He is caught in a fog of undulating weirdness. There are stickers on his chest and shaved bits where they shaved him. His left arm is a pin cushion. His right arm is numb and the right side of his mouth hangs open. His tongue is dead.
The people in front of him move in and out of his blind spots. Now he sees them, now he doesn’t. When they move out of his blind spots he turns slightly to pull them back in. It’s better that they don’t exist.
He explains to the nurses that he isn’t always like this. Normally, he stutters, I can speak and everything. Normally, he continues, I am witty and clever.
He keeps his eyes closed when they scan his brain. He expects to be congratulated on the quality of his brain. We don’t see many like that: why are you wasting your life?
This, he tells his wife, is how it must feel to be ordinary. You know, without the sharp edges: dull and slow-witted.
They stand outside while he smokes and he can’t look at her. He realises that he hasn’t looked at anybody, straight on, since his collapse. He can’t bear to look at faces.
Can you imagine five seconds? asks the senior consultant. Yes, he replies, I can easily imagine five seconds because I’m not a fucking idiot.
They tell him to stay overnight. Yes, they say, it is noisy on the ward and you will be woken early. But still.
I got your text but I don’t think you should have texted me. You should have texted your wife. Does she know you’re here? What if we’re seen together? What if I talk even louder? That way I can ensure that everyone on this ward wakes up. I’ll shout some things to the nurses. I won’t bother getting up and going over there and maybe whispering. Fuck that. Nurse, can he have some water? Nurse, can he have another pillow? Nurse, what time is breakfast? Nurse, can I stay a little longer? Here, move up a bit. Yes, I love you. Yes. I just said I did didn’t I?
How old are you Albert and how many fingers am I holding up? When did the First World War start? What year is it? Who is the Queen? I mean, who is on the throne at the moment? The throne. Throne. Who is the monarch of England? A king or a queen? How old are you? What year were you born? Can you remember your mother’s name? Your mother. She’s dead now, yes. Dead. A long time ago, yes. Can you remember her name? Your mother. Yes. Dead.
And so I said to him, ha ha, and he said to me, ha ha and we, you know, we went to that new place and, well, you know, I’ll let this phone continue to ring while I finish telling you all about my night out the other night.
We need to take your blood pressure.
That’s it, he says. I’m going home. I need to sleep.
You can’t go home.
I’m going home.
You can’t go home. You can’t go home. You can’t go home. Get back to bed. You can’t go home. You can’t go home without discharging yourself. You can’t go home.
Three security guards implicitly threaten him with violence. We will drag you back to your bed. We will get the police to drag you out of your bed at home and drag you back to this bed here.
I’m off, he says. The most malevolent security guard steps forward, mishearing I’m off for fuck off. Zero tolerance gives him an excuse. What did you say?
I’m off, he repeats. I’m off.