Jerry had been sick for six weeks. When he’d first come down with it he kept saying he had more gollies than worries and he was intent on spitting them at me. Thankfully his threat was in jest and he never spat anywhere but in the kitchen sink, tilting his head back and making a delightful hocking uproar that always elicited a shriek from mum: “we wash our dishes in that sink you grub! Don’t spit in it!” Then he’d flick his head forward, providing bonus impetus to the forthcoming wad of phlegm. Then he’d tell mum to come have a look – it was his biggest one yet!
Now he had not the energy for such adventurous phlegm removal. I imagined a dam of phlegm and bile holding back a torrent of further phlegm and bile. A congestion of grossness within him.
I saw then the confusion. It was in his countenance, one of interminable bewilderment but with a twitch that bespoke furious determination.
His confusion was this: how can this body fail me so when all that is me within it fights so desperately for true things? Vital things. Things seen only when a man dares lift his gaze slightly above that which absorbs us and envisions there something of weight and worth. What torture is this?
But even those grandiose thoughts were hampered by the grossness within him. His unrelenting infirmity saw his geniality and wit worn down into a sarcastic aggression towards his caretakers (mum taking the brunt) and he came to realise he was not merely congested with grossness in the physical. That served to add an apoplectic edge to his bewilderment. All of me that is within me fights desperately for true things and yet all of me that is within me spews forth a torrent of ungrateful vitriol. Weakness begets weakness.
His rage turned to desolation and then he was at the end of himself. “Here I am, down at the end of myself. Again. There’s something of freedom about, down here. I think I’ll stay.”
And he was a free man. Suddenly Jerry’s confusion was gone and soon I realised what I’d mistook for resignation was in fact a resolve to rise above it. He continued to despise his weakness but he did this by way of embracing it. A trick of the mind? Yes and no. Perspective dictates. The mind makes the man. But who makes the mind? The One who you can see, if you dare look. Right there slightly above that which absorbs us.
It was a debilitating illness that taught Jerry to dare so. His resolve fuelled my resolve to dare also. Weakness begets weakness?
Weakness begets strength.
– Josiah Hallett