A friend of mine in Brazil, Regina Machado, called and asked if I would tell some stories to a friend of hers – Ana – who was ill.
Ana has a small daughter. She used to give English classes based around art history. She was writing an MA thesis. Then, on the day she was due to present it, one of the assessors didn’t show up. The presentation had to be put back to a later date. That night, Ana suffered a massive stroke. The part of her brain which sends ‘motor’ messages to the rest of her body was wiped right out. All she can do now is blink her eyes.
I said yes. Regina took me there.
Ana was at her mother and father’s flat. It was full of beautiful paintings, clocks and artwork on the wall, though there was something a bit stuck about the place, as if everything had been in exactly the same position for decades.
Ana’s small daughter bustled about with scissors and toys. She showed me her room, overflowing with dolls, and told me their names.
I went down the corridor to the room where her mother lay, imprisoned in a paralysed body.
When you think what has been taken from Ana (the ability to speak, walk, feed herself, write, turn in her sleep, reach out a hand to comfort her daughter…) it makes most of problems we find ourselves struggling with seem very petty.
I told Ana some stories in English. Rain burst out of the sky behind us, down onto a world she cannot turn her head to see. I could tell she understood the stories well. A few times she made a slight, gurgling chuckle.
Regina said that after I left she cried and cried.