“Excuse me,” says my new neighbour as I lock up, shivering in the night air. “Do you live here?”
I squint through the glare of the front yard light while my mind explores what else I could possibly be, locking a front door behind me at 10pm. A very confused burglar? A very clever burglar?
“I’m the tenant, yes.”
“Hi. Uh, sorry about this, but the fence in the back garden has a hole in it, and I think my dog has been getting through and…well, let’s just say there’s going to be shit out there.”
I fight the urge to ask him what he was going to say before he mentally edited it. “Oh, that’s okay. I take it he’s not still….? Right. Well, that’s fine. We’ll keep a careful eye out when we mow the lawn…”
He looks relieved, grins and goes inside his house. I stand there for a few seconds, finishing the sentence in my mind.
…and anyway, I might not be around for a while.
The pavements glisten and the air smells of rains past and rains to come. I get into a comfortable walking rhythm, burrowing my hands deep into the pockets of my fleece. The pain’s still there. Still as bad as ever. Still worse than it’s been for weeks. Occasional molten stabs of agony make me stumble. I should have called a taxi.
I’m heading for the hospital, and I don’t expect to be leaving it for some time.
First a bad cold, lingering for weeks before lifting one day like a theatre curtain to reveal a dull ache in my lower abdomen, uncomfortably close to Certain Regions Of The Anatomy. I Google, I fret, I call on the doctor – he gives me antibiotics. If it’s viral, these won’t work, he admits with an ironic grin. I suddenly realise how Dr House’s patients feel when he’s applying the scientific method. Bugger that – can I take the thing that will actually work?
But fourteen pills and 7 days later, I’m still uncomfortable.
I book another appointment. It’s for Thursday. On Tuesday, somebody runs me through with a bayonet. It first happens at work while I’m serving a customer, forcing me to hunch over the cash register like a miser. Throughout the rest of the day, my invisible assailant stabs me just below the navel with a variety of blades of increasing size. The last one, around 4.30pm, feels both hooked and serrated. Far more worryingly, I seem to have stopped passing water. It appears I am in real trouble.
Due to meet my aunt for dinner, I instead stagger to meet her at the NRM and wangle a lift home. I’ll be okay, I assure her. If it gets any worse, I’ll head to the hospital.
Twenty minutes out.
I have everything I need in my rucksack – enough for a few days in a hospital bed. Does my phone have enough charge? DAMN. At least my Kindle battery is full, that’s something. Should I ring people now or later, when I know more? Will I have long to wait? Will I be in a side-ward or one of those hospital beds where you can hear people coughing at all hours of….SHIT, I left my earplugs at home! Well, that’s truly craptastic of you, Mike. Is it too late to turn round? It’s too late to turn round. Get a grip, man.
I’m crossing the road bridge, heading into Clifton Green, when I realise something unsettlingly weird. I’m actually enjoying myself here.
I’m sat in Accident and Emergency, and the sense of fun hasn’t fled me. I’m sat there, periodically racked with pain, facing an uncertain future – and I’m thrilled.
Oh God, I think, I’m a sado-masochist. I’m a freak. After this – if I get through this – it’s rubber balls strapped into mouths and crocodile clamps on the nipples, Anne Rice and Basic Instinct, and the inevitability of a police raid that finds me trussed like a fowl at Thanksgiving, shrieking as someone flogs me with a flexible vacuum cleaner hose for £50 an hour.
But no – it’s not any of that. I recognise the true source of my glee. I’m not enjoying the hurt, or the dread. It’s enjoying the now. Every adventure starts this way – the future dimly-lit, everything shadowy and uncertain and impossible to truly prepare for until it’s upon you. Then it all kicks off, and you don’t have the time to be afraid. Your heart is in your mouth and survival is all about awareness. You’re gloriously, intoxicatingly here. Even if here is kinda crappy, that’s an improvement on a mind so starved of novelty that it keeps straying into your imagination – like a dog that doesn’t respect garden fences.
That’s what I’m feeling as I wait to be called.
And I’ve missed feeling like this.
White Cell Count:
Probably kidney stone.
Patient needs to drink more water, in hope of flushing out.
If symptoms continue for longer than week, scan to confirm and progress with ultrasound treatment.
Spot pain management via co-codamol – prescription issues.
And for god’s sake, someone wipe that smile off his face, please.