feelings

All posts tagged feelings

When a virus hijacks your brain.

Published September 1, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

(In bed, ill with a high temperature)

Brain: Ooh isn’t it cold.

Me: No.

Brain: It is.

Me: It’s not cold, I’ve got a temperature.

Brain: It’s freezing.

Me: (touching head to confirm) No, I’m boiling.

Brain: What’s that noise?

Me: (listening carefully) I can’t hear anything?

Brain: Can’t you hear that? The sound of your bones knocking together as they shiver?

Me: Pack it in.

Brain: Why don’t you put some socks on, your feet are cold aren’t they?

Me: (sighs) Yes, my feet feel cold now that you mention it. (gets out of bed and puts socks on)

Brain: (sings Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’)

Me: (back in bed) What are you doing now? I need to sleep.

Brain: I’m singing cold songs. Because it’s cold.

Me: Please stop.

Brain: Why don’t you put a nighty on. It’s cold and you’re nude, that’s just silly.

Me: I’m not nude, I have socks on. (gets out of bed and puts nighty on, gets back into bed)

(One minute and thirty-nine seconds tick by)

Brain: (sings Ultravox’s Vienna)

Me: That’s not a cold song, why are you singing that?

Brain: Midge Ure looked chilly in the video, so it’s a cold song.

Me: Stop talking, and singing, I need to sleep.

Brain: It’s too cold to sleep. But if you put another layer on you’ll feel all snugly and fall asleep.

Me: Ok, I give in.

Brain: Good, if you get any colder you’ll need the toilet.

Bladder: Hello!

Me: Great. I suppose you want to be emptied?

Bladder: Yes. Isn’t it cold.

Me: Don’t you start. (Empties bladder, layers up, back into bed) Can I sleep now?

Bladder: (snoring)

Brain: Of course. Snuggle down. Right under the duvet for maximum warmth.

(waking six hours later in a pool of sweat)

Me: Oh sweet horse chestnuts! I’m roasting alive! (fumbles feebly to remove socks while fighting heat fatigue)

Brain: Ha! Got you!

Bladder: Hello!

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Kiss

Published August 26, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Misty pouted her blood red lips at her reflection. ‘Irresistible.’ She sprayed herself with perfume, Gucci Envy, and smiled. His last gift to her.

There was a knock at the hotel door. Misty took a deep breath. She carefully applied the gloss that she had mixed earlier over her lipstick barrier. Her lips glistened like syrup. A more impatient knock came to the door. She stood and walked over to the door, she undid her silk gown revealing a black corset and overflowing breasts.

She opened the door slowly. ‘Hello Joe.’

The man in front of her, Joe, appraised her body from head to toe, his eyes relocated to her chest when his surveying had finished. ‘What are you doing to me? You’re killing me.’

Misty smirked. ‘You don’t have to come in.’ She stepped back and arched her body slightly, glancing over her shoulder. ‘I just wanted to say goodbye properly.’

She turned fully back into the room, and heard the door close behind her. She dropped her gown to the floor.

Joe slid his arms around her waist. ‘This is definitely the last time,’ he whispered.

Misty felt his warm breath on her neck. ‘Definitely.’

‘I can’t leave her, not now.’ Joe’s fumbling hands stumbled up to her breasts.

‘Not now she’s pregnant.’ Misty twisted in Joe’s arms so she was facing him. ‘It’s ok Joe, you can say it. I’ve calmed down now.’ She started to undo his shirt. Her red nails a contrast to the white cotton. ‘You were going to leave her, weren’t you?’

‘Of course.’ Joe’s breathing got deeper as his eyes flitted between Misty’s fingers unbuttoning him and her slightly wobbling cleavage.

Misty finished unbuttoning his shirt. ‘I love you Joe, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Did you want that too? Did you want to be with me forever?’

Joe refocused to Misty’s hypnotizing dark eyes. ‘Yes, but -’

She placed her index finger on his lips and trailed it down to the bottom lip, parting them slightly, then releasing. ‘Tell me that you love me.’

‘I love you.’

Misty lifted her face to his, she saw his nostrils flare slightly as he smelt her perfume. ‘Kiss me.’

Joe immediately locked lips with Misty, like a screw on a magnet. They kissed with the hungriness of hyenas devouring prey. Misty pulled Joe down onto the bed. His hand slid up her leg to her inner thigh.

Misty stopped his hand going higher and pulled her lips away from his. ‘Hold me.’

Joe tried to kiss her neck. ‘But I haven’t got long.’

‘I know.’ She smiled sweetly, while pulling him closer and kissed him gently.

The slow tender kissing gave way to faster primal kissing and Joe started to fumble with his trousers, trying to undo them while staying glued to Misty’s lips.

Misty reached down and blocked Joe’s hand. ‘No.’

Joe froze. ‘What?’

‘You’re not using me anymore my love.’ Her hand moved up and stroked his face.

Joe frowned and studied her eyes. ‘But you called me? You said you needed to say goodbye properly? I thought this was going to be our last time together, to say goodbye.’

‘We can say goodbye without having sex.’

Joe pulled away from Misty and did his trousers up. ‘Why invite me here, to a hotel room? We could have just met for a drink.’

‘We couldn’t have met for a drink, that would be too public. I needed you here in private. I needed that kiss from you, now you couldn’t have kissed me like that in the pub, with prying eyes everywhere.’ Misty smiled at Joe, her red lipstick in place but the gloss gone.

Joe sighed and rolled onto his back, his hands flat on the bed. ‘If you’re trying to make me leave her again it’s not going to happen. You know I can’t.’ He glanced across at Misty. ‘Even though I want to.’

Misty shuffled closer and placed her hand on his chest. ‘I know you want to. That’s why I’m doing this.’

‘Doing what?’

‘I mean, if you’d said you didn’t love me anymore, or that you’d just be using me, of course I’d be heart broken, but in time and tears I would have got over you.’

Joe rolled back onto his side. ‘Doing what Misty?’

‘We both want to be together forever.’ Misty cupped his face lightly. ‘Just the two of us for eternity.’

Joe pulled away quickly. ‘What have you done to Claire?’

‘I haven’t done anything to her, why would I?’

Joe sat upright. ‘To be with me, to get her out of the way.’

‘I can’t believe you’d think I’d hurt her, pregnant too. I’m not a monster.’ Misty sat up too. ‘And if I hurt her I’d go to prison, and we’d still be apart.’

‘So what are you talking about?’

Before Misty had chance to reply Joe doubled up and moaned a guttural groan, collapsing back down onto the bed.

‘It’s started my love.’ Misty cradled Joe in her arms and stroked his hair. ‘It’ll start with me soon. My lipstick will have stopped it absorbing as quick into my system.’

Joe contorted in pain. ‘What have you done?’

‘Ssh, ssh, it’s all going to be ok. I put strychnine into my lip gloss.’ She kissed his forehead, then drew her knees up to her stomach. ‘It’s happening to me now too.’

‘You’re crazy.’ Joe started to pant.

‘Crazy for you my love. We will always be together now, for eternity.’

HOOP Boot Camp Summer 2017

Published July 10, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

When I signed up for a weekend HOOP (helping overcome obesity problems) boot camp six months ago, I really didn’t know what I was expecting. I certainly didn’t expect that I would meet the most wonderful people who would inspire me, encourage me, and enlighten me. But I did. And more.

I was anxious about meeting new people and spending a weekend with total strangers. I didn’t need to worry at all. I was so nervous arriving at the camp, but I met my first new friend Lucy who instantly made me feel relaxed. And with each person I met after that I felt more at ease. I was worried about sharing a room but I was paired up with Emma and felt we were a perfect match, we instantly gelled and suddenly sharing a room wasn’t a big deal at all. So much so we asked Yvonne to join us as we’d clicked over dinner Friday night. Each lovely lady on the boot camp with me was so nice, I started on Friday with strangers but left on Sunday with new friends.

The food was delicious. I was again anxious about this aspect of the weekend. Was I going to have enough food? Was I going to like the food? How would I cope without sugary sweet food? Again, unnecessary worrying. I can’t praise Brian Powlett highly enough. Fresh heathy food, cooked to perfection. Packed full of flavor and incredibly filling, I didn’t feel hungry once. I’m now following his Facebook page ‘Knife of Brian’ (should have known he’d be awesome with a Monty Python reference) and will be trying his recipes myself. Who knew I’d get excited by salads? Not me.

I also needn’t have worried about the activities. Saturday morning started with a walk. It was about a mile I think, some people did a bit of running, some people walked a just little of the way, and some people didn’t take part. It was all about what you felt comfortable with, no pressure. We were then split into two groups. One group worked out with tyres, one with resistance bands. Again, if you didn’t want to take part, or if you needed a breather, that was no big deal. After breakfast then we had the option to do canoeing. I was going to do it but after seeing Barbara and Helen fall in the river (they handled it with such good humour!) I got spooked and changed my mind (flash back to falling in a boating lake aged eight). I will have another go though next time, as everyone who did it seemed to have a great time. Myself, Yvonne and Sarah opted out so we got to play boules with Mark (more about him later). I wasn’t counting but I think I won 😉, and we all beat Mark.

We then had the option of mountain biking. Sitting on a saddle the size of a paperclip was uncomfortable and, unless I have a saddle the size of an arm chair, I won’t be doing it again. I’m calling the tiny saddles ‘magic saddles’ because they managed to turn my apple-catcher knickers into a thong. If you didn’t want an intimate wedgie you could have gone for a trike, or a wider seated tandem bike, but that was tougher to pedal and steer, kudos to Yvonne for steering the trike and Liane and Sarah getting up a hill on the tandemt, I had to get off and push my bike on that bit.

After lunch, it was activity time again. You had the option of harness work (climbing wall, tree tops walk, zip wire) or archery. I chose the harness work as I wanted to challenge myself, I’ve done archery several times before. Wearing full harness gear is most unflattering, and in some circles would be classed as fetish wear, but I’d rather be safe and look like a trussed up chicken than fashionable and deadly. I wasn’t good at the climbing wall, trying to get my size nine trainers on a pokey-out-bit (not sure of the technical term) the size of a broad bean was too hard for me. Others made it look easy and shimmied up to the top quickly like Tom Cruise in the opening to Mission Impossible II (Jane, Diane, Vicky, Sue B). Sue A showed what perseverance and having another go can do, as she didn’t manage to get very high the first time but had another go after and her determination and sparkly inner magic got her to the top.

Zip wire was next and, wowsers, what a challenge. I struggle to get up on rung three of a step ladder, so just climbing to the top of the zip wire tower was an achievement. Emma was first to volunteer, what a star, and she nailed it like a carpenter. One by one everyone overcame their fears and launched themselves over the edge. Most of the time I was up there I was saying to myself in my head that I couldn’t do it and I would just go back down. But when it came to just me and Yvonne stood up there, things changed. I’m sure she won’t mind me saying she was having a wobble, and after standing on the edge changed her mind and got unhooked. I was giving her a pep talk and saying she could do this and she would feel fab if she did it, and as I was saying this I was thinking ‘well I can’t be saying this to Yvonne and not do it myself’ what a hypocrite!

So, I bit the bullet and told Alex (the activities man) I was going for it. I told him I wouldn’t be able to look down so I was going to look up into the trees and he would have to guide me to the edge like I was a blind person, which he did marvelously. He has the patience of a saint. I told him I don’t normally swear but I may do. But I didn’t swear, apart from a ‘Holy Moly’ as I jumped, and I didn’t cry which I thought I would. I bizarrely did a little high pitched nervous singing and screamed the entire way down, which resulted in a sore throat and revocation of my forty-year vegetarian status due to consuming a buffet of small insects mid-air.

I’d like to thank Sue and Jane for helping me down from the harness after I eventually come to a stop – I thought I was going up for another go at one point as the bounce back was quite far. There might have been else behind me helping me down too but I was in too much of a state to see, so if anyone helped me, then thank you so much. I was holding onto the metal rope so tightly I just couldn’t physically let go. I haven’t gripped anything that hard since someone tried to steal my Toblerone once.

I am so proud of myself that I did it but I wouldn’t do it again. I’m not destined to be an adrenalin junkie. I’ve never been so glad to touch the ground. I nearly did a Pope and kissed it. We’d run out of time to do the tree tops walk, but that was good because that’s when Sue had that second go at the wall and smashed it, meant to be.

Zumba was on offer after that but I was so wrung out from the zip wire I gave it a miss. The ladies that did take part were fabulous though. I could see Lucy outside my window dancing (as I was recovering) and she was marvelous.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t very well Sunday morning. I had a bad head and the warnings of a migraine coming on so I knew I had to head home. I missed out on boxercise and yoga, I hope yoga is on offer at the next camp as I would have loved to have tried that.

I felt very emotional travelling home on the train, I was upset I’d had to shoot off without saying proper goodbyes to everyone, but that probably would have probably set me off crying like the Niagara waterfalls, so a lucky escape for everyone else. I felt emotional because in the space of forty hours I’d met the most inspirational people and formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime.

Mark Flewitt and Heather Jayne Wynn, the coaches on the weekend, it’s difficult to put into words how much of life changers they are. You couldn’t wish to meet more supportive, empathetic, positive people. It’s like sorcery how a speech from Mark can really change how you think about yourself and make you believe in yourself. I wouldn’t call it going to boot camp, I’d call it going to reboot camp. Like a computer reboots itself to get rid of the nasties and the gremlins inside, this weekend rebooted my gremlins and nasties.

I will be eternally grateful to mark and Heather for rebooting me, grateful to Brian for making me want to embrace healthier foods, and forever grateful to have met all the lovely ladies I shared this experience with, you are all sparkly stars in a sometimes dark world, so keep sparkling.

Anxiously Anticipating an Action Weekend

Published July 5, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

I’m travelling so far out of my comfort zone that I’ve had to renew my passport and apply for a visa. When I booked an activity boot camp weekend six months ago it seemed like an exciting thing to do. Now that it’s less than forty-eight hours away it seems far, far away from exciting. Excitement and fear has a thin line. I’ve crossed the border, and I’m entering terror town.

I did something similar when I was ten years old. There was an outward bounds school trip which involved a two-night stay, lots of walking, sharing bunks, early mornings. This equaled lots of crying, anxiety and counting down the minutes to go home. I think this emotional response might be repeated this weekend. I should have had a flashback moment to this memory before booking. My brain is an ass at times.

Anxiety number one: I’m staying in an outwards bounds center. In a forest. I normally stay in no less than four star hotels, in cities. There are going to be insects, that will try and devour me. And no room service. I haven’t even checked if there’s any Wi-Fi there, I fear not, and that will send me into palpitations and a technological detox. It will be the longest I’ve gone without watching television. I don’t know if I’ll cope with that, I may have to be air-lifted to a multiplex cinema.

Anxiety number two: I’ll be sharing a bedroom. I haven’t slept in a room with someone else for fourteen years. I’m a light sleeper and must wear earplugs to obtain sleep when I’m by myself. I’ve packed five pairs of earplugs as I might have to ram them all in if I’m sharing with someone who snores, or breathes. My ear canals will be stretched to ear lakes.

I sleep nude. And if it’s hot, I sleep on top of the sheets, nude. It’s predicted to be hot this weekend. I’m going to have to wear a nighty. This means I will have no sleep as I’m also a fidgeter in bed and will end up with my nighty strangling me at various stages of the night. Death by nighty.

Anxiety number three: We’re having our meals cooked by a professional chef. Most people would think this is a lovely treat. Not me. I’m worried I won’t like the food, as I’m a fussy vegetarian who dislikes salads, dressings, and onions. What if I get hungry and have to eat my own arm? I’ve shaved it in preparation. Do I take emergency flapjacks with me? I’m not going to be able to eat them though, I’ll be with people all the time. I don’t want to have to lock myself in a toilet cubicle to eat, my high gag reflex won’t cope with eating in these conditions. I suppose I could wait until lights out and lick it in the darkness. But how could I smuggle flapjacks in? Bags might be searched, I might have a body pat down for contraband. I could hide them under my boobs, there’s room there for a whole traybake.

Anxiety number four: Communal bathroom. Those two words send frozen darts down my spine and straight to my coccyx. I have a phobia of swimming pools and don’t go swimming because the thought of putting my bare feet where someone else’s bare feet have been makes me feel physically sick. So, the thought of sharing a shower and toilet with eleven strangers is horrendous. I will be taking wet wipes with me and wet wiping myself clean.

Anxiety number five: Outdoors. I dislike going outdoors in temperatures over 18 degrees. Our activity days are forecast to be 25 and 20. This makes me want to cry. I need an air con suit as my portable air con unit isn’t that portable and doesn’t work outdoors. I hate being sweaty and uncomfortable. This weekend will just involve me being sweaty and uncomfortable. I have purchased a sun hat and will be basting myself in factor fifty.

Anxiety number six: People. I’m going to be spending forty-six hours with people. I never spend that long in company. My maximum is a ten-hour shift in work, and then I have to spend the following day in solitary confinement recovering from IPI (intense people interaction).

Anxiety number seven: Activities. Where do I start? I have an active mind but my body is as active as neglected plasticine. I will be doing climbing – I hate heights and I have long nails which are going to make it difficult to grab onto the wall and stop myself plunging to instant death, so I’m going to have to cut them short. I will feel naked. I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull myself up the wall. It’s going to be like a game of vertical twister. And I was never any good at the horizontal version.

I’ll be doing abseiling – very quickly to get it over with. I’ll probably forget to bounce off the wall intermittently and hurtle straight down breaking both legs. I’ll be doing a zip wire. I’m not going to be able to jump off myself, whoever is behind me is going to have to push me. I think I might scream so much I will be heard in Denmark. If it’s a high zip wire I may catch small birds in my flight path with my open mouth.

I’ll be doing canoeing. I’m a good swimmer but petrified of going under the water and getting trapped there. I’m also frightened I might spook myself by thinking ‘shark’ and end up panic paddling off down the river and into the ocean. If spotted off the coast anywhere please do throw me a life buoy, or a flapjack. If it’s hot I may tip myself in on purpose and go for a swim, but if anything touches my leg I will add yellow dye to the river. I will also be doing mountain biking, walking, orienteering, and optional aerobics classes.

These are some of my anxieties and that’s without adding in the five-hour public transport journey to Norfolk involving three train connections, one of which National Rail ticket sales have given me seven minutes between one of the connections. So, I will have been sprinting even before the activity weekend starts.

Is it too late to book a spa weekend instead?!

Reasons why I like to live alone.

Published June 10, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

1. I can exhale belches so deep that they sound like echoes from the Grand Canyon, amplified via five hundred and fifty-five megaphones.

2. I can throw my head back and open my jaw wider than the Wookey Hole cave, to yawn flamboyantly, vacuuming in sixty-eight per cent of the room’s oxygen.

3. I can release my wind freely, while playing television theme tunes with my pliable buttocks. The A-Team is my most accomplished piece.

4. I can leave my legs unshaven. And as I don’t have a pet this is also therapeutic to stroke them while watching Emmerdale.

5. I can walk around nude, feeling totally free, without having to supply brain bleach to anyone.

6. I can dance in my underwear whenever I want to. I would dance nude but large boobs and gravity are dance saboteurs.

7. I can have a day without wearing make-up, without anyone thinking I’m ill, or dead. I can’t risk decapitation because I’m mistaken for a zombie.

8. I can also do the opposite, experiment with bright coloured make-up. I can spend the day resembling the result of a drag queen and geisha’s lusty liaison without scaring the bejesus out of anyone. Except maybe an unexpecting postman.

9. I can watch whatever I want on television. A sport free zone. A political free zone. A Top Gear free zone.

10. I can have good quality conversation with myself about conspiracy theories, ninja cats, and Spongebob Squarepants.

11. I can eat four jam doughnuts in a row, and leave my face covered with sugar for the whole time of consumption.

12. I can sing loudly and badly in the shower, and twerk in the shower without worrying about offending the ears or eyes of innocent bystanders.

13. I can snore like a grizzly bear and not annoy anyone. And I can get a good night’s sleep myself without having to listen to anyone else snore, breath, release gas, or sleep talk about their work colleague stealing their yogurt.

14. I can cry when I need to. Being an emotional person sometimes it’s therapeutic to just have a good cry and let it all out. This might freak a cohabiter out to suddenly burst into tears while dusting. Although dusting can reduce me to tears all by itself.

15. I can have quiet time when I need it. Sometimes I need to not have contact with fellow human beings – this is an overlap from being a cat in a previous life. I like to be left alone to eat and sleep and write/play with a cat nip stuffed mouse.

This is why I like to live alone.

My Best Friend is a Unicorn, called Neville.

Published February 25, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Neville has been my best friend since as far back as I can remember, in fact I can’t remember life without him. When we were both little we would share the same bed, I’d stroke his soft purple mane as he snored blissfully next to me. Logistics got in the way as we both got bigger. A man and a fully-grown unicorn just don’t fit into a bed together. Even the king size bed that I have now. Neville has his own room, but I have the en-suite. Neville prefers the great outdoors for his ablutions. I’ve fitted a latch on the back door that Neville can unhook with his horn, so that he can venture out to the garden whenever he wants.

It’s so much easier now we live by ourselves. When we lived at Dad’s it was a nightmare having to go out to the garden every time Neville needed to do his business. Dad was always suspicious why I needed to keep going outside, I’d regularly get my pockets checked for cigarettes when returning in from Neville’s toileting. Nev would find this highly amusing, suggesting I bought a packet so my dad could ‘find’ them on me and feel vindicated for the prison search.

I wished that I could’ve told him the real reason for my garden visitations, but the word unicorn was banned in our house when I was seven. Up until then I had included Neville in our family conversations and no one had seemed to mind, then Mum and Dad got divorced, and life got complicated.

It was an upsetting time for me, not Mum and Dad splitting up, but because they both said I had to stop pretending that a unicorn lived with us. They might as well have asked me to pretend the grass isn’t green. So I had to do the opposite, from that day on I had to pretend I couldn’t see Nev. He was upset of course by this, but when I explained it was necessary for him to stay with me, he stopped crying. Which was good because unicorn tears are tricky to get out of clothes, it’s the glitter in them. If Neville has had a cry on my shoulder my shirts always need a prewash, once when I was about ten I forgot to prewash and Dad wasn’t over the moon with his glittery pants. I blamed the school’s art department for glitter sticking to my school jumper, but Dad complained about his glittery pants for months.

I should point out that I did the washing at home as it was just me, Dad and Neville living in the house. Mum had moved to a flat across town. She’d wanted me to move with her of course but it was a tiny two bedroomed flat on the fourth floor. That would have been no good for Nev so we stayed with Dad. I also didn’t like Mum’s new boyfriend Warren, he smelled of herring and smoked, and that would set off Nev’s asthma. The smoking that is, not the herring smell. Did I mention Neville has asthma? When I used to visit Mum, Nev would stay at home in the garden. A few times he came with me and waited outside but the fumes from the traffic would set the asthma off too.

Mum visits me now in my house, but not that often. I think she senses Neville here and doesn’t want to admit to herself that he’s real. He stuck his hoof out once and tripped her up when she walking to the door and telling me I should get some friends. She blamed the rug. Neville laughed externally while I laughed internally.

I’ve mastered the art of laughing internally while keeping a neutral face over the years. When I had to pretend not to see Neville because we were in others company he would always relish acting the fool to try and make me chuckle. He got me a few times, usually when he stood on his hind legs and did demented disco dancing. On those occasions I would feign a coughing fit to leave the room for a glass of water.

It got tiresome though pretending I couldn’t see Nev and whispering when I wanted to talk to him, so I moved out last year on my twenty first birthday. I’m a postman and Nev comes out on my rounds with me. We’ve learnt which gardens to avoid, there are a few dogs that go nuts when they see him. Mrs. Jones in Laburnum Terrace has a poodle called Binky that poops on her lawn when he sees Neville. Nev either waits at the end of the road or crawls commando style past Mrs. Jones’s house, it depends on his mood. He can be quite moody at times.

Except on Sundays. On a Sunday Nev is buzzing like a bee in a florist shop. We go to the park every Sunday, even in bad weather. There’s so much space for Nev to gallop about in and he loves swimming in the lake. It’s our highlight of the week, and even more so now.

Two Sunday’s ago, we did our usual routine. I sat on the bench eating a strawberry ice-cream watching Nev frolic around the green. He was taking a longer and slower route than normal so I observed the rest of the park goers. There weren’t that many, a family feeding the ducks on the other side of the lake, a couple out for a romantic stroll who were holding hands and giggling as they ambled along. There’s another bench further along from the one I was sitting on, a young woman in a blue cardigan and jeans was sat alone, the sun highlighting her red hair. She was looking across the green, intensely watching something. I followed her line of vision, there was Neville, prancing about like a parade horse.

I looked back to her and then back to Neville. She was still staring at him. My heart started galloping alongside Nev as I tried to think what to do. I wondered if suddenly everyone could see him now or just this mysterious woman. The romantic couple and family didn’t stare though, which I’m sure they would have if they could see a purple unicorn. My ice-cream drew my attention back to myself as the coldness of it dribbled down my fingers. I dropped it into the bin next to me, having lost my appetite with nerves, and licked off the sticky strawberry from my knuckles.

Before my brain could work out what to do next my legs were walking towards the other bench.

‘Hello,’ I said, as I sat down next to the blue cardiganed woman.

She glanced at me quickly. ‘Hello,’ she said, before looking back across to where Neville was still showboating.

I watched Neville and from the corner of my eye could see the woman looking back and forth between me and Neville. I turned my head towards her and caught her in full stare. ‘I’m John.’

She held my stare gently, her green eyes sparkled. ‘Emma.’ She smiled a smile that would have morphed my ice-cream to a milkshake.

I felt myself blush so turned away, Neville was trotting back towards us. Emma was watching him. This was just too weird. Neville stopped trotting when he reached the bench and shook his head, fluffing up his mane.

I took a deep breath. ‘You look like you’re having fun,’ I said, raising my eyebrows to Nev for some help.

‘You can see her?!’ Emma’s eyes widened and she moved forward on the bench.

My heart bumped repeatedly against my ribs. ‘Him. He’s a he.’

Emma frowned. ‘She’s a she.’

‘Neville is definitely a he.’

Neville was looking back and forth between us and was unusually quiet. I thought he was upset being mistaken for a female so I stood up and started to pat him for reassurance.

Emma squinted. ‘What are you doing?’

My stomach knotted. ‘Stroking my unicorn.’

She laughed. The knotting tightened.

‘You have a unicorn with you?’ Her smile radiated through every pore in her face and her shoulders relaxed as she leaned back into the bench.

The knot in my stomach started to unravel. ‘Yes.’

She nodded. I was confused. I thought she could see Nev, but then it was obvious she couldn’t, yet she didn’t run for the hills. And there was no pity in her eyes, still just the vibrant twinkle.

She stood up and started to stroke the air next to Neville. I thought she was humouring me by pretending to stroke him.

I rested my hand on Neville’s back. ‘He’s here.’

She nodded, still stroking the air. ‘This is Moira.’

My eyes tried to analyze hers. I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know what to say, so I just stared at her like an idiot.

‘Moira is a unibob,’ said Emma.

I looked at Nev and he nodded. I swallowed to moisten my throat enough to speak. ‘What’s a unibob?’

Emma glanced at the air she was stroking. ‘A unibob is a magical llama with a horn, but it has a little bobble on the end of the horn, unlike a unicorn’s pointy horn.’

I nodded.

‘She’s pink, what colour is your unicorn?’

‘Purple, he’s purple.’ I smiled at Neville, he just looked embarrassed by me.

‘They match well then.’ Emma stopped petting the air and relaxed her arms down.

‘Yes.’ I nodded again, like a goofball. ‘We come here every Sunday, I’ve not seen you here before.’

‘We’ve just moved to the area, I inherited my grandfather’s farm, up by The Grange.’

I nodded again. ‘Will you be here again next week? I’d like to see you again.’

‘I can be, I’d like to see you again too. And judging from how much Moira was leaping about on the green I think she’d like to see Neville again too.’

He did, and we did. The Sunday after was just the best. I’d never felt so relaxed in my life, and for the first time I felt I belonged in the world. That sounds corny but it’s true. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because someone can’t see your unicorn, they know that you can, and someone accepting you for you is the best feeling in the world. No pretending.

Nev wants to move to the farm today, but I’ve told him it’s too soon. We’ll go next week, that’ll give me time to pack. Neville is a useless packer as he just packs snacks.

The Verdict

Published February 9, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Leukemia, a word that sounds softer than cancer. Cancer sounds hard and abrupt, leukemia sounds more chilled out, like Bohemia. But the verdict of it still slams at you full force like a charging rhino. What do you do when you’ve just been told you have it? I went and sat in an empty church for an hour. I’m not religious, I just wanted to sit quietly somewhere. I needed time to compose myself before bumping into anyone I knew, I didn’t want to blurt it out to the first person who said hello to me. Someone’s innocent ‘Hi Tom, how are you?’ being met by a babbling mess of ‘Pretty shit, I’ve got leukemia.’ Nobody wants that answer to a rhetorical question.

I contemplated all the funerals that had taken place there in the peaceful sanctuary. Hundreds of bodies over the years being carried in and out via a wooden box, loved ones crying tears of goodbyes and guilt, sorrow and sentiments. This would be me soon.

Well, I say soon, between now and about five years, that seems soon now to me, too soon. That’s the estimate of my life expectancy. Science isn’t that accurate yet. Five years if I’m lucky, some fortunate people managed to drag out their existence by eight years. With medication, I might even make ten more years. Or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I assumed that I’d get to old age, stressing about pensions and whether I’d be able to afford my retirement barge on the canal. I know we’re not immortal, but when your life sentence is reduced, plans and thoughts crumble quickly. Just five more Christmases, five more birthdays, five more holidays. These bubbles of time are going to rapidly pop.

I sat in the cold church wishing I had a faith, maybe it would be easier to live with this death sentence if I believed a higher being was looking after my soul, or that I would be reunited with deceased family. Instead I know I will just simply die and everything will end. Game over. I want to scream, I want to cry, I want to laugh. Laugh at the irony, the irony of living with depression and fighting to stay alive every day, but wishing I could disappear, and now finding that my cosmic ordering has worked. I get my wish. But now I don’t want my wish. I want to send it back. I am ungrateful. There’s too much left for me to do.

I want to watch my son’s life unfold, see him enjoying life and having his own family. I want to have grandkids and be that fun Grandad everyone wants, a pocketful of sweets and a twinkle in my eye as I teach them poker and blackjack.  I want to laugh some more with my friends, grow old disgracefully with them. I want to explore the world, see beautiful sights across all continents, dip my toes in the oceans and seas. I want to watch more seasons of The Walking Dead.

I want to fall in love one more time, and feel that person’s love wrapped around me always. I want someone to hold me and know that I am their whole world. But that’s not going to happen, I’m going to die alone, I’d better get used to that and not wallow in a pity pool. I want someone to hold my hand as I take my final breaths. But that’s selfish isn’t it, I should be grateful I am single and therefore sparing someone that loves me the agony of watching me ebb away without them.

I haven’t told anyone yet. How do you tell people you’re a ticking time bomb? Do you tell people? My first instinct is to tell everyone. This is big news, I need to share, to get support, to get help making sense of it all. A Facebook status maybe, ‘Make the most of me, I’m not going to be here for much longer.’ Too dramatic? How about just simply ‘I’m dying.’ Too basic? After all, aren’t we all dying in various degrees? I’ve just moved up a few gears and I’m speeding along in the fast track lane. Typical, the only race I’m going to win is the death race.

If everyone knows I’m fast tracking death I’ll get sympathetic looks everywhere I go, do I really want people in my local Tesco’s looking at me thinking ‘oh that’s the man that’s dying, how sad’, and then carry on deciding what shade of toilet roll to buy. Do I just tell family? I have to tell my family. How do I do that? To see their faces try and grapple with emotion, to see their pain, to feel responsible for their grief. They need to prepare though, if you can ever prepare for someone you love dying. I’ve lost two people suddenly that I loved from heart attacks, I didn’t have chance to say goodbye or tell them I loved them. That haunts me. I don’t want anyone else to feel that.

There are too many emotions pin-balling around in my head. It’s like my brain doesn’t know what it should be feeling so it’s throwing everything out there, hoping the right one sticks in place. I’m going to just have to take each day as it comes. Find out what emotion my brain tries out each morning.

Today I woke up wanting to make the most of the day. I’m going out with Dave and some other work mates after our shift has finished, Murphy’s getting married so we’re off to celebrate his future. I’m going to have about six pints to celebrate mine. It’s worth celebrating. Some people have heart attacks or get hit by a bus, they’re gone instantly, I’m a lucky one getting notice to go. I can do my goodbyes and tie up my loose ends, closure. And if I’m really lucky a fiftieth party that will rock everyone’s socks off. And maybe their pants.