Does believing really have an impact?





Kevin first noticed that something was wrong when Sharon started calling him Tom. 

He thought nothing of it initially, because she still called him Kevin most of the time. But when he realized that it was happening more and more often, he began to think about why she was doing it. ‘Does she have a lover called Tom?’ was the first thing that came to mind. ‘Or am I just judging her by my own standards?’ 

    ‘No, let’s stop this right now,’ he told himself, because he knew he was simply comparing her with the woman he’d met all those years ago. Young, carefree, happy and attractive. And with whom he’d spent most of his life. The woman she no longer was. Now that she had whatever she had. Whatever it was that was wearing her down. Making her unpredictable, moody and obviously unhappy. And now that the once-enduring carefree and lighthearted demenour was gone, ugly too. Because she so rarely smiled. And she never, never laughed. Ever. It was as if she was wearing a perpetually ugly mask. One that changed her whole persona. 


Sharon went to the doctor. But he wasn’t much help. He told her it was all part of the aging process. 

    ‘Tom, it’s me,’ she said when Kevin answered the phone. ‘He says it’s quite normal. The quack, I mean. You know, to misplace your keys. Or to forget what book you're reading.’

    ‘What about forgetting your husband’s name?’ Kevin asked himself when she’d rung off. 

    He thought about what she’d said. ‘Well, perhaps her doctor’s right.’ After all, he told himself, he’d forget things occasionally. Where he’d put something. The name of the person he’d just passed in the mall. And he even mislaid his keys from time to time. 

    But the serious nature of her problem was brought home to him when she phoned one day from a supermarket. ‘You see, I’ve got the keys, Tom, but I can’t remember where I’ve left my car.’ 


He looked up the so-called Ten Signs Test. Lots of medical gobbledygook about feeling the cold more. Dressing regardless of the weather. Wearing warm gear on a hot day, or shorts when it's freezing.

    And falling asleep in front of the TV. 

    Mood swings. 

    ‘What a load of crap,’ Kevin concluded. ‘I’ve been presenting most of those symptoms myself for most of my life.’ So he tried to dismiss the problem. ‘Perhaps I’m just being paranoid. Maybe I should simply try to forget it.’ 


He couldn't help wondering if her weird spiritual ideas had a causal role to play. Had they somehow messed up a once normal mind and convential thought processes. But he dismissed this line of thinking. 'There's no evidence for it,' he told himself.

    Then, ‘I suppose it could be worse. But let’s just hope she improves. It’s not as if she’s started hiding turds in the fridge or anything like that. Not yet anyway.’ 


At first Kevin had thought little of the changes. Sharon had always had, he'd always thought, some weird and wonderful ideas. You know, all that stuff about life after death. Her parents had instilled their version of a complicated belief system into her when she was very young. And it's usually quite difficult to shrug off.

    When he tackled her about it, he tried to do it scientifically. Logically. Asking for evidence. 'You're so gullible, darling. All that stuff they pumped into your head. When you were young. Your parents. And those nutters who ran your school. How can you still believe all that junk. Now that you're an adult.'

    But he quickly tired of talking to her about it because it always led to a row. And he didn't have too much time for believing in Paradise. 'When you're dead you're dead,' he told her, 'And that's that.'

    'No, darling, not quite so. It depends on what you believe in and how hard you're prepared to work on your belief to make it work.'


Sharon had learned from experience. There was no point in arguing with him. 'Have it your own way. You believe what you like. And let me believe what I believe. Because you don't think believing will make it happen - but I do.'


Of course there were good times. ‘Like that holiday we had on the island.' A long while ago perhaps, but he remembered it well. ‘When we met that nice couple.’ In fact there were times when he still remembered that nice young couple very well. Very well indeed. Especially Janet. ‘Yes, that was her name. And her boyfriend or fiancée was Henry or Herbert or Harry or something like that.’ He wondered if Sharon remembered him well. As well as he remembered Janet. He sighed. ‘Those were the days, as the saying goes. When we were young and still in love. When what the four of us did together didn’t matter. Because once the holiday was over they went back to their lives and we to ours. And we never saw them again. Nor did we ever hear from them.’

    But all that was long, long ago. Ages before his world with Sharon had started to fall into a heap.


Over the last twenty odd years they’d had their ups and downs. Of course they had. But now that these symptoms persisted, and in fact got worse by the day it seemed, their relationship was much more bad than good. 


There can be no doubt that Kevin loved Sharon. But he loved most women. In general that is. So much so that he always seemed to be in trouble with them. Although he never articulated it in this way, the concept of monogamy was counter intuitive. For him. And although he may not have been consciously aware of it, he would have been prepared to extend this license to Sharon. Although this may not be viewed as politically correct by many people, perhaps even most, that’s the way it was, and that’s the way he saw life.     So, right from his early days he’d thought nothing of a bit on the side.


But there'd always been a difficult background issue. And a serious one at that, because it placed tremendous pressure on their relationship. It was this: Kevin didn’t have any time for Sharon’s mother. None at all. Not one iota.

    Kevin and Helen rarely saw eye to eye. It had been like that right from the start. 

    Once, early on in their marriage, Sharon had been quite taken aback when she asked him one day, ‘Is it OK if my mum comes on holiday with us this year? She’s very lonely and all that, all on her own, you know.’

    Kevin looked at her in disbelief. It was the first time she’d seen him really angry with her, ‘What? You fucking mad Sharon? When we go away we could meet someone nice. Play around with them a bit. Like we did last time. But with her in the wings, no one would be interested. Because not many beds are built for five people. So, if she comes, I stay. And that’s it.’ Then he walked out of the room. 


Of course there were a few times when things reached rock bottom. When it seemed such a long way back that neither of them ever thought they'd get there. And infidelity was always what triggered the crisis. Kevin's infidelity.

    ‘Well what of it? I only fucked her once. When I was drunk. Years ago. You carry on as if I’m still in love with her.’ Always the same defense. And always eventually accepted by Sharon.

    They were talking about an office party when things had got out of hand. Too much alcohol, and in those days, too much testosterone. There had been a fight too, though, thankfully he’d not been involved, so he didn’t have that one to explain away. 

    Funnily enough, Sharon had accepted his excuses without too much fuss. ‘She was a dog anyway. No tits and with a bum like the back of a bus,’ he'd say and they'd both laugh. But even while he was defending himself, Kevin's mind went back to Pam. He remembered that Pam had, in fact, had a good figure. Nice tits. A sensuous arse, and, as it happened, he remembered, she’d been quite a good fuck to boot.


But their relationship got to a stage where things stayed bad, and he knew they had little chance of improving. 

    Then they got much worse. Sharon had become slovenly. She’d long ago stopped working, and sat around at home in her dressing gown. She’d stopped eating, become emaciated and looked a mess. The months dragged by and became years.

    And she’d now stopped calling him Kevin altogether. To her he was only Tom now.

    Kevin cast around for relief. He thought about death for long periods. Sharon's death. When he couldn't sleep at night and even during the day when he was driving or sitting on the toilet.

    He thought about euthanasia. 

    ‘Fuck, what’s wrong with me? That’s not what I mean. Perhaps her thing’s contagious. Perhaps I’ve caught it now. Because I can’t think straight any more. Euthanasia’s tantamount to murder. And they’ll think I was after her money.’

    Assisted suicide? ‘Yes, that’s more like it. That’s what I mean. A helping hand, so to speak. But not to be confused with masturbation. Because some people use the same euphemism when they’re talking about wanking.’ But when he checked, he found it was too complicated. And, more importantly, he realized, probably illegal as well.

    He dismissed voluntary suicide as well. He just couldn’t see himself being able to talk her into jumping off a tall building. Or eating ground glass. Or getting into the lions’ cage at the zoo. Mad as she was, he thought, she wasn’t absolutely screwy. Not yet anyway.

    Eventually Kevin just ran out of ideas. And patience. And love. In the end he did nothing about her. But he had something in mind for himself.


Kevin made several trips back and forth to his car. ‘Jesus, not much to show for twenty years together.’

    When Sharon went to the window she thought she saw Johnny Depp loading things into his car, which she saw as a galeon. She went back to bed and waited for her cup of tea. Tom always gave her one in the morning. Tea that is, because he’d stopped fucking her long ago. She was still waiting for her cuppa when her mother called late that afternoon. 



Kevin phoned Helen. ‘Hello, it’s me,’ was the opening gambit. 

    There was a long silence, then he said, ‘I’ve had enough. You must come over as soon as possible,’ and hung up. 

    Helen got there as quickly as she could, but the bus was late and it had started to rain. She let herself in with her own key, and checked on Sharon who had taken to living in the spare room. She looked like rubbish, as she did more often than not these days.

    It was obvious that Kevin had gone. There were boxes of junk strewn about full if obviously discarded items. As if someone had been spring-cleaning. She saw that most of the books were gone. So were the CD’s. And so was almost all of the food for Christ’s sake. She went upstairs to the main bedroom. Kevin’s wardrobe was open. And it was empty. 

    So much for love.

    Sharon was lying in bed still in her nighty. She was waiting for the tea that Kevin usually brought her. At one time it was almost every morning, but less and less often recently. For the last five years or so, that is. 

    Helen sat down on the edge of the bed. She started to cry, but stopped when Sharon half sat up and looked at her. ‘Hello darling,’ she said to her daughter. ‘How are you feeling?’

    Sharon stared at Her. She thought Helen looked radiant in her stunning outfit. As she stepped out of the limousine onto the red carpet. With Tom - or was it Johnny - just behind her. At the premier of Pirates of the Caribbean.

    ‘So this is what happens,’ Helen said to herself, ‘when you fall out of love.’


Helen made herself a cup of tea. She thought about the situation for a long time. Several hours went by.


‘Come on darling, we’re going on holiday,’ Sharon heard her mother say. ‘May take a while though. And it could be a bit of a bumpy ride. But I’m sure it’ll be really good for you. You need a holiday, don’t you darling?’

    ‘Yes, yes. I’d love to visit the Caribbean again.’

    ‘Obviously not with us at all,’ thought Helen, ‘Completely off the planet.’ 


Helen wondered if she had the strength. And it did take her quite a while. But eventually she got there.

    She helped Sharon out of bed. Paying no attention to the blustery weather outside, she dressed her in a fucia blouse, white pants and gold sandals. ‘You look gorgeous darling. Just the thing for a sunny day at a pool in Georgetown.’

    She managed to get Sharon down stairs and into the wheelchair. She told her daughter to wait for her. ‘As if she could do anything else,’ she thought. 

    They waited for the rain to stop. Then Helen drove her car into the garage. ‘Some way to start a holiday.’

    She maneuvered the wheelchair through the kitchen and into the back garden. Then she helped her daughter into the garage and into the passenger seat. 

    ‘Will it be long?’ asked Sharon as Helen fastened the safety belt. ‘Till we get there?’ 

    ‘Dear Lord, why does she choose now to forget that she’s not supposed to be capable of asking rational questions?’ Then she realized that it may have simply been couched ambiguously, so she answered, ‘No darling, not too long. Once we’ve done everything we need to. So it’s just a hop skip and a jump and we’re there.’


She went to the tool shed and collected the hosepipe. ‘Neighbours could have me arrested if they think I’m going to water flowers on a day like this.’

    She got behind the wheel and held Sharon’s hand. She tried to visualize a tropical sunset. When she had a picture of swaying palms and a blinding white beach set in her mind, she turned the key in the ignition. The engine sprang to life and the colourless, odourless, tasteless and initially non-irritating toxic fumes spread invisible tentacles through the window and throughout the garage. 

A dull frontal headache started playing around in her skull. Her heart rate increased and her blood pressure dropped. 

    The end had started its work.

    Although she was terrified, she thought there might be just one more chance. Provided she kept her faith. And her belief that the end was not the end. She knew it was just a matter of concentration.

    Helen steeled herself against the symptoms. ‘It’s a small price to pay,’ she told herself as the gas blocked capillaries, saturated bronchioles and stifled alveoli.

    Her daughter appeared not to notice. She was awake and staring out of the windscreen. Helen hoped that in her mind Sharon could see something nicer than the garage wall.

    Helen's thought processes were working hard. She was trying to concentrate them on one subject: Paradise. Would she get there? and would her daughter be with her. She wanted one last look at Sharon. To speak to her just once more. But no sound came out. So she spoke in her darkening mind. 'Not long now darling, and we'll both be in Paradise.'

    Sharon sat forward and vomited, but Helen never noticed. Her sight was beginning to be affected and she felt confused and dizzy. 

    ‘So this is what happens,’ she said to herself as she settled back in the driver’s seat holding tightly onto her daughter’s hand, ‘when you run out on love.’ 




If you like this style of writing, you might enjoy ALL FALL DOWN, my novel set in Nazi occupied France during World War Two.

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