I have posted this before, but because it’s 26 years today since my beautiful friend Ineka died, I thought I’d do a re-post. She deserves it. I was 10 when Ineka died and my life changed forever. There’s so much to write about Ineka, but here’s just one story.
I have always been captivated by books, and reading was something that was hallowed. It would tug on me – an exquisite pull moving me away from wherever I was, which was for the most part, a place where I did not want to be.
Two books that have lingered are ones that Ineka recommended to me – Colin Theile’s ‘The Undercover Secret’ and Louise Fitzhugh’s classic ‘Harriet the Spy’. Reading was better than prescription medicine; better than physio, artificial feeding or being tipped on a bed until you were all but hanging like a bat with your feet hooked under the mattress so as not to smash your skull on the headboard.
I became Harriet.
I even created my own spy route. I found myself a reporter style notebook and a magnifying glass, wore a long olive green vinyl coat and a Fedora tipped to the side. With my coat, my awkwardly tipped hat and my notebook, I’d walk around the neighbourhood writing everything down.
And yes, everything was suspicious. Everything and everyone.
Reviving thoughts of Ineka is something I do well. She would read after the lights had been switched off. Some nights were more savage than others, not leaving any of us with much of a chance to settle after what could have been a traumatic day or night with a friend dying with just the curtains drawn; half a dozen missed cannulations, being held down on that plank of a table in the treatment room or a run in with the Matron. Just ‘being’ with whatever thoughts and emotions that seemed to attack our senses. Then, ‘lights out’.
Long after we had been told to scramble into our beds, Ineka would bide her time until all the beds in E cube were silent. Then she would wait to hear the gaggle of nurses up the other end of Turner Ward, gossiping and writing in charts at the triage desk.
You wouldn’t see Ine because there was nothing of her, but you could hear that rattle in her breath. Some nights sleep wouldn’t come to me easily, and so I would observe her. Inked read by the window, her only light being thrown down by the moon and the lights from outside the park. The shadows of the rusty and ailing old bus in the park could be terrifying come night time. Once when my cousin was visiting, he fell off the top of the bus and snapped his leg in half. By daylight, it was a welcoming place where you could go to cry, and I did that many times with Mum.
And so, everyone would sleep and I would watch Ine read.
I wouldn’t have been older than six or seven, yet I still hold dear her silhouette – a little girl with a curved back, cradling the spine of a book in her hands, shaking from ventolin; her neck tipping back and forth gasping for breath. The shape of her face, that curve in her back bones, her thick, dark blonde bob – her purpose authentic. Ine knew she wasn’t long of this earth, as did the nurses. Really, it was like she was dying all her life.
So why couldn’t they just let her read?
The older I get, the more I know, the less I understand.
This is the song Ine chose for her own funeral. It’s a song I couldn’t listen to for many years after we lost Ine … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkI-B2JWSZI