Got the letter I’d been waiting on. I’d a quick shifty through it. The NHS Complaints Procedure is a joke. It begins with a lie: ‘we would like to hear from you’ and goes on to tell you more lies. Tells you how to complain. And who to complain to. I’ve not got any complaint about complaining. My complaint is not about the treatment I received but the treatment what is formally termed, in those boxes you routinely tick, ‘my partner,’ received. Now she doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her. She thinks I’m the problem. I should lighten up a bit and be more like her. I don’t tick her box any longer. She thinks she’s been cured, but I’ve never seen her worse.
When I first met Martha we were very much in love, in the way that young people are. We both had the same problem but at different ends of the scale. I was fat and she was thin. You’re probably thinking of Laurel and Hardy. Chuckling because my first name is Stan. I didn’t have a problem with my weight. Neither did she. Other people had a problem with it. A problem with us. I’ll give you a word to choke on—too. Too fat. Too thin. Too much to drink. For a long time I moonlighted as a drunk. I’d get calls from people I didn’t know, or didn’t like much, to come down to their local and hang-out, get drunk. I treated it as a regular gig. Part of me liked it because everybody knew me as Stan the big man. I didn’t need to explain myself, or talk to anyone much. I could mumble into my beer about the latest self-improvement con. People like that. They like to be improved. Every year, like new wallpaper over old, and a lick of paint. A new man. A new woman. Different hair. Not exactly supermodel. Much like the same model. But who am I to talk? I was useful. Like therapy for the price of a pint and a packet of cheese and onion. Get a gaggle of women together and they’d eat me up.
Turns out I’d a self-destructive urge, was a narcissist with weigh issues, hiding myself under a blubber of flesh. I got that from the problem page in Cosmopolitan and quiz for overachievers in Jackie. It was really helpful. It told me to eat less and do more!
One day was much like another. I’d get home and feel hungry for that kind of reassurance. My room is the size of a bathroom, without the shower. But since I lived myself I compensated by eating instead. It didn’t really matter what it was. Put a pizza box down and coat it with Parmesan and I’d happily wolf my way through it and I don’t even like cheese. It’s my taste buds. They’ve all fell away like milk teeth. I don’t want to get too complex, but it’s genetic. I’ve poured that much food down my gob even if I never ate another meal I’d be able to survive on my burbs, for the next twenty years. I needed to clean up my act, but I wasn’t acting.
My mum died. She was helping me out. I got sick not going to the doctor. The doctor sent me to a clinic. You know the kind. They want to weigh you and feed you baby food. I didn’t mind, but the portions were (too) small. Sometimes I forgot that people don’t like to eat. They just want to move their food about their plate like Lego bricks. That was how I met Martha. She had sly blue eyes, with a terrible squint, so she was always looking at you, even when she wasn’t. I chewed food for her and swallowed it. She wasn’t very good at that kind of thing. She overcompensated for being ugly be not eating anything and cutting herself with anything that was lying about. A teaspoon was the equivalent of a butcher’s knife to her. The staff didn’t like her. The patients didn’t like her. I didn’t like her and she didn’t like herself. So we had that in common.
Three years ago we moved in together. We had lots of good intentions and lots of support. We were going to have a baby. We were going to have sex. We were going to kiss. We settled for beetroot sandwiches, which I don’t much like, but you can’t argue with its hypercholesterolemia properties and the mitigation of colonic effects in carcinogenic rats. I chewed for her and I chewed for me. It was like old times. I weaned her off the spoons and the mutilation. We laughed about her only having one eye now. But then she replaced one addiction with another.
She used to be out all day running laps to Balloch and back to keep the weight down. That took about seven hours. She had to have her dose of swimming and aerobics. Housework during the night. I was lulled to sleep by the sound of her hovering and the washing machine going. The neighbours hated her, but she was used to that. It all stopped. They’d found a new tablet. She was a guinea pig.
Martha was cured. She stopped running. Stopped not eating. Dare I say it, she got too fat and a sloppy old cow. Not with me, of course, with other men. She used to good-naturedly josh me about it after she moved out. When she visited I left all the tea spoons within striking distance. I weaved rope twisted into a helix resembling a noose in case she felt that urge to test herself. Fat people as we all know are always happy. She laughed at me. Told me the news. Pregnant. I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances. Offered to marry her. She laughed. Not seen her since.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for her. My complaint is about the affect these new drugs she’d been prescribed will be having on our baby. It might not be mine, but I like to think without proper testing it might well be. I wrote and asked them to stop giving her those tablets. What about the side-effects? They didn’t answer. Refuse to answer. I’m going to write to them again. I’m phoning their office tomorrow. I refuse to be side-lined. The newspapers, the media, need to be informed. I’m going to start a blog online. I’m tweeting.