But now the sun has reached me I know Ann will only be here for a few more hours before she heads home to her family. It's when she's gone, and so has the sun, that sleep, the irritating bastard, escapes me. Ann will have left a ham roll in the fridge for me and I'll pick it up on my way back from the toilet, remembering to clean my hands in that light cleansing box that is de rigueur for us all nowadays. I remember when soap and water did the trick, but now it's all photons and particles, though as I told Ann one day after the paper I used to wipe myself gave way, "It'll take more than a forty-watt bulb to get yesterday's food out of my nails." I laughed and expected her to join in, but she didn't, and I remembered that she wouldn't have known what a forty-watt bulb was, she being the age that she is.
Once the sun has set, and Ann has swiped her card in the entry port, locking me in for the night, I'm left with only the television for company. Sometimes I'll find a good 3D film to watch, or if I'm lucky one of the Touch and Feel porno channels will be unlocked, and I can enjoy the sensation of an eighteen-year-old calling me "Big Boy" and smothering me with her self-inflating breasts. But usually I turn the television off, fill my whisky glass to the brim and begin drinking until I fall asleep or pass out. Either way Ann will wake me in the morning and mop up the sticky puddle of whisky on the floor. In the beginning, when she first became my carer, she would suggest, in the friendly way carers think work with people like me, that I should try and get to bed in the evening, or at least make for the sofa if I felt sleep coming on, but after a while she stopped and now she only asks me to put my glass away before I lose consciousness. I try to do this whenever I can. It makes for a better way to start the day not having Ann kneel like some worshipper praising the floor about my feet. I admit, though, I only manage to put the glass on the wooden table beside my chair once in a very long while.
It was through my drinking that Ann came to know all about me, and my past. She would ask every so often why it was I drank so much, and for months I palmed her off with flimsy excuses, the kind that tells the asker not to probe too much. But no matter what I told her, or how crudely I spoke, she never flinched in asking me the same question until it became a daily ritual that I rebuffed with increasingly benign replies. Because I'm bored. I'm expecting someone. I had a party. I have to give her credit because sometimes my answers weren't particularly pleasant, and were designed to inflict as much hurt to her as I could achieve, given that as a man of ninety-eight years my days of physical violence are long gone. Not that physical violence was ever my forte.
Eventually the day arrived when I couldn’t find the energy to drawl another lie. I was coming around from a nap at more or less this very same time of day that I’m talking to you now, and I was greeted to the sight of Ann, sitting on the two-seat sofa opposite my chair, looking at me with her saucer shaped eyes, which were a touch more pensive and sensitive than usual. Apparently I’d been talking in my sleep, and what I’d said had made for shocking listening. Or at least it had for Ann. I guess, until that day, she’d had me sketched in as being a cantankerous old man at the end of his days intent on being grouchy, as that was all that was left for him to be, having run through the gamut of son, boy, teenager, lover, husband, father and grandfather. While that description is partly true, my life has run to adjectives beyond the ken of most people, and so it was that I looked hard into her eyes and asked her if she wanted to know the truth, because once I started she might not like what I had to tell her, that the man she thought I was would cease to be. She didn’t say a word. She simply nodded her head in a fashion I’d seen many times before, a reluctant acquiescence to a single choice I’d offered some poor soul who’d happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kindness, to both herself and myself, would have seen me crack a joke, tell another lie and make up a story to get us both of the hook, but I’d come to see Ann as deserving of the most precious thing I had left in my possession. Trust. And so it was I began to tell her the truth about myself. I spoke to her of Michael, Lina, Daniel and Claire. I told her about SethCo and Brager. I told her everything. And now I’ll tell you everything, and I’ll see if you are as trustworthy as Ann, or if you are simply another Michael.
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