‘Gosh mate, you look awful!’ I say after the nurse has led me through the ward to his bed at the end. He looks back at me, grey eyes in a grey head in grey skin. The sides of his mouth turn up faintly, and the jaw of the skull opens slightly; he mumbles something. Grey gown on a grey bed in a grey room. There are three plastic chairs next to the large, beeping machines. I take the empty one on the end, next to his girlfriend and his sister.
‘They took some of his blood off to test,’ Ruth, his girlfriend, eventually tells me. Her face isn’t grey, it’s all pink and red and hot-looking around the eyes. His sister looks the same.
‘Alright, Joanie?’ I ask. She looks back at me and does that fake smile people do when you nearly bump into them on a busy pavement; all cheek and no eyes. That, more than anything, makes me feel the worst. I turn back to Jack.
‘Come on mate, lighten up!’ I say, smiling. I move in my seat and the legs of the chair screech across the linoleum floor. He moves imperceptibly and does a thumbs up with his left hand. His thumb is long and thin and reminds me of the American flag on the moon.