glenda calls time

Glenda watches as I unpack my kit.
‘Why is everyone so obsessed with my blood?’ she says.
‘The doctors want another sample. I think they’re mostly interested in how your liver’s doing.’
‘I think you’ll find it’s not doing all that well, Jim. It’s ninety-five, like the rest of me.’
Glenda has a steady, sad demeanour, like an ancient donkey peering through a gate.
‘You know – it’s perfectly alright to say no to any of this stuff,’ I tell her. ‘So long as you understand what it is you’re refusing.’
‘I don’t mind if you take some more blood,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to be difficult. Anyway, it passes the time.’
‘I don’t think you’re difficult,’ I tell her, setting out my things. ‘In fact I think you’re a model patient.’
‘Now – you’re either very kind or a good liar. Which is it?’
‘Honest answer?’
‘Only a liar would say that.’
‘Well there you are, then.’
‘Yes. Here I am, then. More’s the pity.’
I fetch over a pillow for her arm.
‘Why are they so exercised about the state of my liver?’ she says.
‘It mentions a paracetamol overdose on the blood form.’
‘Ah,’ says Glenda. ‘That.’
‘So – was it accidental, or….’
‘Absolutely not! Accidental! I knew perfectly well I wanted to kill myself.’
‘Oh! I’m sorry.’
‘What? That I failed?’
‘No! That you felt so bad you wanted to kill yourself.’
She shakes her head and gestures to the room.
‘It’s not exactly the Ritz, is it?’
‘It’s not bad. You’ve got a view of the garden. Those trees are lovely.’
‘It’ll take more than a couple of Japanese maples to convince me life is worth living. I mean – come on! I’m ninety-five! Look at me! I’m worn out! I’ve had my time and very nice it was too. But longevity is no fun, let me tell you.’
‘I can see that.’
‘Stuck in the chair for hours on end until someone decides to put you back to bed.’
‘Have you spoken to anyone about how you feel?’
‘You mean a psychiatrist?’
‘We’ve got some mental health nurses on the team. They’re really nice.’
‘I would hope they are. But I’d be wasting their time. You see – this isn’t a mental health problem. I belong to something called Dignity in Dying. Have you heard of it?’
‘Vaguely. I think so.’
‘You wouldn’t be so vague if you were ninety-five, I can assure you.’
‘Maybe not.’
‘Definitely not.’
‘The thing is, Glenda. There’s so much going on in the world. Brexit. Climate Change. The rise of populism. Nationalism. Trump, for God’s sake! These are scary times. Interesting times. And we need you to stick around and tell us what you think. You’ve lived through a war. People forget. They start to feel invulnerable – you know? – like they can go on as they like forever, and nothing really matters.’
Glenda laughs.
‘Just get on and bleed me,’ she says, pushing up her sleeve. ‘You’re absolutely priceless! You want me to carry on living so I can see how Brexit turns out? My God – if the nurses hadn’t locked my tablets away I’d be throwing them back by the handful.’

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