I’m on the train I’ve travelled on more than any other. The Severn Beach Line to Bristol Temple Meads. I have a lot of stuff and put it down on two seats, then look up. I see him, the Yorkshire man I spoke of in a previous Conversation. He raises a hand. I smile and move my things.
“You’re bald,” I say.
“I’ve got cancer,” he sings.
“Oh,” I say, as if that covers it, “what kind?”
“Lymphoma, multiple lymphoma. I’m riddled with it. Incurable. In fact I’ve had it a long time. Found out in July.”
I look at the floor.
“Don’t worry… I’m not,” he says.
And I raise my eyes to look into his, which un-framed by his once ginger hair look more blue. His single hoop earring is also more noticeable. He looks like a 40-something punk.
“The doctor laughed when he saw it, said he’d never seen so much lymphoma.”
“At least I don’t have to have radiotherapy. They’ve gone at it with what’s like a blunderbuss – you know what a blunderbuss is? One of those old guns you loaded with lead balls and they’d fire out all over the place,” he says, gesturing a miniature volcano with his hands.
“God.” I say.
“I shouldn’t be out in public really, my immune system is probably compromised as much as if I had AIDS.”
I must look surprised because he says, “Seriously, a cold could kill me.”
Even if he were on his deathbed I doubt he’d look like he were dying.
“I definitely don’t have a cold,” I say.
“Someone on this train will. But I’m not scared.” He says.
I scour the train. There’s nobody sitting nearby. Relief.
“I lost two stone in weight in the hospital.”
I look at his legs, resting up on the back of the seat in front of him. They’re thin. But he could never really look thin.
“I’ve put the weight back on now. It was horrible at first. I was in a lot of pain. I thought, childbirth? You should try this. But I’m not in pain now. Had to get the doctor to hit me with an H of smack at one point to keep me going.”
“It’s not heroin though is it,” I say.
“It is,” he says proudly, “diamorphine, pure heroin. I didn’t get a hit off it, I just couldn’t feel the pain anymore. And I’ve been on morphine constantly… At one point I broke my arm. And that was in hospital, just reaching for a plug.”
“It was the bone marrow they said, said I should’ve known. I wished they’d told me,” he pauses then adds, “think it’s going though, I think it might be going, because I’ve put the weight back on. I’m invincible, me.”
And I think ‘yes, you are,’ as we pull in to Temple Meads.
“Oh, are we here?” he asks.
“Yes.” I say.
“Didn’t notice I was talking so much.”
We get off the train and walk toward the departure screen to see when the next trains are.
I hope we’ll be on the same one, as he’s headed not too far from where I am. But they’re different. Mine’s in eight minutes.
My heart is heavy.
“Well, I’ve got twenty minutes so I’m going for a fag but you don’t have time for a fag probably.”
Incredible. Still smoking. I think about catching the next train but it’s not too long until his and I don’t know when the next one will be.
I say I hope to see him soon and he kisses me on the cheek. I hug him. He who is invincible, who will never die.