The night before Jane died, I got home a little later than I had said I would. We bundled into the car and dropped Elsie at Mary-Anne and Lynne’s with various bags of hers and Ed’s. Then we went straight to the Rialto and saw Enduring Love. It’s not an uplifting movie. It has its share of death, and near death. Despite that, Jane and I had a warm time at the movie and coming home.
We warmed the place up and sat around with our computers, casually poking around the Web, reading bits out to each other. We’d become rather hungry by the time we decided to cook. We had a regular easy meal of ours. Those green pasta parcels of ricotta with a bottled tomato sauce and parmagiano. Then we just sat and talked, enjoying a nice bottle of wine (Jane’s sort, not mine). We sat and talked and sat and talked.
We listened to the Be Good Tanyas and speculated about how Country music came about. Jane told me the story of how English folk got from the “West Country” to the States and then went electric. I felt slightly ignorant for not knowing that Dylan first used electric instruments at Woodstock.
At one point, we got talking about some outdoor exploit of mine, probably from my hippy days up the Coast. Out of the blue, Jane commented “You like to compete with Struan, don’t you”. Struan, if you don’t know was my friend and Jane’s boyfriend when he introduced us in 1976. “What?!” I replied, with futility as Jane took that as an invitation to repeat herself, with an innocent smile. To my astonished protest, she responded by producing a 1976/7 diary of hers from which she quoted. Sure enough, it contained a detailed account of a tramping trip that the three of us went on, to Possum Hut, in which “S” and D” competed over fire-lighting, route-finding or something like that.
The diary now shut, I noticed a couple of dozen small stick-on tabs sticking out of its pages. What are those? “Occurrences”, replied Jane. My heart dropped slightly, for fear I was about to hear more about Jane’s youth than I wanted to. Of what? “You”, she replied.
Jane also told me why she called me Daniel. It had dated back to our early email exchanges. Jane confessed she had had to work rather hard to maintain it, in the face of everyone else constantly calling me Dan. But that was precisely the point. Jane was living in my city with my kids, my family, my friends and my history all around. Jane called me Daniel to distinguish her relationship and life with me from all of that.
About 12:00, Jane went to bed, saying she was tired. I mucked about for 20 minutes and then went to bed myself. Jane was sleeping. I read, keeping slightly away from her, to let her sleep, and to have a little space to myself. After a while, I turned the light off and went to sleep in the same position.
At some time in the night, I have woke to hear Jane breathing irregularly. She seemed to pause in her breathing for rather a long time and then gasp with a slight shriek as she took in breath. I took it to be bad snoring or perhaps a nightmare. I gave Jane a bit of a nudge, as you do to try to distrupt someone’s snoring. She didn’t respond but, after a short while became quiet. I slept.
At six in the morning, I woke and reached across Jane. She was lying on her back with the duvet not properly over her. I had hogged it and she hadn’t pulled it back. She was very cold. I became frightened and put my ear to her nose but heard no breath. I turned on the light. Jane had grey lips and blue patches all over her. I knew she was dead. I probably said “oh no” or worse, several times as I dialled 111.
With the 111 guy coaching me, I attempted to resuscitate Jane with CPR. She was so cold and blue that I knew I didn’t have much chance of success. I think it was a faint hope that the nightmare would go away that kept me going.
The ambulance folks arrived, dragged Jane onto the floor and got out their equipment. I went into Elsie’s room and wrapped myself in her duvet. I was pretty cold too by then. I lay on the floor and screamed and convulsed. Then, strangely, my mind wandered. Would I have more time than I had expected to to experiment with my new computer that day? And then incredulity that I had thought that. Had I willed Jane’s death for more time on the computer? Meanwhile in the next room they were working hard. Again, a spark of hope flickered. Have they managed to bring Jane to life? Before long though, an ambulance guy told me that no, there was no hope.
A crushing cold dark fell on me, passed into my core and pulsed out through my limbs. I lay alone. Not Jane. Not Jane. Not Jane. No, my Jane. No. No. No. Not my Lovely, Jane.
On their instructions, I got to the phone and called Kate and Walter’s. They weren’t home. I called Hanna who said she was coming around. Perhaps I managed to get some clothes on by the time she arrived. Cops were there with questions but well-meaning.
They had put Jane back in bed and I lay with her briefly for the last time, already appalled at her deadness.
I phoned Simon who said he was coming.
An undertaker arrived and they carried Jane’s body down the stairs strapped to a stretcher. I got to say a brief farewell to a lumpy thing invisible under a blanket in the back of a hearse. And then to come back inside our house, Jane’s and my house, with no Jane.