The Long and Spectacular Life of Agnes Magnusdottir 3
The nurse’s soft Irish accent put me in mind of Ken Doherty the snooker player.
All throughout my childhood, right up to my mid-teens, I had been a huge snooker fan. Being left quite alone so often I had spent whole days and weeks watching balls being knocked around the baize. This obsession had only stopped after a number of my close friends had questioned me quite intensely as to why I wanted to spend so much of my free time, in effect, looking at men’s arses.
Did I like that kind of thing?
Didn't I think it perverse?
And before I had had time to defend myself, and what in all honesty could I have said when confronted with this onslaught, David, my closest friend at the all boys Catholic school I attended, had dropped the back of his trousers while two others of our little gang had bent me over and held me in such a position that my face was pressed tightly against the seat of David’s underpants. Like this they had proceeded to march me around the school, rather as if I was the backend of a pantomime horse only without the costume.
And from that day on it only got worse. It was bumholes for breakfast, lunch and tea. I could barely enter the school grounds without being assailed the upshot of which was I became a medical textbook case. PTSD as a result of arses.
What chance did I have in the world? My father, the famous explorer. Me, potentially hospitalised by a inopportunely spied moonie…
It was the start of my downfall. Another one.
“You might feel a little prick.”
Smiling in that way that people of her profession do the nurse put a plaster over the spot where blood was beginning to bead up and, before pulling across the plastic curtain of the cubicle I had been escorted to, she told me the doctor would be with me presently.
“And the psychiatrist.”
There must have been something in my face because she said.
“It's nothing to worry about. It's standard practice in suicide attempts. Or suspected ones. In your case it wasn't clear.”
I had a dream then although I wasn't even sure I was asleep. It must have been the drugs I had been given. I was dead and Zara was at my funeral. It was beautiful. There was a choir made of angels, massive bouquets of lilies, a coffin fashioned from the most exquisite polished wood. Zara stood before all those gathered there. She said what a wonderful person I was, how much she had loved me etc. etc. etc., she actually said ’etc. etc. etc.’ and then she said, having looked down at her notes and looked back up, that she knew, me being the kind of person that I was, that I wouldn't want her to be on her own and to waste the rest of her life. Then she said how lucky she was to have already met someone else. They were very happy. She was expecting a child. It was a perfect miracle. She had thought of naming it after me, and here she gave a little delightful laugh, but after all, what’s in a name?
When the doctor came he ran his hands with some skill over my whole body before standing back with his arms folded. He held up an x-ray that I didn't even remember them taking.
"You were lucky. A few cuts and bruises but the only thing actually broken is your jaw. We’re going to have to wire it. Do you know what that means? Basically we wire the teeth of one jaw to the teeth of the other jaw. It stays like that until the bones have healed. I'm afraid for six to eight weeks it’ll be drinks through a straw and soft food only. On the plus side you'll be the centre of attention. Is there anyone you'd like us to contact?"
I remained still for what I thought might be the appropriate time before shaking my head.
"Then we might as well get on with it. I've a free spot in theatre this afternoon."
Two days passed. Or it might have been three. The hours came in waves, sometimes surging forwards, sometimes gliding back. The psychiatrist visited and asked me the same questions the doctor Zara had made me go to had asked me although this time I had to write down my answers. I tried to be as truthful as possible but the truth was I didn't know the truth.
I could recall clearly the sense of falling, air whooshing past, but not what had come before. Had I really jumped? There was a space there, an emptiness. And what did it matter when, at the end of the day, the result was the same?
Sometimes in the corridor I imagined that I saw Zara. There was a grace to the way she walked that I had believed was unique. After all, hadn't she taught herself? That was one thing that had attracted me to her and, perhaps, the one thing that hadn’t changed in all the time we had been together.
On many occasions I thought about calling her, or texting, because I couldn't speak. But then I would remember that voicemail.
“It’s over. I don't love you any more.”
It was so final. The laughter in the background that had proceeded it. The traffic going past. In my heart I knew there was no going back.
It was on the third day, or forth, and I was waiting for my dinner, I had come to crave those thick liquidised drinks that passed for my food when an old woman with a shock of hair so frizzy and tight it could have been used to scrub the inside of toilets came around pushing a trolley full of books in front of her.
"Anything to read?"
Having already taken in the distinctive garish covers of a large number of Mills and Boons, the broken spines of several Agatha Christies and the tired airbrushed faces that always adorned the biographies of yesterday’s minor celebrities I was about to dismiss her with a wave of a hand when I spotted, right on the bottom shelf, tucked away as if in embarrassment the spine of a book that I recognised immediately from a particularly low point in my childhood, after the seventh or eighth ‘bum incident’ as I had come to refer to them, when I had spent more and more of my time locked in my bedroom with only books for company.
What with one thing and another the article I had been supposed to be writing had slipped entirely from my head.
With a lightning burst my editor’s words came rushing back. The article was my last chance and the last thing I needed right now was a last chance. Tossing aside my covers I bent down and plucked out the book. This was it. The most famous ‘where are they now?’ author story in history.
How could I have not thought of it before?
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