“What d’you do?”
“I can’t talk now Fruit.” I put the phone back on the hook. Deep breaths to try and hold back all those tears that were just waiting, creating a tennis ball in my throat. My eyes were burning. All that stress was like ghonerheea for your eye balls. Burns when you cry.
Old fruit sorted it all bless her. Mum didn’t want to know. I saw Old Fruit once more before she died. It was when I’d been categorized and about a year and a half in to my sentence. I’d sorted her out a visit. Two hours on a Friday. Ste’s mum gave her and Ste a lift. She couldn’t come on her own you see. Too weak. She’d been diagnosed with cancer, but never told anyone. I only found out she got the cancer after knocked the whole living thing on the head. She was a little frame of bones with tissue paper skin sitting on that chair next to Ste. Ste said His mum had been going round there to see her and do some cleaning. He didn’t want to tell me but I made him, her house was a mess, she was a mess. He said the sofa was dented from where she slept and sat all day. His mum did all her cooking and washing. I’d really let her down.
I came through to where they were sat, she was smiling. Wet ,grey eyes, streaming.
“Come on Old Fruit,” I said. “Don’t cry. It’s alright, I’m alright.” Ste got her a tissue and us all a cup of tea. She sat staring at me for a while. She was different, slower and more vacant. If I had to make a bet there and then I would have bet that she was doped up. We had a bit of a conversation about Eastenders and Corrie and if I get to watch it in here.
When they called 10 minutes left Old Fruit jumped out of her thin skin. The guard who shouted it was right behind her. She looked fucking terrified, like it was a bomb or something. I just wanted to leave with them both. Go live with Old Fruit in her one bedroom house. Look after her and make sure it was all okay. When I said goodbye to Ste I stood up with him and left Fruit sitting.
“Take her to the doctors, something aint right with her.”
“Yeah, tomorrow, I’ll take her tomorrow.”
I sat next to Old Fruit and kissed her on the cheek.
“I miss you James,” she said and put a hand on my knee. “Just aint the same without you.”
“Why don’t you come back with us now then?”
“I can’t.” That was that. My Old Fruit going, going, gone. She didn’t tell anyone she was dying. . I reckon she gave up. She knew she wouldn’t be a able to keep going for another 7 years, she was 80 when I went inside. She couldn’t wait for me. The next week I got the call saying she was dead. No dignity in death is there. She was at home, alone. Don’t know if she was in pain because she never told anyone. She was always just fine. Ste’s mum found her on her chair, eyes closed, mouth open – catching the flies. Ste was the one to ring and tell me. I just hung up, told Darren.
I didn’t cry when she died you know. I mean I wanted to sure but they just wouldn’t come. Darren told me it was alright to cry, didn’t bother him if I wanted to hug him even, but it bothered me. Like I said before, people don’t really care. And crying makes people feel like they have to. I sat all sad faced and angry for a week but there weren’t no tears. I didn’t cry at the funeral neither. People probably thought I was trying to be tough but it weren’t that, I just couldn’t and that’s okay, right?
Have you ever been to a crem before? Everyone kept saying how beautiful it was there, all I saw was dead trees a name plaques that needed a good shine. There was this cannon noise at the beginning, which was actually the end, it made me sweat, shiver and shake. Death gave me a fever. The coffin looked too big for her, she was only 4 ft nothing and there she was in a 8ft coffin. I wondered if they lined it with anything like padding so they’re comfy or Velcro so they stay in place, does it even matter?
The night before the funeral I dreampt about her, she sat up in the coffin and smiled at me. I wished she’d have done that in real life, shouted “syke” and I’d go back inside knowing that I’ll see her when Im out.
At the funeral I was chained to an officer, Good man actually, officer Sanderson. Big bloke, bald head, doesn’t take shit. Everyone on the wing respects him because he’s fair, gets things done. I only went to the cremation bit, read out a poem. Officer Sanderson unchained me for that. Let me go up alone. Big risk he took there, but he knew I wouldn’t run. I didn’t cry. Took deep breaths when someone said how sorry they were for my loss. They should have been sorry for her loss, when she lost me. That was when it all turned to shit. All her mates should have been angry at me but they kept being too nice. I laid some Lilies on the coffin. It was cold that day, like really fucking cold. Not wet or windy, just icy. I kept thinking that she’d need a blanket and pillow, the coffin wouldn’t be warm enough. I just muttered “She’ll be cold.” And Officer Sanderson looked at me.