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You are in: Northamptonshire » Features

June 2004
Write '04
The entries

The Time Of Our Singing
By Alex Fox
from Hackleton

We sang together, once, John my love.

When we were thirteen, we sang together – Happy Birthday to Me in the classroom. You gripped my right arm and threw me for the bumps. My skirt rose up to my neck; you decorously covered my embarrassment, my white cotton knickers. Nobody had ever held my hand before. It was chewing-gum sticky, football-boot sour-stinking, altogether thrilling.

We sang together too, the next year in the school choir. Rather, I sang; you croaked. No lion growled in greater pride than you with your breaking voice, finding registers you’d never plumbed before. That was the beginning of your manhood. Unknown to you I’d been your promised woman then for three long, waiting years.

Inseparable we became, but divergent, eclectic in our tastes. I tried out the Bach Choir; you attempted jazz; you fronted a rock foursome; I sang madrigals for the mayor. We came together for karaoke, carols and the annual G & S.

By the time we had finished at the university, our harmonics were in unison; we could resolve a cadence, harmonize any dissonance, learn from a false note. Our bodies worked in harmony too; rapid staccato followed languorous legato strokings. We’d make love sonata style – exposition, development, recapitulation. Sometimes we tried it like a concerto – one of us doing all the work, competing for the prize of the virtuoso cadenza. Opera gave us the giggles; oratorio showed us the solemn truth of our passion. Life was still progressing steadily through its first movement, youthful rhythm and energy, allegro ma non troppo.

When your voice became husky, I thought you’d caught a cold and couldn’t shake it off. Well, really I didn’t think much about it at all. I was far too involved in my own nausea, my heartburn, my widening waistline. Our tempers quickened like the growing child inside. We started to keep each other awake at nights, you coughing, me with my cramping calves. I didn’t know that we were both succouring a parasite, an organism feeding from within.

You took the sympathetic pregnancy a bit too far, I thought. When I showed blood, you spat yours into a handkerchief. When I pushed and panted to force out the alien tissue, you retched and gagged to expel yours. We gasped and wheezed in unison. But by then, of course, you were in the hospital, too.

Small-cell, they call it. How can a small cell cause such harsh cacaphony? They said you might have six months left.

You can do a lot of singing in six months. It’s all that’s kept me sane.

There’s a requiem for lost hair – that’s a really sad one. I sing it as I stroke your scalp with the baby-soft nylon brush, and the last, long sad black hairs detach themselves involuntarily from your head.

There’s the agony anthem. We’re hearing that a lot at the moment, mostly at night. There used to be a sense of rallentando, a holding back of the pace and volume. Recently you’ve been speeding up, turning up the sound. The conductor’s losing control.

Then there’s the libido lamentations. That’s not one we sing very often. It’s better to remember love without sweat, sex without struggle, passion without relentless recriminations.

You may be hoarse and grouchy, my love, but still I'll write you a rhapsody. You may be pale and skeletal, but I’ll sing you my romanza before you go. Your life-force fades to pianissimo, but our souls will always sing out together in harmony.

Together we’ve made wonderful music and a beautiful child. Little John will always remember you when he hears the cradle song you composed for him. I’ll hold him in my arms as I sing you that lullaby, when you begin the slow diminuendo into your final sleep.


Also see
• Write '04 - index of entries
• More on Write '04
• Writing homepage



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