• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 06
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The sound of her own voice

It had been 18 months since the stroke. And while the tremor which had stopped the flow of blood to his heart had only lasted a second, a split second even, she felt the aftershocks every day.

She puts down her spoon and leans across the table to wipe his chin. Their eyes meet and he gives a small smile. What does that mean? Sadness that he can no longer eat soup without her help? Silent thanks for her care? Both? She will never know unless she asks him to write it down and she stopped doing that long ago. They only use the notepad now for important things, things that need to be said like are the bins out, the bills paid, the cat fed.

Words had never come easily to him. But those few words had been just for her, words which had contained all the sustenance she needed, high enough in calories to sustain her through times good and bad.

She had been too greedy though. She had come to do all the communicating with the outside world, talking for him, finishing his sentences, knowing in advance what he was going to say before he’d said it and moving on to the next thing before he’d had time to express himself. She’d grown fat on words while he had shrunk. At what stage did “I know exactly what you mean” and the thrill that those words entailed become a desire to talk for him. To talk over him.

It shouldn’t be like this. The doctor had predicted a full recovery. It’ll take time, he said, he just needs to practice speaking again. It’s like exercise for the brain. You need to fire the right pathways, make them strong, make the connections between his thoughts and the words that come out of his mouth. He knows exactly what he wants to say, he just can’t say it.

But how do you practice a skill lost long ago? Friends asked: How are you Jack? He’s doing really well, she would say. When are you going to physio Jack? He’s going on Friday, she would tell them.

She had always done most of the talking but not like this. Not into this vacuum. Not directed at a living wall. There had always been been the unspoken understanding that he could have replied, had he wanted to.

She chases her food around her plate and pushes it away untouched. She cannot eat any more.