I woke up this morning to a message on my iPhone. Thérèse had lost her fight with cancer during the night, and was finally free of her pain. I went to get my coffee in a numb fog, remembering vaguely her friendly smile and endless, soggy kisses on Sunday mornings. I felt ashamed. I hadn’t gone to see her at the hospital, and her friendly warmth would not descend upon me in its quirky, almost overbearing way next week at church.
Two hours later my phone beeped again, but this time it was a friend who’s brother-in-law had been found dead in his apartment. I was seated at a table bedecked with Christmas decorations, women chatting and laughing all around me, but I felt suddenly as in a vortex of gaiety, while others sat quietly in pain.
I turned the key, shrugging off my woollen wrap as I walked into my office just an hour after that, the reality of my own life strikingly present as I scrolled the 2015 calendar of events at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. I needed to write an email to the organiser about which opera I wanted to attend, which event would most interest my readers. The gorgeous theatre and A-list program flashed across the screen in stark contrast to the rainy mud outside; glitz and glitter sprinkled over so much pain.
I made my choice and sent the email, grateful for the connection and excited about the prospects, and yet…
Today I might rather be Charlotte Salomon than Poppea, singing a mournful song as I paint stories that are all too real.