- Remember tonight for it is the beginning of always.
Throughout all of this I have journeyed through guilt which initially began as guilt that the kids playlist had finished when we were listening to it in the car and ‘Dalmatian Plantation’ ran into Azealia Banks’ 212 (aside from’ Smack my Bitch up’, you could not find a more inappropriate track, but why is it so damn good?) before I got to change it. I had visions of them repeating the most shocking lyrics at their Catholic school the next day. I even have guilt that ‘Daniel in the Den’ is Flynn’s favoutire song and I know it’s only because it has the word brothers in it, what he so desperately wants. I harbor guilt about this too.
My guilt was strongest in those few days at the hospital. Should I have lied to the ambulance and told them James had stopped breathing and somehow got him to hospital quicker?
Guilt that I’d told him off when he was late, guilt that I told him he couldn’t ‘pull off’ skinny jeans with his insane calves. Guilt that I said- I really like you too- when he told me he loved me, which he seemed to actually find funny. So much guilt.
I went on a quest soon after he died, demanding answers from everyone who’d even looked at his brain. I demanded meetings and consultations with those who treated him initially, those in the wake of the devastating trauma, his oncologist; really anyone I could get my hands on. I wouldn’t say I’m alone in this, it’s probably textbook stuff but it’s purpose is only to torture and there’s really little point to it. The situation is dire enough, you really don’t need guilt as a co-pilot.
My guilt travelled further, it began to really pick up its pace. It went turbo when I went over and over the last thirty six hours of James’ life.
I had been in our cellar the night before James began to feel sick. I found the old Wii player, we used to play it after dinner when our mates came over- Wii sports. James had created a Wii character on screen which looked insanely like him. Sometimes when he came downstairs after getting ready for a night out I would say- “wow, you really look like your Wii character tonight”- which was a compliment. I was so excited when I found it and all our memories of fun times in the old flat came flooding back. James plugged it in instantly. We thought the kids would like the dance game but when it came on we elbowed them out of the way and took over. The purpose of Wii dance is to follow the image of the dancer on the screen and copy exactly what they are doing. The more accurate the mimicking, the higher your score. We were set, James was up first but the track he’d chosen, because it was the easiest, was ‘Call me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson. He proceeded to follow the very difficult routine on screen, which consisted of girly hair flicks, flirtatious hip wiggles and waacking. To see a bearded ‘beautiful beast of a man’ (Victor’s words, not mine) pulling off, or at least trying to pull off these flirty moves at great speed was too much for me. I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so much. Then I was up. I knew all these moves too well, it’s exactly the sort of chorography dancers hate but that we were always given in music videos. I was determined to beat James otherwise I’d never be able to live it down. Problem was, the routine absolutely destroyed me. I am clearly not very fit because I was in pieces afterwards. It slowly dawned on me that this was not a good thing to be doing with someone who the previous day had his first rap of radiotherapy.
So I organised a meeting with world renowned brain surgeon, pioneer of awake craniotomy, Henry Marsh CBE, to ask him this: Did my husband die because of Call me Maybe?
I did actually take him out of his working day, saving lives, to ask him this. Such was my guilt. When he told me the dancing wouldn’t have had any impact I was happy, for ten minutes. But I emailed him a week later to reaffirm that it was true.
For months afterwards, I really couldn’t tolerate that song, and it’s hard to avoid, it’s bloody everywhere. Man I had a problem with that Carly Rae Jepson. Then weirdly on my wedding anniversary I had my sister, her husband and her kids staying with us. The kids had managed to hook the whole thing up and when I came down for breakfast there it was, that song, and they were playing the dance game. It made me happy that it was filling the room again and not sad. This must be what progress sounds like, maybe?
I got 99 problems but that bitch ain’t one.
- Dante Alighieri