You Would

It was a gift from six years ago, a winestop from his parents. The stop was cork and bore the stains of many red bottles, exclusively red, monogamy. The handle, or, more loosely, the part that would distinguish it from all other winestops, was a porcelain bust of Winston Churchill. Like all busts, this one included the subject’s shoulders, but they had been reduced in width, depth and breadth somewhat  by the sculptor, so that should the whole body have been included, it would, from its precedent, been shaped more like a sausage than a scotch egg. Dimensions aside, the bust was dressed in a jacket with a lopsided bowtie. Churchill’s head was round, yes, it was round, very round, and bulbous, so that, atop the diminutive shoulders, they gave the former prime minister’s depiction childish proportions. His cheeks were swollen, too, compressing his eyes so that they appeared to be staring into the sun. In his mouth was a cigar, halfsmoked, although slightly tapered towards the end, suggesting it had not been smoked at all. And then, like a cherry, his head—and thus the winestop—was adorned with the trademark Homburg hat.
    On some unremarkable morning, when being put away, the winestop was tossed into the kitchen drawer at the wrong angle and the porcelain cigar chipped off Winston’s mouth completely. In its place was a miniature crater, as though Churchill was scowling, sneering almost out the side of his mouth. Now, deprived of his broad, round shoulders and cigar, he could no longer be recognised as Winston Churchill, only an overweight man in a hat looking displeased.
    I am waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle. Once upon a time, I was settled on my sofa in the living room, overstretching its length, curled on my side. The cat had perched on the soft between my ribs and hip, on the heat of my pancreas and kidney. I was watching Rush Hour. Our most sacred moments, incidentally, are shared with films from my teenage years. Every time I laughed, my ribs shook and her too. There were two things I tried to do: stroke her peacefully without thought, and fall asleep. My eyes closed when I did not want them to; the rest of the time, they sought to absorb their surroundings and the chalk-voiced beauty of Elizabeth Peña. The day had darkened, had died, and how serene for us to lie there as the bright lights of the swimming pool and McDonald’sbecame dimmer. All that choked were passing cars; faintly, between us still the air .
    He took me for lunch, he him his whole family. The girls behaved, blonde hair draped over colouring books. Town hall rumbled outside the glass, and, intermittently, the rain fell in great grey sheets. Thankful we were inside. Cutlery politely scraping on plates. He, my brother, and I shared a stack of profiteroles. The taste of Chantilly cream remained some hours later, afraid was I to take a sip of water.
    The results were listed in a poorly formatted table, in an order that could not be discerned. Alphabetical? Sample? Severity? No. Leaning back in the chair to read them once, twice, thrice until they overcame the startle of my situation to turn from something hypothetical into something real. Denied colloquialisms or euphemism, the names were exotic, both complex and convoluted, generous with consonants and vowels, reading like a coastal town in Iceland, or Aphex Twin song. Something in there chimed with the scholarly ambitions I had in my adolescence—before I had ever encountered such microorganisms—leading me to pick apart the components of each word in search of understanding. There were big ones—so to speak—to be wary of: HIV, hepatitis, and then the others, cascading down less dangerously. By the fifth reading I began to understand I was not dying, and on the eighth I recognised that I had tested positive for [redacted]. It almost had the name of a lesser-known dinosaur, one with very few samples excavated, dig sites exclusive to Montana, USA, lived off amphibians and small mammals.
    The smallest amount of something had been detected by a large part of something else. I asked the doctor what the difference was between ‘Negative’ and ‘Not Detected’. She did not write me back, a name something like Clear Penis, but her colleague, another doctor, did—‘In practice, they mean the same thing,’ he said. He did not recognise my fondness for language and he never would. ‘For your purposes, it means you don’t have the infection.’