Susie gazed out at the atlantic. Great waves crashed against the cliffs . A gust of wind caught the girl almost knocking her off her feet. She seemed not to notice, her eyes remained fixed on the wild sea. Unbidden the words came to her
“Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink,
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
As a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
Death lies dead.”
Susie’s salty tears mingled with the sea water which the ever increasing wind blew into her eyes.
“I’m not crying, it’s the sea water making my eyes sting” So what if I am crying? All this will pass and go. Long after I am dead this will remain, the uncaring ocean buffeting the cliffs as it has for millennia. Eventually the cliffs and the surrounding habitations will be claimed by the sea. Out of the sea life came and to the ocean humanity will return.
But I’m 20, I don’t want to die”.
All flesh is dust a mocking voice intoned. Susie whirled around. There was no one save for the gulls which wheeled and screeched overhead.
“Yes I will die but please god not yet. I have my whole life to look forward to” Susie said burying her face in her hands.
“Stupid girl” the voice, like some insidious demon crept into her brain.
“Shut up, shut up” the girl wept sticking her fingers into her ears attempting to silence the tormentor.
“Stupid slapper. Silly whore” the voice said undaunted by Susie’s attempts to silence it.
Doing her best to ignore whatever devil was taunting her Susie reached into her coat pocket. She felt the plain brown official envelope.
“I can’t, I won’t open it. I’ll throw it away. Better not to know”.
“Ignorance is bliss, little miss a coward is” the voice sneered.
“Fuck off, fuck off” Susie screamed. Her words where lost in the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves. Susie became aware of the crumpled envelope in her hands. In her agitation she had screwed it into a ball. How easy it would be to rid herself of the thing. One flick of her wrist and the letter would be lost forever in the depths of the Atlantic.
“Coward, coward” the voice taunted.
With a supreme effort Susie unscrewed the envelope and with trembling hands opened it. Reluctantly the girl extracted a crumpled letter.
“I can’t read it, I can’t” Susie wept. “Why did I do it? God let it be good news. Please, oh Christ I can’t bare it”.
Susie’s mind went back 4 months. She was drunk. She had never been so drunk in her entire life. The thump, thump of the music transported the girl into a world where only she and the beat, beat of the bass existed. She danced wildly letting herself be taken by the music to another realm.
Susie didn’t remember him arriving. One moment she was dancing alone, the next Susie was spinning around in the arms of a total stranger. Later that evening Susie recalled having sex in a cubicle in the gents toilets. Susie thought that she had consented but she had been so drunk she wasn’t sure.
“Christ, no condom. How could I have been so bloody stupid. I went to a good school, got all the right exams and I’m now at uni. I should have known better”.
Susie had gon to the hospital on the following day and had been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
“You have herpes but that can easily be dealt with by antibiotics” the nurse had said.
Susie breathed a sigh of relief.
“You will, however need to come back in 3 months time for a HIV test”.
“Can’t I have that today?”
“The HIV virus can take upto 3 months to manifest itself so any test conducted today would be extremely unlikely to show whether you are, or are not carrying the virus”.
Susie had thrown herself into her studies for the next 3 months. When not studying she partied hard. Alcohol helped her to forget for some of the time but, in the early hours of the morning she would wake up sweating.
“What if I am infected? Christ only knows how many other girls that bloke slept with before we had sex”.
Eventually the 3 months passed and Susie returned to the hospital for her HIV test.
“You can call in for your results in a few days time or, if you prefer just telephone the number on your card quoting your clinic number” the nurse said handing Susie a small slip of paper.
Susie had meant to call. She really had. However there always seemed to be something preventing her from making that call. There had been her friend’s wedding, her mum’s birthday and so, so many other things.
“Don’t make excuses. Of course you could have found a few minutes to make such an important telephone call” the insidious voice whispered in her ear.
“Yes, OK, I could. now fuck off back to whatever rock you crawled out from under” Susie shouted.
Slowly Susie raised the paper to her face.
“Dear Miss Armstrong,
I refer to your visit of 4 July and the test conducted on that date. We have, unsuccessfully attempted to contact you on several occasions. Having been unable to do so I am writing to inform you of the result of your test for HIV. I am pleased to advise that the test is negative (I.E. you are not HIV positive).
Should you have any queries regarding this letter please call the number above and quote your clinic number to the health adviser.
Yours Sincerely “.
Susie wondered idly why doctors signatures almost always resembled squashed spiders. For the first time in many hours she smiled.
“Thank you god. Thank you”.
The gulls screeched overhead, the icey wind buffeted the girl and the great waves continued to crash against the crumbling cliffs. Susie no longer cared. She embraced the storm for it represented nature of which she was an integral part. It felt good to be alive. Susie took deep breaths. The touch of the wind on her face was wonderful. She smiled as her long black hair blew wildly in the sea breeze.
“If you exist god, thank you, thank you” Susie said.