Adam has late diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer. On being told he has, at the most, sixty months to live (years are not used in calculating life expectancy when dealing with cancer – a year is too long a metric), he says, Sod that.
Chemotherapy is prescribed. The chemo day ward has twelve blue treatment chairs, six hospital beds and higgledy-piggledy equipment everywhere. The one vacant chair is his. The noise of repetitive unsynchronised bleeping of infusion pumps and monitors is overwhelming. It delights Adam. Wow! He gasps as he enters the ward with Emilia, his chemo nurse. I’ve never heard anything like this, ever!
People say it’s a dreadful racket, Emilia says.
Yes, it’s kind of crazy pandemonium.
Yes, he laughs. He takes out his mobile phone. Is it okay if I record the pandemonium?
I can’t see why not.
I’m a composer, he explains. This sound is fabulous: polyrhythmic and full of contrapuntal rhythms. I have a commission for a piano concerto for Sky Arts but my cancer stopped me in my tracks. I never thought I’d say it, but good can come of this.
Come on, let’s get your treatment started, Emilia says and settles Adam in his chair. Did I see a programme about you on the telly? Emilia asks. It wasn’t long ago. They were celebrating your seventieth birthday.
You’re Adam Steele?
For my sins, I am.
I love your Sonatina for Trumpet.
Thank you. I’m amazed.
That a chemo nurse is a classical music fan?
No, of course not. Adam hesitates. You’re right. I’m humbled. Please forgive an old snob.
Everyone’s equal here.
Throughout his treatment Adam digitally captures every moment to create sound loops to replace the orchestra in his concerto. After many weeks a sudden glance, a word, a gentle lingering touch changes everything. Adam lacks the courage to tell Emilia that he loves her, wondering if it’s just an embarrassing old man’s crush and she’ll laugh.
Adam is devastated when his chemo fails but hopes radiotherapy will work when it eventually starts. He asks Emilia if they can meet at Maggie’s cancer support centre after work to talk. She waits for an hour but there’s no sign of him. Breaking all the rules she tracks him down to his home but there’s no sign of him. She curses herself for not telling him of her love.
Months later, Adam, nervously clutching a bunch of peonies, stands in the corridor outside the chemo ward, waiting for Emilia, when he’s recognised by another nurse.
Minutes later, Emilia runs to him. He drops the flowers. They kiss. I thought I’d lost you, she says.
I’m sorry I ran away. I thought you’d laugh at me.
Idiot! I love you too. Did you finish it?
‘Concerto for Emilia amongst the machines’ has its premiere on TV tonight. Shall we watch it at my place?
I’ll wear my best frock.
They’ve revised my life expectancy – upwards!
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© Phil Cosker 2021
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