Stories from the Single Track

All You Need is Pizza

At the current time of writing, I only have one needle stuck in me. I had two needles and an epidural, this time yesterday. In addition to the one needle, through which various substances are introduced into my bloodstream at certain points of the day, I also get another needle in my arm for blood tests, and one in my stomach to prevent any blood that hasn’t been removed for testing and makes it as far as my legs from turning to clotted cream.

I’m wearing a pair of compression socks for the same reason. They are not as cool as my 2XU ones. But I’ve paired them with an open-back, light cotton robe. As far as fashion goes, I am very à la commode.

The reason for all this is a gurt big hole that was dug in my side to remove a piece of bone that mysteriously voted to leave the rest of my ilium, and subsequently died. And then became infected. And was finally extracted, ostracised, and destroyed. Let this be a lesson to you, Brexiters…

No one knows why it did this. Or why it took so long for me to get it treated. Or why there is a woman in a neighbouring room on my ward who keeps shouting “help me, help me”. Or why hospital food, just, in general.

It’s well past midnight. The baseball finished hours ago, and I have been decoupled from the drip for at least 40 minutes. I should, by all rights, be asleep. But I’m not. Maybe I’m too excited about being able to use the toilet unassisted – or at least to walk to the toilet unassisted, and then hope gravity can do what my core muscles cannot – which, if we’re honest, is as close to the same thing as I can hope for right now.

Or, more likely, it’s because this bed is uncomfortable, I’m sore everywhere, it’s too damn hot, I’ve been sleeping an hour at a time through the day, and I’m starving.

It is the next day. I slept occasionally. Woken up frequently by the wrong kind of poking.

Hospital food is like a drug. You spend half the day waiting for your next fix, even though you know you’ll regret it, and then spend the other half hating yourself for needing it. But you’ll happily go through that same self-loathing tomorrow, just for another mouthful of lukewarm, turkey-flavoured cardboard. You pass from self-hatred to wanton cravings without even realising. It’s dehumanising. Particularly when you consider that not even Oliver Twist would have gone back for seconds.

They forgot my apple this morning. Guess that means I’m due a visit from the doctor. I would have asked someone for it, but my strength had been sapped and my jaws cemented by the bowl of Ready Brek I’d just forced down. 

I have recently discovered a portion size selector on the menu though. Like a monkey who’s just found the keys to the banana plantation, or a dope fiend who’s just found a lost £50 note, I eagerly selected the large check box.

It probably won’t change anything. But by lunchtime I’ll be too hungry to care.

To make matters worse, I spent six hours on the recovery ward immediately after my op with an incredibly nice nurse called Margherita. Although if I’m totally honest, after speaking to her, Pizza was the last thing on my mind. (Well, OK, the second thing on my mind. Pain was third. It was a short list.) I didn’t even make ‘the’ joke to her. I felt quite proud of myself for thinking of ‘the’ joke, and then more proud for not using it. She’s probably heard it numerous times before. I made it on Facebook instead.

I was fairly civilised and polite. I thought, in my woozy and semiconscious state, that any attempts at flirtatious humour would only leave me looking idiotic. I was probably only stringing two out of five words together successfully, which is almost two fewer than usual. Besides, no one looks their best after surgery, and she’d seen, well, most of me. And she hadn’t even bought me a drink first either. She did fetch me some toast, though I’m not sure that counts.

So I limited myself to simple, restrained, helpful conversation, lightly sprinkled with jokes, served with a side of questions, and topped with the fear of embarrassing myself.

As she left at five, or just after, she said – unless I imagined it – that maybe we’d meet again, not in recovery, hopefully, but maybe out in Oxford sometime. I effused garbled gratitude, still somewhat off my trolley, and collapsed back into bed, awaiting whoever was going to attempt to replace her. I was in recovery for a few more hours, but it wasn’t the same.

It dawned on me, sometime later, that as I’d probably crossed the line between comprehensible conversation and awkward drivel anyway, I might as well have just gone all in and proposed to her. But then, it’s hard to blame it on the drugs when the person involved knows exactly what you’re taking.

So that adventure fizzled out, and as yet another lunchtime approaches has just left me longing for pizza.
Cheese and tomato.

Not in a metaphorical way.


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