Discover more from Benjamin Allen's Modern Tales
Pins and Needles
There’s always a sense of relief in hospitals. No matter how miserable you are feeling, two seats away there’s always someone who looks much worse.
It was just pins and needles in her toes. I told my partner it’ll fade away. Nothing to worry about. She trusted me.
Then today we went for breakfast at this small café around the corner. Their menu fits into one single page and they serve everything with mashed peas and parsley. Everything on your plate splattered in green. Walls and chairs are green too. For a calm, upbeat weekend breakfast feeling.
My partner, she’s stirring the beans on her plate without eating. Her eyes on the waitress serving a sausage roll behind me. Her eyes jumping to the water bottle on the table and then back to her plate. I try to make her laugh but only get a stretched smile back.
Four months ago we moved into this new flat facing a park. It comes handy when after a shower you don’t have to shut the blinds because the neighbour in the front building peeks at your wet towel. The outside is a changing canvas that follows the seasons. With branches sticking so high up you feel they’re knocking at your living room windows. The screaming teenagers who have missed their bus in the middle of the night at the bus stop downstairs, they came with the mortgage too.
We got the keys, we ate dinner on the floor. Then we were covered in dust for four months. Random strangers leaving muddy footprints all over the floor. They’d walk in holding a drill, carrying printed furniture catalogues, pointing lasers and delivering parcels the size of a dead body. I didn’t even ask who it was at the door, I just buzzed everyone in.
I started changing in the closet. Standing on one foot, with one hand holding the gas meter reading. With people all around you can only squeeze some decent privacy squatting on the loo or standing in the dark with dusty brooms.
The place came with a modern vibe of a dentist waiting room. White tiles. White kitchen cabinets. Grey laminate flooring for a fake wood real-effect. Grey painted walls.
The real estate agent said it was in walk-in condition. Hang a couple of nails on the wall, stick your favourite frames and you’ve got your home sweet home.
We ripped it all out. Took walls down. It was the setting of an angry management course gone wrong. Then there were just bare floorboards put there with the first bricks and mortar in 1895. After that, it’s been us laying on our knees for weeks. Scraping, sanding, hammering, painting, and any other verbs you can imagine named after a tool.
We brought back the original fireplace, brickwork, flooring, and now it does start looking like a home.
The only dust now keeps popping up on top of the shatters. Nothing a sweeper can’t fix. But it all came with the packaged life we were already living. Nothing dramatic. Just life.
Put on any circus music and start juggling until those squeeze balls start dropping one after another.
Back in the café, my partner managed to kick most of her breakfast into her mouth. She’s got the face of an empty shopping bag because the empty aisles. Half tea still in her cup. Her eyes are there but not there. I ask if she wants to go back to the flat.
Then we’re walking back and she’s dragging her feet. Halfway through she stops. Rooted like a Christmas tree in the middle of the pavement. Her hand clenching my arm so much it hurts.
My partner, she can’t lift her leg anymore. She’s stuck. The traffic light goes red and green half a dozen times. And we’re hugging. Her face sunk into my jacket. She can’t walk anymore.
And now I’m here outside the A&E. My hands glued on the handrail outside for how cold it is. I’m focussing on something warm. A radiator. A fireplace. A burning log. But thinking of something hot never warms you up the way you think.
Here, you can only wait with a patient until you see a nurse, then you’re walked out of the waiting room. Standing outside. Covid policy. It’s been three hours now.
Before they wheeled her in, I slid her phone in her pocket. Then she got eaten by the sliding door. I mouthed, “I love you so much”. She was crying. Sobbing.
And this is not probably as bad as it sounds. While driving to the hospital I told her it’s just a bad moment, it’ll be alright. When she asked me how did I know it, I really didn’t have an answer.
Sometimes it’s about what you believe. You don’t need to know if it’ll happen for real.
A young boy hops off a car holding his chest. His cheeks striped in tears and his mum trying to walk him inside squeezing his shoulder. A man with the face of a crumpled wrapping paper is begging for some methadone. Ambulances in and out. Wheeling out strainers and I can’t help it but I look every time. Trying to see how sick under the thermal blanket. If they’re wounded. How much blood they’ve lost.
Being here outside the entrance you get why nurses are tough like a coffin nail.
My partner sends me a text. They’re waiting for a neurologist to have a look at her legs. Her reflexes. They said it could be stress. Stress does strange things to your body the nurse told her. She said she’s waiting, she’s okay. And I can’t tell if she’s lying.
There’s always a sense of relief in hospitals. No matter how miserable you are feeling, two seats away there’s always someone who looks much worse. And suddenly you forget why you were speeding on the motorway and stormed in shouting for a wheelchair. You feel grateful, in a weird twisted way.
In the end it’s all a matter of perspectives.
You just wanted it to be you. Not her. Swapping pain. And probably that’s just another way you can call love.
Another ambulance speeds in. This time it’s empty. And I keep waiting. Looking at the sliding door peeking inside from the mirror glass. I keep waiting to see my partner walking out the door with a smile. Hugging me. And just saying, “It was just pins and needles. Nothing to worry about”.