You die if you worry
They say travel is a time for reflection. Or forgetting.
The three days in the snowy north, before the doctor’s appointment on Monday, was supposed to be for the forgetting.
It will be a check, not a check-up. Nothing dramatic. Just a question about a bump. And not me, my other half.
For three days he played with the tiny lump on his forehead when he thought I wasn’t looking and sometimes when he knew I was.
The doctors must get dozens of these queries. It could be something, it could be nothing.
‘Look at those poor sheep,’ he goes.
Mid-way to the train station, on the edge of the village, about thirty sheep – a class-full at my place – are gathered in the only part of the field not covered in snow. He’s right. They look wet, cold and fed up, despite the cage-full of yummy-looking silage. Maybe they’re happy on the inside.
Half the flock feed, the other half wait their turn, resigned. A metaphor for our times perhaps.
Another ten minutes and we’re there. We park the wheelies in the plastic shelter. There’s been no snow for an hour. That’s the longest since we arrived on Thursday. More must be on the way. It’s been blizzard conditions. One of those storms named in Ireland, bringing snow this time, not rain. So, lots of time in the hotel, between abandoned walks and pub meals.
Beyond, a worldwide virus awaits, paused for now amongst the news headlines, but threatening to tip the world into a death spiral.
We’ve walked thirty minutes to the one-platform train station. A disembodied voice periodically runs through what we need to know; no smoking, etc. The old station building we passed is now a cottage for sale. A mini industrial estate has popped up since our last visit five years ago.
He leans against the shelter doorway, squinting as he scans the horizon. He didn’t sleep well. It’s not the unfamiliar room or hotel bed; he just never does. When I used to stay at his parents’ when we first met, his dad would come down tired in the morning. He never slept either. I wonder if his dad lay awake thinking about bumps on his head too.
It’s a spectacular view. The world in monochrome – like someone clicked the beautiful green view I remember into greyscale. As the weak, watery February sun peaks out from behind the cloud, everything becomes sharper for a moment; a black and white etching in a panorama.
Two hundred yards straight ahead, leafless trees bend in a distant breeze looking like a rack of up-side-down witches’ brooms. Either side of us the valley opens out. The rail track disappears into woods in one direction and curves away into the snowy hills the other way.
I step out and look up and down the track. The iconic image belongs in the dusty wild west or amongst a Spanish sierra. I don’t know what it’s doing here.
You die if you worry, die if you don’t. I laughed the first time he said it. I hadn’t heard it before.
I used to think it meant there’s no point in worrying, you’ll die anyway; so, you should do something more positive with your time and thoughts – don’t fritter away your life on negatives imaginings that might never come to pass.
But now it sounds like: just worry if you want to. If that’s your thing, go for it. Enjoy.
‘Here she comes,’ he says, sounding the cheeriest he’s been all weekend.
Robert Scott lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. He is writing a first novel. He has short fiction in East of the Web, EllipsisZine, Nymphs Publications, and in Popshot Magazine. He’s on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RDScott9