Half Life – 40 – isolation Olympics
July 30th, 2021
Bullseye! A gold medal performance resulted in minimal cleaning up of the radioactive contents of my insides. The odds at the start of the race were not looking good. Speed to the toilet with crutches is more tortoise than hare, making the margins for error slender to non-existent. The first question which crosses your mind as you make it through the door, when the side effects decide to come into their own, is whether the vomiting is going to hold off long enough to allow the horror story at the other end of the intestinal tract to finish and get flushed away. Fortunately, it did. Generously, it also granted a reasonable breather with recovery time between the moment the head needed to point where the bum had been ten minutes earlier. There is a reason, other than the radioactivity, why not sharing a toilet is a good idea when in isolation; there was no way I was leaving this little room for quite some time.
By Friday night, after the Thursday injection, small sips of water were staying down. By Saturday evening a small amount of dinner kept to the usual one-way rule and a corner started to be turned. Only on Sunday evening, as appetite extended to a comforting glass of red wine with dinner, did the idea it was over feel real. It had taken until the fourth treatment cycle before some of the nastier side-effects turned up. Like chemo, the initial doses lull you into a sense of false security before springing on you when you least expect it. At least the drama didn’t start in the car when driving home and, for reasons unknown at the time, I avoided an intended sneaky lunch stop at a McDonald’s drive through. Sometimes gut instinct needs to be listened to.
Solitary confinement is uniquely dull, made worse when in a house full of people you can’t go near but want to hug, and who avoid you with such a passion it’s hard not to take it personally. Only when much younger, and with serious body odour, did children move so fast to get away from me. At least when social distancing was fashionable, during the height of the pandemic, it was possible to claim I was fitting in with requirements and being a model citizen.
Dreaming up fruitless tasks to pass the time takes on a new level of interest. Sitting in the garden trying to teach one of the stupidest dogs on the planet – gorgeously cute, but extraordinarily dumb – to bring back a ball she has asked you to throw for her has occupied many hours. She gets the ball with great joy once thrown to the end of the garden, walks perfectly half-way back, stops, and drops it. Looking at you with expectation in her eyes, the idea in her head, assuming there is room for a single whole idea in there, is you walk over to her, pick it up, and throw it again. This failing to understand the concept of bringing it back, and her mis-placed faith in crutch mobility, means it becomes a staring match. Next comes the flopping on the ground, with the looks of optimistic expectation shifting to disappointment at my shortcomings as a playmate. She has, a few times, brought the ball all the way back and been rewarded with another throw. However, so shallow is her learning curve that this does not generate any sustained change and we quickly return to the previous pattern. Her great skill is she makes me feel like the failure, the weak link in what should be a wonderful man and dog bonding experience.
In slightly half-hearted homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, I have resorted to what can only be described as snooping. Peering out of the office window, pretending to be creating works of literature, I have been watching the new neighbours gradually move into the house opposite, counted the number of times our other neighbour has wandered off to the Village Shop, and monitored the constant reappearance of a suspicious blue car until remembering it belongs to another neighbour’s brother. As yet, no crimes have been committed but I am optimistic that, at the very minimum, there will be some inconsiderate parking worth complaining about on the Village Community website. Never has the injunction ‘you need to get out more’ been truer.
Missing out on seeing people is one of the worst parts. The Wife and The Boys managed to stick to some get-togethers, put in the diary long before the clinic went about rescheduling the treatment, and my life, not once, but twice. Lovely as it was to get pictures and descriptions of the heaps of glorious pub food they are tucking into as I debated whether my cautious lunch of dry toast was going to stay down, it was a bit cruel. When double freedom day finally arrives – isolation completed combined with the lockdown liberation – there will be a lot of ground to recover. The target list of pubs and restaurants grows with every Google search, expanding beyond The Village and into neighbouring towns. Why violent vomiting has generated an increased desire for lots of different types of food remains a mystery. A mystery to be solved over good food and multiple glasses of wine, very soon.