October 2013 – “Stephen Fry” – The Relative by Simon Evans

The Relative

by Simon Evans

The night before my husband’s hip operation was the last time I felt happy. We were watching ‘QI’ and Harold had turned to me and said “I thought Stephen Fry was dead. Didn’t he commit suicide?” It had really tickled me – Harold’s head was always in the clouds and his grip of the world of celebrity was loose at best. We had both laughed at his faux pas but I had seen the anxiety in Harold’s eyes, he hated hospitals and he’d never been in for an operation before.

Harold had fractured his hip when he had stumbled down the steps into our cellar. He had just popped down to grab a bottle of red to go with our Chilli.

The operation itself had seemed to go well. Harold had been in some discomfort afterwards but other than that he seemed quite cheerful. The following day was terrible though. Harold was in a lot of pain. I had awoken to find him leaning awkwardly against the edge of the bed, clutching his operation wound. When I lifted his pyjama top to have a look the wound was evidently infected.

“I think you need to go back to the hospital”. I had said. Harold had nodded grimly, wincing in pain.

Two days later Harold was dead.

The doctor who broke the news to me in a little office in the hospital was a young fool. He seemed distracted and short of time.

I left the hospital in a daze and walked through the car park in a state of shock. I didn’t want to go home alone or talk to anyone who wasn’t Harold. Not yet. I had wandered into a pub and tucked myself into a corner with a brandy and wept bitterly. I had picked one of Harold’s handkerchiefs up before we had left for the hospital as he had been a bit weepy. It was still in the pocket of my cardigan. I breathed in his scent and soaked the handkerchief with my tears. I felt so broken and alone.

* * * *

Last night was pretty mental. Work was freaking nuts as usual. It was a typical night on the ward really. There was the usual mix of routine procedures and admin. Towards the end of the night I picked the short straw and had to tell a lady her husband had died. Poor old sod had an infected wound after an internal fixation on his hip.

Ellen was on shift tonight and she mentioned that she and her mates were going to the pub after work. She had been waving at me when I was going into the office with the relative. Lucky bitch finished an hour earlier than me and got a head start.

Anyway, after that shift I was well up for it. The Duke was rammed as ever. Full of people from work and a few students too. I ended up doing shots on the bar with Ellen. Then the usual singing of Oasis songs and dancing like twats. It was well wicked.

* * * *

As I sat in the corner, sniffling with my little drink, I was unaware of the pub filling up with revellers. Only when someone asked if they could take a chair away from my table was I disturbed from my thoughts. It was then that I noticed the joyous hubbub which filled the rooms of the pub all around me. There was such a stark difference between the wretched gloom which was eating away at me and the raucous pleasure of the drinkers who filled the pub wall to wall. The agonising grief which gripped me desensitized me to the rowdy din which rose by the minute into a drunken cacophony. I felt like an invisible observer as the young folk enjoyed their evening out. I wouldn’t ordinarily want to sit in a pub on my own like this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had done so.

I felt a sudden panic that this was how things would be from now on. It would be just me. I would never see Harold again. Never talk to him. Never see him laugh. Never cook his favourite meal for him. Never feel his warmth in the bed next to me. He used to read to me when I was trying to fall asleep. I was going to miss him so much.

Then I noticed him, the young doctor who had so blithely told me of Harold’s death. He was drinking fancy looking drinks at the bar with a pretty young girl. I froze in a morbid fascination. A few hours ago this young chap had been standing over the body of my dear dead Harold. Now he was throwing peanuts up the air and catching them in his mouth. Now he had his hands around his friends’ shoulders, singing a pop song in a loud, discordant drawl.

I had to get out.

* * * *

Facebooked Ellen earlier. She reminded me of stuff I’d completely forgotten about! Apparently we ended up in Chicken Shack before she got a bus home. She reckons that I ate two bucket meals. No fucking way! No wonder this is a three shit hangover! HA! She also said that I accidentally whacked some old biddy in the face when I was doing my dancing in the pub. Whoops!

Looking forward to today. Beers with the boys then the match. Love it!

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