letterboxes and the fine art of surviving

It was just after nine / I’d come to see Maureen, a patient of mine / suffering self-neglect & cognitive decline / her niece / Denise / met me outside the flat / we buzzed and rang but had no luck with that / we shouted through the letterbox / the hallway resounding with our pounding and our knocks / but the flat was quiet & the door stayed locked / Denise / had no keys / because her aunt wouldn’t give her a set / even though she was prone to forget / whether to eat or not / and left things on the stove when it was hot / and needed reminding to take her medication a lot / but – you know – this whole thing was a long time in the making / (Denise was pleased for the trouble everyone was taking) /

we stood there in the hall / wondering what to do, who to call / Denise was realistic / she said this behaviour was characteristic / Maureen was definitely home / but just wanted to be left alone / the risk was low she was on the floor / so we probably didn’t need to kick down the door / it would’ve been too destructive / counter-productive / so instead / I said / I’d talk to the GP / quite urgently / actually / because we needed to see / that Maureen had capacity / to say the hell with the world and other curses / and no to a visit from the district nurses

I shook Denise’s hand, said goodbye / picked up my bags, walked outside

back in the car / eating an energy bar / planning my visits / I listened to a professor of theoretical physics / it was compelling / there was still no way of telling / he said / the essential difference between alive and dead / no experiment yet devised / that could have the matter verified / it was somewhere in the realm of chemical & electrical causation / in DNA packed full of coded information / software / versus hardware / somewhere deep in there / and if that wasn’t enough / he went on to talk about all this other stuff / how space & time came into existence / how early bacteria showed a strange resilience / there, at the beginning of multicellularity / moving and evolving with marked singularity / tackling insults to their integrity

I thought about Maureen, locked in her flat / and what I was going to do about that / and I heard our efforts echoing down the hall / all the way back to the start of it all / to the shore at the dawn of Time’s Big Bang / the very moment when it all began / that drenching, wrenching, cataclysmic spasm / that flash of heat in the heart of the chasm / that revolutionary, evolutionary phantasm / of subatomic ticks and tocks / to Denise and me, shouting through a letterbox

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