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In the last few years, peripheral neuropathy has inexplicably taken all sensation from her feet, but not enough of her balance to stop her riding her bike.

He grabs her face and squeezes her cheeks and makes a smacking sound with pursed lips. No broken bones, no stents or sutures, no repairs needed to tacky ribbons of veins or arteries.

There’ve been blowouts of course: thyroid, pancreas, stomach. A handful of illnesses have wrought temporary havoc: pneumonia, pleurisy, a rare case of Quinine poisoning that earnt her medical prestige as a research pet.

She’d ease into her favourite pair of suede loafers with the shoehorn her dad whittled for her from deer bone when she was a child.

(After the war, her family had opened what became a thriving shoe shop on Oxford Street.) Unfurling the garage roller-door, my mother would conduct a lap of her front garden, inspecting the leaves of her roses for scale, then stroll the twenty yards down the hill to the bottom of her street.

Leaning over to nuzzle her face, he becomes more animated (or is it enamored? He flaps his hands and lets loose a barrage of barks, slurs and growls. I wanted those legs; wanted the attention they created.

I strain to collect a crumb of language I recognize, but all I hear is gibberish. Even at 80, my mother’s body is still strong – a resilient and efficient machine.

I see the moment she surrenders and allows the word to spin away, out of reach. I swivel to take in the trajectory of her index finger, now stabbing the air in the direction of an overweight woman in a voluminous red dress. She’ll hear you.” “Well, someone ought to tell her how fat she is.” I cringe as the woman pretends not to hear. Sitting on the grass at the local pool, I map my mother’s body against the melange of flesh on display.

Her daisy-chain of neurons no longer transmit at will. One September afternoon, as we trundle her groceries to the carpark, we pass a café where a louche gentleman with slicked black hair is al fresco, drinking wine in the weak sun. “’Allo Joan,” he says, his accent an Italianate drawl. I politely step away to inspect a nearby window display. In brusque exchanges with strangers, even acquaintances, her social filters fail her repeatedly. Is this how my mother feels when conversations swirl around her but fail to penetrate? On a towel nearby, a pair of giant pitted buttocks strain against their hammock of swimsuit.

He’d be fixated on the traffic lights up ahead flicking to green. But now she frets constantly about the minutiae of her life: running out of milk; the whereabouts of her house keys, notating her diary, the insistent flashing light on the answering machine, missing council bin day, her grandchildrens’ names.

With a gentle nudge on his accelerator, he’d flatten the last rise (and my mother), swinging his machine around the corner into Alfred Road just as the lights switched to amber. (Lately, Gabriella and Daniel have become interchangeable with Daniella and Gabriel).

“No man likes a flabby bottom.” (“Do you really need that? The next morning, she recycles the trauma with the newness of yesterday. She cannot remember how to dial out or accept a call. I accept she is no longer contactable once she leaves the house.

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