The test of any relationship is whether someone will stick around when times get tough.
Mark has middle-level Alzheimer’s. There are long periods of time he cannot account for. Often he can’t remember the names of everyday objects, or even of people. This is both unsettling and irritating. He spends a good deal of his time in a comfortable armchair by the window, looking out at the back yard.
But there is a man in the house with him. Mark doesn’t feel threatened by his presence. Just perplexed. Who is he? What is he doing there? All Mark knows is that he is handsome and has the most beautiful blue eyes he has ever seen. There are moments when he thinks he remembers who the man is, but as time marches on and the disease ravages his brain, he becomes less and less sure.
Perhaps it isn’t even a man.
I go to take a step though something prevents me from going forward. A hand grips my arm.
“And where do you think you’re going?” asks the man with the blue eyes.
His tone is friendly and there is a slight smile playing upon his lips. I don’t feel threatened although I am a little confused. I point towards the door. Isn’t it obvious? I want to go outside. I want to find ... What do I want to find? There was something out there I wanted to see. I scratch my head and try to look back over my shoulder. Perhaps if I can catch a glimpse of whatever it is, I can explain to this ... person what I want to do.
The man draws me back into the hallway in such a way that I cannot see through the glass. I become agitated. If only he’d let ... me ... go.
“Not today,” he says. “It’s a bit chilly out there. Come inside. I’ve made some coffee.”
I start whimpering. I know it sounds pathetic, like a dog that knows it is about to be beaten. The truth is I feel so powerless. All I want to do is go outside. I wouldn’t go far. I just want to feel a part of the world again. Who does this man think he is?
I am returned to my seat by the window and am distracted by the smell of coffee. I see there is also a side plate with a sliver of cake on it.
“It’s carrot cake. Your favourite.”
I stare at the cake and wonder how he knows what my favourite cake is. I wasn’t aware I had a favourite. I pick it up and bite into it. An explosion of wonderful flavours fills my mouth and I can see why carrot cake is my favourite. I put it down and sip my coffee. It tastes good. It makes me feel good.
Something catches my eye through the window. The birds are back again. I can’t say whether they are the same birds or not, but they amuse me. I could watch them for hours. I smile. They seem so happy and carefree. I want to get a closer look so I get up from my chair. I take no more than three steps towards the door when the man is back again.
“Let me go!” I snap.
I try to shake myself free of his grip, but he is stronger. I can feel my blood begin to boil. I’m a grown man, for God’s sake. All I want to do is go outside. Not murder someone. I feel hot tears stream down my cheeks. I feel like collapsing into a crumpled ball on the carpet. I ... just ... want...to ... go ...
“Come on, now.” He is talking to me as though I was a child. And he is leading me back to that damned chair by the window. I hate that chair. I feel a quiet rage building inside me. “You’ve hardly touched your coffee and cake.”
I point over my shoulder. “I want to go ...”
He doesn’t even let me finish.
“I know. Perhaps later. When you’ve finished your afternoon tea.”
He sits me down, but I am no longer in the mood to eat or drink anything. I don’t even think I like cake. I see that I’ve only taken a single bite from it and that confirms it. It must have tasted awful. I glance across at the man with the blue eyes. I’m scowling at him, though he smiles back and continues his cleaning.
What is he doing in my house? Is this my house?