He’s a big bloke in all directions, tall and broad. His face is round and it smiles widely as he enters the Doc’s consulting room. He has an open gaze.
The Doc makes room for the big man to pass.
“Thanks Doc.” He offers a large hand. Doc’s hand disappears inside his patient’s. The grip is manly firm, manly gentle.
“My name’s Alexander, Doc. Call me Alex.”
“Good to meet you, Alex.”
“I’ve got hypertension. Need a repeat of my tablets.” He smiles, his jowls rise and shine and recede. He tells the Doc he is sixty six. He is a man who invites conversation.
The Doc asks Alex where he lives.
“Port Augusta. Been there forever. Born there. Father met mother there, in primary school.
They’re long gone.
I’ve got a sister, a good bit older.
I had a brother – we were twins…”
The glow on Alex’s large face gives way to something deeper as the man slows his flow. Something is happening. Homage? Damage?
The Doc wants to know: “Were you identical?”
Alex nods. “And close.”
He clears his throat.
“What happened to your twin?”
In Alex’s mouth, the word is a sentence.
“You know we only saw each other three times in the last thirty years, but we were close.”
The Doc looks at him.
“Very close…Thirty years back he went to New Zealand for a fortnight and he stayed. He came back to see me, stopped with me here, for 12 months. Here we are together.” Alex fishes in his wallet and pulls out an old colour photo. Two large round men in their thirties sit in a small fishing boat and smile goofily into the sun. The light bleaches their faces and sets fire to their red hair. One of the men rests his hand on the other’s shoulder.
“After that year he went back to N.Z. To his friends and his life.
Then he got sick and died. Cancer.”
“It was tough?”
The serious face recedes inward for a moment. The Doc is forgotten. Alex is alone with memory of the feeling, with feeling returned.
He looks out at the younger man: “Knocked me around something terrible.” He stops, shakes his head.
“People used to ask us: ‘What’s it like being twins?’
We’d ask each other: ‘What’s it like not being a twin?’”
The Doc looks away while the other man composes himself. At length he resumes. His face is earnest now as he searches for words to carry feeling: “You know, I lost my son. Suicide.
My wife and I only ever had the one son… Terrible…
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
But it’s my brother I think of. Half of me is gone.”
The old man’s eyes are wet. “It’s been seven years…”
A pause as he searches for dates…“Seven years and one day.
There wouldn’t be a single day when I don’t think of my brother.
The large man takes his prescription and shakes the Doc’s hand. He conjures a smile for the Doc and he leaves.
Makes me want to go back to the beginning and read it all over and then reading this passage always makes me want to read a story about the Doc and more interactions with patients and learning about their stories which the Doc has a great way of sharing.
Will be telling more about this wonderful book, but find myself in hospital myself after daughter’s diabetic crisis, but little time to read and write. Happy to see this post in the brief visit home and checking in on that other world out there. Bone Continuation mon ami. Je reviens tout suite.
And in France?
I wish her bonne sante
Claire, mes bonne amie,
During the present health crises, would a guest review be useful?
Two books come to mind – Richard flanagan’s ” the narrow road to the far north” ; and Robert Hillman’s “joyful”