“I am getting a half -Van Gogh,” I say over the phone.
“A half -Van Gogh? What is that?”
“You know how Van Gogh lopped off his left ear after a fit of madness, or so it’s claimed?”
“Well, I’m getting half my left ear, the lobe lopped off.”
“Why? Why would you do that?”
“You said you would love me even if I had half my face missing.”
“I know but …”
Once I was stuck in the moment.
It was like being stuck in a lift.
I was going nowhere.
Not even up and down.
There was no way out.
No alarm button to press.
I tried not to panic.
Tried smoking a cig.
Humming a tune
Studying a fly on the wall
Reciting my nine times tables
And then suddenly SNAP
I was out of it.
I don’t know how long I was in it.
It did have its moments
I must admit.
But you wondered if you’d ever
Get out and join
The flow of life again.
What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
Please Wait to be Called,
The sign said
So I did.
I waited and waited
At the head of the queue
outside the pearly gates
And when, growing impatient,
I stepped forward,
St. Peter held up his hand:
“There seems to be some problem,”
“You’ll have to wait a little longer,”
I stamped my feet a little
When a light flashed overhead
& a door opened behind
& I was whooshed back
To the operating theatre where the surgeons
Had revived me
One step from paradise.
“What are you staring at?”
“We are watching you unravelling.”
“There’s a word for that, a German word like watching people in road accidents”.
“Please don’t get distracted. Continue unravelling.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“We’ve been watching you. You won’t be able to prevent it.”
They were right. I was like one of those wall-mounted paper towel dispensers.
Once the roll starts unravelling there’s no stopping it and I wasn’t done yet. There was still a metre or more of me to go.
Someone once said to me, Expect the Unexpected.
It seemed daring at the time so I took it on board.
The only problem was because I expected the Unexpected all the time I wasn’t really surprised when it happened.
It was expected, right?
Life was losing its surprise factor.
I felt heavy as a watermelon.
My counsellor suggested — wait for it — Expect only the Expected.
So I do,
When the Unexpected happens I light up like a lantern
twinkle like a star.
It wasn’t expected, right?
I’ve got a poem for you, a very short one, he promised with a garrulous grin, and then, in a long-winded introduction in which all the masters of brevity were cited, he proceeded to demolish the very notion of shortness. The poem took ten seconds, the intro five minutes.