s life there’s hope. Jewish saying, apparently.
For Tom, no hope left.
For Bink, all the hope in the world.
Hold onto that, Bink. It may not be a fashionable ambition. It wouldn’t be mine. But lots of people have wanted babies. My mother: maths scholar; life-changing teacher. What gave her most satisfaction?
Mary. Queen of England. First ever female reigning monarch. Paved the way for Elizabeth, Victoria, Elizabeth. What did she want?
Lots of lovely chubby babies.