Dreadful. Just dreadful. One time Valerie was by the bed and she’s holding on to this arm that’s lying on the sheet beside me and I say, whose arm have you got there and she says, it’s your arm, Harry. Giving it a little squeeze, and saying can you feel that, can you feel my hand and the arm can feel it, but it’s not part of me.
The things they did to me in there. Pushing knives under my skin, a poker down my throat. Cackling while they did it. But Valerie says no that was dreams, no-one was laughing or torturing. They saved my life. My brother Vincent says it’s amazing what medicine can do these days, just amazing. We nearly lost you Harry, raising his glass high.
The dreams weren’t like any dreams I had before. They were all the time and more real than real. I was always looking for something and there was always someone coming after me. On and on and on. Underwater most the time. I swam right up to the pit of blackness. I can’t explain it properly, but it was like myself I was looking for.
It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Only most of it didn’t happen.
I try to put it together. I start with getting flu, and I remember the ambulance, then it goes into strangeness. Voices, snatches of things. I can’t tell anyone about the worst things. Just can’t. Then her face, bright and big as the moon coming down from the sky to hover over me. Cecilia. Really, the loveliest face, pulling me up from dark water. Nurse Cecilia. I see you, she said to me, that’s where you are. I … see … you. Holding me safe in her eyes.
God must have plans for you, says Vincent, on to his second whiskey. I can’t have a drink yet, now, maybe ever. He talks like this to say he likes me, to say he’s relieved. My wife and daughter look shifty when he talks about me nearly dying. He thinks it’s okay cos I didn’t, but they both get this funny embarrassed look and I know then they thought I was going to.
I can’t get from one side of the room to the other without hanging on the furniture. I don’t want to go out and get asked how I am. I find myself looking through the blinds at the empty street and worrying about who’s out there. Like whatever I was looking for in those dreams, well now it’s looking for me.
Everyone thinks I’m a cranky old bugger, that I should be kicking my heels up with joy. Valerie looks like five years have passed in three months. She’s no kicking her heels neither. I’m sleeping downstairs anyway, a bed behind the sofa cos the stairs are hard to manage. I keep the telly on through the night.
Dawn comes down and sits on the bed, squashing into me, but it’s nice. We’re watching The Matrix, I seen it before, but now when I see that boy inside that huge space like the belly of a monster and him and those others with tubes coming out of them. I start to shake. Y’okay? says Dawn. I try a laugh, that’s me, I say, me in the hospital.
And she sits up real straight and says, Dad, it’s the very opposite. Your machines were feeding you, not feeding off you. She’s so sure of what is what, her voice pat pat pat, even though we’re talking crazy stuff.
You’re not in love with that nurse are you? She’s moved her eyes back to the telly. I want to tell her how it was, but how can you? Ach, there were loads of nurses, I say and anyway I don’t love anyone but you and your mother. And Zippy she says, to lighten it up. Zippy’s the cat. And Zippy, I say. And she puts her hand over mine, hiding the bruising and says, be quiet, there’s a good bit comes next.