December 2017. I arrived in London early in the morning after an overnight flight. I found my way to the train and then to Paddington Station where I hopped in a taxi. Susan had flown over days before to see her son, Nathan, perform in a wildly successful circus spectacle. My taxi driver took me to Susan’s hotel, situated on a side street in the West End. The driver let me off and pointed down an alley. I texted Susan along the way, and she came to the lobby of the hotel to greet me. I was so excited to see her. Goddamn, she was beautiful. Her eyes bright, her smile big. I guess she was happy to see me too.

Susan, at the Aldwych Theatre before one of Nathan’s shows.

We took the lift up to the 5th floor and meandered through a corridor that took us inside and outside and finally inside again. Susan opened the door to her room. The door swung only halfway open as it struck the bed. She led me in and closed the door. The bed touched three walls of the room! At the end of the bed was an opening to the toilet and shower. There was a tiny writing desk with a pull-out stool. Susan had stowed her luggage under the bed. I did the same with mine. The room itself was perhaps 10 feet by 8 feet. The wall at the end of the bed was plexiglas and light from the only window spilled into the room. I hung up my coat on the back of the door. We embraced and kissed.

It had been about eight months since Susan had her surgery and her diagnosis. She had managed 4 1/2 rounds of chemo before stopping in mid-July. The chemo halted the disease progression. Her hair had started to grow back. She had about one or perhaps one and a half centimetres of hair. And oh my, it was as soft as the down on chicks. And her hair had this tiny white speckle on the tips. During our embrace I recall putting my hand on the back of her neck and holding her, running my hand up to her head. She curled into me, I felt like I was her nest. It was morning, so she took me to her special breakfast location. A five-minute walk from the hotel room along streets and turns and a corner where five or six streets met, we entered a courtyard. Organic, vegan, vegetarian, bakeries, perhaps four or five places to choose from. I ordered porridge. And oh my, do the Brits know how to do a porridge!

Susan and Roy, and the purple scarf Susan knit for me.

Our intimate time in London was splendid and reminiscent of olden days. Susan was in stable health and not only had her hair grown back a little, but her entire body had recovered to a familiar form and certain strength. We walked streets, and were happy that Londoners like to sit outside as much as Montrealers, as there were numerous coffee stops at tiny outdoor tables and lovely tea-time cakes to eat. We visited museums and art galleries and saw a choir sing in an old church. But it was the time spent in the hotel room that we cherished. Our intimate hours in that bed were dreamy and chimerical. We wrapped and curled our bodies into each other and Susan felt strong enough to surrender into those moments without protecting her tummy. It made me cry a little, such beauty, such wonder. And for those days, there wasn’t any cancer, any terminal diagnosis, any ticking clock. Just Susan and Roy and the afternoon light drifting in through the window. Two lovers on a bed in a tiny room in London, December 2017.

This was penned earlier this year (2019) from my diary notes.

About Roy Cross

father, professor, filmmaker, writer, alchemist.
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