The doctor said you have three good years and then he shrugged.  I didn’t know what the shrug was about but it felt ominous.  I didn’t say anything back.  I couldn’t think of any words which would fit this situation.  Instead, I tried to smile, because I am a woman and I have been conditioned to make others feel better in bad situations.  Including the doctor who was giving me some of the worst news a person can receive. 

The definition of “good” became of immense importance to me.  What did “good” mean?  Was he saying I’d feel as “good” as I felt now?  Because the moment he said “good” I wasn’t feeling “good” at all. 

My temperature runs two degrees higher than it should, all the time, so I was dressed for high summer on a frigid Wellington day and am still sweating profusely.  My heart races like an adulterer sprinting down the road with a knife wielding cuckold on his heels.  Fight or flight has become a jammed fast forward button—so my response to everything is hysteria.  My mind twists and turns through the air like Peter Pan soaring from one thought to another at the spin of a lottery ball.  Parts of me hurt and shake, including my hands, the tools with which I create universes.

Eight months have gone by since the day I got the news in that cold corporate grey hospital office.
  I rattle with assorted medications swallowed at measured intervals.  I creep and crawl through the days in a pessimistic blur and the term “good” has been given elastic walls. 

I ache all over, my joints mostly.  I forget my muscle strength is seriously compromised and try to do things I can’t manage ending up flat on my face, or my arse. 

My memory is going and I’m repeating stories like an annoying elderly aunt. 

Names and faces are a problem and I enter every conversation with trepidation.   Nothing flows as I am swamped by great blank spaces where flares of genius used to be, blocked I am unable to move forward or retreat. 

The constant confusion depletes me.  Where are my glasses? What happened to last week? You didn’t tell me that!  You didn’t!  You didn’t!   Yes I have taken my medication, hold on, no sorry, I forgot.  Who are you? 

Whispers of madness sneer from the sidelines.  ‘I can take you at any time.’   They rush at me like an oncoming tide while I lurch back from the waves, my beach growing tinier as the sand crumbles away. 

All I see is impatience, rolled eyes, slumped shoulders, embarrassed laughter and forced kindness which pokes into my heart like a snapped wire in an uplift bra.  The disease is acid dripping arbitrarily onto the fabric of my lived life leaving ragged voids. 

I recall a pink crimpoline mini dress with brass buttons and patent leather blue shoes; I was seven.  I hate rice pudding.  What did we have for morning tea?  Mr Reynolds is my favourite teacher.  My grandsons name is—it is—no, no I know it, I do.  The light outside is a bosky purple haze, is it morning or night?  I can’t remember, I can’t remember, I can’t remember.   

I rap the sides of my head with my knuckles.  Years of gathering the world within me only to end up with a mind like a bin of broken crockery.


Nine months have gone by since the day I got the news in that cold corporate grey hospital office. 

I am walking down the Lugarno Corsini on the banks of the Arno, eating gelato.  It’s a sun soaked Tuscan day and I’ve lost my shoes.  My husband races back to the Gelataria where we think I left them and once again, someone worse off than me, has made off with my ‘two dollar shop’ jandals. 

Kei te Pai. 

We are off to Rome tomorrow or maybe Palermo or Venice or Milan.  I can’t remember.  We sold our life and I’ll run out way before the money does.  I’ve spat from the Eiffel tower, I’ve mooned the queen and licked the Mona Lisa’s face.

 “Good” has become a lot better.