IT all started with a stew.
Lamb it was. With Henderson’s thrown in, and crusty bread on the side.
A favourite, but tainted now. Tainted and tarred for always and ever.
I’d looked forward to that stew all day.
Where once I viewed eating like I viewed a visit to the dentist – an expensive waste of time but something which had to be suffered once in a while to keep me mum happy – the older and wiser me understands the thought of a nice meal can make the world run smoother.
And lamb stew with Henderson’s makes it positively skid on by.
Spot on, I’d said, laying knife across fork – but destiny was already mapped.
Sometime in the night the chef went to the bathroom and stayed there.
I should have bumped my karma count and checked on her but the cold numbed my conscience.
I thought no more about it, then in sleep I thought no more at all.
But a texted shopping list the next day couldn’t be ignored. Paracetamols, Cup-a-soup, most ominously bathroom bleach.
I’m not well, she said under duvet, uncombed fringe and sorry expression as I arrived home.
She hadn’t been to work. She mumbled about the stew.
But her good fight was fought.
Less than 24 later she was skipping sweetly round the flat.
And she asked are you all right, as I sat slumped on the couch.
I wasn’t. I shivered by the radiator. I sweated in bed. I mumbled about stew while chewing paracetamol and drinking hot tea.
Bring it on, I muttered, and on it was brought.
All one way. None of it mine.
“What more do you want from me?” I moaned a day later? “I have nothing else to give.”
But staggering to the bathroom it became clear, even after 24 hours nil-by-mouth, I did.
The bug was merciless.
At first she sympathised but her concern became incredulous, her time turned to tuts, as she watched me writhing and (what she thought) skiving with an illness she’d sent packing with half a day in bed.
And maybe she was right. Maybe my drama is a little deathbed in these situations. Maybe I fall to flu without much of a fight.
But I just can’t stand to be ill.
“Will I survive?” I asked at one low point.
“I think you’ll pull through,” she said and reminded me, not altogether gently, Eastenders was on if I could see my way to keeping it down.
And so silently – silently-ish – I stayed shivering and sweating, cringing and crying, pining and panicking. And all the time I thought of that stew. I tasted it. And the Henderson’s.
But – would you believe it, reader? – I did not die.
Time passed away but I did not.
After 48 hours I rinsed a mug and drank coffee. After 52 I ate warmed-up pizza. After 56, she knew I was well once more when I started complaining about the room service, and philosophising about the nature of mortality.
Is there a metaphor here? I wondered. A life lesson? Something that we can take?
That one shouldn’t look forward to lamb so much, perhaps?
That what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, maybe?
“That you’re a big girl’s blouse,” she said.