There's a constant whir in the background. Quiet beeping from some machine near my bed cuts in rhythmically. Beep-pause-beep- pause-beep. You get used to it, after a time.
Occasionally the sound of muffled voices from the hallway; perhaps the clatter of a distant bedpan being dropped or kicked or batted about. I try to read to pass the time, but it's difficult: I'm either in too much pain, or I'm too drugged to focus for very long. I keep expecting him to walk through the door, but he never does. Somehow, I'm not sure if I'm happy about that or not, though I very much know I shouldn't be. Still, for all that he could anger me, it seems I've come to look forward to our occasional conversations.
One morning, startled from such introspective thoughts, I look up a little too eagerly. It is only the nurse coming in to check on me. She leaves a small card on my bedside table before she goes.
Being asked to manage Liverpool Football Club was a great privilege, it begins. Any manager would be honoured to manage a club with such an incredible history, such embedded tradition and such an amazing set of fans.
"Well, I mean, that's nice of you to say," I say, "but given how bitter things got it's hard not to wonder if talk like that is entirely honest."
Liverpool is one of the great clubs in world football, it continues. I have, however, found the last few months some of the most challenging of my career. I am very sad not to have been able to put my stamp on the squad, to be given the time to bring new players into the club in this transfer window and to have been able to be part of the rebuilding process at Liverpool.
"It certainly has been difficult for all of us. Maybe, if this is your way of saying goodbye, then that's best for everybody's health and sanity. Still, don't know how sad I'll be that any stamp you might put on the club will be kept to a minimum."
The club has some great, world-class players, with whom it has been a pleasure to work and I wish the entire squad well for the rest of the season. I thank those with whom I have built up a close working relationship at the club for their loyalty and support during very testing times.
"Even now you're doing it," I say, sighing. "One minute you need time to make changes and leave your mark, the next minute the current squad is world class. I wish you could have at least understood the problem with that sort of talk--even if it wouldn't have made you the right choice long term, at least it might have made things a little less painful in the meantime, if you could have said the sorts of things people wanted to hear."
And finally of course to the Liverpool fans, it finishes, your passion and dedication to the club will see Liverpool at the top of the game once more. While I thought of coming by to tell you all of this in person, it seemed better to send a note and hope that nothing in it would upset you too much. I don't know that I did enough to cause you to react as you sometimes did, but once it became clear that that's how things would go, I should have taken that into account. In any case, while there's always more to say, sooner or later you have to accept there's no good to be found in trying to keep on saying it.
So goodnight, and good luck,
I put the card down. It's over, yet things seem unfinished; so arbitrary. I suppose endings usually are. They rarely have the good grace to wrap themselves up in a neat little package, a contrived finale, or a grand and meaningful denouement. When things have gone so badly and finally do come to an end you're left to try to accept, learn what you can, and move on without becoming tainted by any lingering bitterness.
"I may not miss you as manager," I say, "but, in spite of everything, I think I might just miss talking to you."
The room is silent aside from the quiet beep and whir of constant machines. Deep down I know I'll never speak to him again. And I know that that's a good thing.
The Complete Tuesdays With Roy
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 1
A famous draw against Utrecht leads to our first meeting, with bonus head trauma
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 2
A bad result against Blackpool leads to Ed's attempt at psychoanalysis, which doesn't end well when Roy falls back on his 35 years of experience
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 3
After a couple of average results, we try to work through the excitement over meeting lowered expectations with little success
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 4
With results turning sour again, we have a fundamental disagreement over hoof and hope football before more head trauma and a Blade Runner moment
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 5
After defeating West Ham, Roy tries to talk up the potential for a resurgence, but this time around skepticism reigns supreme
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 6
A bad defeat at Newcastle leads to a mental breakdown and, potentially, the functional end of our already rocky relationship
* Tuesdays With Roy, Part 7
The horror of Wolverhampton confirms that all is lost, but with Roy unwilling to break things off on his own, desperate measures must be undertaken to end the poisonous relationship once and for all