Life's Simple Pleasures

Entry by: jaguar

12th December 2016
At three in the morning Mark made himself a promise. One of those deals with God when his rational brain was sleeping on the job. Pain had forced him from the bed and, as he rose, his shadow loomed at him from the bedroom wall. For a moment he thought it was an intruder then his pulse calmed until he remembered that shadow, that intruder was inside him, growing and looming over everything. Make the most of life’s simple pleasures, he told himself, don’t focus on what you can’t change.

The day began again with a half-hearted dawn that he watched downstairs, cocooned in dressing gown and slippers, waiting to hear signs of life. Coming back into the warm bedroom Mark took the baby from Sarah and enjoyed the feeling of his muscles supporting Katie, holding her secure. He buried his nose in her freshly washed face and inhaled her honeyed scent, both familiar and exotic. However greedily he breathed it in the scent remained as strong.

He dressed Katie in her soft, pretty clothes as he listened to Sarah singing in the shower, just failing to reach the highest notes the way she always did. He hadn’t heard her sing in months. Perhaps he made his promise aloud and Sarah was also snatching little bits of pleasure from the day. He peeped like a naughty schoolboy after a cheap thrill as Sarah enveloped her giving body in a warm towel.

Mark carried Katie downstairs, popped her in her high chair and put the kettle on. They’d have proper coffee today even though he hated getting the coffee grinds out of the cafetiere. He smiled as he realised the cafetiere was sitting on the drainer, already cleaned. He breathed in the dark indulgence of the ground coffee.

The light struck the crystal hanging in the kitchen window and Katie gurgled at the broken rainbow dancing on the wall. Mark put his hand around her pointing fingers and laughed with her at the display. She clasped his thumb and tried to cram it in her mouth.

Everything froze around him as he made himself focus. In that moment nobody was ageing or dying; he wasn’t ill; they didn’t have money worries; Sarah wasn’t having to think about a life without him. He shook off all those things that pressed down on him. He only felt Katie’s wet grasp of his thumb, saw the prism of colours on the wall and smelt good coffee.

Sarah came downstairs wearing his favourite outfit, all rusts and browns, the turning colours foreshadowing Autumn. She smoothed his hair back from his forehead and said: ‘You seem brighter today, did you have a better night’s sleep?’ He leant into her hand, absorbed the comfort of her touch.

Should he tell her the truth? Each night there was a shorter period of sleep and more and more hours of tossing, trying to avoid the stabbing knives inside. Should he tell her he can feel himself diminishing almost hour by hour and soon he’ll be so slight he’ll fall through the safety net they’d built? ‘Yes, much better,’ he said and was rewarded by the relief in her eyes, the knowledge that he could still make her happy.

He cracked open the unread paper, skimming through sheets of tangled politics and the dirty tales of inhumanity. He searched for the uplifting stories, the rare pearls of good news. Sarah took the baby out on to the patio to feed her. Mark watched them as he took their coffees out, squinting at the strong sunlight. Sarah came round behind him and massaged his shoulders, gouging at the aches and briefly chasing the hurt away. She was close enough for him to catch her perfume, the scent deepened by her sugared and salted skin.

‘You worry too much. You know it’s fifty-fifty, don’t you?’ She muttered into his neck but he heard her clearly. He nodded, knowing his theoretical chances of surviving his cancer long-term only too well. ‘With those odds you could make a simple choice to be optimistic rather than your usual pessimistic self.’

‘I prefer to describe myself as realistic.’

Sarah came round in front of him, her hands on her hips. ‘You do the best Eeyore impression I’ve ever seen. You’re convinced you’re dying. You haven’t even considered beating it.’ She was smiling but only with her mouth and it didn’t lift her sad eyes.

For a split second he was annoyed. He’d had enough of people telling him his attitude would make a difference. He was a scientist, he knew acting like Pollyanna had no impact on your cell division rates. Yet, it wouldn’t do any harm to flip his mindset and assume he’d be one of the lucky ones. It would certainly make it easier for Sarah. He pulled her into a hug. ‘I’ll try. Just until my next appointment.’

The expression on her face swept away his doubts. He decided to choose to believe in her power to save him. Deluding yourself may be one of life’s more common simple pleasures but so was hope.