#LockdownLit: Early Days

TabletsAndrea said to me, our life is too shallow.
I said, define shallow.
She said, when you wake up what do you think about?
I said, what shirt to put on.
She laughed. See?

I said, okay, let’s talk deep.
She said, fine, where do you stand on abortion?
I said, not that deep.
She said, seriously, do you have a view?
I said, why do you ask?
She said, in order to find out.

I went away for two days, working. When I came back Andrea was lying on the floor. She couldn’t move.
I said, Andrea, what happened?
She said, I knew you’d rescue me.
I said, holy shit, how long have you been there?
She said, he couldn’t hurt us because he knew you were coming.
I said, who couldn’t hurt you?
She said, the toilet man.
I said, what toilet man? Who is ‘us’?

In A&E I stayed with Andrea while they carried out tests and took her for a CT scan and then asked her questions about who she was and what day it was and who the prime minister was.
They said, she’s had a stroke.
I said, she’s only twenty-seven.
They said, but the baby is okay.
I said, what baby?

I phoned my sister.
I said, Andrea’s had a stroke and she’s pregnant.
My sister said, what?
I said, which bit is ‘what’?
She said, oh my God.

Andrea was sitting up in bed.
I said, how are you feeling?
She said, he was going to drown me in the toilet. The toilet man.
I said, there is no toilet man. You had a stroke and then you had a bad dream. Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?
She said, I don’t want to drown in a toilet. If he comes back tell him I’m not here.
I said, you’re not going to drown in a toilet.

I phoned my work and told them about Andrea.
I said, I need some time off.
They said, well, you can take annual leave if you like. How much do you have left?
I said, a week.
They said, okay you can take that.
I said, that might not be enough. She’s in hospital and she’s all confused and she can’t walk and her left arm doesn’t work. There’s a lot going on. They use a hoist to get her in and out of bed.  She can’t swallow properly. And she’s pregnant. What happens after a week?
They said, is she a blood relative?
I said, I have a blood relative inside her.
They said, take the week off and then we’ll review the situation.
I said, all I’m saying is, I’ll need more than a week.

I said to Andrea, I’ve brought you clothes, toiletries, magazines, your phone and some make-up.
She just looked at me.
I said, Andrea, do you remember the conversation we had about the A-word? Was that to do with you being pregnant? Are you happy you’re pregnant? Is it what you want?
She said, the nurses put little dogs in their pockets.
I said, they don’t, Andrea. Why would they do that?

My sister said, she’s bound to be confused. She’s had a stroke. Her brain is all bruised. She’ll get better. What’s going to happen to the baby?
I said, it’s going to be born.
She said, I mean will Andrea be able to look after it?
I said, I’m here too.

I went to the ward each day.
Andrea said, I can’t feel my legs.
I said, they’re there, see? Two lovely legs.
She said, what’s this thing?
I said, that’s your lovely left arm.
She said, cut it off, it’s not mine.
I said, you’ll need it to hold the baby.
She said, you hold the baby.

I called my work again.
They said, what’s the situation?
I said, the situation is ongoing. She’s in hospital and her parents are dead and she has no siblings and there’s only me. I read her the news and help her eat and drink, and I massage her arm and legs and clean out her nails and brush her hair. I need more time off, is that possible?
They said, how long have you been with us?
I said, six months.
They said, you need something more flexible.
I said, in what way?
They said, in a job way.
I said, is that an opinion or a policy?
They said, we’ll pay you to the end of the month.

I phoned my sister.
I’ve lost my job.
She said, oh my God.
I said, exactly.
She said, you need to claim support and welfare and allowances and stuff.
I said, this is where it begins, isn’t it? With forms.
She said, hang in there, big brother. You’re going to be a dad.

After six weeks a social worker, four therapists and an obstetrician came to Andrea’s bed.
The social worker said, so Andrea, how do you feel?
She said, I’ve been better.
He said, let’s talk about your discharge.
She said, I can’t help it.
He said, I mean from hospital.

The speech therapist said, you’ve been on normal food for over a week now.
The occupational therapist said, your legs and left arm are unresponsive but you can move your right arm and turn your head.
The physiotherapist said, you can sit upright unaided for fifteen seconds.
The neurotherapist said, there is some minor impairment but your judgement and reasoning are normal.
The obstetrician said, we’ll need to monitor progress but the baby is developing well.
The social worker said, so, that’s all good. Would you like to go home Andrea?
Andrea said, I want my life back.

The council’s finance department sent us a form.
I said, they want to know how much money you have saved.
She said, draw it all out and hide it in the attic.
I said, we don’t have an attic.

Andrea came home in an ambulance. They gave us a bed that could raise, lower, tilt and recline; an inflating mattress; a hoist; a sling; a commode; a wheelchair; and a panic alarm. But the catheter bag was too small and overflowed and we had no pads and Andrea fouled the sheets and I had no bags or wipes or cream.
She said, I’m environmentally disgusting.
I said, it doesn’t matter.
She said, I can’t help it.
I said, it’s okay. It’s all okay.
She said, this is the opposite of okay.

A week later the carers said, we think she has a urinary infection.
I said, what should I do?
They said, call 111.

I called 111 and they said we’re going to call an ambulance.
The paramedics said, we’re going to call your GP.
Our GP said, I’m going to prescribe antibiotics.
I said, good news Andrea. Instead of twelve tablets a day you now have fourteen.

When the urinary infection had gone Andrea said, I want you to give me something to make this stop.
I said, what do you mean?
She said, you know what I mean.
I said, I can’t do that. I’ll go to prison.
She said, I’ll write a note to say it’s okay.
I said, you have our baby inside you.
She said, well give me something afterwards.

I phoned the Samaritans.
I said, I’m drowning here.
I said, I feel like my life is on hold. I don’t socialise, I don’t exercise, I’ve lost my job, Andrea gets food all over her face and all I can do is keep smiling and talk about how good it’s going to be one day. We’re going to have a baby and everyone is excited and wants to know what we’re going to call it and have I painted the nursery yet.
I said, she dreams she can walk but she’ll never walk again.
I said, do you know what happened to me this morning? I hit my head on the car boot getting the shopping out. What sort of God makes that happen? And then all this?
I said, my life is piling up around me.
I said, I can’t breathe.

Andrea said, soon you’ll have two of us to look after. We’ll have to get an au pair to help you. Someone pretty with long legs that you can go out with.
I said, you’re pretty with long legs.
She said, I’m a head in a bed.
I said, you’re not a head in a bed, you’re an expectant mother.
She said, how can I be a mother? I can’t even feed myself.
I said, we’ll find a way.
She said, it will have to be an unbelievably amazingly wonderfully miraculous way. Can you find one of those?

She said, is this what you wanted? This pregnancy? This life? This me?
I said, yes.
She said, liar.
I said, you remember when I found you? You said you knew I’d rescue you. You bet on me. You put your faith in me.
She said, that’s not a reason.
I said, yes it is.

A month later I phoned my sister.
I said, you’re an auntie.
She said, oh my God.
I said, mother and daughter are doing well.
She said, and you? Are you okay? Are you doing well?
I said, I’m fine. I really am. Really. Really really really.
She said, get some sleep.

I said to Andrea, I think our life is deep enough now, don’t you?
She said, yes, we over-performed in that category.
I said, once my biggest worry was what shirt to put on. And now…
She said, and now you wish I’d been flushed down the toilet.
I said, that was a dream.
She said, isn’t this?
I said, it’s still early days.
She said, don’t say that.

THE END


Published:

  • Stories From Rattle Tales Brighton Prize 2017. April 2018. (ISBN: 978-0-9932080-6-5).
  • Not In The Plan. Carers UK. November, 2017. (ISBN: 978-1-5272-1729-4).
  • Artwork: the author.

Author: James Ellis

James is a full-time writer.

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