This is all very jolly isn’t it? It sounds like a hoot. And you know, it was. But lets take a moment to remember a few things. I’m still weak. I don’t know it yet but it was touch and go for a while.
I nearly died.
You got that?
I nearly died.
And while I may be, literally, all shits and giggles at the moment my body is still in shock. Still trying to pull all the pieces together. Trying to make sense of what happened. Even if I’m not.
While this is all going on, while I’m so open and vulnerable, other things can decide they want a piece of the action. Other nasty things can sneak in.
One night something does.
I’ve been cold and shivery all day but just before my parents are due to go home a temperature strikes. The staff are busy and it takes a while for me to be seen. Eventually Sarat arrives and plops the thermometer under my tongue. Then, as he pulls it out and looks it over, imagine this: a member of the Carry On team getting some rather unwanted results from a pregnancy test. It is never nice to see such an out and out look of shock and concern pass over the face of the person who is holding the thermometer that used to be in your mouth. Sarat’s eyebrows nearly hit the back of his neck.
He quickly calls for some ice packs and consults a visiting doctor. My parents stand by, wringing their hands. When Sarat returns, my mum corners him outside. She demands to know what’s up, he says they’re not sure but they’re sending me for x-ray.
My mum puffs up to her full 4ft 11inches and treats Sarat to a piece of concentrated rage.
“Well, just make sure you’re doing all you can. We were waiting ages for him to be seen. I’m sorry but we’ve come too far for any…. We’ve been through so much and come so far for this to skupper him now. I know you’re doing the best you can but you make sure he’s looked after probably you hear? We’ve come so far. He’s been doing so well. We’ve come too far!”
And Sarat, when presented with a small angry dose of maternal love/anger does his best to diffuse. Eventually he gets there but he has had to be very charming.
My parents have to go eventually but my mum takes some budging. She holds a hand to my forehead.
“You phone if you need us. OK?” She kisses my hot forehead. Poor old Sarat has to stand by the ward door and do one of those little half coughs.
“Right, we better be making a move,” says Mum. “But you call us if you need us!”
At about 2am I am wheeled to the x-ray. Which is kind of dark and sinister and spooky and cool. The corridors of a hospital at night are very atmospheric. It’s a bit like The Shining and even though I’m still burning up I’m secretly quite enjoying this trip. Why I have to have an X-ray for a temperature I’m not quite sure. Must be serious I guess.
The guy gets behind his lead protector and zaps me. My chest, my lungs, inked black against a bright light.
They could find nothing to worry about and my temperature was gone by the next morning. Mum phoned first chance she got.
This is typical of this time. Here I am, gingerly digging the trip down the eerie corridors while my mum is probably laying awake, worried sick.
It is not clear just how much my parents have been through and you know what? I’ll never know exactly what they went through. When my memory started working again I was giggling. Everyone else was having or had just had a horrid time of it. My memories still pretty wonky so at this point in the story I am a happy idiot who doesn’t know what everyone else has gone through.
As my mum said “We’ve come so far!”
Trust me, ignorance is bliss. I have no idea what’s waiting for me.
Ruth and The Sea
I see her on a hilltop, looking out to the sea. The wind catches her hair. She smiles.
I have been told that Ruth is on a Camino. She went on one last year. A sort of pilgrimage through Spain, to the coast. I made her a collection of songs to listen to as she walked.
In between the songs I dropped in little bits of me chatting and other stuff. One or two of my poems, a comedy sketch I recorded and general ponderings. As I sit here (sometime in the future) writing this, I have just listened to these ramblings again.
Journeys and holidays are the main themes. I also talk about yearnings and ‘spiritual’ journeys and all that hippy stuff. In my defence I do underpin the whole thing with the odd wink or smirk. A particularly moving song runs straight into “Kyle’s Mum’s A Bitch” sung by Cartman from South Park for no other reason than it makes me laugh and I think it will make her laugh too.
Listening to it again, just now, it did make me smile. And yes, I am recognisably myself. A bit poetic, a bit cheeky, desperately self obsessed, the same slightly lost navel gazing guy.
But there are other things that don’t quite match up.
The voice isn’t quite the same. Even now, after all this time, the voice then sounds stronger, higher, lighter …. younger. And when I do make myself laugh …then … now … that’s when things really start to jar.
I still have the henchman laugh, I still have this weird laugh.
Back then I sound great. I was obviously having a good day and I sound happy, healthy. My voice is at its natural pitch and not this slightly lower alternative with its yuk yuk yuk guffaw.
And the things I recount, the memories …. I can remember them but they don’t really feel like mine anymore. They feel like this other Dave’s memories. They are no longer as immediate as they were. It feels a bit like it happened to someone else. As if the guy I’m listening to and the guy I am now, sitting at this keyboard, are … I don’t know … twins? Identical twins, yes, but still two separate people. The same, yet subtly and fundamentally different.
Anyway … I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me just mention one more moment from the recordings. There is an instance on the last section of chat when the doorbell goes.
And it’s her. It’s Ruth.
I gasped. I’d forgotten all about this. I turned it up, leant forward and listened intently as young healthy Dave, laughing and joking all the time, made Ruth give herself some advice for the journey she was about to go on, all those years ago.
She wouldn’t. So I cajoled.
We happily bickered and laughed.
It sounded so … so nice, so natural, so close.
So … gone.
So … anyway lets get back to the matter in hand. Let’s shed all these Daves: the happy healthy Dave of the past, the guy I am now (sitting at this keyboard) and let’s get back, back to the hospital. Back to broken Dave.
As he sits in his hospital bed thinking of a girl on a pilgrimage he remembers that closeness and misses it.
He doesn’t know what’s happened yet and why he can never have that closeness again. But as he sits in his bed, dreaming of a girl in Spain (who isn’t even there), he misses her.
And as I write this, I still miss her too.
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