Just write something, she says. Five hundred words. Interesting, I think to myself, there are prescriptions already. Don’t edit yourself.
An interesting lunch was presaged by a rather strange walk through town (and now, conscious that I’m under instructions not to edit, the stream of consciousness is subject to a series of locks, though which my prose is gently carried uphill, against all logic). It wasn’t the astonishing lack of patience I currently show towards mankind in general – after all, I have a cold, and snat and sneezed my way through the crowds – but the habits we form that become obsolete and are yet hung onto.
She wants me to write about my experience, about my disease. Because it weighs more heavily upon me than I admit, she says. I know people in much worse positions, I point out, but she’s insistent. And though I hate to admit it, she’s right, up to a point. Damocles’ sword may well have been an absolute pisser, but he knew what he was dealing with. Me? Potential. Possibility. What can I lay at the door of the disease? What at the drug? What at middle age?
A friend recently said he thought I was being more protective of my left arm. Sharp man. I certainly notice more bad days than I used to, days when my left hand is beyond recalcitrant. But with the drug I take suggesting that immediate cessation of treatment may lead to coma, it’s difficult to say where it’s at. Last time but one my specialist (who was looking peeky) suggested I take the ‘levadopa challenge’. Sounds like climbing an ancient hill fortress. He described it as a ‘battery of tests’ on gait and fine motor control. Oh, but the drugs tend to make people vomit, so best you take an anti-emetic – and stop the dopamine agonists the day before. (Remember? Coma?) Naturally, the anti-emetic is a dopamine agonist. I’m confused now.
So. They’re testing my brain. The waiting room is, get this, in one of the neurology wards. Yup, that’s right, you’re there waiting for tests to see how bad your brain is getting, and someone wonders in (and yes, I mean wonders) and starts talking to me as if I’m an old friend. Naturally, I converse politely and pointlessly with this woman who seems to have a five minute reset button. Every five minutes or so, she starts again. I continue being polite while my brain (the broken bit) screams ‘fuck off you mad bitch’ over and over. But she’s not mad. Merely broken. Like me. Which is why I’d really like her to fuck off.
Eventually, she does. Are you mr langman (dr fucking langman, it screams)? Yes. Will you follow me?
Ah, battery of tests. Intellectual curiosity. Should be interesting. She stops me in the corridor, puts a piece of red tape on the wall. Can you see this? (hello?) Wait here. When I call you, walk towards me. (woof?) This I do – though she has to tell off a disgruntled porter. Then she writes on her clipboard, points at the tape on the wall, walks back to where we started … and that’s that. It’s not that severe, she says, almost disappointed. Then she leads me back to the waiting room. Pardon?
I sit. She takes a piece of A4 paper from her bag. It has two biro dots about half a centimetre in diameter on it. I am to touch each one in turn. For a minute with one index finger, then the other. Take this, she says. (is that fucking it?). Three quarters of an hour later we do the whole pitiful charade again. I comment on how difficult it is to remain natural when you know what the test is noting. Are you trying to do it quicker? (God, you’re dumb). No, it’s just that … oh, never mind.
I walk out furious. What an utter waste of time. I get to the parking machine, stick my ticket in, grab some change and feed it. Jump in the car. Storm off.
Hang on. That was my left hand. I can’t usually get coins out of my left-hand pocket, let alone sift them with the left-hand only. Christ, this leva dopa shit damn well works.
So, I’m walking to lunch. I hold my phone in my pocket so that I can feel it ring or if a message comes through. I pull it out to look at the time. One missed call and one message. I switched off the rings etc so I can use it to time lectures. Because I left my clock at a friend’s. I’ve rather enjoyed not knowing when a message has been coming through. The phone is now a potential message every time I look at it. Just like I’m a potential new symptom every time I look at myself.
And I look a lot.
© Pete Langman 2009