“When I am a granny I will still wear skinny jeans”
Help me down the steps while I smoke some cigarette with my good hand. There is nothing graceful about death. Go ahead and pump another Cheeky Vimto into these dull veins. Blue and purple lines run down my legs and intersect like ready-made fishnet stockings. My teeth are like stars – moving further apart and slowly fading away. There is freedom in death; as you approach each other; face-on and with a wry eye; oh right, you old fucker, like that is it? and you make a move to shake his hand, but as death leans in you pack a load of full-on arthritis into his smug, limp jaw and flex your boldest V-sign all over his fallen, incomprehensible body. No-one wants the future, it is nonsense to work towards it. My arm's out of action for days after that: can't keep a firm grip on my bingo dabber. Huge red dots in the spaces between numbers. Hard to see what I was getting at; which dots were intentional, which merely another fall. Of course, no-one wins bingo that way and people ask what I'm still playing for. I tell them all I really want is to be in that big room with a thousand other losers, occasionally smacking my enormous pen down onto meagre scraps of recycled paper, and that I don't give a shit really which numbers I mark because we're all bound to lose in the end: it's entertainment enough just to keep my wayward body more or less upright on this cheap plastic chair. We're all at it, wavering about, veering this way and then that, it's enough to make you believe there's a giant-handed god employed to give the world a good shake each night and stir up all kinds of trouble. The world becomes a kaleidoscope of memories and bowel movements after a certain age. I get hand-me-down clothes from my growing-up granddaughters. Time moves so fast, if you let it. They tell me I look ridiculous sauntering about in red stilettos, halternecks and skinny-fit trousers, but I feel ridiculous inside this decrepit, spent excuse of a body, so it seems quite apt to mock it a little. The ageing process starts to wear thin after a time: first, you're impatient to grow up, then you grow out of it. Death starts to wear thin after a time, hanging around like a possessive lover. You style your hair, eat healthily, wash, perfume, massage; but still, he's there, lingering in all your crevices, trying to catch your eye. Death follows where he is not invited and shouts when not expected. Neighbours bolt each time another used-up body tumbles down. And I'll get down these steps if you stop rushing me; there's wind in my beehive yet, and many a young gent has this walking stick still to chide. Death, you will not be out with me this evening, you will not link my arm or sway softly by my side. I am dressed to kill, not you, it is my glad rags, not yours, that will be stopping traffic tonight. There is nothing graceful about death, nor the friendships with it one is forced to forge. Take acceptance; a gradual withering of hope and heart, a shrinking of the skin back into one's own skeleton, an apology to our brave new world for not keeping up or moving on; a lowering of backs, a groundful of noses, cells open wide, ready and waiting for the affliction that might finally allow us to breathe out and close our eyes. Or denial; which builds inside, as ill-fated as our entire lives, like trying to light a candle to hide from the night. Then there's dread; a useless mode, as, if we were any kind of proper human, we could have stopped being scared a long time ago; life minced no words, we did not use beauty cream, we saw blood long before the gods invented TV. And emptiness, the sweetest crime, as close to nothing as one dare to lie; an open sky and not a glimmer of nostalgia in sight; nights with no dreams, children whose names you've forgotten or distanced yourself from, mere tags for those more truly alive. Shock and anger come in waves, as surges of new red blood cells, unable to understand the state of the body into which they have been deposited, try in vain to fight. And rebellion, death's most capricious child, all skinny-jeaned, rouge and sultry eyes. She will not go lightly this one; with a handbag full of short change and lottery tickets, she pisses herself down the wedding aisle, crippled with laughter and time. She steals death's motorbike and into the unpredictable sunset she rides. I am down the steps, I crush the cigarette-end and I thank you. I'll be fine on my own from here. I hobble off inappropriately dressed into the shadows and the city lights. The night is wild and dangerous, yes. But fear not. Time is on my side.