Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
I was astounded with the level of dark humour that went on at the time, and after James’ death, especially as it was such a shock and such a devastating tragedy. Things got pretty dark, even by my standards. But at least I was in good company. As my beautiful husband was lying attached to numerous hideous machines, my friend Tara sat with him and when no one could see she leaned in and said to him….” Finally Jimmy Anderson, I get you alone.” When the doctor was discussing organ donation round the bed one of the boys muttered, “what about the calves, who’s gonna get those?”
My first weekend as a widow (ouch, there’s that word again) was horrendous, although I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that on the Sunday, four days after James died, there was a meeting with the inner ring of the Pod at my mother-in Law’s house. I don’t remember what was discussed but it must have been funeral arrangements, bills, money, the fucking cat. I do remember Gautom had red eyeballs throughout and that there were hot cross buns.
After this meeting I came back to my house with my mother-in –Law. There were so many people there. All the Goldsteins I think, my friends Tom and Josie and maybe Zubin but definitely Matt, my best friend’s husband. He’s a chef and was cooking up a storm in our kitchen for all these people. I think it was mother’s day too, to add insult to injury. If James had been alive I would have been horizontal in some spa or other or maybe it would be him cooking up a storm in our kitchen. I couldn’t handle everyone being there but a much, much worse thought was that they might leave. I have always pretended to be in Love with Tara’s husband. It’s gone on for the entireity of their eight year marriage so I thought it might be appropriate to say: “ Matt, now James is gone we can finally be together……. I done him in.” Testament to my choice of shameless friends they were crying with laughter.
When my mother in Law and I sat with the funeral director in my kitchen and he left to get something from his car, we discussed her Husband’s funeral which was six months earlier. I told her that the pall bearer in his top hat was like something out of a Dickens’ novel. Then I though it might be appropriate to stand in front of her and re-enact this for her with my very own impression of this limby, scrawl of a man tipping his top hat and bowing at the coffin.
I was in full swing singing a Les Miserable/Fiddler on the roof version of :‘ Master of the ‘ouse, keeper of the zoo” in my thickest cockney accent with all the actions when the other funeral director came back in to see us giggling.
Perhaps the weirdest and most inappropriate thing was the day James died, or was declared dead. Some pretty awful doctor came to do a series of tests both medical and legal I expect. They have to prove that there is absolutely no brain activity. The tests are barbaric. They need to do them twice and you need to be there to witness the whole thing. After the first set, I could stand it no longer and had to get out of the hospital. I took the 94 bus and sat on the top deck right after going to Diesel as I realised I really needed a new pair of jeans for my now shrunken frame. This seemed perfectly normal behaviour and so I sat right at the front.
I realised I was sitting on a folder belonging to one Jośe Callejon barista extraordinaire. Inside the folder was his CV; he was looking for a job. He had been chief barista at no less than eight Pret a Manger cafes and was looking for the next lucky number nine. I looked for any contact details and found none; I siphoned further and found his passport! – ‘Jośe!,’ I saw myself reprimanding him, if we were ever to meet, ‘I know my husband is currently lying in a hospital bed waiting to be told he is in fact dead, but you’re never going to get your next job with this careless attitude.’ I searched further and saw that he had representation at the Job Centre on Uxbridge Road under the supervision of a Kiesha Jackson. So I called Keisha, there and then, told her my problem…… Jose , obviously. She asked if it would be possible for me to pop in with the folder. I thought long and hard about this. I told her not today but possibly tomorrow? I eventually found Jose’s number on something and I called him. I told him I had his passport. He was more than a little grateful so we arranged to meet at my house fifteen minutes later. I really hurried up the Avenue, once I got off that bus…. Mustn’t make Jose wait, that would be rude. I got in, our cleaner was putting the dishwasher on so I told her: James has died and Jose will be arriving shortly to get his passport. I can’t remember her response. Jose arrived. The exchange took place and he said ‘Thanks”. I went back to the hospital bed and said goodbye to what was and would never be.
For Brett Goldstein…. And Jose of course… dah.