the gabby gene

Violet doesn’t say hello when she answers the door so much as seamlessly include me in the conversation she’s been having with everyone, and herself, these past few years. It’s how I imagine being subsumed by an extra-terrestrial blob in one of those fifties’ sci-fi films. (A theramin plays in the background; you open the door; you throw your hands back helplessly as a formless blobby mass rolls over you and wobbles on, leaving nothing in its wake but a bag, a diary and a shoe).

I imagine Violet was always chatty. It’s a gene some people have, like being able to roll your tongue. My brother Mick, for example. He’s never stuck for something to say. For example, if you were to ask me how I got here, I’d probably say something dour like ‘I drove down; it was okay’; Mick, on the other hand, Mick would tell you everything, every last detail, from the confusing new road layout at the top of his road to the number of hawks he spotted and what happened when he ordered coffee at the service station. It’s like someone playing the didgeridoo; he practices circular breathing to maintain a continuous note.

You have to pick your time as well as your question when you talk to Mick. And aways know your exits.

Come to think of it, perhaps it’s not being born with a gabby gene so much as being born without the gene that lets you know your conversational partner is only pretending to get a text saying they have to go home immediately.

In Violet’s case, though, no doubt her natural chattiness is exacerbated by stress. It’s how she’s coping with life, now that her husband Ronnie has suffered a number of debilitating strokes, needs constant attention, hoisting from bed to commode to sofa and back again, with a small army of carers and nurses and other health care professionals trooping through the flat all hours of the day and night. It’s painful to see the contrast between them, how busy with everything she is, with appointments and supplies and deliveries and relatives and diagnoses and medications and the weather today and the news this morning and the fact the plumber didn’t show and where she’s going to have her hair done – whilst Ronnie sits on the sofa, in his wearable sling and pad, only able to clear his throat in an approximate way when I sit down next to him, give his hand a squeeze, and ask him how he is.

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