There is a false dawn when you wake up on a sunny morning after a skinful of beer the night before… It comes just before you move a muscle. You eyes open on to the bright sunlight which is streaming through your window, and you feel great, how good it is to be alive! This feeling lasts a nano second, because you then make the mistake of moving your head. Big mistake! The room, you discover, is still defying the laws of physics, and spinning around in a crazy Alice in wonderland way. So you shut your eyes again… Another rookie mistake! It is not the room doing somersaults, it is your brain! Your cerebral cortex is completing a spin cycle you didn’t even know you’d started.
Then your stomach joins in. You start those hiccuping movements… like a dog with a bit of bone stuck in the back of the throat… And you know you are going to be sick. The next question is: can you reach the bathroom in time. You jump out of bed…(big mistake – you left your brain in idle mode), step in the sick on the floor from the previous night, slip and fall. And as you fall, you spray the wall with an arc of vomit, reminiscent of Jackson Pollack. Then you just lie there. Sick everywhere, dry retching on your back like a perch that has just been pulled from the river… One hand on your head, the other on your stomach. Under normal circumstances your mum would usually be beneficial at this point. she would hear your plight, would bring a cup of coffee, alka seltzer, a towel… an argument or admonishment… But not on this day, on this day she is 3000 miles away in Italy with the rest of your family and you are quite alone. Alone and safe to wallow in the detritus of your stomach and your life.
I’d like to say that having been sick, this early version of me, immediately got up, cleaned up and generally took care of business… Like to, but can’t. This version of me, poor sad young fool, promptly fell back to sleep, right there on the floor, in a fetal position, only occasionally grunting as a movement brought more pressure on his solar plexus to emit more contents from his stomach.
So, two hours later, when the urgent sun had slipped over the roof and away from my window, I awoke again, on the floor, this time with the pressing need to evacuate my bladder. This time, I made it to the bathroom. Having Peed, I made the mistake of looking in the shaving mirror over the sink. I looked like I felt. I dipped my head under the cold tap and swallowed a gallon of good cold water. I gingerly lapped some of the water over my face. I was alive, in a fashion, and had an endless lonely weekend stretching before me. No Kate, no family, no work, no sport, it being summer, and no thoughts on how I would spend the next 48 hours. Obviously, I was never going to drink again, that was a given.
It is amazing how big the house suddenly feels when you are alone in it. With the sudden crush of parents and brother are removed, it feels like a big aching chasm with nothing to fill it. It doesn’t matter where you place yourself, you just don’t seem to fill the void.
The obvious place to occupy would be my bedroom, I could listen to music, play my albums, on my space age music centre, bought in a moment of inebriation, from a work colleague, renowned as the local Shylock, who happened to catch me at a moment of weakness, and offered exorbitant h.p. rates on a 2nd hand radiogram at shop prices.Money management was never a strong point! I ate some food. Hastily scrambled egg on toast, which of course made me feel sick again. I drank coffee. I drank some more coffee. I went upstairs with a cloth and a bowl and tried to clear up the sick. I don’t really do sick. In effect cleaning up sick makes me sick. I cleaned, I gagged, I cleaned, I retched. I ran to the bathroom and deposited my breakfast back into the toilet. I took a towel. I wiped up the remainder with the towel. Then I shoved the towel in the washing machine. I drank more coffee. I noticed a letter on the door mat. It wouldn’t be for me, I guessed. I didn’t get mail. I hadn’t had mail since 1969, when I had a penpal from Leeds. I went to see who it was for anyway. My heart sunk. The letter was in a hand I recognised.
Dear John, blah blah blah.
Upshot. Don’t want you any more.
I was angry. Upset? No angry… mostly.
I went upstairs to my old Imperial typewriter. I had wanted to be a writer since I was 11, and my dad on had bought me the typewriter for Christmas in 1974.
I tried to compose a pithy letter back to Kate. The anger and the tears, ok, yes there were tears, made typing difficult. I was smashing down the keys with heavy thuds until inevitable the keys got jammed. I tried to disentangle the keys which had jammed in my ham-fisted angry way and promptly sliced the top of my right thumb off. Joy of joys.
Blood now gushed forth. What to do, what to do? The A&E dept was a mile away on the other side of town. There were no Doctors open, it was the weekend… Band-aids. I found gauze and band-aids ( plasters). I wrapped up the injured digit as tightly as I could, and looked for another towel to clean up the blood. It found it’s way into the washer. One day on my own, and two towels down already! As the family had taken most of the towels away on holiday with them, I would have to be careful with the thread-bare towels now left in the airing cupboard. Use them Judiciously, or face the wrath of the washing machine. This was a taboo implement which no man had,at that time, ever encountered. No, I would use the rest more sparingly.
(to be Continued)