What I really want is not to die alone. Or a gift voucher.

I’ve been really ill the last couple of weeks, with laryngitis.

It started on a Friday afternoon, two weeks ago. It was the day of the protest against Trump in London. I was at work and my throat started feeling a bit scratchy. I guzzled more tea than usual to soothe it, and didn’t think much of it.

My dad had come to London for the march, and we went out for dinner that evening. By then, my throat hurt so much it was bringing tears to my eyes.

I bought the most expensive Strepsils on the way home, and had a Lemsip and gargled with dissolvable aspirin before bed, but nothing seemed to help.

In the morning, I felt pretty shit, but my Dad and I had planned to go to the Tate Modern, and I didn’t want to cancel.

After that, my Dad went back to the Lake District and I met Andrew in the BFI bar.

We had a nice time, and all the Pimms I drank probably numbed my throat. I felt like I was getting vitamins from all the fruit in the Pimms as well.

Towards the end of the evening, my voice had gone really husky, which, to be honest, I quite liked.

On the Sunday morning, I woke up and my voice had nearly gone. I could only really whisper. Other than that, I felt OK, just really tired.

I was going to a music festival with some friends, and didn’t want to cancel.

I had a great time (I saw Chvrches and Tame Impala), but I couldn’t really speak. I should’ve just been quiet and enjoyed the music, but I kept trying to communicate with my friends in a raspy, shouted whisper. Or I wrote what I was trying to say in the notes on my phone.

On the way out of the festival, I tried to ask a policeman which exit to use.

He said “HAHAHA do you want me to look in lost property for your voice?”

(I texted Andrew and he was thrilled to hear about such a positive interaction between the police and a member of the public.)

The next day, Monday morning, I woke up and felt absolutely fucking terrible. Not only had my voice completely disappeared, I had an uncontrollable cough, a headache and felt exhausted.

I had the week off work. Every day I thought “can I go in and just whisper to my patients?” but every time I whispered too much, it triggered a coughing avalanche, and I just felt so ill.

I must’ve had a temperature because I spent most of the week sleeping and having mad, feverish dreams. I was too ill to enjoy being off sick – the worst kind of ill.

A couple of times I got dressed and went to buy food or more medication, and when I couldn’t speak in shops, I found they treated completely differently, like I was really weird or crazy.

By the middle of the week, I was already feeling pretty miserable. I felt guilty about cancelling my patients at work, stressed about the things mounting up for when I got back, and just plain depressed after doing nothing but cough, sleep, sweat and drink cough mixture straight from the bottle.

I am a bit of a drama queen when I’m ill. I feel very sorry for myself.

I started getting paranoid that my voice would never come back. It was just because I’d spent too much time on my own and had too much time to think. I suddenly remembered a patient I assessed once, who lost their voice and it never came back.

I went to my new GP surgery for the first time since moving, and saw a nice, reassuring doctor who told me he was sure it would come back.

Andrew was very busy with work. He wasn’t on nights, but he stayed up working until 2am one night, and 4am another.

On the Monday, I had texted him saying how ill I was. He tried to phone me but couldn’t hear what I was saying because I could only whisper quietly. In the end I had to hang up on him because I had a massive coughing fit. I got really panicky, thinking I’d never get my breath back.

He didn’t text again until Wednesday morning:

I considered sending various replies

  • I’d love to see you but it’s fine if you can’t come, I don’t want to put you out
  • I feel so miserable, please come and cheer me up!

I really wanted him to come and cheer me up, but not if it was really inconvenient.

But actually, I kind of did want him to come, even it was inconvenient. I felt so shit, I really badly wanted someone to come and cheer me up.

It’s time like these that I wish my family and most of my closest friends didn’t live so far away.

But could I ask that of him? He’s not even officially my boyfriend.

In the end, I thought Fuck it and just texted him two words:

“Please come.”

Then I spent the afternoon wrecked with worry about his response.

When he was leaving work in the evening, he phoned me and we agreed he’d come to mine for dinner.

“Fuck, he sounded really pissed off on the phone.” I texted my friend.

Then I texted him about potential Spanish omelette, and he sent what I took to be quite a shitty reply.

Oh god this is a disaster.

Then, he phoned me again, a bit later, with an update about his ETA. It turned out he had only sounded stressed earlier because he’d been in court all day, and he had only seemed lukewarm about Spanish omelette because he was worried I was too ill to cook.

“Honestly, I can cook for us, actually I’m really excited about having something to do!” I whispered.

After he’d checked a few more times that I definitely felt well enough to cook, and we agreed on that.

I was relieved because he did seem happy to come and see me, after all.

Then, while he was on his way, I started cooking.

When I was chopping the onion, I was pressing down really hard with the knife, as it was a tough onion, and the knife slipped over the onion and into my finger.

Ohhhh fuck!

For a minute, nothing happened, then blood rushed out of my finger.

The thing is, I don’t like blood. I think I’m OK with other people’s blood, and I’m OK if I’m bleeding but someone is with me, but bleeding on my own really freaks me out.

I may be a drama queen when I’m ill, but that’s nothing compared to the levels of drama when I’m bleeding.

I knew from the way the knife went in, it was a deep cut. I saw quite a lot of exposed finger flesh on either side of the cut.

I ran into the bathroom and swept around, like a whirling dervish, trying to find the plasters and freaking out.

In my head, this act lead me to spray blood all over the walls, but when I went back into the bathroom later, I realised there was just a bit of blood on the outside of the plaster box.

It was hard to get one plaster out and separate it from its colleagues, with only one hand, so I gave up and ran back into the kitchen.

I grabbed some kitchen roll and pressed that against the cut, and picked up my phone with my left hand and texted Andrew.

I pressed the kitchen roll against the cut and held my hand in the air.

“Apply pressure and elevate,” my mum always used to say, after going on a first aid course.

I paced around the kitchen with my hands up, going “oh my god oh my god!”

If Andrew was going to arrive any minute, I would have waited for him to take care of my cut, but he was still half an hour away.

I went and got the plasters from the bathroom.

The next part was the hardest, and took a few attempts.

I needed to peel the kitchen roll back off the cut, and put the plaster on.

Every time I started to do this, the kitchen roll stuck to one side of the cut and pulled the cut more deeply open.

“Argh! No!” I kept crying out loud, and pressing the kitchen roll back down.

“OK. I can do this. I can do this!” I told myself out loud.

I took a deep breath and pulled the kitchen roll all the way off the cut, and pressed the plaster down firmly.

“Yes! I did it!” I said out loud.

Then I carried on the dinner.

This whole incident made me feel really happy.

One of the times I feel most acutely aware of being alone, and wish that I had a boyfriend, is when I injure myself when cooking.

When that happens, I so badly wish I had someone to help me be brave and sort out the cut, and then maybe take over the dinner.

Last time I cut myself badly when cooking, it was not long after things ended with the Whippersnapper. I had been out for a drink with my friend, Ruth, and was starving hungry and quite tipsy when I started cooking dinner for myself.

I think I was cutting potatoes when I sliced my finger open that time.

I was so hungry and a bit drunk, and freaked out by the blood, and I so badly wished I had someone to help me sort out the cut, and then finish the dinner for me. (That was the night I went on to accidentally like one of the Whippersnapper’s Facebook photos from four years ago, because one of my hands was compromised.)

A few days later, my parents came down to see me, and I was out for dinner with them and my friend Tess, who also knows my parents really well.

My Dad said, “It’s your birthday soon, what do you want for your birthday?”

Because I’d had a few drinks, and I’m weirdly open with my parents, I said, “Well, what I really want is to not be alone. I want to be with someone so when I accidentally cut myself, when cooking, someone is there to help me and maybe take over the dinner. It’s so miserable being on my own all the time. I just want to know I’m not going to die alone.”

I looked around the table at everyone with their knives and forks, frozen awkwardly, halfway between their plates and their mouths, and added, “or maybe a gift voucher?”

That night, after that dinner with my parents, I was looking on Facebook before going to sleep, and I saw that Rob, my first proper boyfriend, had got married the week before.

This time, last week, not only did I manage to dress the wound and finish the dinner independently, I knew that someone was on their way to cheer me up.

Best of both worlds. Doing it myself, independently, with a supportive hug on its way.

We had a nice evening together. He said the Spanish omelette was ‘brilliant’.

As we ate, he told me all about his day. He had been in court and the case had been jeopardised by someone posting things on social media that they shouldn’t.

“He’s basically been live-blogging the whole thing!” Andrew said, exasperated.

“Live-blogging the whole thing! Ha.” I thought about this blog, and, if it had been a TV show, I would have done an awkward side-eye to the camera.

When we went to bed, we had sex. One of the pieces of advice about laryngitis I’d been given by my GP,  was how important it was to rest my voice.

When Andrew was giving me some oral sex, it was really difficult to stick to that.

Then, on Saturday night, he came around again.

All week, I had been conscious that he hadn’t been in touch very much. Several of my friends said I had probably only noticed this because I had nothing to do.

I think it was true that I was only bothered by his lack of contact because I was ill and bored and miserable. But also, if the roles were reversed, I would have texted him because he was ill and I would want to cheer him up.

We spoke on the phone, on the Saturday morning, and ended up having phone sex. My voice was coming back by then. I was feeling a bit better but still quite fragile.

When he arrived at my flat, later on, he seemed even more world-weary than usual.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

He told me about some police stuff that was happening that he was very stressed about. I told him some CBT he could use to help him worry less over the weekend, and he seemed better after the chat.

Then, we planned to go out for dinner. I was very excited about leaving the house and going out for the first time in ages. Although, we did end up having sex for a while first.

It was a pretty perfect evening. We walked along the river and then had dinner. It was really late by then, and we only just managed to get dinner in time in Pizza Express.

There was a bit of an awkward moment, when, for some reason, I told him the story about how I ended up having sex with one of my former students, at my birthday party, in a room with no door (I missed out the bit about being tied up). It just really fit with the conversation.

“Sorry, I don’t know why I told you that,” I apologised. “Tell me a ridiculous story from your past!”

Then he seemed to feel bad because he didn’t have stories anywhere near as ridiculous as that.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have told you that story,” I said.

He said, no, it was good story, but he regretted not having done more in the past. His last relationship was four years ago, but he only started dating at the start of this year. He lived with his two female friends for about 8 years, and it sounds like being so comfortable there was a barrier to being motivated to date.

I said, “Most of the time, when I was doing stuff like that, I just wanted to be doing stuff like this,” as I held his hand across the table. He looked pleased.

After that, we went to a pub by the river and talked about our past relationships. He told me more detail than he had previously. We talked about how close to marrying our exes we had been.

We talked about how many times we’d been in love:

him: One.

me: hundreds of times! Well, not hundreds. About 15. They didn’t always love me back.

(He told me that the girlfriend he hadn’t loved said he was ‘incapable of love’. I told him that was ridiculous.)

I was struggling with my throat and cough but having a good time. We walked into a small alley and I said, “Kiss me against the wall!”

He did, but then some people walked past, and shouted variations of “Get a room”.

We laughed and carried on walking.

“Imagine if they knew you were a policeman!” I said.

We went back to mine. At one point, we were chatting in my kitchen as I poured us some drinks, and I said, “tell me what you would like me to do differently.” I can’t remember why, but it seemed natural at that moment.

He said there wasn’t anything, but asked me the question back.

I hesitated, and he said, “so there is something.”

I made a pained face, and said, “I honestly didn’t set this conversation up like this on purpose!”

Then I said, “Maybe when I’ve been ill, if you’d texted me a bit more, you probably would’ve cheered me up more than you realise.”

“But I did text! Didn’t I? And I came to see you,” he protested.

“Yes. You did come and see me. And that cheered me up the most. And you did text a bit…”

“…but not enough.” He finished. “I’m sorry you felt neglected.”

“Well, maybe you were just doing what you would want if you were ill. And I can’t possibly expect you to know what I want if I don’t tell you. It’s not a big deal, but that’s the one thing.” Then I changed the subject onto something I don’t like about my kitchen cupboards.

A bit later on he was saying something about himself, and said, “… and I guess me not texting you enough is an example of this…”

I kind of loved how well he took it and how easy it was to tell him.

We ended up talking until 4am. We talked about times we accidentally pissed and shat ourselves as children.

We talked about times we have and haven’t been happy, in the past.

I had previously said, “it used to be that the older I got, the happier I got. But that stopped when I was 27.” (I was 27 when Balthazar died.)

This time, I said, “over the last year or so, I think I will look back on this as one of the happiest times of my life. I mean, I’ve got this flat, I’ve got a feature wall and my fish, I love living in London, I love my job so much, I’ve got loads of friends and my family and I love going out, and I get to do all the things I love, like writing, sewing and running. I can’t imagine it getting much better than this. And now, well, I’ve been having a lot of good sex lately.”

He looked pleased.

Then I told him the thing about how cutting my finger when cooking makes me not want to be alone.

“I know it’s very early days, but it was really nice the other day, cutting my finger and dealing with it on my own, but knowing someone was on their way over.”

We kissed.

5 thoughts on “What I really want is not to die alone. Or a gift voucher.

  1. Another wonderful story. I loved this bit in particular: ” “Live-blogging the whole thing! Ha.” I thought about this blog, and, if it had been a TV show, I would have done an awkward side-eye to the camera.” I still have a good feeling about Andrew. He’s pretty amazing and I’m half in love with him myself 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The universe is back in alignment | Dater Analysis

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