The Last Weekend
your own fault for panicking,’ my dad said. ‘The little bugger would have ignored you if you’d kept still.’ But panicking when there’s a waspabout still seems logical to me: I keep reading about people who’ve died from allergic reactions.
‘I’ve been given my cards,’ Ollie said, swatting the wasps away on my behalf. ‘By the medics. I’m going to die. Don’t tell me we’re all going to die, Ian. What I mean is I’m going to die soon. If I’m around to play golf with you next summer, it’ll be a miracle. That’s it. Finished. So’s my beer, look. If the winner’s still buying the drinks, I’ll have another.’
‘Christ, Ollie, you’re not saying —’
‘Adnams, the same as before.’
I’ve no memory of going to the bar a second time, or whether the same unhelpful barman was behind it. I only remember that ‘My Generation’ was playing on the jukebox (funny how kids today go for songs that pre-date them by decades) and that when I got back to Ollie two wasps were trapped inside his upturned glass. I watched them circling, like sharks in a tank. Would they use up all the air in there and suffocate? I hoped so.
‘It’s not nice,’ Ollie said. ‘You don’t want to know. They found a tumour.’
‘A brain tumour. I’ve had the symptoms for a while. Headaches. Dizziness. Blurred vision and so on.’
‘What have they told you?’
‘Not much. They won’t commit themselves till they’ve done more tests. But it’s obviously malignant.’
‘What makes you so sure?’
‘I’ve done the research. I’ve got all the symptoms. They’re doing something called a PET scan next week, when we’re back in London. But it’ll only confirm the worst. Odds are I’ve about six months.’
He lifted the glass and the wasps flew off. The story he’djust told no longer seemed to interest him. It could have been happening to someone else.
‘Should you be driving?’ I said. ‘And playing golf? Shouldn’t you take it easy?’
‘It makes no difference. I might as well be active while I can.’
‘God, I don’t know what to say.’
‘No need to say anything,’ he said. ‘I didn’t plan to tell you. Forget it ever slipped out, OK?’
‘How can I? It’s terrible. I can’t believe it.’
But I could see it added up: the weight loss, the drawn face, the loss of concentration. Could a tumour get worse, burst even, if you pushed yourself too hard? He ought to be home, lying down.
‘The weird thing is I don’t care,’ he said. ‘Live, die, so what?’
‘Of course you care.’
‘No, really, I’ve been cauterised. Nothing gets to me. Nothing moves me. I’ve no feelings at all.’
‘It’s the truth. I could murder someone tomorrow and it wouldn’t bother me. I’m evil, Ian. You’d better watch out.’
He laughed, to let me know it was a joke, then furrowed his brow.
‘Don’t say anything,’ he said. ‘This weekend, I mean. When we’re all together. Don’t bring it up.’
‘But you have told Daisy?’
He paused, lifted his glass then mumbled something. I caught her name and ‘know’ or ‘no'.
He shook his head and I knew not to ask again.
Looking back, I realise I might have misheard. He could have said ‘Daisy doesn’t want to know’, meaning she was in denial about it. Or he could have been begging me not to tell
Em: ‘No one but Daisy must know.’ But what I’d have sworn he said was ‘I don’t want Daisy to know'. Or possibly ‘I haven’t told Daisy, no'. Either way, it came to the same thing.
How typical of Ollie to keep the tumour to himself, I thought. It’s my life, my death, and no one else’s business: that was his attitude — repression, stiff upper lip, blind courage, call it what you will. I was astounded, nevertheless. What did it do to hold something so monumental inside you? That he’d not told Daisy was almost as shocking as the tumour itself.
‘End of discussion,’ he said, draining his glass.

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