People are feckless with words. They toss them over their shoulders as casually as they would a cigarette butt. I, on the other hand, am a word scavenger. I collect them, polish them into brightness, display them, gloat over them.
So when my doctor some 20 years ago described me as living on the edge, I immediately came up with images. I was teetering in the wind on a high cliff. Below me I could hear the roar of the sea but I didn’t dare look down. I could only hope there would be some outcrop of rock that would break my fall. Or, I hoped that, like the blind Gloucester, in King Lear, I would fall over the edge only to land in a meadow with exclamations of wonder that I had fallen so far, floating like thistle down, and yet had sustained no injury.
But on his most recent visit, the doctor said I was on a knife edge. Now that’s a much more violent image. I’ve had no training or experience in tight rope walking. Who, anyway, would venture out on a knife edge, unless she was trying to escape something horrible. In which case, there would be no point in turning around and going back. I would be like a toddler just learning to walk who lacked the necessary balance to turn round. So I would have to go on, but how far and what would be my destination? M.S never gets any better; my point of arrival might well be worse than my point of departure.
My doctor had hoped it would be quick, my being on the knife edge, I assume he meant. So did he want me to fall off and to fall off on to what? Would there be a safety net? Or would there be Gloucester’s meadow? Or did he just want the journey to be short and was kidding himself that at the end of it I would have reached the Elysian fields? More likely I would fall across the knife and whether it was sharp or not, it would cut me. I think I had better opt for Gloucester’s meadow, and his sad recognition.
“I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;
I stumbled when I saw.”