I didn’t know at the time, but I really needed those couple of days between being released from hospital and starting work. I knew that resting was a good thing to do, but what I needed more was just plain old fun. Fun was something lacking in the hospital and as it turned out the next couple of weeks were not going to be much fun either. So having that Friday to slowly get myself ready, to slowly set a rhythm for the coming week, and then frolick with my brother and his family at the park, was a refreshing break. And that Saturday was the same.
Saturday though was a bit of a surprise. I had no idea what my brother was planning. I was making my cup of tea, while he cooked breakfast, and out of the blue he asked whether I would like to see Cirque du Soleil that arvo. My birthday was still a while away, but he thought that going to the circus might be a treat for us all. The only doubt in my mind was whether I would be able to sit down for the whole show. Dismissing that worrying thought, I happily agreed to go. But first I had something else planned for that morning. Quite simply, that something else was coffee with a friend.
I had forgotten the joy of sitting with a friend with a coffee in hand. I wish I could say that I had forgotten since this story started, but in fact, the last time I sat with a coffee with no work in front of me and in the company of others was when I took out a rare morning from my writing schedule to walk to Hot Numbers (Trumpington St, Cambridge) for a coffee with a new friend. Every other time that I had been in a cafe in that first half of the year, I was always writing or working, even when friends were with me. I wasn’t an anti-social creature by any means, there was time for work and there was time for play (a lot more work than play granted), but with those friends, we were drinking and reading in each other’s company and by mutual arrangement, purposefully not talking. So that Saturday morning, going to coffee with a friend with the purpose of actually engaging with one another and not with a PhD was a novelty. We had originally planned to walk to the cafe, but the threat of rain meant that we drove. I did order a coffee as part of my rehab effort. But the most lovely thing was sitting and talking, losing track of time, and laughing. I can’t remember the last time I laughed as I laughed that morning. As my friend said, a coffee and a chat with a friend is good for the soul. And indeed that morning was good for me, better than my friend knew. And I knew that in my effort to decompress my life, coffee with a friend, without work, needed to be part of that more sane existence.
And that afternoon we did go and see Cirque du Soleil. It’s easy to forget sometimes that have a disability status. I was still walking gingerly, stepping out not very confidently at all. Arriving at the Cirque, we lined up for popcorn and a drink. I lined up behind my brother thinking that he might be able to be the extra hand that I needed. I got to the front of the queue though and I realised that I couldn’t actually carry what I had ordered. For a moment I forgot and that next moment after I remembered, I apologised to the sales man and I had to leave my drink and popcorn behind. We walked to the entrance and all I saw was stairs descending down. An usher had obviously seen me and was by my side. He didn’t ask if I needed help, I didn’t have a choice, before I knew it, he was helping me go down the stairs. The only problem though, and a very practical one, I may have made it down the stairs in one piece, but I knew that I would only make it up the stairs once. I just didn’t have the strength or the coordination. Going down is actually easier than going up. So in hindsight and quite providentially, not buying that drink was a good idea. Watching Cirque du Soleil that arvo was refreshing. Taking my mind away from having to mentally plan my next step, how I sit, and how I stand, just for a couple of hours, was a welcome break. The best part of that afternoon though was not the performance, the best part was watching my four and a half year old niece beside me interact with what she saw; she followed the rhythms, beat on her own imaginary drum, got scared at the frogs climbing up to the top of the tent, and engrossed when there was any kind of acrobatics, especially if they were wearing pink. Seeing her delight was my delight that afternoon.