I wake up to food being served. Dinner. Once again I’m surrounded by the smells and sights of food whilst being denied any grub. A subtle kind of torture. I do, however, get yoghurt. Strawberry – my favourite. I love strawberry yoghurts. Did I mention that?
I. Fucking. Love. Them.
After lunch my catheter bag is changed. Apparently there was a time when I had a bag for the whole shaboodle, a colostomy, but this one’s just full of piss. Lots of it, warm and yellow.
One of my favourite jokes is talking about how much I love my bag. I do generally have the bladder of a child and it’s really cool to be spared the endless toilet duties. I wouldn’t be able to make them anyway. The tube and bag do it all for me. Going to the toilet is for schmucks!
Seeing as you’re so interested – let me just give you the lowdown on the whole catheter procedure.
There’s a tube coming out my cock that goes to a big bag.
That’s all you need to know, pretty much. Oh, and you can’t feel your willy weeing. Before you know it you’ve filled another bag and you never felt a tickle or a strain. The bag is strapped to my leg like a knife. I’d love to whip it out to thwart a wrongdoing. I could become a masked crime fighter or a super hero – The Caped Catheter!
So, that’s the tube and the bag of wee.
After dinner my parents come. Their visits have improved considerably. For a while they were just visiting a sleeping Dave and beeping, blinking machines. They then paid several visits to kicking, thrashing, angry mute Dave. This Dave is a fairly new development. Admittedly this new Dave does sound very pissed but he’s always got a smile and a giggle. Plenty of giggles.
New Dave is “suffering” from euphoria. It can happen with a brain injury apparently. The poor stranded patient is left finding everything hilarious. And I do. Ridiculously, stupidly, funny.
I greet them with a smile and a laugh. I have a new laugh as well as a new voice. It sounds kind of like a thick henchman’s guffaw. It is deeply, deeply dippy: Yuk Yuk Yuk!
I tell them about a moment when a nurse asked about my discharge. Now, I found this funny at the time and it only sets me off again. For a good four minutes I’m quite, quite helpless. The thing about the giggles is that half way through you realise you are actually quite out of control and for some reason this makes the whole thing funnier. Which only sparks more haw haws and some more and so on and so forth and haw haw haw!
Lisa, a young passing nurse, looks over, “the discharge conversation?”
I nod and gesticulate weakly at her, give her the thumbs up. My parents smile warmly. If this is brain damage then they like this phase.
We play Trivial Pursuit and keep busy. Every time I surprise myself with the odd thing I know. It is weird having no immediate past but being able to remember which Beatle wrote ‘Something’.
Talking about my memory, my parents ask me what I’ve done today. Now, they know the answer but are testing me.
I shrug, puff my cheeks out, “Just sat round all day I guess.”
“No Dave,” my mum says. “You had something, did something? Can you remember?”
“Erm, hang on. Did I have physio?”
“Yes. Well done. But you had something else…”
I’ve got no idea. I cast around wildly, “They x-rayed my head? My catheter bag burst?”
“No, you had Stuart Little. Remember?”
“Oh yeah!” I lie.
That’s my reality at the moment. New Dave finds the world hilarious. Just don’t ask him what made him laugh because chances are he will have no idea. So, on to another big hole in my memory:
“Mum, what happened? What was the accident?”
My mum rolls her eyes. “Not this again. Look, we’ve told you. You were in Eastbourne and that’s about as much as we know. We don’t really know what happened.”
“But someone must have seen something,” I’m confused and flummoxed.
“No, you were just found. We don’t really know what happened.”
And this is all I get, but I will persist in asking. My mum gets a bit flustered, shuffles the Trivial Pursuit cards and says, “Look, it’s your turn for a brown cheese.”
I get distracted and we move on, but this conversation is familiar and whenever I bring it up I’m met by a very thinly veiled agitation.
What happened? None of the nurses seem to know either. What went on out there? What exactly did happen?
We are all, it would seem, in the dark.
I just don’t get it.
Someone must know.
My parents leave (my mum ringing later to say goodnight) and I idly chat with Graham. What’s cool about Graham is that he’s got muscular dystrophy and isn’t recovering from a stroke so he’s good for conversation. He won’t tell you the same thing twice, each time like it’s new news. Then tell you it again ten minutes later. On the other hand: one good joke can last you a long time on a stroke ward. So, he’s good value for money. I can’t vouch for myself though. I do spare him the yoghurt soliloquy.
Then it’s time for bed. We hunker down and the lights go out.
Nighttime is when the elderly stroke patients come out to play. A stroke really messes with your personal clock apparently and the old guys are the ones it hits worse. Ian is surprisingly quiet but its Ashley you’ve got to watch on our ward. This is the man who one night got up (he’s not even supposed to be walking), trundled to the abandoned nurses station, lent across, picked up a pair of scissors and cut his NG tube.
They shout out, call for the nurses for no apparent reason and attempt wobbly legged, midnight staggers.
Tonight Ashley is sitting on the edge of his bed, tensing, looking pretty tasty.
“Ashley!” I call to him. “You should probably get back in bed.”
I’m not there for him. He’s intent on the job at hand.
I press my buzzer, try again…
But he doesn’t even glance up. Here we go. I can’t look. He trembles to his feet and looks about, happy.
“OY NOBHEAD!” That’s Kev, the young stroke victim.
“Sit the fuck down!” This gets Ashley’s attention and he does lower himself back onto the bed.
“Now stay the fuck down!”
Ashley is most definitely told. He gets back under the covers. I smile at Kev and he smiles back. He runs his own building firm, is a real man and for some reason he likes me. He hasn’t got much time for the confused old men or the female physios (and if he hasn’t got time for you, you know it) but I’m a bloke, his age and he thinks I’m funny.
And when he treats you to a smile, you feel honored.
“Fuck sake,” he mutters under his breath and pulls his covers over.
Peace returns to the ward. Just the gentle rasp of snoring. I close my eyes, get comfy. When I say get comfy, I don’t have many options: it’s on my back or on my back.
“Yes?” its Gavin, the rather camp night nurse answering the buzzer.
“Oh it was just Ashley trying to escape again,” I say, and then… “Actually, while you’re here I do need a new piss bag”
I was tempted to put “oh it was just Ashley attempting another midnight flit…”
But that wouldn’t be right somehow.
Ok, this is written from memory. As you can probably guess, this poses a slight problem. An intelligent reader already may not to trust my memory and with good reason, neither do I.
I may get the order wrong by a week or two but there are definite moments that stand out to me. I remember Ashley gingerly tottering to his feet. I remember Kev’s no nonsense bark. Do I remember what was said exactly? Of course not. So its safe to presume I’m improvising most of the dialogue from here on in (not all, some sentences stick with me like splinter shards), you know … trying to capture the essence, maybe adding a little bit of colour.
But the midnight flit thing just wouldn’t be right.
Is it the kind of thing I say?
Well, maybe. I do like a nice turn of phrase.
Would I have said it then?
No, definitely not. And this is what I’m struggling with. How was I back then?
Can I capture it? How, exactly, was I back then? And when I ask that question, one word keeps coming back at me.
I don’t mean in a dense or retarded way. I just mean, well, simpler.
I’ll go into this in more depth but for now lets just say I was simpler.
You got that?
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