Yesterday I accompanied a friend to hospital to pick up the outcomes of a blood test she had had done earlier in the week. She has been ailing for a while. In her typical roundabout fashion, she said it was just her tummy. We chatted for a bit as we waited for the results to be processed. The print-outs may as well have been written in Sanskrit. Neither of us could make sense of them – a table of acronyms and figures and some symbols I recognize from my school days did not tell us what her problem could have been. She said she was going to get a second opinion from a trusted doctor, as she took photographs of the stark white sheets to send to her sister, who is a nurse, to help in deciphering the seeming gibberish.
She was worried, feelings are infectious, and I became worried. She hides her anxiety well, but I have known her for more than ten years. Nothing of hers is hidden from me. For a moment, I felt that she was preparing me for some inevitability. For The Inevitability. I quickly abandoned this thought and as I was letting it slip away, she mentioned that she had finished reading Saturday in two days. I lent it to her the last time we met. Initially, she could not understand how someone could write a whole book about an innocuous a day as a Saturday, but as she kept reading it, the profoundness (and I would hope the magnificent prose) captivated her. A day is not a particularly long time and Saturdays, what with all the activities (and laziness and nursing of hangovers) we fill them with, appear even shorter. Mornings always seem to come too soon, the day beginning in the middle, evenings approach even faster, and the goals we had set for ourselves sometimes lie unreached, mocking us silently from their unfinished state. Many thoughts and fantasies whip across our minds, and most of them remain unexpressed and thus forgotten. Our deepest emotions, our unspoken unshared ones, wither away in the recesses of our hearts on these ephemeral days. Just like life.
“Life is a Saturday.” I had not conceived that Mr McEwan could have been intimating this throughout his work until she implicitly and unwittingly pointed it out. She continues to surprise me and with that terse statement, she reminded me why we are still close after all the time behind us. She is now working her way through The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which she proudly showed me resting in her handbag. Those two books have loss as a recurring theme. It would be romantic and simplistic of me to believe that some kind of message is being delivered here, that the universe is telling me something. That existence is fickle. One does not need to read a philosophical work to know this. We know it inside ourselves. One would think that this knowing would prompt us to take most things less seriously – the people who offended us, the weather, the traffic – and a very few things more seriously – our family and friends, our health, the less fortunate among us. She has been unwell and I figure she was reassuring me, telling me in her often circuitous way not to worry. I told her, as I always do even when she tells me to take care of myself and to stay out of trouble, that I will try.