In the past few months a few people have requested for me to write a blog on what it’s like to love someone who has a Serious, Chronic or Terminal Illness (of any nature), from the partner’s perspective. The woman that this blog explores is not myself, or any one particular person. Rather it is a collection of my journey, and the journey’s of others who I have been blessed enough to share with them. One day I hope to be able to write from the perspective of someone loving a man who is unwell, however for now this is a good place to begin, in more familiar territory.
All lyrics are from ‘Bloodsport’ by Rayleigh Ritchie.
Love and light,
Nothing is perfect but your imperfections are quaint
And your love is worth it and for that I will wait
And though you hate me, when you have a turn
I drive you crazy but you always return
Just as sure as she could appreciate that I was never going to be the type to pick my towels up from the bathroom floor, I understood the betrayal of her own flesh. She could never hide it, nor would she have. She was defensive. ‘Love me, love my disease’. She expected me to lurch for the handle and never pause to look back, and deep down I think part of her wish I had. That way I could never leave her later, she would have too much to lose. It would destroy her. No, she couldn’t live through that again. But now? It would be a clean shed, requiring nothing more than an indifferent shrug.
She was curled on a mattress on the lawn that she made me drag outside. ‘What’s the point in having a lawn if you can’t make it a bedroom?’ she argued. If I really concentrated, I could make out the puckered scars peeking from the gap between shirt and short. But I couldn’t concentrate, not when she looked like that. She grinned at me from beneath a hat of Audrey, and in that moment I made my decision. Love you, love your disease. It added nothing but an extra flair, and made her vivaciousness all the more exciting. Besides, how bad could it get?
If I fall short
If I break rank
It’s a bloodsport
But I understand
I am all yours
I am a man
I’m on all fours
I was full of promises, and I promise you that I believed them. They were not yet tinged with regret, and I’m still unsure as to who would live to regret them more. God knows it sounded great. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, isn’t that what they say? Truth be known it was firmly cemented in my own personal mantras. But I really did sound great, that’s the thing.
‘No matter how bad
‘You don’t know how bad it will be.’
‘Even if you can’t’
‘You will have to carry the weight of a pair’
‘I will go to the end of the earth’
‘You still won’t find the cure’
‘No matter what’
‘But what if’
I shut her up. And I kissed her.
I felt her hand slap me cold. Her eyes were wild. Don’t do this to me. Don’t do this to me. Don’t let me love you.
And I carried her to our bed, where we stayed until the stars seasoned the sky once more.
No matter what.
Loving you is a bloodsport
Fighting in a love war
Although you love me, sometimes we meet
Things can get ugly but we’re still a team
We are an army, the brakes are within
But that’s why we’re stronger, and that’s how we’ll win
It’s not what I’m in love for, I know
But I don’t know if you can’t help it
Baby, I’m just being selfish
I creak open the door and now I don’t know how to breathe anymore. There’s so much blood. She screams at me. Get out, just fucking get out. I gather her into my arms and feel her chest break in two. I swallow hard and hope that it is enough to drown both of our cries. Don’t look at me, don’t look at me. So instead we lay on the bathroom floor together and I listen to her howls. And it is then that I break my promise. Love your disease. She is too sick to care that I have just taken all from her that I ever gave.
Not all the days and nights are quite so piercing, it’s the days in between that hold a quiet heart break; Too well for admission, but too sick for life. She smiles weakly from beneath the sheets. Ironic isn’t it? Sleep steals her from me more than the daylight hands her back into my arms, and I see her eyelids fight it, more for my benefit than hers. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed each time the former wins. When she awakes, she snaps at me. Why don’t you just leave me already? It’s not like we ever get to spend time together anyway. She woke each hour on the hour, and I am too tired to side step the net. It seems to be what you fucking want, why can’t you just accept that I want to be with you? We don’t speak to one another for the rest of the night. Later I find her angrily blinking back tears as she wrestles with a lone button on her bottoms. With only our hands speaking we find our way into the shower, and all is forgotten once more.
I’ve got your back and though it’s stacked against us
I’ve got your hand, it’s us against consensus
And I will burn the people who hurt you the most and I will not learn
‘Cause I am too young and too dumb to consider the terms
One day I wake long before the sun has felt the need to lazily roll out of the sky, and I realise that we have found our normal. Mondays are treatment, and Tuesday’s are tired. I cup the mucous from hher lungs after dinner but before bed time meds, and the dog eats another shoe. Wednesday she may study and Thursday she will do her best impression of the dishes. Thank god it’s Friday and shit did we forget to get her scripts filled? She is lonely during the day, too exhausted to play host to anyone other than the mail man. The weekends are hers, and she grabs at me so intensely that I am sure she will never let go. I’ve missed you, she mumbles. If she is well we will drive to the beach and I will yell at the dog for rolling in all unholy things that are to be found on the stretch of sandy dog haven. Often as I see other pairs walking past hand in hand, I try to imagine what they see. I wonder if they see how beautiful she is.
I’m breaking the law and I’ll curse the day that they return
With a smile on my face as their heads hit the floor
And it’s done, now it’s curtains, the blood lost, it’s the cost, it fucking hurts
But it’s working and even if you ask me to stop it’s too late
Because I’ve already decided that faith is not a distaste, it’s pure hate
And it pulsates and it works its way around my brain
Love me, love my disease. I still remember my promise, and despite my best intentions, I can’t bring myself to love all that destroys her. She is hurt. I stare at her in disbelief. ‘Are you seriously pulling my leg right now? You’re offended I want them to make you better?!’. She spits back. ‘Of course I am; I’m just too much for you. Why can’t you say it. Love me, love my disease! What a load of shit. I should never have believed you’. I motion to the powdered lollies tiling the kitchen bench, the vomit bag clutched in her hand, the blood staining the ensuite bathroom no matter how much grease I bleed from my elbows. ‘This! I can’t love this! This isn’t you. This is killing you. Can’t you fucking see?’.
I took the forbidden fruit and threw it in her face. And to my shame, she apologised. ‘I’m sorry this is killing you too’.
I don’t know what to say. If I tell her it’s not, she will hear my lie. So instead I kiss the top of her head, and tell her she is beautiful hair or no hair.
I work my way to her lips, and tell her that the vomit never mattered.
Her collarbones are next, and no matter how sharp they poke, she will always be woman to me.
Her spine, watermarked by bruises. Her belly, puckered and pale.
I kiss every inch of her, and of her disease.
No more fixing. No more searching.
Love you, love your disease.
And I promise all once more. Each time I mean it a little more.
Neither would have chosen our sad and gentle reality, punctuated with screams in the night and raucous laughter after half a beer and a Saint Bernard. With each day that passes I can appreciate a little better just how much her illness holds the ability to destroy everything I ever loved, and take as much from me as it does from her. Some days her eyes forget how to smile, and she cannot wake for longer than an hour. If sleep does not steal her from me, then the medications takes its place. People look at me and they don’t understand why I would choose this life. But just as sure as she did not choose this illness, I did not either.
I chose her.
And I will forever play this blood sport, if only to hold her for an hour.