The dark cloud

A sister’s son fights in hospital to recover from a neurological disorder that has inflamed his spinal fluid. He’s eight years old.

We see the effect of his illness. His back pain, his difficulty with urinary and bowel functions. Parts of his brain are swollen. Messages for muscles to move and do can’t pass the point of thought in the brain and progress to doing. We see his feeble struggle.

In contrast, a brother has an illness that is not so easily seen. It renders him lifeless in an armchair night after night to watch T.V. alone. Sometimes he writes on any scrap paper he can find or in an old album with collectable stamps unhinged.

Is he tired or relaxing, or preoccupied by thoughts that have become so real, they’ve transpired into voices?

He hides away from everyone apart from Mum and us siblings, going out only when he must and wearing caps and sunglasses when he does. He speaks and moves very little. His tone is soft and his strides are a slow shuffle across cool ceramic tiles. He’ll go to bed only when the last person in the house retires and within seconds, he’s snoring soundly.

Yet in the very early hours of a morning, he wakes. The lamp clicks on, then the bedroom ceiling light. He gets up to visit the toilet, then goes back into bed to write about the prophecy, his concentration, something being easy or how he can’t rush things. None of it makes sense to me.

He moves some furniture, maybe the chest of drawers beside the bed. Then the ceiling light goes off, and the lamp. He shuffles between cotton sheets until the process begins again and continues for the next two and a half hours – lights on, scratching across a page, a toilet stop, more pages shuffling, lights off.

What goes on in his head?

He wakes late the next morning and says he’s nervous, he fears the neighbours watching him. He slumps in front of T.V. again and eats comfort foods in dimmed daylight. He doesn’t change his days-old t-shirt and track pants that grow in body odour until it’s suggested to him. ‘Thanks for the tip,’ he says innocently.

His brain thinks in peaks and troughs, it doesn’t instruct to do much. Perhaps his messages aren’t getting through to act, or his brain gets confused by his thoughts and consumed by the conversations inside.

Perhaps it’s a cloudiness within him that permeates out as a dark cloud that can sometimes hover low. We ponder the sadness of living in this way. But is it a dark cloud to him? Is he sad for himself in the way that we feel sad for him?

I don’t know. But it is his reality that he has known for more than half his life.

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