A Little More About Me
It’s time you get to know a bit more about me. I don’t wish to be coy, dropping these intriguing little nuggets in your lap but, honestly, I think this tidbits process, finding out a little bit more as we go on, this slow reveal, will give you a feeling of how it was for me.
We all have moments in our life where we don’t really know who we are but at this point in proceedings I’ve got the top trump. I really have no fucking clue. I don’t, however, really know how much of a clue I haven’t got.
There is a basic sense of self that I think was largely untouched but outside of this all sorts of stuff was going on. Things were slowly coming back to me. This was often a slow, imperceptible process but it could happen in sudden jolts. Someone could say something casual in conversation, which would bring a host of memories flooding back. Now you have fleetingly mentioned that, I do remember it. And that. And this.
And that and that.
Although, in the eyes of visitors, I am myself (a sort of a fucked up version), I am myself with a difference. I am the cheeky, naughty, rude side of myself on laughing gas. I am a sniggering idiot who can reduce himself to hapless bouts of giggles with a well-timed poo gag. Actually, strike that: It wouldn’t have to be well timed. The mood I’m in, a good poo gag would lead to me being chucked out of a close friend’s funeral. Actually, strike that, it wouldn’t even have to be a good poo gag.
It’s all about context really. If you could see what went before (and you will, in time), what I am now is a glorious surprise. A big joyful jab in the ribs. But that’s just it at the moment. I have this big black hole in my memory. I don’t know what went before. So it is all about context and I haven’t got it yet. So I’m happy. Happy, happy, happy.
Happy to get visitors. Actually, before I go any further I have to go back in time once again. To a moment I don’t remember but a moment that lives on in legend. A moment when I was visited by a work colleague. The guy who does our music. You maybe thinking: what music, for whom? But all in good time. As I said, it’s a slow reveal.
Steve visited on the day I came round. I had largely been a bit of a vegetable or a thrashing, grumpy mute but then, one day, I started to respond, to take things in, to try and talk (despite having a big Tracheotomy hole in my throat), to smile, to give the thumbs up.
Now, once again, it is all about context. My parents had sat through the vegetable days so they were ecstatic when Steve turned up. I had come round! They happily reported that I was sorted. That Dave was back!
So that’s my parents’ viewpoint. Steve, on the other hand, hadn’t seen what had proceeded. So the tubed up, barely conscious, twisted Dave who could hardly speak was a shock. Especially when he had been ushered in by my glowing parents sighting a major improvement.
There was, however, a little moment of light. A moment with Steve that, although I can’t remember it, I just couldn’t leave out. It kind of defines me or at least, who I was. It goes like this:
Steve had recently got a new girlfriend, a stunning musician from Zagreb and was busy telling me about her, not really looking up to see if I was taking it in because I probably wasn’t. He knew what he was there to do though. Talk. Just talk. Dave may not be processing it but just a voice in motion is the right thing to do. Talking is the thing really.
But hang on. What’s this? Dave is there because, after his little tale of the holiday Steve had spent with his new love, I lent forward and engaged. I looked him straight in the eye and with my index finger and thumb, made a circle. And then, with a smirk, I pushed my other index finger through the circle. In and out, in short, sharp jabs. The action and the nature of my grin were quite unmistakable.
It became obvious that I was using sign language. Not the complicated stuff you see in the bottom corner of your TV screen sometimes but an all-encompassing sign language. It became very clear that I was using this system of gestures to make a universal sign. The global and well-known, sign for fucking. A bit of how’s your father? Wink wink! Which is what Steve had been doing. A lot. He hadn’t told me this but I was just guessing. And I think I guessed right.
Steve immediately smiled and still does to this day as he recounts this tale. It’s a good little anecdote but I’m not sure why I’m telling you this really. Because it’s funny seems to be the main reason but there is a fraction of a point as well. I began this section telling you that I shall inform you more about myself. And that has always been a big part of me. I’m a man who, when unable to talk, still managed to talk about fucking, whilst grinning. I am (or can be), very rude. But I think you may have picked that up already. So maybe I’m just telling you that story because it is funny. And sometimes, that’s enough. I think I may have a bit of a strong opinion on that. If something is funny, no matter how wrong it is, or misplaced and rude, if it is funny then that makes it OK in my book. And now I think about it, this is my book. So I can snigger at what I like.
I guess this is the long way round of telling you that I am, or was especially, a smutty little bastard.
When I made that obscene gesture with that big shit-eating grin on my face, Steve knew it was me. No matter how mangled up I was, I was still recognisably Dave. The dirty rotten sod.
I’ve got a few stories like this, when a friend or family member was treated to an observation of mine that was particularly rude or just plain naughty and they sighed with relief and thought, thank God, the old Dave is in there.
At the moment (in the story), what with the reduced inhibitions of brain damage, I am worse than usual. I am Dave – uncut. So if you’re easily offended maybe this book isn’t for you.
But if you like jokes about poo and wee and sex – you’re in!
A little later now (I can remember this): to our second visitor whose presence fills in some of my blanks … for the story and for me in actuality at the time.
I’m visited by Paul. Now Paul has been talking to Steve so he’s not expecting much. He’s heard all about my naughty moment but he’s also heard about how it was bookended by drifting in and out of consciousness. So what he is expecting is a long way from the jovial, goldfish brained Dave who now smiles to greet him.
Paul is pleasantly surprised; it’s his old work colleague. A skinny, lank haired Dave with a voice like he’s pretending (in a non too PC way either) to be retarded but Dave none the less. As opposed to the scary sight of twisted coma Dave, I have become recognisably me. Conversation can get a bit repetitive however. The first thing that I inform him is that I love yogurts. Strawberry especially. Fuck me they’re tasty!
The other scratches in my record are my attempts at pooing and my piss bag. I give him the catheter routine.
“Going to the toilet is for schmucks!” I declare proudly and wave it aloft. “I don’t even have to get out of my chair!”
I then go on to tell him all about my bowel movements, who on the ward has a piss bag too and who can be annoying come night-time.
“Ashley’s a gurgler,” I say, lowering my voice. “Sounds like he’s being choked. And if he carries on like this, it won’t be long before he is.”
Then I lower my voice deeper still and say conspiratorially, “Do you know what happened? It was obviously an accident of some sort, but they don’t seem to know, they are being very … erm … what’s the word? Like the opposite of telling you how it is. Erm… I should know this …”
“Vague?” proffers Paul.
“Yes! That’s it!”
This puts Paul in an awkward position. He pauses, clears his throat then with a flash of inspiration whips out his phone and asks in a bright voice, “Do you want to see some pictures of Griff then?”
“Who’s that then?” And so we discover another pothole in my memory. Griff who?
Apparently I met Griff in the lead up to the accident. But nothing leaps to the fore of my brain. He’s just not there for some reason. Complete blank.
“This is Griff.”
Paul offers the phone optimistically, hoping to jog some memory but I look at the phone with wide eyes, confounded.
“Well, that’s a fat little baby!”
“Yes,” says Paul slowly. “He’s our… mine and Charlotte’s, fat little baby.”
I am at turns surprised, gobsmacked that I’ve forgotten this and also rather delighted at my glorious faux pas.
I giggle that big goofy giggle. Yuk yuk yuk. I can just about form the words, ‘sorry’, which I mouth at Paul behind the onslaught on merriment.
“No, that’s alright,” says Paul looking down at the picture with a smile. “Griff the biff we call him.”
I look again closely at the photo with a big smile and then, “Did I know about this?”
Paul nods slightly and intones “Yeeee – eeees.”
“Oh well, that’s gone. Completely. But hey, great little biffer! I guess this way I get to hear the wonderful news twice.”
“Yep! Lucky you,” says Paul. “You know, I think we’ll knock it on the head now. Let me tell you: two’s more than enough!”
He looks up and although I’m fighting it my head nods once, twice. My eyelids flicker shut and I smile lazily, “Griff the biff!”
Paul can see that I’m drooping. Well, we have been chatting for a whole hour. Like a toddler past their bedtime I am struggling to stay awake. I want to carry on. I love visitors.
This is fun.
Paul tells me firmly that I need a snooze.
“OK Dad,” I say with mock contrition. “Hey, big guy, I’ll see you in about a month.” I am under the illusion that I shall be back at work soon.
“Yeah,” says Paul. “Yeah, right!” thinks Paul. He gets up and leaves, smiling and waving as he does.
I raise a limp wristed wave back, grin and close my eyes.
You’ll notice I said work colleague there. Yep, me and Paul are in an arts organisation together (we started of as a devised touring theatre company, now we do allsorts). We’ve been going since university in various forms but now, as the core artistic directors, just three of us remain.
Paul’s been having a hell of a time because what with having a baby he’s had to run the company virtually single handed because the other director, Esther, has been having a child of her own (while I’ve been lying here dribbling). Her first one, and fittingly enough the next two people to visit are Esther and her new little bundle of joy, Amelie.
Andy Murray passes through Esther’s head when she first sees me. A skinny lad with long curly hair in a tracksuit. The comparison ends there, what with the tube down the cock and the wheelchair. Suffice to say I look different. Not like the old Dave.
I am so pleased to see her that I grin from ear to ear as she carefully sits down. Then its time for a little awestruck silence and the appropriate amount of cooing as I take in this tiny new life (all of six weeks of it).
We chit chat, catch up, I ask her about the birth, tell her about my piss bag, enquire about the babies weight, mention that I love yoghurts, ask after Richard (her partner), tell her about my piss bag (“going to the toilet is for schmucks!”), ask rude questions about breast feeding too loudly and finally get on to how much I love yoghurts. And I do. Fucking love them.
Then Esther does something very sweet. It’s a wonderful moment of friendship triumphing over common sense.
She asks if I’d like to hold the baby. Fortunately I’m more sensible.
“I’d love to,” I tell her. “I’m not sure that’s the best idea though, considering I am quite spacked up at the moment.”
So she does another sweet thing. Proffering the baby forward, she rests her on my knees, all the while supporting Amelie carefully.
I look down at this tiny human and this beautiful little new thing looks back. Looks right at me. Hello there.
And that’s it, I’m off. Not giggling this time but crying. Quite loudly and without shame.
That’s the other thing about my brain bruise. Emotions, when they arrive, arrive big and fast. This takes me and her by surprise.
I am sobbing. And I mean really sobbing.
It’s so nice to see Esther and I fucking missed this. I missed this!
While one of my best friends was introducing new life into the world I was trying to hold onto my own, trying to stop it slipping in to the next. We were both fighting similar kinds of battles but at different ends of the country and spectrum. And I missed this. And it’s not fair. It’s not fucking fair.
But hey, we’re both here. We’re both here now. We still need help and guidance but we made it, we made it.
And just look at her.
And so tears and tears and then some more tears and some tears more…
When my mother hears about this little moment she is heartened. Like the jokes this assures her. Well, it’s good that he’s cried. He’s getting there slowly. Maybe this has opened him up a bit. It’s good to cry. He’s getting there. All in good time. He’ll get there in his own time.