You call me a liar,
You claim malingerers like me
represent everything that’s wrong with society;
the reason the Empire fell.
You resent your hard-earned tax
supporting my life of leisure
while you can barely afford
to take a second holiday this year.
You wish you could be waited on hand and foot
and never lift a finger for yourself.
You assume I seek attention
the only way I know how;
that I choose this life
because it somehow makes me special.
You believe what you want to believe,
because the alternative
is too uncomfortable to think about.
And you’re right,
I do lie:
I lie with the jumper and jeans,
pulled on over night-clothes
when I know that you’re coming.
I lie with pain-relief, carefully timed
to enable the extraordinary
in the hour that you’re here.
I lie with the charade
of expected social niceties
and the smile that hides
that I’m grieving inside.
And when you leave
and I lie in the dark, broken and alone,
too ill to move,
too ill to think,
too ill to function in any way at all,
I wish you could understand
that this is the truth,
this undignified inhumanity
that you will never see
and I swear to myself
that this is the final time
I will play my part
in this all too familiar pretence;
the final time
I will bear the taunts,
protecting you (or anyone else)
from the reality of my existence.
despite my resolve,
when next I hear your footsteps
approach my door, my instinct is still
to pull on that sweater,
to sit up that little bit straighter,
and to reach once more for the obligatory
Mask of Wellness
with its painted-on smile,
ready to receive you.
© S.R.Gilligan, 2010