At ten years old a teacher told me not to cry; it would only make things worse. When tears still came, mother warned that crying was for losers. My father suggested something much more serious; sobbing would mark me out as a sissy. I soon learnt how to be much more dry-eyed.
Such discipline seems to have abandoned me of late. I have lost control. I tell myself that everything will be just fine when I’m out of this hospital. But it’s a strange thing, this crying. I never quite know when it will start and what brings it on. It’s so much easier with everything else. Cause and effect. The big white tablets make me vomit, the brown ones induce coughing and the sweet tasting syrup brings lethargy so profound I have fallen asleep on the lavatory. Twice. But it is not all bad news. The little yellow pill triggers sustained erections of more than an hour at a time.
The doctor arrives and yanks the curtain back to give his entourage a better view of my bed. He informs me that there has been a rapid deterioration of my lungs but is more concerned with my low mood right now. I tell him it’s not low, though he decides that it most definitely is. “Well let’s just say you’re getting a bit upset then shall we?” he sighs, before raising his eyebrows. He recommends 50mg of Seratine to start immediately and 2mg of Diazepam as and when required. This, he says, should improve my state of mind. Sister busily scribbles in a file and then taps the pen between her teeth when all is complete. “Any questions?” asks the doctor briskly, though does not wait for a reply.
The entourage shuffle a few paces to the next bed and frown. A lung drain is bubbling, and that, says the doctor is not good news. Not good news at all. “So exactly what are you going to do about it then?” asks a woman who is busy re-arranging the contents of a locker. The doctor snaps that the treatment plan will be reviewed when they have a better picture. “Well we’ve been here a week now,” she contends, “and picture or no picture, I can see he’s not a good colour. And I’m Denise, his wife by the way.” Her husband places his hand on her arm and tells her to leave it. “You might not be disturbed by all this, but I am Graham,” she barks. A nurse comes by and whispers something into the doctor’s ear. He announces that they will have to leave it for now; he is required elsewhere.
“I meant what I said about your colour,” she sniffs when they are alone. “Saying that, just look at my roots. There’s no hairdressers at this hospital. There’s a burger bar and a paper shop but nowhere to have your hair done. I phoned that mobile one last night and you know what she said? She said she wasn’t really that mobile. On account of having no transport. So I said, well you can use my ‘Pifco’ if that helps. This is what you’re up against.”
Graham is not only a bad colour, but also very tired and closes his eyes. Denise announces that there is no point her staying on if he’s going to do that. “This is part of the trouble,” she sighs, “There’s me, all upset and you don’t seem the least bit bothered. And it’s me that’s going to have to pick up the pieces.” Graham says he’s sorry; really sorry. But she leaves him on the bed without saying a word, with the chest drain bubbling.
He must have fallen asleep, because the nurse asks him three times if he would like cheese and pickle or a ham bap for tea but gets no response. “Ham bap it is then,” she mutters before setting the plate down so abruptly, it spins on the bed-table. Opening his eyes, he ignores the bap and glances over to my untouched supper. “You’ve had a good sleep,” I say, “help yourself to this sandwich if you can eat it.” He shakes his head and tells me he hasn’t been asleep and isn’t hungry. “I’m trying to imagine what it’s like not being here; not living anymore,” he murmurs.
When the lights go down, sleep seems far away. I think about what my neighbour has been silently contemplating and begin to feel my eyes prick with tears. I tell myself this will only make things worse. The ward is full of men who are not crying; tears will mark me out as a sissy. But the tears still come and I cannot stop them. So I take the tablets and hope that the morning will bring an end to it. But just now, I pull the curtain around my bed and let myself cry amidst patterns of flat daffodils that soon begin to float in a murky blue sky.
© 2019 nigelhurlstone.art