Abandoned. The signs there was no point in saving her, I found her alone in the empty ward, no other patients – empty beds. A bowl of lukewarm Weetabix sits next to her bed, sodden beige slime.
I nudge her.
She responds, unaware of who I am and I lift her head, to feed her the beige food.
I am dying with her, she accepts a little of the food and I scrape some more back in her mouth. She raises a faint polite smile, enforced into her by her French upbringing.
I realise now she has not long to go, years of trying to jolt her into a proper conversation, this is no different to recent years of our inability to talk.
I still say goodbye, see you later. She plops back on the pillow.
Next time she would be totally unconscious, the tumour blocking her lungs she will fall back into a drowned coma.
She used to tell me how she chopped off frostbitten toes of Athenians returning from frozen Greek mountains having battled Italian soldiers.
My grandfather, who summarised Italians as ‘marionettes’.
I used to wonder how the Italian toes managed in the cold.
This was a cold I could not thaw.
I was shocked at how empty I felt, losing the one person who gave me life and fed me. Waves of guilt as I walked back outside onto Fulham Palace Road.
Twelve years later, I am gently excavating the remains of Josette, brushing away crumbs of damp earth, deep in her grave, to reveal memories, albeit painful.