UKArchive ID: 23147Just Talking by chrissytotoro
Originally published on March 23, 2009 in Fiction

A story about communication

Just talking

I sit and hold your hand. Your hands are starting to look their age, thin, not as strong as they once were and a bit freckled. And I feel so powerless, so weak and stupid because I can’t stop bloody crying. I hate myself for it. I know you don’t like to see me cry and I’ll be devastated if I look at you and see your eyes are open.
"They say I should talk to you. Well that pretty doctor, the one that looks like the French footballer, not Cantona the one who really knows he’s good looking. Ginola that’s the chap, well he said, not Ginola the doctor that looks like him, he said that I should talk to you.
So I’ve thought about all the things that I can say.
Do you remember the first time we met and we went to that really posh restaurant. I’d just got back from Nam or was it Cambodia? It must have been Cambodia because Nam was finished by seventy five and we didn’t meet till seventy eight. It was somewhere around there any way, and we were just having the chilled melon with ginger and I collapsed and you thought I was pissed. I know you did but the waiter, the little Taiwanese chap he knew what it was and called the ambo. Do you remember that?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, do you. And falling flat on your face in a bowl of chilled melon with an attack of Dengue Fever is not the kind of first impression you really want to make.
We did get a second chance though. I’m so glad about that. I would have hated it if we hadn’t even tried.
We’re such different people you and I. We don’t even like the same music well, not all the same.
Mind you, I’ve never met anyone who truly appreciated my kind of country music."
A nurse comes in, small, pretty with her hair cut really short. I still have hold of your hand and she smiles.
For a moment as she turns around while doing something to the countless tubes and wires that attach you to the system, I smile at her. I’ve not seen her before.
She smiles back.
“How is your dad, today?”
Not for the first time I feel angry, outraged, I want to slap her face but of course, I don’t not physically anyway. I say; “Still dead, though he was a Buddhist so he might well have been reincarnated by now.”
She looks as though I have slapped her but I’m not sorry.
“I’m sorry I ....”
“You assumed,” I say. “People always assume. This is my husband, dear. Not my father.”
She finishes what she’s doing very quickly and then she leaves and I swear she’s crying. Oh shit, I shouldn’t have done that. Poor little cow, it isn’t her fault.
I return to you and our one sided small talk.
“The police haven’t caught the scrote who hit you. I wish I could catch him. But you don’t want to know about that.
Malcolm rang, sends you his best wishes. Very macho. You know what Malcolm’s like.”
Someone else comes in, hovers a bit and then smiles as I turn to look at her. It’s the sister. She’s about my age, with dark hair and big expressive eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “The lass is new on the ward today. Looking at the names she...”
“She assumed. Why do people always make assumptions.”
“I’m really sorry. It should not have happened. My fault, I should have told her.”
“Yeah, OK.”
“Mrs. Kawolski ... Jenna really should try and get some rest.”
I turn back to my husband.
“How can I leave him. What if he comes round? He’ll be alone or worse surrounded by strangers.”
“But you’ve been here three days. I’ve not seen you even doze off.”
Has it really been that long. Something of a record that, even for me. “I’m used to going without sleep,” I say. “It becomes something of a survival aid when you don’t have anyone to watch your back.”
She comes towards me. “Will you at least come and have a cup of coffee? Proper coffee, not from the machine.”
She isn’t going to leave me alone, this well meaning woman and I really don’t want to alienate her.
“I’ll leave someone here and we’ll just pop into my office.”
I let go of your hand and stand up. “I won’t be a minute, Leo.”
We go to her office which is small and has a couple of comfortable looking chairs. She makes me a cup of coffee.
“Sit down,” she says and I sit because suddenly I feel very tired.
“Is he going to come out of this?” I ask.
“There isn’t anything telling me he won’t. You should speak to Dr. Charles.”
“Yeah.” I look at her face. She has an interesting face, quite thin with fine bones and clear skin. Well lit, she could be a very nice subject. “I suppose it’s because it’s personal.”
“I’m sorry?” She says.
“Because it’s Leo. I mean I’ve seen maybe a dozen guys with head injuries worse than his but even though I knew them, it didn’t faze me like this.” I think for a moment of those men, just to assure myself that I’m being honest. “I was a war photographer.” I say because she obviously needs clarification.
“Ah, I see.”
“You think you’re hard as nails but ...”
“Good heavens, he’s your husband.”
“I can’t imagine how you feel. I see this, something like it on a daily basis but if it was my husband lying there ..”
I breath in through my nose. To anyone who knows me this signifies subject closed but she doesn’t know me.
“I don’t really know how I would feel,” she continues.
“Try uncontrollably angry. Try wanting to get your hands around the throat of the bastard that did it and squeeze the life out of him.” She looks frightened but I can’t stop it. “All the time I spent taking pictures of people killing people, maiming children, destroying their countries, their cultures ... And I never wanted to physically harm anyone. Even with a child in pieces at my feet, I didn’t want to do to them what they had done to her. Now I do. I want to get this little bastard and smash his head against something hard so that his skull splits and brain swells up.” I could go on, I could spew out all the terrible pictures in my head, but I don’t. I start to cry instead and that’s something she can handle.

The police inspector is a woman. Her name is Kylie. She’s a petite little blonde with too much make up for a day job.
She talks to me like she’s known me for years, uses my first name very chummy.
“Jenna, I know you didn’t see this man properly ....”
“I hardly saw him at all, Inspector, just a blur as he ran past me.”
“You went to get the car because it was raining.”
“Yes, Leo had had a chill, he’s just finished a tiring recording session, I didn’t want him getting wet and miserable.”
“So you left him inside the restaurant.”
“So why would he come out?”
“Because that’s what he’s like. He’s contrary.”
“You went to the car park, got the car and came straight around to the front.”
“And you saw ....?”
“A man ran in front of me, youngish from the way he moved. He was wearing dark trousers a jacket of some sort and a woollen hat. He didn’t look at me just ran straight on.”
“And then what?”
“I could see the front of the restaurant and Leo, lying at the bottom of the steps. I stopped the car and got out. Someone came out of the restaurant. I remember yelling at them, ‘Don’t touch him’ or ‘Don’t move him’. I had no idea what had happened, I just thought moving him was a bad idea.” I take a drink of water and she reaches across to touch my hand. “I went over to Leo and he was just so still. He wasn’t groaning or making any noise. The owner of the restaurant came out and said he’d called an ambulance. They were on their way. I remember asking him if he had called the police. He said yes he had that was when your people showed up.”
“Going back to the young man you almost hit, would you say he was black or white?”
“I really can’t say.” I try hard to think, really hard and then suddenly there he is in front of me and he’s snarling in my face. I’m terrified and I’m thinking things that I shouldn’t be thinking, things I don’t understand. “He was white,” and I say it so suddenly, so convincingly that I surprise not just myself but the inspector too.
“You’re sure about that?”
“Yes. He was white.” I can’t tell her how I’m sure but I am.
She looks pleased, almost relieved and I think I know why. A black kid mugging an elderly white man would have been a lot harder to apprehend, a lot more politically volatile.
“Have the doctors said when they think ....”
“They haven’t even said if they think he’ll regain consciousness.”
“I’m sorry.”
And she probably is but so what.

“I had another chat with our friendly neighbourhood police lady. I got a colour from somewhere. White. You saw him better than me, he was white, wasn’t he?”
And he’s there again in my head, his horrible angry face, features so distorted that I can’t make them out, he’s just like every other bully that I’ve ever seen.
I realise that I’m squeezing your hand and I relax my grip a little.

It’s been six days and I’m really tired now. I’ve tried to sleep but I keep dreaming about the little shit bag and every time I dream, he’s clearer. I know he has blue eyes but I don’t know how I know so I can’t tell the police.
I’m beginning to think I’m going round the twist. Sleep deprivation probably. I try to remember what I used to do to help me sleep but the meditation doesn’t really work and I don’t want to go down the chemical route.

I’m taking a break, trying to find a magazine that I can read to you when I find myself in A&E. It’s late on a Friday and quite busy. I really need to get back up to intensive care in case you come round while I’m away and then suddenly I see a shape, huddled on a seat, a cloth of some sort clutched to its head, it’s moaning and swearing. People seeming to be ignoring it. A big woman comes over and sits down next to the shape. She has a cup of coffee clutched in her hand.
I look at her but she doesn’t look at me.
The shape leans against her obviously expecting comfort but she drinks her coffee. Then she leans over to get a magazine and a chain she’s wearing round her fat neck falls forward.
I see your signet ring, the one I bought you for a wedding present, and no sooner have I seen it than I’m reaching forward, my hand closing around the chain and I can hear her squealing like a pig. I pull, hard. The cheap chain breaks.
“That’s my husband’s ring, bitch!”
All hell breaks loose. Security grab bits of me and pull me away.
The shape on the chair next to my victim tries to do a runner but one of the security men has his wits about him and grabs the shape before it can get away.
I relax and the woman holding me relaxes too.
I know it’s him and that, when they’ve fixed whatever’s happened to him, he’ll get what he deserves.

I sit and hold your hand. Your hands are starting to look their age, thin, not as strong as they once were and a bit freckled. And I feel so powerless, so weak and stupid because I can’t stop bloody crying. I hate myself for it. I know you don’t like to see me cry and I’ll be devastated if I look at you and see your eyes are open.
One day, maybe tomorrow, you’ll wake up and I’ll be able to tell you that they got the little scrote who did this to you but for now I just talk to you and tell you things that I think you want to hear.

© chrissytotoro (chrissy on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 23147
Archived comments for Just Talking
teifii on 23-03-2009
Just Talking
Ah you didn't say it was this one. I had read it in the book. It's a great story. I don't usually cast votes but thought I'd get the ball rolling with a 9.

Author's Reply:
Daff, many thanks for taking the time to comment and for the rating.
I was sure that I rold you it was the first one in End Games. But you know what my head is like at the moment.

e-griff on 24-03-2009
Just Talking
This was one very good story! It worked.

small things - para spacing needs sorting at the beginning (for screen), could have put some off reading.


faze not phase


impressive wee story, hen. och aye!

naw, it's me, JohnG 🙂

Author's Reply:
Ta, John.
If I just use the edit feature can I change things? Or will it go pear shaped?

Sunken on 26-03-2009
Just Talking
Hello Ms. Chrissy. It's not often I can stick with longer subs, my contact lenses tend to dry up because I forget to blink. I can't do multi-tasking. Anyway, glad I stuck with this one. It was worth the saline. Bernard enjoyed it too (tho I suspect he was more interested in the Kylie character than anything else - That dog has tatse). Tip top and no mistake.


Author's Reply:
Thanks Sunken for taking the time to read and comment. I guess it is a bit long that's probably why it's had so few hits. Other folks must have blinking probs too.

macaby on 26-03-2009
Just Talking
Good story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, kept me interested from start to finish.I read teifii 's remark, has this been published ?
thanks for the read. mac

Author's Reply:
Hi there. Thanks for rading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
The story is in End Games my third collection of short stories available from my website at:-