Monday, March 14

Soup For Dinner

WHILE ON HOLIDAY I noticed that I had forgotten to bite the nail on my left pinkie. Why should that particular fingernail get away from me, why should it survive the panic of an aeroplane flight? Then I became inspired to stop biting my nails. The nails are growing back at different rates. Where there were fleshy stubs for so long there are now dim white crescents of varying thickness and curve. Hopefully as they grow they can make my fingers look more elegant. In university a girl I was seeing would ask me to send photographs of my hands in my absence so that she might masturbate over them; it provided me a giddy strange flattery, and I abided, sending her photographs of my hands, not quite understanding the appeal.
Since I stopped biting my nails, I have fallen ill. Or maybe the illness was caught from work. It is possible I am just trying to blame my illness on having stopped biting my nails. I doubt it is even coincidence; the dates do not stack up.
This hangover is terrible, I thought when arising last Tuesday, but I had certainly not consumed enough wine the previous night to warrant such a hangover. ‘I think I have one of those twenty-four-hour viruses,’ I told my friend.
‘I dunno,’ he said—‘there’s something going round the office. Loads of people were off last week.’
Dizzy and nauseous, I crawled home and rested upon my sofa, reclining in the dimness. What I wanted was to cook myself a hearty meal, but I could not summon the energy. I missed my mother. There was no one else around, just the cold of my flat, the bitter winds at the window, the black sky beyond. I wished there was someone with me; there was no one, so I tried to remember the things that made me happy. The next day I almost collapsed along the pavement – ‘Don’t collapse in public, don’t collapse in public!’ to myself along the route – but held it together. There was so much to do at work that I could not take the time off. Freshly-ironed shirts would be revealed all creased and scruffed when I took my coat off upon arriving; my body drenched in sweat.
All the things I could not do! The illness took away everything from me until I was limp. I could not find the energy to play guitar or write. Coffee lost its taste. Wine revolted me. The pounding in my head prevented me from opening a single book. I was at its mercy, waiting around in pain. I have no patience, but there was nothing else to do. Soup for dinner, soup for dinner, soup for dinner; I could stomach nothing else.
Thursday night and the illness reached its peak. It had finished with me, I thought, and Friday was a beautiful day. My mother text me—‘It’s a beautiful day. I wish I could spend it in my garden.’ That evening I was to visit them, once I had attended a leaving drink for a colleague. After the longest spell of sobriety I have endured for years, I made up for lost time down the pub, not feeling altogether better for it, but drunk and that good enough. The old train home, the last one, the vomit comet. By the time I awoke – at the same stop as I used to – there was only one other drunk next to me. He was sound asleep, stretched out over two seats. I pulled a comic book from my bag and read it for the rest of the journey. The drunk would not be woken up, so I left him, his suit folding and creasing up around his sinking body between the seats. The air was so cold, so bitter. The seaside streets were quiet. Then, at one o’clock, as I walked back from the station, all of the streetlights extinguished at once and everything fell into darkness. There was a click and black black black. It was an abstract darkness, a black so thick and overwhelming that not a thing could be seen. Faint bubbles specked the unseen, bubbles of weak golden light from someone’s living room, escaping underneath the curtains. A fear overtook me. I hurried. If someone was approaching, I could not see them until the very last moment, until they were right in front of me, looming quickly out of the misty murk. Spectres! My breathing was shallow. Was that someone coming toward me? I panicked, only wishing to be in bed, in bedsheets scented with my mother’s laundry products. At last, there was the house, my brother still downstairs.
The kitchen light blinded me. It felt like I had been in the darkness for a considerable, almost unbearable, length of time. I squinted and rubbed my eyes.

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